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A comprehensive guide to nonprofit change management

April 07, 2022
Two nonprofit staff members look at a laptop and discuss nonprofit change management.

Change is a constant part of life. For a nonprofit organization, success depends on how well it navigates and manages change. To put it simply, nonprofit change management involves strategically preparing and supporting your staff members and other stakeholders through new ways of working toward your goals.

For your nonprofit, this could mean engaging your board in fundraising efforts, launching your first-ever capital campaign, or adopting new fundraising software. In order to effectively manage change within your organization, you’ll need to secure buy-in and cooperation from your staff, board members, and volunteers.

To help you take advantage of growth opportunities and guide your organization through improvements, let’s discuss the basics of nonprofit change management and some best practices to maximize success.

What are the benefits of nonprofit change management?

While routines and long-standing procedures can go a long way toward streamlining your nonprofit’s work, there often comes a time when change is necessary to drive results. Whether you’re in need of a technology upgrade or launching a new program, change management can help by:

  • Encouraging your stakeholders to embrace change. By proactively addressing your stakeholders’ needs during a change and keeping them in the loop about its benefits, you’ll cultivate a general sense of enthusiasm toward positive change in your organization.
  • Giving agency to your stakeholders in the midst of change. Take the time to educate and prepare your stakeholders for change. This way, they’ll feel more comfortable about the change and empowered to help ensure it’s implemented successfully.
  • Obtaining important feedback from all areas of your organization. Your nonprofit consists of numerous moving parts that all work together to create your impact. By communicating organization-wide change to all of your stakeholders, you can gather vital feedback to guide your process and achieve the best results.

Consistent communication is key for keeping everyone on the same page and priming them to make the most of the change you’re enacting. The more you communicate with your stakeholders, the more enthusiasm they’ll generate for improving your organization as a whole.

What are best practices for change management?

To successfully manage change within your nonprofit, you’ll need to develop a plan tailored to your stakeholders and goals. Follow these best practices for effective change management:

Identify an influential sponsor

Build trust and confidence early on by identifying a member of your nonprofit’s leadership, such as the executive director, who will serve as the main advocate for your upcoming change. It’s crucial that this individual is both influential in your organization and enthusiastic about promoting your new improvements. 

Enlist a team of equally enthusiastic stakeholders to assist your sponsor with responsibilities related to the change, such as communications and decision-making.

Communicate your goals and process

The most productive way to get everyone on board with your change efforts is to explain the rationale and reasoning behind the change. For instance, one of the most significant changes your nonprofit can make is upgrading your fundraising software to make your staff’s work easier, more efficient, and more successful. 

Comprehensive fundraising software, such as Bonterra Donor Engagement’s Guided Fundraising solution (formerly Network for Good), makes it easy to track donors, automate and target your communications, manage fundraising events and volunteers, cultivate major donors, and more. If your nonprofit is looking to implement more effective fundraising software, you can find the right solution for your organization by answering questions such as:

  • What are important fundraising software features that our nonprofit needs?
  • How will fundraising software solve our recurring pain points?
  • What will daily operations look like with new fundraising software in place?
  • How will this fundraising software help us achieve our goals?

Your executive sponsor should communicate the goals behind your change in software to the rest of your stakeholders and be informed enough to address any questions that come up.

Provide change-related incentives

Encourage your stakeholders to feel invested in the change by tying it to your nonprofit’s values and giving them the opportunity to help drive the change forward. For instance, regularly recognize staff members who have reacted positively to or contributed significantly toward the change in emails, staff meetings, or eCards.

Once your organization has successfully incorporated the change into your daily operations, hold a party for your stakeholders to celebrate everyone’s cooperation and enthusiasm. This ensures that they remain optimistic about future changes that may come up.

Navigating change and gearing up for success

Chances are, your nonprofit will undergo many changes and improvements over time. While successfully navigating a single change is worthy of celebration, be sure to maintain this momentum for the long run by gathering data and analyzing the results of your change management efforts. By identifying opportunities for success and improvement, you’ll be better equipped to manage change in the future.

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