Change is an inevitable part of running an organization. Even a small change, like the adoption of a new recordkeeping process, can create a surprising amount of work. But big changes, especially in personnel, can threaten to throw an organization off balance. Preparing for and managing change should be a focus of every nonprofit’s leadership.
In broad terms, change management is simply an approach to handling any significant alteration in how a nonprofit operates. In some ways, change management is a philosophical approach that could be incorporated into every decision. It might involve answering certain questions at each decision point, such as: How will this decision affect resources available for other projects? Will the decision impact existing deadlines that might need to be moved? These types of questions are a natural part of good management.
Formalizing change management ideas into the fabric of a nonprofit’s management can be a powerful way to ensure the long-term vitality of the organization. Here are a few examples of how this can be done
- Beyond the procedures set out in the organization’s bylaws for replacing directors and other key personnel, consider adopting a formal plan for management transitions. A plan can be especially valuable if a member of the leadership team suddenly falls ill or can no longer serve.
- Take recordkeeping very seriously. If the people of a nonprofit are its muscles, its records are its bones. Without good records, an organization is less likely to be able to maintain consistency over time, and is also likely to make critical mistakes. Keeping good records requires diligence as new records are made, and also a process for auditing files to confirm they are accurate and up to date.
- When major changes are about to happen, always be sure to verify that they do not require extra governance or compliance steps. An organization that stumbles through change without accounting for its important legal and tax obligations can inadvertently create significant unwanted risk.
- Reach consensus about major changes before they are implemented, and included in the consensus-building the plan for how the organization will adapt to the change. Budgeting for things like training sessions for volunteers can make change smoother and ultimately more successful.
Navigating change is easier when it’s done with the help of experienced advisors. The Church Law Center of California has a distinguished history of helping clients in the religious and secular nonprofit world improve their governance practices. Call us today to discuss your organization’s needs. We can be reached at (949) 689-0437 or through our contact page.