Implementing Change for Nonprofits

Nonprofit leaders recognize that new solutions are needed to address the nonprofit sector’s evolving challenges.

However, implementing anything new represents change. And announcement of change often produces resistance.

Even though the benefits of an innovative solution may appear to be obvious, acceptance and buy-in from needed stakeholders should not be considered automatic.

Getting board members, staff, and volunteers all on board to support deviating from the comfort of long-standing practices can be difficult.

Help overcome opposition from those whose support is needed by applying steps recommended by change experts.

Consider this valuable lesson offered in the book Switch, How to Change When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.

Acknowledge that a problem can appear so overwhelming that the path to addressing it can be seen as insurmountable. That perceived difficulty is a reason people avoid taking action or supporting proposed change.

The remedy, the Heath brothers suggest, is to take an incremental approach. Small steps are more easily accepted as doable which helps build supportive buy-in.

Julie Henry, an expert on change and a speaker colleague of mine, has good advice that will help nonprofits successfully execute needed change.

“Change is always challenging for people, especially when it is not their idea in the first place. To successfully influence change (and make it stick), you must break it down into action steps that people can easily understand and implement.”

Julie has a three-step formula for successfully getting others to accept a new course of action.

1. Make It Easy — the change you are suggesting must be broken down into steps that can be easily followed. If barriers are encountered or people don’t understand what to do next, they will stop changing altogether. And remember, the best judge of whether or not your step-by-step action steps are easy to follow is them, not you.

2. Make It Rewarding — people change because they see what’s in it for them. They understand if they make an investment of their time, talent and treasure, they will be better off as a result.

3. Make It Normal — people must see others like them already exhibiting the change you’re advocating. This is the secret to influencing lasting change – if people feel like they will fit in if they make this change, then they will.

When it is time for change, it doesn’t have to be chaotic. With a strategy that is incremental, valuable, and accepted, change can be a collaborative process with positive results.

Recognize that change means altering behavior, and hesitation to embrace it is a common reaction. Help key stakeholders overcome their natural resistance by incorporating these action steps provided by authors Chip and Dan Heath and change expert Julie Henry.

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