For Impact


9 ACTIONS to Change Your Organization

Vision & Entrepreneurial Strategy | | Nick Fellers

Change can be difficult. A lot of the organizations we work with are 40, 50 or even 100 years old. Speaking openly and broadly to those organizations looking to make a change or transform, I would give the following advice:

  1. Make Visits: This is pretty simple. It doesn’t say make a leap to Major Gifts. It doesn’t say role out a ‘culture of philanthropy’. If, as an organization, you simply resolve to make visits, that is — get out, visit with prospects and stakeholders and share your story, present the opportunity to help — most organizations would find themselves completely transformed after one year (or even 100 days) of this commitment. It’s often difficult to “turn the battleship” so let’s start with baby steps. As an organization, commit to making visits.
  2. Get 3 Entrepreneurs “On Board”: Entrepreneurs know how to make things happen. They don’t ask the “what if question”, they ask “What else can we do?” They burst through barriers. They bring the kind of attitude and vision an organizations needed to grow. Entrepreneurs embrace change.
  3. Start Thinking… Stop “Re-Thinking”: Most organization never really stop and take a timeout to think about the really big questions like “Why do we exist?” Regarding re-thinking, most organizations come together and have retreats to create more and more plans and if you look at it, we’re really just re-thinking the same things over and over.
  4. Change People: One of Tom’s favorite quotes is “It’s easier to change PEOPLE than it is to CHANGE people.” Kets de Vries (via Tom Peters). So don’t try to change people. Actually put in different people to help the organization change. This is not a reflection or a judgment on the current people, it’s just that change sometimes requires change.
  5. Think Bigger: We can’t limit ourselves to what’s been in the past. See 9 Big Board Questions.
  6. Create Your Own Reality/Create A New Reality: We become what we think about. Part of this is about vision. I’ve watched hundreds of times as an organization clearly defines where it wants to go. It makes a decision to think about itself in a different light. All actions and decisions end up framing themselves around this reality. Often the change I see as an outsider is that an organization simply learns to think about itself differently and all the pieces then fall into place.
  7. Identify Strengths – Give Them Steroids: A couple thoughts on this. One, regarding Marcus Buckingham (Soar With Your Strengths), find the things you’re doing really well and try to do a lot of it. But two, stop the things we’re really bad at that consume our time, energy and effort and have little to no return at the impact end and/or the income end.
  8. Cook the Cows: The “nonprofit” world is full of sacred cows. (What’s a sacred cow? Look at any ‘nonprofit conference’ and the list of topics – for starters). Almost everyone knows that a lot of what nonprofits do doesn’t make any sense (read Tom’s ebook: Change [the] Rules). Yet, we continue to do them because it’s the way it’s always been done. Don’t do something if it doesn’t make any sense.

  9. Stop Special Events: I’ve watched dozens and dozens of organizations find a transformation in this idea alone. (1) Stopping special events frees up a ton of staff and volunteer time. (2) It requires that we do something different. (3) It really boosts morale and (4) it forces change.