Driving Change As A Non-Profit

What are the challenges of embracing change as a non-profit organization?


It's no secret that change is vital to the success of any business. Change drives innovation. Change inspires creativity. Change motivates a workforce. And, more often than not, change in a business is driven by a ruthless pursuit of profit, where adaptability is vital to the success of a company trying to stay afloat in the free market.

So where does that leave non-profits? Without the standard business model driven by maximizing profits, embracing change can be difficult, and non-profits are hardly known for their ability to adapt to thrive in situations of change in the way, say, a startup does.

We spoke with three of our speakers from various non-profits ahead of their presentations at our upcoming summits about the unique challenges of embracing change.

Zoe Regent, Director of Innovation & Business Development at Save The Children

They are numerous! For the charity sector, over and above any other sector, trust in our brand is extraordinarily important. If you do anything as a charity to jeopardize consumer trust then you are theoretically damaging your ability to make money more than you are if you are a utility company or an FMCG; a business with a tangible value exchange. This is a big challenge as to be innovative you've always got to take risks, and be comfortable with deviating from what consumers expect from you, and it's really hard to do that without taking brand reputational risk.

Dr Tammy Watchorn, Head of Innovation at National Services, NHS Scotland

The public sector is well known for its bureaucracy, traditional hierarchies, governance, and risk avoidance. All of which can slow down and block innovation activity. But it also offers a chance to try and change some of this, some really meaty barriers that need innovative solutions to knock down or find innovative solutions to go around them. Many of the barriers are perceived, handed down from previous managers, and are habits rather than rules set in stone. And starting to unpick some of this in an innovative way can have a much bigger positive impact on the organization and staff than just innovating a specific service solution. It enables staff to feel comfortable challenging barriers and creating new solutions and starts to shift the organization into being more innovative as a whole.

David Wittenberg, Director of Financial Strategy at World Vision US

One of the greatest challenges in moving from the for-profit sphere to the nonprofit sphere is that it's much more difficult to define and get an organization-wide buy-in on the definition of success. In a for-profit company, while we encompass it with wonderful value statements, at the bottom line, the mission of a publicly traded company is to maximize shareholder wealth. And we have Nobel Prize winners who have helped us determine how to define, measure, and determine the difference between 'some' profit and 'enough' profit to achieve our cost of capital and maximize wealth versus destroying shareholder value. That same objective, quantified guideline does not exist once we move from for-profit to nonprofit of any kind, whether it is a global humanitarian organization or it's an educational institution or even a government. We can attract people who have fabulous passion, but without a common definition of success, an organization can be pulled apart in a score of different directions. Because it's less concrete it can be more difficult to find that definition of success and implement an effective strategy.

Catch Zoe and Tammy's presentations at our Chief Innovation Officer summit in London, April 25 & 26 and David's presentation at our Chief Strategy Officer summit, May 7 & 8 in San Francisco to discover how change can be delivered effectively.

Idea nest

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