Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Leading Change Within Non-Profits

As a leader within a non-profit organization, this article by Seth Godin is both inspiring and convicting at the same time. Although our bottom line is changed lives and not to make money, those of us in ministries and charities can operate in a way that demonstrates a resistance to change because it is uncomfortable. In the for-profit industry, change is both necessary and needed in order to stay in existence; for many non-profits, change seems like a dreaded evil that must be avoided as long as checks from donors continue to stream in.

Godin questions:
"Did you start or join this non-profit because of the non part? I doubt it. It's because you want to make change. The way the world is just isn't right or good enough for you... there's an emergency or an injustice or an opportunity and you want to make change.

These organizations exist solely to make change. That's why you joined, isn't it?

The problem facing your group, ironically, is the resistance to the very thing you are setting out to do. Non-profits, in my experience, abhor change.

Take a look at the top 100 twitter users in terms of followers. Remember, this is a free tool, one that people use to focus attention and galvanize action. What? None of them are non-profits. Not one as far as I can tell. Is the work you're doing not important enough to follow, or is it (and I'm betting it is) paralysis in decision making in the face of change? Is there too much bureaucracy or too much fear to tell a compelling story in a transparent way?"
Out of necessity the organization in which I lead, The Impact Movement, is currently going through some radical changes. However, what we are finding in the midst of these changes is that we will be in a better position long-term to do what we've wanted to see all along -- changed lives.

Businesses that seek to make a profit are the leaders in innovation and technology. Why? Because they realize that in order to make more money, they need to offer products and services that customers expect and demand. Oftentimes, non-profit agencies and churches are way behind the curve when it comes to the embracing of modern technology and new ways of thinking. We often use "tradition" as an excuse for not wanting to embrace the future and step into the unknown.

Godin goes onto further explain:
"If you spend any time reading marketing blogs, you'll find thousands of case studies of small (and large) innovative businesses that are shaking things up and making things happen. And not enough of these stories are about non-profits. If your non-profit isn't acting with as much energy and guts as it takes to get funded in Silicon Valley or featured on Digg, then you're failing in your duty to make change.

The marketing world has changed completely. So has the environment for philanthropic giving. So have the attitudes of a new generation of philanthropists. But if you look at the biggest charities in the country, you couldn't tell. Because they're 'non' first, change second."
If we're truly in the business of seeing lives changed perhaps we need to see our organizations changed first.

Thanks to my friend, Jay, for the link to the Godin article.

No comments: