culture of an organization

“The only constant is change.” How cliché and how true! Everyone and everything encounter change. Nonprofits experience this regularly with turnover on their Board of Directors, new executive leadership, collaborations and partnerships…and during a global pandemic. While some changes come with plenty of planning and strategy, not every time offers the proper planning period for changes we will need to navigate. Take what we are experiencing now – a global pandemic – as one of those examples.

In the nonprofit sector, change isn’t just constant, it’s necessary. And we were due for a shake-up. I have said for too long that our nonprofit sector has kept doing the same thing over and over without adapting to new trends and opportunities as quickly as the rest of the business sectors. While the world has improved dramatically over the course of our lifetimes and nonprofits have played a vital role, so many of the change’s nonprofits seek to make through their missions remain stubbornly the same.

Change can be scary – I get that! The fear of the unknown is an uncomfortable place for most people. In this article, we will talk a little bit about the culture of an organization and the shift that is made when new leadership takes the reigns

Questions, and fears, have begun circling, such as: 

  1. Will I lose my job?
  2. How will my hours and schedule be impacted?
  3. Will we really be able to continue our mission like we want to?
  4. Will [leadership] see my talent and offer me more responsibilities?
  5. Will my paycheck see a difference?

These questions are not unique. I know I have had many of these same questions when I have held full time positions. Most likely, you are not alone with having these thoughts and questions consume your thoughts. 

Here are three things that may help shift the culture of an organization in a gentler way:

  1. Create a cultural shift task force comprised of key players that will assist in setting the tone of their peer groups. For many organizations this will be your most tenured staff, some new staff, one to two board members and maybe a couple of volunteers. 
  2. Communicate clearly and timely with your key stakeholders. Nobody needs more meetings; email updates are adequate as long as there is a point of contact for anyone that may have a question or need further clarification. If you have a regular staff meeting, keep an agenda item for the cultural task force to report out to the team. 
  3. Keep the board chair informed as progress is made or hiccups are encountered and ask the board chair to communicate with the other board members as necessary.

Celebrate your successes and congratulate the team for their forward movement – any and all forward movement. While we may not have prepared for this pivot, the hypothetical band-aid has been ripped off and we are all forced, together, to reimagine what our new normal can look like. 

Hungry for some practical tools to heal the divide? Download this Culture of Philanthropy Checklist loaded with action tips to determine if your nonprofit has a culture of philanthropy in place and ways to get started creating one.

Jarrett Ransom, MBA
Jarrett started The Rayvan Group in 2009 and brings more than 15 years’ experience with international, national and local organizations, including Girls Golf of Phoenix, Habitat for Humanity, the Paraiso Project and St. Mary's Food Bank. She has successfully managed development and communications functions for more than 10 campaigns with a combined goal totaling $6 million. She is passionate about creating community, empowering others to see and exceed their full potential, and crafting compelling stories in support of mission-driven organizations. Jarrett holds an MBA in business from the University of Phoenix and Certificate of Grant Writing from The Grantsmanship Center Institute. Awards include Greater Phoenix Athena Nominee, AmAZing Women of Arizona recipient and the Global Women's Summit Leadership Award.