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Nonprofit Organizations’ Change Management


Leading change is one of the most fundamental aspects of leadership. The process of making changes in an organization is perhaps the main responsibility of leaders since it leads to the accomplishment of the goals and objectives of an organization. According to Spiro (2011), leading change is a deliberate process conducted under different situations with the aim of achieving meaningful and positive reforms. Being a complex procedure, leading change requires leaders to use different influence tactics regardless of whether the process involves organizing, coordinating, directing, innovating, implementing, facilitating, or strategizing the operations of an organization. The leaders are not merely required to embrace change. They should also be capable of influencing other people in an organization to accept various changes and showing them the need to pursue these changes. A lot of research has been done to establish the appropriate method of conducting change in nonprofit organizations. Despite this research, the change efforts employed by many nonprofit organizations have failed to achieve the expected results. This paper discusses the importance of leading change in nonprofit organizations, outlines some common mistakes faced by leaders when implementing changes, and also provides some prerequisites for leading change that leaders in nonprofit organizations can employ to realize success.

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Importance of leading change in nonprofit organizations and factors that hinder the success of change efforts

According to Worth (2011), leaders fail to achieve the expected change because of tolerating complacency. This means that they fail to engender an adequate sense of speed concerning the need to make changes in an organization. For instance, in well-established organizations, the staff is not reluctant to accept changes provided the organization has a balanced budget and that the positions of the staff are secure. This makes it easier for the staff to accommodate changes, even those likely to disrupt their routines and worldviews.

Sims and Quatro (2005) are quite categorical that many leaders in nonprofit organizations fail to establish powerful means of supporting organizational change. Most of them are particularly interested in making changes alone before informing other members, such as staff members, board members, and other individuals who seem to be committed to change. This means that leaders do not find any importance of vision. Thus, they aim at making changes through continuous actions like incremental changes, staff reorganization, and enhancement of communication programs. To some individuals, these steps may not appear to be connected and will eventually make such individuals resist the changes being made. Leaders should understand that nonprofit organizations are extremely sensitive in the sense that the staff is likely to exit the organization when they are subjected to a change that interferes with their empowerment. The staff in such organizations should be informed of changes being made in the organization and the overall outcomes. In case they are not relevant, leaders should modify them so that the whole organization can reach a common agreement on whether to implement or to discard them. Therefore, leaders should not try to take their operations away from other members within the organization since it becomes exceedingly difficult for such leaders to build appropriate steam capable of propelling a real change in an organization.

Agard (2011) adds that many nonprofit organizations have failed to achieve the expected results because change leaders lack an effective channel of communicating the vision of the organization. This happens mostly when the leaders use ordinary methods of communication like annual reports and newsletters to pass out given information to the staff. The leaders usually assume that everybody in the organization reads such publications, which might not be the case. As a result, the change process is likely to suffer a serious setback since the organizational members who fail to read these publications are not aware of any change. Another reason why some leaders fail to implement change is because of their inability to create short term wins. They fail to create intermediate goals that are achievable and capable of convincing the organizational members to believe that even the long term changes are easy to achieve. Leaders in nonprofit organizations should, therefore, aim at setting goals that can be easily achieved in the short term since their attainment serves as an essential scheme of ensuring that both volunteers and the staff remain committed to the long-term change process. This tactic also prevents inertia and frustrations likely to halt the change process in an organization. Leaders in nonprofit organizations are also advised not to declare victory immediately after making a change in an organization. It should be understood that the change process might show signs of working well when it is not the case. Under such situations, change may be occurring lightly and not deep within the culture of an organization.

Pershing (2006) attributes this problem to the inability of managers to address the change dimensions. The change efforts may also fail because of other reasons. For instance, where the participants are not certain or prepared for the change outcomes. Some stakeholders may also oppose the disruption of the influence that they currently enjoy or feel being disempowered. Under such circumstances, they are likely to resist proposed changes. As a result, an organization may fail to achieve the set goals and can also lead to its collapse.

Prerequisites for leading change in nonprofit organizations

Leading change requires leaders to be intentional especially when analyzing existing situations before planning, implementing and revising the change strategies. There is a need to carry out a frequent situational analysis and make corrections where applicable. By doing so, leaders in these organizations can manage to deal with unanticipated consequences that are likely to arise. To undertake leading change, leaders are also expected to have some prior knowledge of the future operations of the organization to help in planning for impending needs. They should also use various methods of finding the right information that they can use to explain the need for change. Being reflective is another requirement needed by leaders in nonprofit organizations and should occur in all the experience phases. Any problems observed during this changing process should be corrected by making frequent improvements. The leading change process also requires a critical analysis of organizational activities that are working properly in order to establish whether these activities will remain working even in the future. Thus, the leaders are expected to take note of the future operations of the organization since some activities that are presently in order may prove to be ineffective in future (Spiro,2011).

In order to ensure that leading change in nonprofit organizations remains permanent and real, Worth (2011) outlines various steps which leaders should follow. Firstly, leaders should be able to develop urgency when undertaking changes in an organization. This should be followed by creation of a guiding plan that ensures that all the required changes are done in accordance with the goals and objectives of an organization. The third step involves the development of a clear vision together with the strategies of realizing the set vision. Leaders should then communicate the vision to the staff and establish a broad-based plan of action. Lastly, leaders should be able to identify the short term achievements of change and later on consolidate these gains and work towards producing more change.

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The role of leaders in many nonprofit organizations is very much different from the role played by leaders in profit making organizations. Both the profit and nonprofit making organizations require capable leaders in order for an organization to realize satisfactory performance. However, nonprofit organizations require leaders who have the potential of exhibiting very strong leadership. This is because such organizations rely on values and mission in mobilizing the required support and commitment. Leaders are expected to have adequate information about the likely consequences of implementing a change in the organization. The effects of change within an organization may be felt immediately after implementing some changes. Alternatively, it may be felt in the future. Therefore, having prior information helps to prevent leaders from introducing changes that may cause adverse effects towards the survival of the organization. Leaders are also supposed to be aware of the appropriate steps that should be observed when making a change in an organization. For example, a leader should be able to formulate a robust action plan that ensures that change is conducted in the appropriate way.


Agard, K. A. (2011). Leadership in nonprofit organizations: A reference handbook. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Pershing, J. A. (2006). Handbook of human performance technology: Principles, practices, and potential. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Sims, R. R., & Quatro, S. A. (2005). Leadership: Succeeding in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. Armonk, N.Y: M.E. Sharpe.

Spiro, J. (2011). Leading change step-by-step: Tactics, tools, and tales. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Worth, M. J. (2011).Nonprofit management: Principles and practice. London: SAGE.

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