The forces that nonprofit leaders should be incorporating into their growth strategies

Author: Lisanne Sison

2020 was a year that tested us all in ways we never anticipated. The trifecta of the pandemic, the economic downturn and the movement for social and racial justice presented some new risks for organizations to manage, however it mostly magnified or accelerated risks that were already there. That has forced a reckoning with organizations needing to adapt to the new landscape in order to survive. For example, the need to modernize IT systems, or formalize an approach to equity and diversity, or streamline services has always been there as a need for the organization to address. But during calmer waters, investments in these areas are easier to push off to another day. As organizations, we found ourselves suddenly confronted by all the things we have meant to do to make our processes more efficient or equitable or resilient, but can now no longer ignore.

There is a saying by Bob Marley that states, "You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice." As part of this, the nonprofit space has adapted in ways it never thought possible. Organizations achieved in record time things they thought impossible, and this is the power of disruption.

What is disruption?

In April 2019, the Harvard Business Review published an article about disruptive forces that leaders should incorporate into growth strategies. In this article, they define a disruptive force as one that alters every facet of business and society, and creates opportunities for those leaders who can embrace change and have the foresight to take the lead in transforming their workforce as a strategic response to disruption.

Refocus on your nonprofit's mission

In any crisis, it is essential that nonprofit organizations realign their priorities with their mission, and confirm that their finite resources are being directed to the activities that are central to their purpose and essential operations. Disruption can act to refocus an organization on its original mission, or help guide when its mission needs to adapt to a changed landscape.

Leveraging appreciative inquiry to drive change

Change can be daunting, however it is also an essential ingredient of innovation and adaptation. The key is to build from your strengths. Appreciative inquiry advocates collective analysis into the best of what is in order to imagine what could be, and letting go of what holds you back.

Making the most of disruption means you are seizing the opportunity to reinvent your methods and practices like never before. The appetite for change is high now because organizations have no choice but to adapt. Leveraging an approach like Enterprise Risk Management, or ERM, which is designed to help organizations deliver their mission successfully, can be used to realign the organization's mission, identify and prioritize barriers to success, leverage an interdisciplinary approach to chart a path forward, and use data and feedback to support continuous improvement.

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