How to Handle Technology Change at Your Nonprofit

How to handle change at your nonprofit.

At Heller Consulting, we spend a lot of time talking about change. We talk with nonprofits, with other team members, sometimes even to ourselves. We also think about change a lot. It’s happening all around us; change is a constant. What’s important is how you deal with it — especially when it comes to implementing new technology, such as a Constituent Relationship Management system.

We think about change so much because that’s our business. We’re called into a nonprofit organization when they want to change something, when they feel that something isn’t where it should be and needs to be fixed or updated. Here are a few lessons we’ve learned over the years that may help the next time you make a technology change at your organization:

Lesson #1: Change is hard.

It’s often a very difficult and sometimes painful process. There is no getting around that. No shortcuts in moving from point A to point B (or X or M). Once you can accept that, it takes a weight off your shoulders because you’re not constantly trying to make it easier. Then you can concentrate on the best way to work through this change to achieve your goal.

Lesson #2: Always keep the end goal in mind.

It will help when making decisions and communicating strategic direction. It will be a reminder of why all of this work is important. Talk about the final goal to keep your team focused on what’s important. But, be realistic. Don’t set the expectation that the new system is going to solve every problem and be super easy to administer. There will be a learning curve for the new platform and business processes. As the new software starts to gain traction, new strategies or organization-wide objectives will require adjustments to the original set of procedures which will create new issues to solve. It’s all part of adapting to the new toolset that is getting implemented.

Lesson #3: Use the three “Bs”.

People issues are the most difficult thing to navigate when it comes to implementing change, big or small. But there are ways to keep things moving. Remember these three “Bs” when working with a group to move them through change: Be transparent. Be realistic. Be adaptable.

  • Be transparent: People want to know what’s going on. They want to know how this new “thing” is going to impact them. So, tell them. As much as you can and as often as you can. By explaining what’s going on, you take away the fear of the unknown. No one has to guess what’s going on with the project, which is often larger and scarier than the reality.
  • Be realistic: This ties back to lesson #2. Don’t set your team’s expectations so high that no matter how much money you invest in the new solution, they won’t be happy. Tell them the truth – some things will be simpler, some more difficult. By being realistic about the outcome, you’re setting them up to understand a more accurate end state, leading them to be more likely to adopt the new tool.
  • Be adaptable: People react to change in various ways. Some want more detail, some want less. Some people need to be involved in every decision while others just say “tell me when I need to pay attention because it impacts me directly.” Every person is different. Adapt to each stakeholder to give them what they need to comfortably (or, at least, as comfortably as possible) move through the change. And, don’t be afraid to adapt how the project progresses if it means the team gets more invested through the process. Flexibility and adaptability are key components to achieving a successful project.

Change is never going to be easy, but these simple approaches will help to create a more positive outcome.

How have you handled change at your nonprofit? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About

The Connected Cause is a place for experts in the nonprofit online space to share perspective, offer guidance and promote best practices for using today’s technology effectively. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive source of collaborative thought leadership for the nonprofit industry.

One comment

  1. Awesome points. I would add the importance of communicating the idea that a good CRM system will always be evolving and improving to keep up with the operations of the organization and to optimize the tools’ benefits to the organization. Sometimes the ‘go live’ date can be seen as the end of tinkering with the system, when, in reality, the group should be continuously working to improve the system.
    Also, for change management enthusiasts, I highly recommend the book Switch. http://www.amazon.com/Switch-Change-Things-When-Hard/dp/0385528752/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366831493&sr=1-1&keywords=switch

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