How to cope with rapid change as a Not for Profit Leader

Oct 31, 2016

We are in a massive phase in the Human Services Sector of rapid and significant change, at a level that challenges the Not for Profit leader and manager.

It challenges us to empower up, get clear on purpose, show courage and take action. All of which requires us to be vulnerable, honest, real and completely exposed in order to transform, transcend and transition to the “new” way.

It’s all very exciting – and very nerve wracking!

Rapid change leaves us wondering how we are going to “get it all done” in the limited time we have available to make the changes happen before funding is removed, government processes change, and new systems are thrust upon us.

As a leader in my small not for profit organisation, it’s not the “what are we going to do?” question that we have struggled with amidst this change, for we have always been very clear on purpose, and innovative in our approach and thinking.

The greatest challenge for me, has been moving the organisation through this rapid change whilst mainlining the status quo “stuff” of working with existing systems and processes that still exist – and we are required to continue to work with that given the impending changes feel irrelevant and arduous-  whilst building, introducing and implementing new opportunities, initiatives, systems and responses.

Trying to get the balance right of meeting obligations and managing expectations while gaining momentum of the new.

I had to figure out a way of honouring both. This has also meant that I had to honour myself as a leader, be vulnerable, and open with my team and Board. Open about what could be achieved, the level of uncertainty, and the energy required.

In doing so, I offer you these three key strategies that have helped me to facilitate the transition and manage the challenge of balancing the need to maintain and honour the outgoing whilst gaining momentum towards the incoming. But first, before you can move through the change there are three things you MUST be crystal clear on:

  • Vision – you must have a clear and shared vision of your organisations future
  • Purpose – your organisation can only have a clear vision if it has clarity of purpose
  • Value – in moving forward into the future and through the change successfully focus on the value you provide

Once you have mastered the clarity of those things, you can go about taking action in moving through the change, and balancing the outgoing with the incoming:

  1. Know the critical elements:
  • Understand what the critical things are that MUST be done in order to meet existing obligations (e.g. contractual obligations, reporting etc.)
  • Be clear on future direction and vision and the activities required to get there
  • Identify the common activities between the old and new – the overlaps. This will help you figure out how to chunk your time and how resources can be used most effectively.
  • Go through a process of identifying what to Stop doing, Start doing, and Keep doing that serves both the old and the new ways.


  1. Chunk your focus:
  • Schedule chunks of time to manager those critical elements
  • Schedule your time – schedule blocks of time to get through the “tasking” and “doing” of the critical obligations and separate blocks of time to focus on the new – the energy around each is quite different (or it is for me), so I find separating them keeps my energy levels grounded and/or high vibe.
  • Decide on those activities that are most impactful – the things that will move you towards the new with greatest outcome, and those things that are most important/ non-negotiable to get done to meet existing obligations – and do THOSE things as a matter of priority.


  1. Involve your team in the journey:
  • You cannot do it alone; you are not meant to – bring your team along for the journey. Give them ownership of the process, and engage them in the bigger vision
  • Re-group regularly. Make time to reflect on progress, and check in that the critical elements of honouring the old have not been “left behind” in the excitement energy of the new.


No change is ever completely easy, and moving your organisation through the level of change we are experiencing takes great courage – courage to be vulnerable and real.

As a leader you know you need to inspire, take risks, and show confidence. But that does not mean that you are without unanswered questions, or that you are acting with complete certainty.  This time is not about complete certainty of the outcome – it’s about clarity of purpose, alignment with values, commitment to the process and integrity in honouring both the old and the new.

Leading your organisation through rapid change, particularly as a leader in a smaller not for profit, can feel quite overwhelming, as you try to be across everything and set a clear direction for the future. That is why I have gathered together a range of experts in the sector across areas of marketing, innovation, commercialisation, law, quality systems and audits to bring to you a one day, face to face, workshop to support you in your leading through change challenges.


You can find out more and register your interest HERE, as we are limiting the number of participants, to maximise impact and support.  I hope to see you there.