Friday, April 17, 2015

How You Can Keep Up With Change

How You Can Keep Up With Change

"Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times."          —  Niccolo Machiavell

The world is constantly in flux. Communities, states, societies, and demographics of constituents are constantly transforming. As leaders in a society that is ever changing, it is imperative to keep pace with changing demographics in order to be successful.

Be flexible. Be adaptable. Be open to new possibilities.

Why is this important?

-As leaders of nonprofit agencies, the primary goal of our work is to provide effective services that meet a need and accurately represent a mission statement (Herman, 2010). Nonprofit services will not be effective if leaders do not consider the changing demographics of the populations they serve. Needs change, grow, shrink, and transform. Imagine trying to address the root causes of poverty in an upper middle class community. If a need is not present, leaders must adapt.

-Engagement with clients, donors, and volunteers change as demographics change. For instance, household income is a major predictor of giving (Independent Sector, 2001). If the socioeconomic composition of a community changes, nonprofits will have to create new and resourceful ways to engage a diverse donor pool.

Implications for Leaders

-Leaders need to consider who is involved in the conversation. Those who have leadership positions and are making decisions may not be representative of the client population. As demographics change, community needs may also change. It is, thus, vital to understand trends and constantly conduct need assessments of the community in which your nonprofit is situated.

-Changing demographics can be a catalyst for innovation in an agency. Nonprofits need to adapt and create innovative programs and services in order to be successful in a changing climate. If nonprofits do not encourage innovation, they will lose their competitive edge to other nonprofits that are providing services that are better matched to client needs (Hamel & Prahalad, 1989).

What can you do about it?

-Create focus groups! Leaders need to embrace the change. One pitfall many leaders face, however, is assuming that they understand the needs of a diverse population without asking any questions. Let the community tell your agency what they need and what services would best match their values or interests. An additional pro of creating focus groups is that including clients in the conversation encourages buy in within these consumer groups. Creating ownership of proposed programs and solutions within the community is vital to a successful organization.

-Recruit diverse staff. Having a diverse staff can symbolize that your agency respects and values diverse opinions. This will increase communication between the agency and community, and it can also build the trust and credibility of your organization within the community.

-Outline short term and long term goals. Be transparent with community about what your agency is working towards (Tichy & Charan, 1989). Providing this information can mobilize communities to take an active interest in issues and solutions your agency is facing.

Leaders need to encourage innovative practices that are representative of community needs in order to maximize success in a changing environment. If the environment is changing, you must change. You cannot expect success unless you are willing to adapt your practices.


Hamel, G. & Prahalad, C. (1989). Strategic Intent. Harvard Business Review, pg 63-76.

Herman, R. (2010).  The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management (3rd ed).  
        San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Independent Sector (2001). Giving and Volunteering in the United States: Findings From A National    
        Survey, pg 16-25.

Tichy, M. & Charan, R. (1989). Speed, Simplicity, and Self-Confidence. Harvard Business Review
        pg. 112-120.