Andrew Middleton

Aug 16, 2023, 9:00 AM

Navigating strategic change: Striking the balance in nonprofit organisations

Change, an undeniable force, shapes the journey of nonprofit organisations. While often a sign of progress, change for change's sake can be a perilous path. Nonprofits must tread carefully to avoid losing sight of their core mission while embracing adaptation. In this landscape, the role of trustees becomes pivotal, as their strategic decisions steer the organisation's future.

Change driven by a thirst for novelty can lead nonprofits astray. An organisation dedicated to community empowerment embarked on an unnecessary rebranding campaign, diverting resources from their impactful programmes. The sudden shift confused beneficiaries and supporters, undermining trust and diluting the organisation's impact. Such instances illustrate the risk of trustees pursuing change without careful consideration.

However, there are cases where trustees' resistance to change proves equally detrimental. Consider an education-focused nonprofit sticking to traditional classroom methods despite the digital revolution. Failing to adapt to changing learning preferences and technological advances led to diminished engagement and relevance. This example underscores the urgent need for trustees to recognise the signs of necessary change and embrace innovation.

Engaging trustees in a strategic review demands a comprehensive approach. Initiating open conversations within the board about shifting trends and emerging beneficiary needs can trigger a sense of responsibility. Presenting data that highlights the gap between current strategies and evolving requirements can motivate trustees to consider change seriously.

These are my suggested tips to set a successful strategic review in place.

  1. Constitute a diverse team: Assemble a team representing different perspectives, including trustees, staff, beneficiaries and community voices.
  2. Assess current strategies: Conduct an in-depth analysis of the organisation's mission, objectives and existing strategies. Compare these with the changing landscape and beneficiary needs.
  3. Identify gaps and opportunities: Identify areas where the organisation's strategies may no longer align with evolving needs. Explore opportunities for innovation and growth.
  4. Prioritise changes: Determine which changes are critical for the organisation's continued impact and relevance.
  5. Develop an action plan: Create an action plan that outlines the steps, resources and timeline needed for implementing the necessary changes.
  6. Engage stakeholders: Communicate the proposed changes to all stakeholders, including staff, beneficiaries and supporters, and gather their input and feedback.
  7. Implement and monitor: Execute the action plan systematically, monitor progress and adjust as required.

Strategic change guided by trustees plays a pivotal role in nonprofit organisations' success. Avoiding the extremes of unnecessary change and stagnant adherence requires trustees to be vigilant, open to innovation and in tune with the evolving landscape.

Engaging the board in a strategic review entails fostering a culture of responsibility and transparent communication. By following a structured approach to change, nonprofits can ensure their continued impact and relevance in a dynamic world.


andrew middleton

Andrew Middleton is a seasoned non-profit consultant with a deep passion for strategy and a keen interest in helping charities optimise their profiles. With over a decade of experience in the sector, he brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his work. Andrew is committed to driving social impact and helping non-profits achieve their goals, leveraging his strategic approach and expertise in building strong, effective charity profiles.

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