Managing Change In Non-Profit Organizations: What Role Do Leaders Play?

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Change is a vital part of our life today, and how we navigate change can make or break everything. With the advent of big data and AI, several changes have affected many sectors, including non-profit organizations. 

To implement change management in an organization, the organization’s leader plays a crucial role in supervising the smooth transition from the old to the new.

We will discuss leaders’ critical role in managing change in a non-profit organization.

What Is Change Management For Non-Profits?

Change management involves the tools and techniques used to support and strategically prepare members of an organization for an incoming change. These techniques help to grease the wheel of organizational change, ensuring that introducing a new methodology does not negatively affect the organization.

Change in a non-profit organization can come through several vehicles. Things like onboarding new leaders, organization restructuring, role reshaping, mergers and acquisitions, introducing new software, launching a new campaign, and many other things can all bring change to an organization.

Managing change in such a situation can be challenging but can be better served with the support of your in-house team and external volunteers. It requires a strategy and workflow to guide people through the necessary procedures. 

The 4 Change Management Principles

Change is rarely pleasant, but implementing these principles can help make it more successful.

Understand Change

You can only implement what you understand. Therefore, the first principle is to understand change. Ask yourself these questions.

  • Why do we need to change? What are the key objectives?
  • What are the potential benefits of the change to the organization?
  • How will the change impact people in the organization?
  • How will the change alter the way people work?
  • What do the organization’s members need to accept the changes?

The answers to these questions will open your mind to the problem statement, the objectives, and the benefits of the change, and will strengthen your resolve.

Plan Change

Effective change depends upon proper planning. You will need to make changes that align with the goals and visions of the organization. Some organizations are flexible and open, while others are rigid. Your plans will depend on the structure and flexibility of your organization.

Here are some core metrics to check when planning for change;

  • Establish KPIs and success measurement yardsticks for the change you need.
  • Consider sponsorship. What are your plans for securing, engaging, and using high-level support and sponsorship for the change?
  • Check involvement. Who is designated to help you position and implement the change? Do you need external expertise, or can you manage well with the internal resources you have?

Implement Change

After understanding and planning, you can begin to implement the change. How exactly will the change happen? Here is what you should do;

  • Identify key members involved in this change and note their level of involvement.
  • Keep everyone in the loop and offer support when required.
  • Provide training before the change if it is needed.

Communicate Change

Communicating is another crucial part now that you have it all planned. How you relate the change to others significantly impacts their response to the change. Set the right tone, be sure to link the change to the mission and vision statement of the organization, and be clear and concise in your explanation so that everyone understands not just the difference but the reason for it.

The 3 C’s of Change Management

In change management, these three things will help you overcome any challenge.


Be sure to define your message with clarity. Use simple, well-thought-out words. The last thing you want is confusion. Be specific about the implications of the change to the individuals and organization.


You must ensure the change is compelling enough to interest people affected by it. Why change a familiar, functional and working method to a new one without much credibility? People will question the decision, so you must be ready with enough proof to win them over.


How can they tell that all you have said is true? You need facts, statements, and propositions that clearly show the credibility of the claims you have just made. You need to build trust among the members, and their confidence will increase when they see results.

Additional Tips for Managing Change in Non-profit Organizations

Here are some tips for managing change;

  • Define the project’s goal. Ensure that you clearly state the purpose of the project.
  • Find an executive sponsor to promote a shared vision.
  • Reward people throughout the project to keep them motivated. The results are unclear early on, so participants might proceed cautiously. However, you must motivate them by rewarding every small effort.

The Role of Leaders in Leading a Change.

Successful leaders in change management are the ones that know that they play a crucial role in leading a change. Here are some critical functions of leaders who effectively lead through change.

Be Approachable to Your Employees

This statement above may be a new phase, and employees need constant reassurance. You can ensure you are available for your employees whenever they need you. They need to be direct and transparent with them. Help people buy into the change, and if they need you for support or clarification, then ensure that you are there to give it to them.

Assess and Increase Readiness for Change

Change is not sudden. It is a gradual process that people usually need some time to take in. Your duty as a leader is to study the environment and know when employees are ready for a change. You must also increase their readiness by giving them tasks and role assignments to pursue. By meeting new, higher deadlines, you know that they are ready for more, and eventually, you will lead them to the ultimate change gradually and smoothly.

Manage the Speed of Change

Consider the Stakeholders’ Responses to Change

Some people require more time than others. Therefore, you should manage the speed of change. Stakeholders also need pre-information and some time to absorb and accept the change.

Effectively Communicate Change Management Plans

After setting up plans, learning to communicate these plans effectively is essential. You can break down goals into milestones and add some time limits. This way, it is easier to pursue and achieve goals.

Connect Change Initiatives to Strategy

Change and strategy have always gone hand in hand. According to Tony Manning in his book; Making Sense of Strategy, as long as strategy and change management remain in different boxes, there will always be a costly disconnect. Having an intended strategy for the change will put you on the right track to actualizing the change.

How to Measure the Success of Change Management

The easiest way to know the outcome of change management is to ask yourself if you realized the intended change. You can also determine success by checking the general performance of the organization and that of the individuals in it. 

Change management aims to improve performance, so if your organization is performing better and the individuals are more fulfilled, this is a clear indication of success.

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