Are You A Transformative Nonprofit Leader?

Are you a transformative nonprofit leader? You need to be.

We are in a transformative period of not just how fundraising is accomplished but also how nonprofit services and programs are developed, managed and provided to the public served.

We have been in the midst of this transformation for years – but like the proverbial frog being brought to a boil from room temperature we don’t really feel it happening and thus we continue to feel just fine with the status quo — that is until it’s too late. As this scenario proves problematic to the lonely frog it proves even more problematic for nonprofit executives. The idea of being boiled from room temperature isn’t exactly appealing is it?

We have got to come to our senses before it’s too late or we will be left in the dust or worse at the bottom of the boiling kettle!

Companies and nonprofits, big and small, are learning that they must adapt, transform their products and services and, in short, learn to present themselves differently than they have in the past.

Quite frankly it’s a simple formula — the organizations that take transformation seriously are growing and excelling and charting a successful course for the future and those that aren’t are declining and living through the frustration of a deteriorating organization that is fraught with low morale, declining donor support and unfortunately, declining support from advocates, members, and others advocates that typically would help build relevancy, vibrancy, enthusiasm, and growth.

The reality is that if we don’t learn to transform ourselves and our organization and to “Think Different” like Apple, we are charting a path towards obscurity and irrelevancy that will leave many of us in the dust and an inability to recover – ever.

In my work I often see organizations that are dying a slow and painful death. They are desperately attempting to hold onto the past — a past that might have been very effective, popular and relevant at one time — perhaps for many, many years. But times have changed and they simply aren’t as popular now, as effective as they were, or even as relevant as they used to be.

It’s the relevancy part, in particular, that many declining organizations can’t get their arms around because they just don’t want to believe their cheese has been moved — and they continue to believe they are still relevant and that their demise is caused by poor branding, poor leadership, or failed marketing execution, or they are even weighed down by the thought of, “what’s wrong with everyone – don’t THEY know THEY need US?”

I remember back in the 80’s when I was a commercial advertising photographer in NYC and did some work for the company that produced the Laser Disc (my apologies to the younger readers that are saying — huh!) but it was a very short lived product which was replaced by other products even before they had a fighting chance —  what was odd was the fact the company continued to market and try to build a demand for their product. Problem was it lost its relevancy even before it caught any traction. They were surprised but the market didn’t want it no matter how much marketing was thrown out there. Period. It simply wasn’t relevant in spite of every good intention.

This type of scenario is not an option unless you enjoy going down in flames.

People are amazingly change-adverse. Most of us get frozen and can’t even imagine the possibilities and potential positive consequences of certain decisions. Our human nature makes us assume that decisions will only have negative consequences. The more a decision goes against the status quo the more likely the failure – at least that is what our brain tells us. It may be the ultimate reality but for the transformational leader it’s about managing risk against upside opportunity. And this day and age we need to learn to take calculated risks that can potentially improve nonprofit services and fundraising effectiveness. After all isn’t that what our job really is about?

At the end of the day we need to be the iron that sharpens the iron – the tip of the spear.

We need to challenge ourselves everyday to excel, to be passionate about what we do and to have the hustle it takes to not just lead but to be a transformational leader.