“Agile” is a loaded term. Some use it to mean the agile development methodology exemplified in the book Scrum, a method of project management that focuses on short, time-bound deliverables. Other people use the term with its common meaning in mind: that of being flexible, adaptable, and responsive to change.
The global pandemic tested most nonprofit organizations’ tolerance for change. We are indeed in the age of agile, given the true meaning of the word: the ability to adapt quickly and moderate behavior based on the circumstances at hand.
How does an organization remain flexible? How can you improve your organization’s ability to respond with speed, efficiency, and grace to ever-changing circumstances? Here are the main traits to focus on when hiring and managing a nonprofit in today’s crazy business climate.
Hire Right—Look for a Cultural Fit
Hiring right—that is, finding the right personnel fit for an open position—is the real secret to remaining agile. That’s because it takes a certain personality to stay open minded and tolerate the continuous uncertainty around business conditions.
Hiring “right,” however, depends upon the organization itself. The right person isn’t just highly qualified for the role to which they are applying; they should be a great fit for the organization’s culture.
Consider this when interviewing applicants. It may be a good idea to have team reviews and interviews with applicants to ensure a cultural fit. For example, if you are hiring someone to lead accounts payable, schedule either a group meeting with the entire accounting team or one-to-one meetings with key accounting personnel. Ask employees afterwards their thoughts on the applicant. Did they seem to click with the team? If so, they may indeed be the right fit for the organization.
When you have people who are a good cultural fit for your nonprofit, they will work easily with the entire group. They likely share similar behaviors and characteristics that will help them adapt to change.
Establish Goals and Priorities
Another way to ensure that your organization is adept at responding to changing conditions is to establish clear goals and priorities. It may seem like a contradiction that having clear, set goals or fixed priorities would support an agile response, but it’s true. The reason is simple: if you establish the goal, but leave the way to the goal open, people can work towards the goal on their own. The external conditions may change, but the goal remains the same, and they can adapt and flex to respond to changing circumstances without losing sight of the objectives.
Accept Change—and Be Open to It
Organizations that accept change as a given in the marketplace are better able to adapt and respond to it. It is the organizations that insist upon enacting their established plans or methodologies regardless of the current circumstances which find themselves struggling.
Being open to change doesn’t mean changing goals and objectives (see the previous paragraph) but it does mean accepting that if something blocks a particular path, there are ways around the block. For example, organizations that depended upon live or in-person events as their big fundraiser for the year found themselves faced with an unforeseen challenge at the height of the pandemic.
Nonprofits and charities that were able to move live galas and events online, adding new features to the event, found themselves with higher donations thanks to the ability to reach a larger audience. Those who simply canceled events, hoping for the best, found themselves left out of the newfound world of virtual events.
“Stay curious” simply means being open to exploring new ideas as they arise. Instead of remaining fixed on what worked in the past for the organization, employees who remain open and curious about their work are also able to adapt to change more easily. Curiosity feeds exploration, which in turn may open new avenues for creatively meeting challenges and changes head-on.
Change Isn’t Going Away
If the pandemic taught us anything, it is that change really doesn’t go away. Even though our work may appear to be the same day in and out, nothing stays the same. Hiring the right employees who fit well with the culture, focusing on goals rather than process, an openness to change, and remaining curious about solutions are all the right steps to an agile nonprofit organization.
Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.