I have been working with some folks on making some pretty radical changes with how the non-profit I help out with will move forward in the future. Just a short background to set the stage. This non-profit is a small 4 man, part-time outfit, that works hard to provide school choice to Arizona students by helping out private school education. Gathering donations and providing the funding to private school students. Some would think that if you pick private school, then you should fund it yourself. Well, that is the view from many… Education is important, no question. In Arizona, we are very lucky we have everything set up for school choice. This non-profit is only a few years old and is fairly new to the landscape. There are some rather large ones in Arizona (large donation base, scholarship awarded and some salary payouts). To help set us apart, we are excited about this potential change (can not give away our idea yet). Well, this ideas is being taken to a few to get some initial feedback and is being met with some real optimism, but still way too much hesitation.
So, how do you make a difference in the landscape?
- Offer more personalized service. The volunteers within this non-profit are doing everything themselves. Everything gets a personal touch with whatever we are doing. Yes, we are taking advantage of as much automation as possible, but when it comes to people – we believe people should interact with people.
- Understanding the complete landscape of how private schools are funded and how maybe some improvements can come about. Offer something that no one has… We have looked at this from a parent, school administrator and donor standpoint. We are looking for ways to make this a smoother, less manual process (without losing the personal connection). Feedback has been pretty strong that we are really focusing in the right areas, BUT.
That BUT is where this post is hitting home… Change! Seems like changing the status quo is very difficult. I completely understand that if you think it is working today, why change? Is it really working for everyone? When I evaluate how we as a team are working, change is difficult. We all come from our own set of believes and experiences. How can we do better? We have witnessed fear of changing from the schools. They have done things this way for awhile now, why change? When you point out a value proposition that makes this non-profit standout better than the others, why not take a chance? If administrator productivity will increase easily 30% (and have them focus on additional items) – why not take a chance? Not to say that everything will be perfect if you changed, but it definitely can not be worse than you are already experiencing. Take a chance, make a change…
What is needed for change?
- Evaluate the current environment with objectivity. I hear all the time, “that this is the way that we have always done it. It works, so leave it alone.” Well, almost every time we really look at the current environment with objectivity, we come out with it is good, but not great. We know we can have it better. So, depending on your situation you need to set a strategy that will give you what you want in the long term. Then you can set your goals and go make it happen. Rather than wandering around trying to achieve something.
- Focus on Execution… Talk is cheap. It is amazing how many folks get wrapped around the technology of something. You probably have friends that are into the tech geek stuff. They see something and they think this is going to solve all the worlds ills. Or at the very least are ready to charge on the side of something new and shiny. I am a bit of that person at times. The problem is getting to excited around the technology part and not really focusing in on execution of use. Making it work the way you think it can, takes focus! Do you have the right level of focus.
- Letting go… I see this as a problem almost everywhere. How and when to let go. Sometimes the person with the idea has taken it to their limits and needs to let go to make execution happen. There are times with the idea person needs to stop with the ideas and get stuff done. How long are you going to spin in idea generation or data analysis before you move? Same goes for a person that is tracking and administering a process today that could easily become replaced – let it go… If this gives you more time to do other (potentially more important tasks), why not give it a try.
When you are dealing with established anything, change is difficult. It takes a well defined strategy (with the value that the change will bring) to help open the ears. Next is putting the right folks in the right places to help focus on execution. Have to make with you are saying into reality! Along the way, let go when appropriate. Trust your team and let them do the stuff to make the outcome it very best.
Image provided by: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos