By Ashley Sharp, Movement Maker Collective Contributor

Your nonprofit will fail if you’re unable or unwilling to adapt to the changing circumstances. It’s that simple. 

This fact was made clear by the pandemic, which accelerated the failure of organizations around the world. On the other hand, it has also accelerated the success of organizations that are ready to make changes and think differently. I’m here to tell you that uncertainty and risk can be actual tools for growing your nonprofit.

New Approach

I serve as executive director for Dwell with Dignity, a nonprofit that helps families escape poverty and/or trauma through design. Since 2011, we’ve hosted Thrift Studio, a yearly pop-up shop that historically provides up to a third or more of our operating revenue. When the pandemic started, we knew we had to make a change or risk failing the families we assist. In response, we announced a bold new approach to Thrift Studio in the form of Thrift Studio LIVE, an online shop featuring a curated collection of items. 

We weren’t sure how people would respond to this new idea, but we were hopeful that it could provide our nonprofit with funds to help us through the pandemic. Fortunately, we were met with an overwhelmingly positive response from our supporters. Our willingness to step outside of our comfort zone and try something new resulted in one of our most successful years to date, with countless families benefiting. 

Be Nimble

My team is composed of highly dedicated professionals who are ready to change gears at a moment’s notice. This is a major reason why we were able to change up our approach at the onset of the pandemic and finish out 2020 stronger than ever. While larger nonprofits may not enjoy the luxury of having a tight-knit, easily adaptable team, they can take steps to increase their responsiveness to change. 

  • Let go of the reins. Instead of trying to keep tabs on all your employees at one time, hire supervisors you trust to get the job done and let go of the reins. If you hire the right people, you can rest assured that they’ll make the right decisions for your organization. 
  • Streamline your review process. Your success depends on your ability to move fast and with confidence. So if your review process is time-consuming, you’re doomed to fail. Instead of your top leadership attempting to review everything from a partner memo to a social media post, empower your professionals to complete this process. 

Embrace Your Inner Entrepreneur

When first entering the nonprofit world, I was curious why many organizations chose to utilize program-centric thinking, as opposed to a business mentality. In my mind, nonprofits should operate as businesses with a goal of always increasing their positive impact. Choosing to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset focused on organizational development and achievement will help your nonprofit reach greater heights. Think outside the box, get used to uncertainty, and never settle for mediocrity when excellence is an option. 

Don’t Let Fear Guide You

During the pandemic, many organizations decided to focus on avoiding risks, with their top priority being to protect what they already had. This approach failed across the board. Why? By letting the fear of loss guide your activities, you’re not increasing the value you provide to your community or innovating. In order to sustain your mission, you need to continually grow and adapt to the world around you. 

  • Be fearless. When you take fear off the table, the possibilities for your team are endless. As opposed to thinking about the negative ramifications of taking a risk, imagine the possibility of increasing your impact.
  • Think bigger. Often, the greatest obstacle to your success is your mindset. If you hold yourself to a higher standard of excellence, you’re capable of much more than if you stick to the status quo. 

Change Is Inevitable 

I think back to the beginning of 2020 when stay-at-home orders were being implemented and many organizations were struggling to transition to a remote world. However, there were some that were ready to roll with the punches: organizations with open-minded leadership, motivated employees and a commitment to innovation. Embrace the idea of change as a natural component of your nonprofit! It isn’t something to be feared. Instead, it should be celebrated! We have all come through so much together. Congratulate yourself and your teams on this amazing success, and, to quote the gold ring I wear on my finger daily, “Keep Going”!

Copyright (c) 2022 Movement Maker. All rights reserved.

About the author: Ashley Noelle Sharp is the Executive Director at Dwell with Dignity, Forbes contributor, TEDx organizer, social entrepreneur and serial innovator.