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Resiliency: How Can Nonprofit Leaders Build Resilient Organizations?

Posted May 24, 2017 09:30 AM
Resiliency…resiliency… just saying the word can make you feel more settled in these unsettling times. What are the strategies that nonprofit leaders can do to build resiliency in our organizations?

“Survive a crisis?” you think, “Heck, I do that every day!”

So let’s get to the thrive part. Think of three corners of a triangle anchoring your future: Leadership, culture, and networks.

Leadership means the executive and board don’t let uncertainty discourage them from ambitious goals. Stepping up in a time of crisis can demonstrate the importance of your organization, display the trust your community has in you, and challenge your staff to do their best work.

Leadership is not just about the board and executive. In a resilient organization, you can see leadership in each person on the team bringing creativity and innovation to program and service delivery. They are ready to take the actions necessary to recover and thrive.

Do a quick and dirty environmental scan with your board and leadership. This will help you externalize and communicate risks, which will make them easier to monitor. Don’t just think about the negative. What is positive in your environment? Person who are primed to recognize positive situations and opportunities unfolding can take advantage of change, even in a crisis.

Culture rises from a unity of purpose. That unity will help your organization weave and swerve to adjust to conditions, yet stay together – like a flock of geese heading into high winds.

For this cohesiveness to work, break down silos in the organization and build on the loyalty that develops in teams to generate loyalty to the organization’s mission during this time. If staff teams have been disrupted by remote work and/or layoffs, now is a good time to have your staff create a team charter that allows you to state the behaviors you want to encourage in all staff (here is a sample).

One of the best tools for resilience is gratitude. Make it a daily practice to think about what you are grateful for. This causes us to see the resources gathered around us that we might not otherwise see (it also lowers our blood pressure, causes us to experience less pain, and allows us to sleep better!).

Networks of people and organizations bring resources, knowledge, and partnerships to the organization. How can you partner with people in your network to better serve the community?

A key strategy is having an effective volunteer program. Research has found that organizations that had well managed volunteer program did better at weathering through the Great Recession because they could rely on volunteers when they had more people to serve or less staff to do the work. While in-person volunteering may be disrupted, think about how volunteers can support your work remotely. What skills do you need that your volunteers have?

While it is easy to feel overwhelmed by such a rapid shift in our lives, those of us in the nonprofit sector have the assets we always rely on still available to us. We show leadership on behalf of our community. Our culture is based on serving others. We build strong networks, share resources, and stand together.


Take a minute and read Beth Kanter’s blog post on 9 Tips for Nonprofits To Boost Resilience During A Pandemic

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