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Resiliency: How Can Nonprofit Leaders Build Resilient Organizations?

Posted May 24, 2017 09:26 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? Being resilient means the organization can not only survive a crisis but thrive.

“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 clouds on the horizon discourage them from planning ambitious goals. These goals are backed by clear plans and people are held accountable for achieving the goals. However, leadership is not just about the board and executive. In a resilient organization, you can see leadership in each person on the team because they are creative and innovative. They are ready to take whatever actions are necessary to thrive.

Do a quick and dirty environmental scan with your board and leadership if you have not done one recently. 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?

Just as a person who is primed to recognize positive situations unfolding can take full advantage of them, organizations can become more aware and responsive to opportunities and positive outcomes.

Culture rises from a unity of purpose. That unity will help the 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 we have to break down silos in the organization and build on the loyalty that develops in teams to generate loyalty to the organization’s mission. Now is a good time to have your staff create and develop a team charter that allows you to state the behaviors you want to encourage in all staff (here is a sample).

Networks of people and organizations bring resources, knowledge, and partnerships to the organization. A key strategy in this area is having an effective volunteer program. Research has found that organizations that had formal volunteer program did better at weathering through the Recession because they could rely on volunteers when they had more people to serve or less staff to do the work.

Attend our upcoming free 501 Talks Tech workshop on Thursday, June 15 at noon to get ideas about how to map your network and make a plan to expand your network of supporters and partners.

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!).

Take a minute and read Beth Kanter’s blog post on resiliency and consider reading her book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit.