What is at the Heart of Nonprofit Restructures?

Today, Nancy Weiss, President and CEO of Catalyst held a conference phone call with Kim Dorniden, Case Western Organization Development graduate student and Vice President of Human Resources of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. Kim had come up short during her Internet searches for advice and down-to-earth strategies on restructuring nonprofit organizations, the subject of her latest paper at school. Kim wasn’t after the kind academic rhetoric found in textbook theory—she didn’t want “the 10,000 foot view,” but instead, on-the-ground, practical advice from the field. She found Nancy through a Linked In group discussion thread sponsored by the Minnesota Organization Development Network.

Kim’s questions centered on how to restructure a nonprofit whose jobs had grown organically over the years; people had taken on jobs as needed, but not strategically. In their discussion, Nancy shared examples from her long career assisting nonprofits, small businesses, and public sector agencies, yet all examples had the same threads of advice: start with gaining a deep understanding of the true mission, goals, and values of the organization and view the presenting problem through that lens. Keep in mind the varying perspectives of the multiple stakeholders who you will encounter in the early phases of the project.

Consider how the organization is functioning now and how it wants to operate or do in its ideal future state. Once the “success criteria” for the project is established (which must align back to the mission, goals, and values), make it your ongoing compass, guiding you through all phases of the assessment and recommendation generation process, and beyond into implementation. Design jobs and departments, workflow, teams, communication tools, etc., to reach the ideal state, but within the means and resources available. Only then will you have helped an organization innovate and adopt changes in sustainable ways.

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