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PEAK Grantmaking

Working as a Team: Tips for Successfully Managing Change

So, your gut is telling you there needs to be a change in the way you manage grants… or track volunteer hours, or manage events, or your accounting practices, etc. You might know you need change. You might feel it everyday. But this isn’t the same as understanding exactly what you’re hoping to accomplish.

Don’t assume that you or the people you’re working with can’t take the steps necessary for a needed change. Do set yourself up for successful change management by taking a few simple, but necessary steps early on.

Create a Clear Picture of Your Goals

What needs to change? Do you simply need to set a more efficient process in place for staff to follow? Or do you need to evaluate technology options to help you become more efficient and better organized?

Why is this necessary? It’s not enough to simply see a problem and then try to fix it. You need to define the issue and explain (if only to yourself) why this change needs to happen. Fill in the blanks: We are experiencing problems with __________, because of __________. Therefore, we need to consider __________. It seems simple enough, but people often skip this step because they “just know” change is necessary. But communicating your “gut feeling” to others takes more than intuition.

Who will this affect? The most difficult part of change management is communicating what is happening to stakeholders. The people who will be affected by your initiative will be more accepting of change if they understand the what and why ahead of time. This is especially important when working with different roles and personality types.

Understand the People Who Work with You

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
~7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, Habit #5

Even a staff of one works with different people on a daily basis – volunteers, board of directors, grantees, and the public. While it’s not necessary to be an expert on what makes everyone tick, having a general understanding of different learning styles and motivators is helpful.

Some people learn better with pictures, others with text. Some people need a more direct “telling” approach, and others require showing. This applies not only to learning “something,” such as a new job or software solution, but also when learning to accept change. Some folks will hear, “this is what we’re doing, get on board,” and they’ll accept it and move on. Others will need more convincing.

Remember that there is nothing right or wrong with the way different people react in the face of change… it’s just who they are. It might be easy to champion those who embrace change from the word go and avoid or become aggravated with those who continue to question your decisions. But keep in mind that often the people who resist the most in the beginning might end up being your biggest supporters once the change is proven effective.

Case in point. At Foundant, we recently welcomed a new Vice President of Operations. Prior to our new VP, Randy, ever meeting with any of our team members, management communicated the what and why of this decision very clearly to everyone in the company. Once Randy joined our team, he then took time to sit down with each and every employee – to understand their concerns, interests, strengths, goals, and so on. This made, what could have been a very difficult transition, instead a comfortable, reassuring, and even inspiring change.

I bring this example up because, even if you work with a very small staff and think you know exactly what they are thinking, it is critical that they know you have their best interests at heart. Taking time to speak with the people affected will give them a sense of belonging and investment in your plan, as well as you a clear picture of their concerns and motivations.

Understand the People Who Work with You

Once you know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and understand how the people you work with will be part of this change, it’s time to plan.

Does your staff need training? A sure-fire way to create resistance is to tell someone what they have to do. Instead, involve them in the process. Sit down with your stakeholders and explain what they’ll be expected to do with this new process or system. Give them the opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions. This shouldn’t just be a “show and tell,” but an open forum for the group to air concerns and bounce ideas off one another. You will probably find that there are some points (however minor) that you hadn’t considered when planning on your own.

Will this mean moving from one set of systems or processes to something entirely different? The more movement and change your plan entails, the more unknowns you’ll need to account for. These unknowns won’t just affect the people involved, but the timeline to implement as well. Make sure you’re not up against a tight deadline or strong opposition when you take on a major change project.

What other people need to be involved? If you’re working with any outside contractors you’ll need to accommodate schedules and processes that are not under your control. Even people you’re paying for outside work have other things going on. Don’t assume you’re their only client. That being said, you have every right to expect great customer service from these contractors as well. Make sure you’re getting what you’ve been promised.

Moving Forward with Purpose

Once you have a clear goal, understand the stakeholders involved, and have outlined your plan – it’s time to move forward with purpose. This means being prepared for any last minute opposition, being confident in your vision, and keeping sight of what this will look like for you and your organization at the end.

You’ll want to be flexible to any changes that happen along the way, but not allow too many adjustments to push you into being “wishy washy.” In the tech world we refer to this as “scope creep.” Anything that does not align with your original vision “creeps” outside of the scope of your goals.

Change is hard, but can also be exciting, inspiring, and reinvigorating for everyone involved… as long as goals are clearly set and the lines of communication are open.

Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.

~William Pollard

If making a change in your organization involves the evaluation and implementation of technology, you might be interested in reading our article on Adopting New Technology. You’ll gain insight into key steps in the process, questions to ask, and pitfalls to avoid while working through the decision.


Over 1,400 philanthropic organizations are maximizing their impact with Foundant Technologies’ online philanthropy management solutions. With a proven record of making clients’ lives better through exceptional customer service and reasonable pricing, we continue to look for ways to help the philanthropic sector operate more efficiently, increase impact, and focus on their mission. Headquartered in Bozeman, MT, Foundant now also runs remote offices in Orcas Island, WA, Boise, Chicago, and Minneapolis.