Sharon Reddehase

How to Pivot While Staying True to Your Mission

by Sharon Reddehase, Vice President of Strategic Services, Notley

Pivoting and trying something new is scary and involves some element of risk. In the nonprofit world, we’re often rewarded for minimizing risk and operating within the comfort zone to appease stakeholders. Staying true to your mission, while also adapting to the changing landscape, is required for long-term success, no matter what your organizational structure. As Jeff Bezos so famously said: “What’s dangerous is not to evolve.” Imagine where Amazon would be if it only sold books?

When assessing a pivot, consider the following to ensure you are set up for success:

1. Will this pivot drive your mission forward? 

Make a list of non-negotiables that you, your staff and your supporters agree on, and assess your options against this list. Say ‘no’ to anything that doesn’t advance your mission forward. 

2. Avoid knee-jerk reactions from your constituents.  

It’s okay, and prudent, to pause and do your homework, which includes gathering input from customers, peers, partners, major supporters and staff. You will have much more support in the long run for doing so.

3. What impact does this have on our budget and resources? 

Can we afford to do this? What trade-offs are required? Can we do a smaller test to measure whether this change will move the mission needle? These are all important things to consider before investing too many resources into a new project.

4. Make sure your stakeholders clearly understand the opportunity costs of NOT pivoting. 

Most board members are business people and tend to react best when presented with objective data. Clearly outline the implications from a financial, impact and customer perspective, and keep them updated using data.  

5. Your mission is driven by your people, make them part of the conversation as you pivot.

Listen to your staff as they are closest to the people you serve. Bring them into the process and include them in assessing options and associated impact. Have them involved in obtaining customer feedback and early field results, and challenge them to weigh everything against mission and impact. 

6. Is there someone you can partner with vs. doing everything yourself?

While some control is lost with partnering, the costs and risk “savings” are well worth consideration. Investigate potential partners and have the conversations - if your non-negotiables aren’t impacted, experiment!

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