Growth and Innovation During Uncertain Times




Patrick Harker, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and former Dean of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, described earlier this year what many of us in the nonprofit sector may be feeling. “My biggest concern is concern,” said Harker. “The biggest risk we face is uncertainty.”

 

Many people have used the word “uncertain” to describe 2017. Nonprofits are reacting to this uncertainty by shifting their focus from innovation and growth to sustaining and preserving programs and services. It’s natural during times of change for organizations to prioritize keeping costs down, but this uncertainty can also create the opportunity for organizations to take a step back and assess their programs or services.

5 Keys to a Growth Mindset

Although this may not be the right time for all organizations to consider new initiatives, it is an opportunity to better position themselves for meeting a new or unmet demand. Organizations need to consistently evaluate their positioning in the community, the needs of their clients and the impact of their services. This becomes even more crucial during times of change at the risk of failing to adapt and losing clients, funding or value.

These 5 steps are essential to navigating your organization toward innovation and growth during times of uncertainty:

1. Listen to the needs of your clients and customers. While the needs of your clients and customer are always changing, they now may be even more volatile and uncertain. Find time to collect feedback from your clients and customers to truly understand how your organization can best serve them. Consider surveys, focus groups or even shadowing a client experience in your own program or service. Your organization may need to adapt to meet your clients’ needs and in doing so, you’ll continue to make a positive impact.

2. Continuously evaluate the environment your organization is working within. It is important that your organization has the systems in place to be flexible and responsive to the environment your working within, especially when there are so many unknown variables. Schedule time to step back and evaluate the current environment and your organization’s role within that environment. Understand both your unique value to the community you serve and the value of competing organizations.

3. Discuss innovation and growth with your leadership and board. For some organizations, developing or growing a new program or service may not be in your best interest, but it is necessary to have these conversations with your leadership and board. This ensures that your organization is proactively thinking about how to better meet the needs of your client or exploring an emerging client need. It may not be your organization’s place to address a new or emerging client need, but you should be aware of what the needs are and they are being met.

4. Explore diverse funding streams. Uncertain times are crucial periods for your organization to assess current revenue mix as sources of funding change more quickly or become unclear. Be proactive in exploring other areas of revenue that can drive you towards new and sustainable funding.

5. Seek out diverse opinions and viewpoints. Find trusted advisors within your network (and outside of your network) to engage them during the innovation or growth process. Having an outside perspective can encourage innovation and provide valuable resources and accountability when considering an innovative program or service.

If your organization is considering growing an innovative program or service, consider applying for Mission Capital’s Mission Accelerator. Through this program, you’ll have the opportunity to work with diverse stakeholders on assessing your organization’s unique value, understanding the changing needs of your clients, exploring alternative funding, vetting your plan for growth and preparing for future investment.

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