It’s taken me awhile to write my second blog post. I had several ideas but gradually discarded each one except for one. It was an idea that kept arising in different contexts and in different ways. So I thought why not, let me try a blog post.
The idea that kept going through my head is that these times that we’re living in and trying to manage nonprofits in are very different from any time before. Obviously no great revelation- but what is it about these times that are so different? I have spent over 30 years working in social services so I’ve seen a lot of changes. Governments change and they bring in new policies and legislation. Sometimes these new policies support social services and support the people that we work with, often they don’t. Sometimes the economy does well, sometimes it doesn’t. New trends come and go and then sometimes come back again. Demographics change, neighborhoods too. We’re used to change and most nonprofits are great at responding to changes. We develop new programs and new models and make changes to existing ones. We seek out new funders, etc. etc.
But we’re also used to believing that once a government changes or the economy gets better, things will get better for social services and the people we work with. Well, I don’t believe that we can count on “times will get better and we’ll be okay” anymore. I don’t think that we will be going back to the days when if you managed a social service agency well and had good relations with funders, used the money efficiently and offered services that people found useful and met their needs, your organization would do okay and probably even thrive.
Regardless of what government is or will be in power or how well the economy turns around, there have been just too many changes in our society in the past few years that will make it impossible for us to go back to the old days- even if the old days were only a few years ago. In subsequent blogs I’ll go into more detail about some of these changes and the impact on nonprofits. However, the many demographic, economic, political and technological changes are and will be fundamentally changing what a nonprofit looks like, how it functions, how it’s funded and what it should do. We in the sector may not like many of the changes and the implications for our sector, we may even feel that it goes against some of our most basic values but we must face these issues.
So what do we do? I’ve been thinking about this for awhile. Over the past few years I’ve tried to encourage more innovative practices and adaptability at North York Community House. I’ve examined my own leadership style and began to lead differently to better deal with these times. This is important work but I think that we need to do more. First of all, we need to learn more about these changes, about what the implications could be, about what is happening in other countries. We can’t just go back into our own agency and write more grants and do more fundraising. We must also talk honestly and openly with each other and try not to worry that if we open up and expose our weaknesses, another organization will take advantage of it. We have to build more trust with each other because we’re all in it together. We need to take the leadership and suggest and try out new and different ways of working and not wait for government, funders or business to take the lead.
These are some initial thoughts. What else do we need to do? What do you think? I’d love to hear other ideas and thoughts.