Advancing and developing without setting too many precedents

August 21, 2014

Advancing and developing without setting too many precedents

Nonprofits that want to change or develop their individual programs, overall mission or even their administrative and office operations are understandably weary about setting precedents that could come back to cause problems further down the line. While precedents certainly aren't negative in and of themselves, leaders at charitable groups don't want a pilot program or test run of a new practice to change long-term perceptions and expectations among the local community and the populations being served. Correctly framing the matter at hand and getting past the worries of some board members and employees can help to get support for a change that can lead to positive results.

Nomenclature is one of the most important parts of the conversation when it comes to framing a potential new project or trial to board members and other stakeholders. Sometimes, setting aside a few minutes at the beginning of a meeting and correctly framing a new outreach effort or marketing plan as a test run is enough to get approval. Carefully describing something as not a standard going forward, but an experiment that will be evaluated, can generate the support for something that may be outside the comfort zones of those involved. Nonprofit association executive Cindy Butts recently provided some advice about getting decision-makers to approve such a move, including highlighting the extenuating circumstances. Providing a reason why a new program will be implemented and managed differently than all the others is easier to understand if the changes are due to specific reasons such as a higher-than-expected budget or a change in demographics.

Point to evidence and benefits
Besides spelling out the reasons behind a new or changed approach, those advocating for a new development can also highlight how similar efforts have worked out for other nonprofits, or even private businesses. If a nonprofit employee wants to expand the social media presence of an organization, for example, then providing an operational plan and set of best practices can help to sway opinions. There are plenty of resources available to help in these efforts. In relation to the specific example used, Grant Space, a learning community for nonprofits, offers a curated list of nonprofit social media best practices and advice. A little bit of research and planning ahead of time can pay off when the time comes to convince leaders to try a different track.

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