Leading strong day-to-day operations in your NFP

By Anthony Blaney - May 8, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic develops, CEOs and executive leadership teams in not-for-profit (NFP) organisations need to look at how they will strengthen their day-to-day operations and demonstrate strong and authentic leadership.

Assuming your organisation has taken a step back to ensure it has effective governance structures in place, the next step NFPs need to take is looking at how the CEO and leadership team will effectively lead the organisation.

In this article, we outline how CEOs and executive leadership teams can effectively lead the day-to-day operations of their NFP, ensuring they establish strong strategic and operational frameworks and processes, while effectively engaging their people for the recovery ahead.

Assess your organisational impacts before you respond

As a crisis hits, your board and other key leaders will need to ensure they have effective governance structures in place to empower your CEO and executive leadership team to make decisions about how the organisation will move forward. Key things to consider are how your funding sources may be impacted, the structure of your workforce (including geographically dispersed volunteers) and the strategic and organisational priorities that will help to steer your NFP through these turbulent times.

Be an effective change manager

CEOs and leadership teams within NFP organisations will likely need to drive change and manage stakeholder expectations as the situation evolves. At this stage, CEOs need to work closely with key people who’ll champion the changes you need to make. This may include people who are responsible for marketing and communications, internal operations, human resources and finance. Involving these key people from the outset will ensure you’re across how decisions and changes will affect different parts of the business, and you’ll know the best way to adapt as the situation continues to evolve.

Communicate effectively with internal and external stakeholders

Your organisation will have many stakeholders to contact as you formulate a plan to move forward. People want to know that they are a priority in difficult times, making clear and considered communication, even if it includes bad news, crucial. Before you contact stakeholders, develop clear, honest and consistent key messages for:

  • internal stakeholders such as your people and volunteers
  • external stakeholders such as donors and government grant contacts.

Roll out organisational changes with a long-term view

Your organisation will likely need to change how it operates as a result of a crisis. In the current environment, for example, rapid changes and updates to your IT infrastructure may have been required. With the current lockdown period reaching almost two months at the time of publishing, it demonstrates that your response plans need to be effective beyond the immediate days and weeks ahead.

Keeping a long-term view as a CEO or leader within your NFP will provide you with the foresight you need to effectively strategise how your organisation will ramp-up to full capacity again. This long-term view will also add perspective to your communication with stakeholders, providing them with the calm, honest and authentic reassurance that’s needed in challenging times.

Effectively manage your people

People can feel isolated when they’re faced with personal and professional difficulties, so looking after your people’s mental and physical wellbeing is particularly important right now. To ensure your people remain well and connected, you need to work with key people across your organisation to have the right infrastructure in place. This infrastructure includes the technology for people to work from anywhere, online collaboration tools and the resources your people need to connect and collaborate with external stakeholders.

Fostering a culture of flexibility will also keep people engaged, while ensuring they feel that they can be transparent about how they’re managing and what may need to change to be more effective. This also feeds into maintaining regular and open communication with all stakeholders:

  • To keep all your internal stakeholders engaged: schedule regular updates with your people, the board and volunteers. Leave time in these updates for people to ask questions or raise concerns.
  • Keep in touch with external stakeholders: through regular updates and, where necessary, delegate specific communications and updates to suitable leaders throughout your organisation.

Have a plan that addresses current and future challenges

As your organisation adapts to a new way of working, you’ll need to establish a framework and measurable goals to determine the efficacy of any changes. While these measurable goals may be focused around service delivery and funding, you’ll also need to determine how your people are coping.

Delegating responsibility for reporting back on people-focused successes and challenges to your key internal operations or human resources person is a good way to make sure this happens. Further, if resources permit, delegating measurement and reporting to key people across the business will help to ensure everything is proactively managed.

Plan your road to recovery

Beyond the current crisis period, you’ll need to consider how the whole business will recover. At an operational level, you’ll need to consider things such as re-engaging staff and volunteers, strategising your approach to funding sources, resourcing for potentially increased demand, and quickly adapting budgets and delivery models as needed. Develop plans that are scalable and sustainable for at least the next six months, so there is a strong foundation to build from after the crisis.

Adapt quickly and talk to an expert

Times of crisis are challenging for organisations and their people, especially in the NFP sector, where the prospect of an economic downturn can require fast adaptation to continue its operations.

Pitcher Partners has a team of professionals who specialise in working with the NFP sector. If you’d like to discuss how to manage your organisation’s strategy and operations throughout this time and beyond, please contact one of our specialists below.

Read the other pieces in our NFP series:

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