At the beginning of the week, I received the gift of a Bacon Bar. That would be a chocolate bar filled with bacon bits. Sound a little bit questionable to you? My family felt the same way, until I made them taste it. I, on the other hand, was thrilled the first time I heard the words, “bacon chocolate bar.” I love bacon; I love chocolate; it stood to reason, to me at least, that the combination of the two could be nothing short of fantastic. And man, was I right. Everyone agreed that it was delicious. They were hesitant at first, but overcame their fear upon first bite. (DISCLAIMER: I fully support you if your moral or religious beliefs prevent you from eating bacon, whether or not it is ensconced in chocolate. To get a similar experience, I recommend you try a chocolate bar filled with salted caramel. It sounds equally strange, but I’ve heard it is equally delicious!)
The point of this anecdote is to say that trying new things can be hard and sometimes scary. This holds true in our nonprofits as well as in our everyday lives. Many of the VMCs I spoke to at our Mid-Year Retreat last week, in reflecting on their year thus far, spoke about the challenges they faced in implementing new programs at their Service Sites. The challenges ranged from a lack of resources to a lack of volunteers to a lack of staff or Board support. The last, I’d say, is the hardest to deal with. Resources can be found (through in-kind donations, fundraising, etc.), volunteers can be recruited, but staff and Board members can take a heck of a lot more time to become convinced that change is necessary and good. Maybe they think that there is no need for change since the status quo has been sufficient to this point. Maybe they fear losing their position because the new method (or new volunteer) makes them obsolete. Nonetheless, these changes are (hopefully truly) necessary, and it is the job of the VMC to find a way to make them happen.
In perusing the VM library (also known as the bookshelves behind my desk), I came across a book called “Stop Managing Volunteers! New Competencies for Volunteer Administrators,” by Sue Vineyard. Although the book is from 1996, the tips it has for helping your organization cope with change are still relevant. They include:
– Help people deal with the fear of change by keeping them informed, listening to their fears, explaining the reason for the change, and detailing how the change will impact operations.
– Recognize the validity of the old ways and the people that put those old ways in place; celebrate the good done by the old method and find creative ways to recognize the people who helped make that dream a reality.
– Accept the fact that not everyone will be happy; for those who refuse to accept the change, thank them for their service, bid them farewell, and realize that some of their friends may go with them.
– Find people within your organization who support you and can help you make the change possible, listen to their advice, and reward them for their assistance.
With spring right around the corner, your organization might be looking to make some changes. I’d encourage you to share the tips listed above and engage in an open, meaningful dialogue about the nature of change within your organization and why it might be a good or bad thing. If you have any advice for your colleagues who are struggling to make change within their organization, we’d love to hear from you, so please share!