When a nonprofit organization is created, the founders often have a vision that the organization will exist forever. As a matter of fact, the IRS even asks nonprofits to include a statement in their by-laws about how long the organization will exist-inevitably, the organizations I work with tend to answer in perpetuity. To truly exist in perpetuity, an organization needs to be able to quickly and effectively pivot.
What does it mean to pivot?
Robert Wallace, in his book Pivot Point Intelligence provides a definition of what it means to pivot as a business entity. Expanding briefly on his definition, to pivot as a nonprofit means to be able to quickly change tactical and strategic direction without losing momentum all while remaining true to the organizational mission.
Nonprofit organizations and ministries, as a best practice, should review their mission statements on an annual basis. During the review process they should look at whether or not their mission remains relevant and if it the mission statement accurately reflects who they are and the work they are doing. If they find that either of these cannot be answered in the affirmative, it may be time to tweak the mission statement. Tweaking the mission statement does not mean that the organization walks away from its stated purpose, but instead, may mean that the organization gets more clear about its purpose.
So, when would an organization need to pivot?
One of the key ways to know when to pivot is to know when the strategies to serve are no longer effective. For instance, suppose an organization has provided meals to those who are hungry in a soup kitchen format. They have served this way for years. Just recently, the city has made some real efforts to eradicate homelessness so those who are hungry are generally no longer those who are homeless. In this case, the organization may find that it needs to pivot…to change it’s strategies to align with the current situation.
Organizations may also need to pivot when they find that technology has changed the way they serve. When technologies change, and people become more accustomed to the technology, organizations may find that they need to pivot…to change direction slightly or to alter how they serve to reflect the changing technology.
Another area where a pivot may be needed can be found in the financial records of the ministry or organization. After analyzing the sources of funding for several years, the organization may recognize that there has been a shift in the number of donors, sources of funding, types of funding, success of fundraising events, etc. When a shift occurs, it is important to look at why, and then to develop effective strategies to move the organization with the shift that is occurring.
I am not suggesting that the organization ever change who it is and what it stands for…the organizational mission and values need to stand firm in the midst of change all around us. However, there are times when it might be wise to look at strategies and operations to determine if a change is needed.
Above all, don’t put the organization on auto-pilot, things will change and without constant steering to keep it going in the right direction, it may end up making a wrong turn.
Can we help you clarify your mission? Is your organization struggling to be relevant in today’s world? Contact us, we can help you….to be relevant, thriving and effective in changing times.