Our Recipe for Navigating Disruptive Events
This year, Idealist Consulting celebrated a milestone birthday. We’ve been reflecting on what we’ve learned from fifteen years of implementing Salesforce for nonprofits, and we want to share our recipe for success in navigating disruptive events.
Disruptive events are here to stay
Disruptions are not new phenomena to nonprofits. Having to pause operations and divert resources to an acute event or crisis is simply a part of the work for most missions. We think of disruptive events as having the following characteristics:
- They have organization-wide impact
- They prohibit standard operations
- They are unpredictable and often unprecedented
Some recent examples include flooding in Pakistan, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and the COVID-19 pandemic. With these disruptions happening at greater frequency, it’s critical for organizations to prepare technology and processes to weather disruptions strategically.
Be ready to pivot
Disruptive events require organizations to focus on their mission and critical programs while finding ways to deliver those programs amidst disruptions. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to rebuild on the fly and try things they had never tried before. We have found that many nonprofits are more willing now to try new tactics and approaches to providing services, and finding ways to help and support constituents. Whether it is deploying virtual volunteers, finding new partners to work with, or revamping direct services to reach more people in new ways, organizations have had to pivot to fulfill their missions.
Foster intuitive process alignment
Many organizations are still struggling with paper systems and a lack of investment in technology. Misaligned tech can make a challenging situation worse when disruptions occur. Planning for tech alignment and strategic investment can have a significant impact on an organization’s ability to deliver critical programs during disruptive events.
We see a lot of siloed knowledge in nonprofits. Tacit, undocumented knowledge that leaves the organization if that individual leaves. This stresses the importance of building internal redundancy - breaking down information silos and encouraging knowledge-sharing. You don’t need to be a 500-person nonprofit to build internal redundancy. The 15 and 50-person orgs can do it too. When you have effective technology at the core of your nonprofit’s operations, it’s much easier to build this redundancy.
Training availability is intertwined with internal redundancy. When nonprofits have to deploy staff to a disaster zone or to refugee influx areas, having staff trained and processes documented will keep organizations delivering impact. Having easily accessible trainings, and a built-in way to access that training and documentation gives an organization a huge boost. It’s hard to do any of these during a disruptive event, which is why it is so critical to pay attention to intuitive process alignment and keep iterating on this whenever possible.
Ensuring the integration of multiple systems is key in preparing for future disruptions - the more you are doing manually, the more time it’s going to take you, and the harder it will be to continue operations through disruptions. Your core technology should be able to easily integrate with a wide array of technologies that your organization uses. The more systems you have to consult to get to data, the harder it will be to withstand unexpected changes. Having centralized data and one source of truth for your data is a must for interoperability.
As disruptive events become the new normal, it’s important to proactively consider how your techstack is positioned to support your mission. Organizations can face disruptive events and come out stronger on the other side.
At Idealist Consulting, we have been developing our project management methodology to support nonprofits as they navigate these disruptions, with our goal to educate, guide, and empower clients along the way. Our team of Salesforce experts is ready to help your organization optimize your digital system. Click the button below to get in touch!