Adapting to change is constant, and some instances require board-level thinking about how your organization may need to adjust or change to serve your core purpose best. That means considering how a strategic alliance or restructuring could support — or even expand — your ability to have a positive impact.

Understand the change and its impact: Adapting to change starts with a strong understanding of the change and how it will impact the organization’s work.

  • What’s the timeframe for this change? How quickly will it take effect and how long will it last?
  • Is this change internal to our organization (e.g., key staffing change) or external?
  • If it’s internal, what do we need to understand about what created this change?
  • If it’s external, who or what else will it affect?
  • Have other organizations been impacted by a similar change in the past? Is there anything we can learn from their experiences?
  • What is the real or anticipated impact of this shift — on budget, program or service delivery, stakeholders, reputation, etc.?

Put the change in the context of your organization’s core purpose: As your organization considers how best to adapt to your post-change reality, it’s helpful to look at things through the lens of your organization’s core purpose — the reason that you exist or the need that you seek to meet.

  • What is our core purpose? What problem are we trying to solve or new reality are we trying to create?
  • Does this change in any way diminish (or amplify) the need for our core purpose?
  • How might this change affect our ability to fulfill our core purpose?

Work to make sense of what change might mean for your organization: There are a broad range of changes that could impact your organization. We’ve highlighted some of the most common ones.

  • Change that will create a financial crunch: Organizations often go straight to budget cuts as a strategy for change. But, in doing so, organizations sometimes miss opportunities to find operating efficiencies through strategic alliances or restructuring that would enable them to preserve — and possibly even strengthen — their work in support of their core purpose or mission.
  • What programs and functions are absolutely core to our purpose versus those functions that are necessary but not core to our purpose?
  • Are there ways that we could outsource or share certain functions to/with another organization that would save us money? What are the potential benefits and risks of doing so?

Change that will require a new programmatic strategy or model: If a change in regulations, recent research, or findings calls for a change to your programmatic strategy or model, you may have an opportunity to work with others to create a new strategy or model, particularly if they are also being impacted by the same external shift.

  • Are there other organizations that will be looking to adapt to these same changes?
  • Is there an opportunity for us to collaborate or learn from each other as we build new strategies? What are the potential benefits and risks of doing so?
  • Would partnering with another organization enable us to build a strategy or model faster, more efficiently, or with better results?

Change that has created a gap in staffing capacity or expertise: If your organization has lost a staff member in a key position, there may be an opportunity to proactively consider how a strategic alliance or restructuring could help build back that capacity more efficiently.

  • Is this position essential to our core purpose as an organization? If not, could this be an opportunity for us to consider outsourcing this function or sharing expenses with another organization through an administrative or programmatic consolidation?
  • If it is core to our purpose, is this a position for which we think we are well positioned to find the talent we need? If not, should we be thinking about ways to strategically align with another organization that has this expertise or talent?

Change that creates new opportunity: As you consider the environment in which you’re operating, change may create opportunities that didn’t previously exist.

  • An organization within your ecosystem may be going through its own change and open to partnership with you in a new way.
  • A policy or regulatory change may give you new access to resources or program opportunities.
  • A shift in local, state, or federal leadership may create new interest or needs for your programs.

Watch for early indicators of future change: Organizations and their leaders should monitor their external environment on an ongoing basis to help anticipate both the opportunities and challenges of likely change.

  • Population and Demographics: How are the population and demographics of the people we serve likely to change over time? What will this mean for the demand and need for our core purpose and work?
  • Funding Environment: How might the funding environment for our organization change in the future? Does there seem to be growing or waning interest in our work?
  • Policy and Regulations: How is the regulatory and policy environment likely to shift on a local, state, and federal level? What could that mean for our work, and how can we engage to increase the likelihood of decisions that will support our mission and the people we serve?
  • Competitive Landscape: What other organizations are working in a space similar to ours, and how might changes in their work impact us (or vice versa)? How do our results and reputation in the community compare? Could new players emerge that would make our work more (or less) relevant?