PMA Consulting, LLC

How to Implement Change? – Lake Norman Nonprofits Ponder the Question

Each month, the PMA Blog will feature a philanthropic trend in our broader region or nationally. The selected trend will typically focus on a specific community but ultimately will speak to timely issues facing us all.

This month’s Philanthropic Trend reflects recent conversations PMA has had with its friends in the Lake Norman community. When asked to comment on philanthropic trends in the towns of Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, and Mooresville, Lake Norman nonprofit leaders often referenced two recent reports directed at uncovering the needs of and solutions for service providers in the area:

Regional Community Needs Assessment – Prepared by UNC Charlotte Urban Institute in support of United Way of Central Carolinas.

The study sought to assess the critical needs of the region while identifying the most effective channels for addressing them. The greatest deficiencies were in three categories, Education, Housing & Poverty, and Health/Mental Health. Preventative services and public awareness were the two themes most needing to be addressed across the categories.

Recommendations included education programs at all levels (education), affordable housing/better public transportation (housing & poverty), and emphasis on preventative care (Health).

SHARED SERVICES THAT WORK: Surprise Findings from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Nonprofits – Prepared by Tides for the Community Catalyst Fund of Foundation For The Carolinas

A Task Force of nonprofit and local business leaders looked at the possible development of a Managed Services Organization (MSO) – a program that serves multiple organizations in back-office functions such as purchasing, payroll, HR, IT, etc. Findings and recommendations for shared services were included in the report.

Challenges identified by the group include a nonprofit economic crisis, increased community needs, reduced funding and access to space and services. The Task Force found that shared purchasing and health options are too complex in implementation to be effective. There is, however, significant opportunity for shared services in information technology and human resources services.

The feedback from Lake Norman nonprofit leaders has been mixed, noting that the motives behind these reports were positive but that the majority of service providers have not presently been influenced by or acted on the key recommendations. Is this a declaration of the specific capacity of Lake Norman nonprofits to embrace change or rather a general statement about the challenges of implementation?

While it’s easy to dismiss the effectiveness of these two critical reports or to underestimate the desire of local nonprofits to adapt to changing priorities and transform their practices, PMA suggests the issue at hand pertains more to the common pitfalls of implementation and working collaboratively to overcome them:

  • Lack of communication – Transformation of practices cannot effectively take place without good communication. Simply expressing an idea will not suffice. Rather, ongoing dialogue with all parties throughout the process is critical for success.
  • Lack of clear and motivating leadership – Change must start at the top, so an organization seeking new implementations should be leading the push with clearly defined objectives.
  • Lack of planning – Jumping feet first into implementation without a carefully thought out plan presents many roadblocks on the way to completion. Identifying potential pitfalls at the beginning allow an organization the opportunity to be prepared for issues down the road.
  • Passive management – Assuming change is going along as planned without effective oversight is sure to lead to disaster. More problems arise without good management, further increasing the chances of a failed endeavor.
  • Motivation and personal ownership – Forgetting to include key staff in changes will not help a project along. When staff are involved and have an understanding of how ideas being implemented will be beneficial, they’ll be more inclined to help the process succeed.