Seasons of Change
“Prepare for exodus.” These were the words that came to mind during a workshop at the Outcomes Conference 2019.
Every season of change should have a desired outcome.
RiverCross, the ministry I lead, had come under the umbrella of a larger organization in 2015. We retained our 501©3 status, but operated as a ministry of that organization. As a fledgling nonprofit, this arrangement provided RiverCross with collaborative opportunities, back office support and guidance in critical issues. For the larger organization, this acquisition expanded their ministry offerings and contributed to several of their strategic goals. Critical to the arrangement was the expectation that RiverCross would be self-sustaining. While this expectation was challenging, it prepared us for sustainability during our season of change.
Perhaps you are in a season of change or sense that one is around the corner. Here are five keys to sustainability during a season of change.
- Prayer. While most of us would consider this obvious, without intentionality prayer is likely to responsive rather than proactive. If you are able to anticipate your season of change, be sure that you are hearing from God before you go public. Gather a trusted team of truth tellers who commit to daily prayer. Update them weekly and reach out to them to not only pray for you and the ministry, but to pray with you.
- Strategy. Every season of change should have a desired outcome. For us, the desired outcome was to graciously launch from the larger organization in a way that inspired confidence and credibility with our constituents. With this as our goal, we worked backwards mapping out every operational step.
- Communication. During a season of change, your communication should be authentic, hopeful and strategic. People need to understand why you are entering this season of change and where you’re going. Avoid spin and inflammatory messaging. Map out your communication plan including all your platforms and consider holding a “Stakeholders Gathering” for your most invested constituents.
- People. Donors, staff, volunteers and those you serve are taking their cues from you to process this season of change. Always be honest but save your deepest fears and meltdowns for your trusted truth tellers. Bringing your people with you through your season of change is critical to sustainability. Communicate with them, but also give them opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with you. Invite counsel. When appropriate, communicate needs, and have a running list of ways that people can help. Engagement during your season of change helps secure engagement for the future.
- Funding. Seasons of change typically have a price tag attached to them. Do your research to determine the funding needed. Approach stakeholders with an invitation to fund specific needs during your season of change. At the same time, be sure your monthly partners are committed to continuing their support. Launch a campaign or hold a special event that is informational, inspirational and invitational.
Following the Outcomes Conference 2019, I entered into an intentional season of Bible reading, prayer and seeking godly counsel from experts who had navigated a demerger. During the next two months, God continued to confirm that we would be entering a season of change and in mid-June we began the demerger process with these five keys in mind.
As of October 1, the exodus was official with the following indicators of sustainability:
- Board of Directors – We now have a strong board of directors designed to shepherd the organization through the season of change and into maturity.
- Operational systems – Our operations director’s research and diligence resulted in a remarkable slate of vendors providing us with the IT, banking, accounting, marketing and legal support we needed to negotiate the transition.
- Financial health – We maintained all but six of our monthly supporters but added seven new monthly supporters and increased our monthly support by $100.
- Staff and volunteers – With only two full-time staff members, our volunteers are critical. Not only did we not lose any volunteers, but we added two critical volunteers and deepened the commitment of three.
Seasons of change, by nature, are scary, yet without them our ministries are at risk of becoming stagnant and potentially dying. By tending to these five keys, you can lead your organization to not only survive a season of change, but toward greater long-term sustainability that results in effectively and efficiently accomplishing your mission.
Cindy Finley is the executive director of RiverCross, building bridges to hope for the world’s vulnerable children. Cindy and her husband, Bill, have been married for 28 years. They have seven children and a Goldendoodle named Zuri. If you’d like to reach out to Cindy, her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.