Welcome to the Age of the New Normal


 

By: Larry Checco

As an excuse not to change or do something differently, how often have you heard someone in your organization say, “Well… this is the way we’ve always done it!”

Well… this is no time to be an ideologue, or in other words, to be stuck in your old habits and ways.

Partly due to the Great Recession, partly due to rapid advances in technology and in part due to changes in our cultural norms, we have entered into what I refer to as the Age of the New Normal. And this New Normal is effecting every facet of how organizations conduct their businesses, from raising funds to using new technologies to workplace issues.

To stay current and viable as an organization in this Age of the New Normal, here are just a few of the questions that need answers:

How dependent are we on government funding?

For decades, countless nonprofits have relied largely or exclusively on local, state and federal funding, or a combination of all three, to achieve their missions. If yours is one of them, and you have not already experienced a decrease in your funding, brace yourself. Given the state of most government budgets, it is just a matter of time.

The Age of the New Normal demands that you start seeking alternate sources of funding. Despite these hard economic times, there is money to tap into. Which leads us to the next question….

Do we still believe that marketing and branding would make us look too much like the for-profit sector? 

A lot of the available non-government money that’s out there is in the hands of people who made their fortunes in the private sector. Many are seeking to support good causes. But only organizations that can effectively and clearly make their case by successfully explaining to these potential funders who they are, what they do, how they do it—and most important, why it matters—will be on the receiving end.

In other words, marketing and branding should be integral parts of your business strategy. Are we still trying to raise money under the rubric of being a “charity that makes a difference”? If so, you have got a tough row to hoe.

Under the New Normal, funders are seeking ever greater accountability, transparency, responsibility-- and demonstrated outcomes. To simply say you make a difference will no longer cut the mustard. You need to show how you make that difference. And the more data you have to support your claims, the better.

Which leads us to…

How well do we collect and leverage our data?

A lot of nonprofits do not even bother to collect data, and those that do often do not use it in a way to help promote their organization’s narrative or story.

The New Normal says it’s not enough to tell prospective funders how many people walked through your doors last year. The New Normal wants to know, among other things, how your services improved the lives of these people, what these people are doing now and what impact your work has on the community at large. 

How well do our employees work together?

The Age of the New Normal also forces us to address the different work styles of aging Boomers versus young Millennials, or those born between 1978 and the early 1990s.

If you want to get the most out of your workforce, your organization needs to learn the differences between these two generations and how to leverage their respective strengths through training, setting clear goals and expectations, providing meaningful feedback, creating a flexible work environment and rewarding employees for their efforts.

This is not always easy. For example, where boomers prefer more “face time” and personal encounters in the workplace, Millennials are perfectly happy to communicate via email and other techno-based virtual methods, and want more flexibility to work from home. For Boomers to tell Millennials that, “But this is the way we’ve always done it” isn’t going to make for a healthy workplace environment.

Are we getting the most out of our volunteers?

Similar to issues revolving around Boomers versus Millennials, we have entered a New Normal for volunteerism, as well. Studies have shown that the majority of today’s volunteers, regardless of whether they are young or old, are seeking meaningful volunteer experiences that take greater advantage of their skills, give them more responsibility and provide greater flexibility with respect to when they can volunteer. 

Many are seeking more on-line volunteer opportunities. Some want to volunteer as a family unit, while still others say that they want the organization’s to whom they give their time to get to know them better, especially when it comes to being more sensitive to sex, culture, language and age differences.

What about our use of technology?

Yikes! Given the pace of technological change, the Age of the New Normal is a rapidly  moving target. When I purchased my first fax machine in the mid 1980s, I thought it tolled the end of history as I had known it. Who could have foreseen the changes that were—and still are—to come. 

Suffice it to say that at the very minimum, your organization should have a website that’s easy to navigate, is updated regularly, and allows people to donate to your organization online. If you have not already, you should be looking into how best to use new social media, such as FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn as potential fundraising tools. But more importantly, you need to use these tools to help build a community knowledgeable about, and loyal to, your organization.

And here is a final thought: If a Millennial comes to you with an idea about technology, or anything else for that matter, do not respond by saying, “But that’s not the way we’ve done it in the past.”

Yes, listening is part of the New Normal, as well.

By: Larry Checco

© 2015 Alliance Training and Consulting, Inc.

 


    

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