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New Year’s Resolutions for Nonprofits: A Time for Self-Reflection

By Kristin Dorage January 1, 2020

Reflections of Bugaboo Park

2020 will be a big year for nonprofits: it’s an election year in the U.S., and an urgent year for taking action on issues such as economic inequality and climate change. In order to tackle these mammoth problems, nonprofits need to deliver solutions at scale using smart, technology-based approaches.

Putting technology at the core of your strategy can require a massive amount of change. But if one thing is certain in the 21st century, it’s that we all have to become more adept at handling change.

So, instead of New Year’s Resolutions, here are four questions that can help spark self-reflection among nonprofit leaders, ground us in the reality of the world today, and foster technology strategies to help us with the challenges to come.

A businessman stands on top of a large compass as he looks through a pair of binoculars against a blue background.

Who Are My Technology Change Agents?

Who are the people in your network that are staying ahead of the latest tech trends and helping you leverage them? What organizations are doing transformative work that you can learn from? And who is keeping you informed about changes that may have an impact on your organization (such as the fight to privatize the .ORG domain)?

Even if you don’t have a Chief Technology Officer, there are resources out there from organizations like TechSoup and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and gatherings such as the Nonprofit Technology Conference that you can use to stay informed of the latest happenings in tech. And if you’re interested in using really innovative technology like blockchain or artificial intelligence – make sure you get the right people on the bus first.

How Can We Become More Resilient to Change?

In the 21st century, agility and flexibility are key. If both nonprofits and funders are in agreement that in the coming years we will see more natural disasters and crises, then we must find ways to invest in building resilient communities and organizations. This can look like investing in resilient training for leadership, or providing tools for managing personal stress for individuals at all levels in your organization. When it comes to dealing with the hardships that come from adopting new technology, adapting a growth mindset is one way to help employees develop resilience. So, whether dealing with the chaos that can come from external or internal change, now is the time to look holistically at your organization and decide if your leadership team is well-equipped to guide employees through it.

Farmer with a digital tablet in a greenhouse conducting research.

Where Are We Directing Our Attention?

Author and activist adrienne maree brown has written beautifully on the subject of attention liberation and writes that “what we pay attention to, grows.” When your leadership team gets together to prioritize, are they focusing on the things they should be focused on? Now is the time to pay attention to what we’re actually committing to, and strategically think about whether these things deserve our attention. And, since the new year is a great time for cleansing, revisit those small things that rarely get your attention but can still have a big impact (brown writes a lot about the importance of starting small). What small actions or quick wins can you put your attention towards that will set your organization up for success in the long run?

What’s your story?

What Is The Story We’re Telling?

On both an individual level and an organizational level, how you construct your narrative shapes the world around you. Given our rapidly changing world, nonprofits must ensure the story they are telling themselves is current. So if you haven’t updated your mission, vision, and theory of change in a while, it’s time to take a look at it. Do your solutions and strategies reflect the interconnected world we live in? Are the programs you’re running going to bring about the change you want to see? It’s time to be honest about what’s working and what’s not, and take a strategic approach towards your storytelling.

As you develop a technology strategy, be sure to take a mindful approach that incorporates both agility and resilience. Need more inspiration? Some more resources are as follows.