Every organisation can become more impact-led, and these are some steps that will assist your group become more purpose- focused, responsive, effective and resilient in a post-COVID-19 world.
Get clarity on why you exist and who you exist for
This is the time to get clear about the reason for your existence. Who do you exist for? What change and value do you seek to create for them? What do they need now (and how well do you understand what they need now)? How is the COVID-19 crisis sharpening your understanding about what matters? Have you got a theory of change that underpins your activity and/or strategy? If not, this would be a good time to think one through and document it. Use it to develop your activities to respond to the outcomes and impact you seek.
If your organisation is wedded to a particular set of activities this will be harder to do. Get unstuck from what you do – and get clear about what value and change you seek to create and for whom.
Recognise this incredible opportunity, be courageous and adapt.
Empower yourself and others around you to be courageous and think differently. The current crisis has already required rapid change, and change is painful and difficult for some. Recognise and nurture this opportunity for creativity. Recognise the choices available and don’t be a victim of the circumstances. Take action to create an organisational culture that empowers people to act with a clear purpose.
Be led by your stakeholders and your community.
Now is the time to draw upon and build your relationship capital! How well do you understand what your people need at this time? How are you connecting with them? How can you design with them now? Have you reached out to your funders and partners? How can you collaborate in new ways to create value? Don’t go missing in action.
Be a learning organisation.
Creating a learning and supportive culture will help ease the pain that goes with change. You will already have needed to learn new systems and ways of working, and your activities must continue to evolve. Some people will thrive in this dynamic and some will be challenged to the core. Create opportunities for reflection and enjoy the learning experience that we are all going through – you are not alone!
Tell others about your successes.
Competition for scarce resources continues, and organisations that can engage funders and communicate the impact of their work are more likely to thrive. Getting the communication infrastructure in place will support transformation. How will funders know what changes you are making? How do your stakeholders know? How can more people get involved with your activities and contribute their time, talent and resources? This is the time to think about how you can communicate the difference you make. Telling your funders and partners about the impact your organisation is having will enable them to come along on the transformation journey and will help ensure accountability as well.
This case study and these steps won’t provide all the answers. But part of my aim is to ask pertinent questions, to promote conversations, and to spark some optimism. After all, wouldn’t it be wonderful in the post-coronavirus world for the community sector to be looked to more often for leadership on how we shape our society?
Think Impact hosts a team of specialists in social impact measurement, evaluation, stakeholder engagement and strategic impact-led design. The certified B Corp provides industry, government and for-purpose organisations with analysis and communication of their social impact.
This article is just one of the ways the Our Community Group is working to support not-for-profits through the COVID-19 crisis, as part of a major campaign to help the not-for-profit sector to survive, re-invent and sustain.