Communication During Change
Communities are groups of people and as such are emotional beings like the people who comprise them. When organizational leaders are seeking to make significant changes, they need to account for the emotional implications for the affected communities of constituencies, especially donors, members. staff and volunteers, both past and present.
This is why communication with key constituencies is absolutely essential when managing any change process.
Communications should be:
- Direct and timely. Information that affects people should be delivered officially before it seeps through the grapevine.
- Sensitive. Often changes mean some loss whether of services, programs, jobs or a different way of doing things. Communications should be sensitive to people’s emotions.
- Two-way. Interested parties need time to digest and understand the proposed changes and how they impact them and a forum for questions and discussion, whether real or virtual.
- Mindful about the Past, Present and Future for the Organization and Mission. Pay tribute to Past. Seek to explain the Present including motivations for changes. Look forward to the Future.
From a practical point of view, it is often very difficult when organizations are in the midst of change to take the time to communicate, but it is exactly when thoughtful, honest and direct information is needed. Leaders should expect emotional reactions. Emotions flow in the nonprofit world not just because of personal relationships and concerns as in any organization, but also because people feel strongly about the causes and missions of the organizations they support.
When there is a change, the challenge is to be respectful of and honor the past, be mindful that people may need to go through a period of grief and mourning of the status-quo and/or past and try to direct people to focus on the future of the cause or mission.