Navigating Game-Changing Grants

Change Management

Managing organizational change

As organizations shift and adopt new processes and structures, leaders should address how this transition occurs. Consider that some long-time staff may feel displaced and fear the original mission-driven ethos will change; or that new staff have opportunities and compensation that the original staff put in the work to make possible. Establish a short- and long-term implementation process for adopting new systems, processes, and onboarding new staff, vendors, or consultants.


Identify the core values and principles that you want to maintain as your organization grows, changes, and shifts through a strategic review or planning process.

One way to approach this is through strategic planning or revisiting and refreshing existing organizational strategies and theories of change. This helps organizations stay rooted in their mission, values, and goals while understanding what opportunities to leverage with the new grant. A common challenge among organizations was staying true to their core strategy and mission while growing, expanding, and becoming more outward looking. An inclusive strategic planning process can help to home in on the core of your mission and skill sets. It also creates engagement with the board and staff around change and guides overall decision-making for growth and investments in areas aligned with the organization’s vision.

Lived Experiences

An organization noted that it was important to make implicit values and culture explicit by writing down unwritten norms and thinking how they translate into concrete behaviors.

An organization shared that they have created a culture of succession using a bottom-up approach, and they are working to link that to their strategy, which helped to motivate staff and respond to the organization’s growing needs.

A leader noted that it was helpful to revisit their strategic plan not only because the organization changed but also because the world is changing.

Communicate consistently and constantly with staff, boards, and funders.

Communication with staff and engaging them in decision-making can address any anxiety about change. When staff are more involved in changes and expansion, there can be less tension about change and how grant money is utilized. Communication can also help to build alignment between the board and staff, which may require some learning and transparency to ensure there is a shared understanding of strategic goals, business development, and operations.

Communicating with your board can help to bring leaders from your organization with you, identify champions, provide advice, and help manage the change process.

Communicating with funders is equally necessary and can ensure that they can witness the progress in the organization, recognize how change is being managed and navigated, learn about any strategic developments in programming and operations, and take note of how the organization can adapt, innovate, and connect with their staff and board at a time of disruption. Communicating enables greater engagement and can be vital for continued fundraising (see theme 5. Donor Engagement).

Lived Experience

An organization wanted to be highly productive without feeling oppressive as they expanded and formalized systems. To that end, the organization held discussions with staff on defining productivity and performance, co-creating work plans, and developing a review process.

Cultivate new leaders and connect with staff.

Invest in new leadership to oversee departments and middle management to free up overstretched senior management and provide more junior staff with managerial support. Leadership can also act as allies to junior staff, and often as a bridge between staff members and the board. For staff to feel at ease with any changes to company culture, make it clear that the board serves as advisors and assists with governance and not with everyday operations.

Lived Experience

An organization suggested when communicating with the board that it could be valuable for leaders to bring a group of other leaders or internal champions from the organization to these meetings. This is especially true at pivotal moments of transition or disruption, when identifying the “shapers” who will walk with the organization in that journey to have a voice and active role in the process.

Tools & Resources

  • Toolbox for Self-Organizing Teams
    A step-by-step guide for teams to develop decision protocols, discuss power dynamics, map roles, and accountability.
  • MOCHA Tools
    A variation of tools on clarifying roles/responsibilities in project management.
  • DARCI Tools
    A variation of tools on clarifying roles/responsibilities in project management.
  • RACI Tools
    A variation of tools on clarifying roles/responsibilities in project management.
  • Making Sense of Uncertainty: Nonprofit Scenario Planning
    Nonprofits can prepare for uncertainty by building scenario plans that can help them continue to pursue their missions.
Next: Planning for Scale  →