One of the boasting rights of many nonprofit organizations is that by staying small and flexible, they are able to adjust to challenges and embrace change in ways that large, cumbersome companies cannot. Nonprofit organizations and agencies tend to fit into niches and address community issues that shift and change over time. Those organizations and agencies that have been existence for decades, however, may be as slow to change and as cumbersome of some of those old, inflexible corporations.
Many of today’s nonprofit organizations were started during the post-civil rights-era of the early 1970’s. Some were considered very grassroots and radical when they started over four decades ago, but, after years of work, change and growing bureaucracy, many have become slow and out-of-touch. What was once “grassroots” has become institutionalized.
The longer an organization has existed, the more it increases the chances that it becomes bogged down and slower to adjust to the changes that occur over time. Of course, this does not apply to all nonprofit organizations but it is important to take a good hard look at the organization to see if it is as effective and functional as it could be.
If the founders are still controlling the management and operations of the organization and it is over 25 years old, it is important to consider how to get “new blood” into the organization’s operations. After all, it is expected that people who have been doing things for a while will find a comfort zone and want to stay within it.. Additionally, there may be new funding sources, service delivery options and other changes that the founders just don’t see because they are not looking at the big picture.
Too much policy and too many entrenched power struggles can also slow down decision-making and cause a nonprofit organization to be slow-to-change. While this can happen in younger nonprofits too, it is especially prone to happen in long-standing nonprofit organizations or agencies.