Several years ago I went through a hefty psychometric evaluation for a role I was interviewing for. It was a great experience that left me with a fifty page document all about me and how I behave. I still refer to that document at times, just to remind myself who I am!
After completing pages and pages of questions, the assessor gave me a quick overview.
‘You don’t like change do you Rachel’
‘What? Are you joking? I love it! Let me tell you about the time I changed the database, the programme, the process, the structure, the copy…even the office furniture. I’ve moved house so many times my mother’s run out of pages in her address book! I love it!’
‘Ok, bear with me. How long have you had your mobile phone?’
‘Two… actually no, three years’
‘How old is your car?’
‘I’ve had it since new, so that’s…seven years’
‘Um, no, I just….’
I ended up getting that job and almost immediately embarked on one of the most difficult change processes of my career to date. It was also one of the more challenging times of my career to date.
I would still say that I’m ok with change, but it appears that there are changes (mainly vehicles and technology as it would seem) that make me really uncomfortable. I break out in a cold sweat when my car insurance is due because I know that will inevitably involve change. It actually makes me a really loyal customer whether I’m satisfied or not, (which is a whole other story!).
I learnt something that day. I realised that disliking change is human nature, and I now think anyone who says they like it perhaps hasn’t yet realised which type(s) of change they are uncomfortable with.
So why do we do it?
In every job I’ve had, I’ve almost always found myself in situations where I’ve been instrumental in wanting to change things, and at varying levels of seniority. So it’s no surprise really that I found my way into fundraising. A big part of what attracts us to being a fundraisers is our passion to change the world for the better, but it’s much harder to change the wider world without being able to change our internal world, the world we ourselves operate within.
We need a constant sense of dissatisfaction, a sense of ambition, a sense of things that could – and should – be done better, bigger and differently. The world is changing all the time, and to keep up, we need to accept that instigating and implementing change is as much as part of our job as raising money. Because in order to do the best for our beneficiaries, we simply have to be able to influence and implement both big and small changes, whatever level we work at.
But change making is a difficult nut to crack, which might be why there are way more conference sessions on how to write great fundraising copy than how to go about practically implementing change!
It’s as much about ‘who’ as ‘what’…
From transformational change that will redirect the ship, through to step changes that take an organisation closer to where it needs to be, there is one common denominator that you need to take into account regardless of what the change is.
People will either make change successful, or be responsible for its failure. People have the ability to approve or block change, help or hinder the process. People are the most important part of your change process.
From a CEO with an ego the size of Mount Vesuvius through to a quiet supporter care officer determined to ignore the digital revolution. Working out how to manage any kind of change firstly means identifying who you are dealing with and what they are uncomfortable with – both higher up and lower down.
By asking the right questions right at the start of the process, you can work out how to inspire and reassure people rather than unnerve and scare them. Because if you get the people bit right, making change becomes a whole lot easier.
And that’s just the start…
At IFC this year, along with Charlie Hulme and Richard Turner, I’ll be sharing some of the things I have learnt about making change. Together we hope to inspire you to be a catalyst for change in your organisation. We will guide you through some of the tools and techniques we have used, take you through some of the theory behind the practical and we will share with you some of the most crucial questions to ask.
This blog post is part of the IFC series. 101fundraising is proud to be the official blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress for the 5th year!