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Not-for-profit growing pains:
How to manage organisational change

As demand for services and complexity within the sector increases, many not-for-profits (NFPs) are experiencing rapid growth, or are restructuring their operations to become more efficient. The Maxxia Workplace Insights Not-for-Profit Sentiment Study provides NFP leaders with clear insights and strategies to ensure they keep their employees engaged, and on board, during this process of change.

The very things that attract an employee to working for a not-for-profit (NFP) can be the factors most impacted when that organisation undergoes change. Knowing how to keep employees engaged throughout a period of growth is key to NFPs successfully transforming their organisation, and minimising the impact of change.

Speaking at the launch of the Maxxia Workplace Insights Not-for-Profit Sentiment Study, the Hon. Mary Woolridge, Victorian Minister for Community Services, spoke of the challenges facing the sector and the need for change.

“We cannot do as we have always done,” she said. “What we see in the not-for-profit sector together with the clients we work with is ever-increasing demand, ever-increasing complexity and at the same time… the financial resources are becoming more restrained.”

As demand for services provided by NFPs in Australia grows, such as aged-care services and health, so too does the pressure on NFPs to adapt and make their operations more efficient, productive and responsive.

Maxxia's study revealed that NFP employees in small organisations felt more involved in decision making, have greater confidence in management and feel respected in the workplace. Conversely, those working in larger NFPs had lower levels of engagement in these areas. They also felt management was less likely to act in the best interests of staff, deal with performance issues effectively and balance the organisation’s goals with employee needs.


  Small NFPs Large NFPs
Involved in decision making 74% 57%
Confidence in management 81% 65%
Respect in the workplace 82% 64%
Management looks after best interest of staff 79% 58%
Performance issues managed effectively 67% 54%
Working toward common goals and needs 84% 65%


The research highlights an opportunity for organisations undergoing growth to ensure they sustain an appealing workplace.

The nature of NFPs can make change harder

NFPs are driven mostly by their mission or community purpose. Maxxia’s study revealed that the ability to contribute to this – to make a positive impact – is one of the most attractive aspects for employees working in the sector, with 56 per cent of employees citing it as a reason to work in the sector.

The need for NFPs to manage the competing demands from various stakeholders, and a highly committed workforce can often slow down the decision-making process. Therefore, developing change-management capability is a priority for NFP leaders facing ongoing growth.

What can NFPs do to manage organisational change?

Good change management means bringing your employees on the journey with you so that they feel part of the change, rather than something that is happening ‘to’ them. As an organisation grows, communication channels need to be developed to ensure all employees continue to relate to the mission and vision. “It’s about how do we actually do that in a way which is respectful, considered and consistent with our values and our principles”, Chris Steinfort, Director of Human Services at Australian Red Cross, says. “So making sure that for example, change management is conducted in a way which is appropriate.”

To maintain and improve employee engagement levels, NFPs should:

  • Articulate how an employee contributes to the organisation’s goals and achievements.
  • Provide employees with the opportunity to input into key decisions and actively canvass their opinions via working groups and other forums.
  • Leverage social workplace networking and other internal communication channels to promote two-way conversations.

By managing change effectively and understanding employees’ needs, NFPs will ensure organisational growth co-exists with high employee engagement levels.

Register for the Maxxia Workplace Insights Not-for-Profit Sentiment study for more information to shape your attraction and retention strategies.


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