3 Common challenges of rapid growth and svpaz solutions
As a non-profit grows from a novel and often small start-up to a more established organization with a larger team of employees, it faces a number of internal shifts that can be a challenge to overcome. While growth and building capacity within an organization is the goal of most non-profits with the desire to make a large impact, there are multiple ways of doing so, and having the strategic foresight to face these shifts will ensure an efficient workflow, a well-defined team structure, and a positive workplace culture in the future.
Social Venture Partners Arizona supports non-profits in building capacity by providing expertise and resources to overcome challenges that arise as an organization expands its impact area and overall reach. In 2022, SVPAZ philanthropically invested in Read Better Be Better (RBBB), a local non-profit of only eight years that has expanded from a team of one executive employee to 15 full-time and over 80 part-time employees in that short time frame. RBBB has been exceeding its goals by reaching 10 school districts and more than 66 schools in their efforts to respond to Arizona’s literacy crisis. Similar to many young organizations with rapid success, they have been facing the implications of fast growth and high demand for their services. Fortunately, through the Investee relationship between RBBB and SVPAZ, their organization is able to count on SVPAZ Partners and staff to support their leadership in facing the needs that may stem from such rapid growth.
As many of our Partners and Investees are familiar with three of the most common challenges due to rapid growth within a nonprofit, we would like to share more about what these look like for nonprofit Investees such as RBBB, and how our team and Partners advise overcoming them.
CHALLENGE 1: MANAGING RAPID GROWTH THROUGH INTERNAL STRUCTURE
One of the challenges that nonprofits face as they grow to encompass a wider audience and demand is that the executive roles and roles of the initial team often need to grow to accommodate said changes. Rapid growth can mean that the roles within an organization completely shift in order to better support its needs.
In the case of Read Better Be Better, a staff member who may have been implementing the program to a single school district now oversees 80 employees implementing to the program to ten+ districts, and an employee initially working to achieve funding for eight weeks of afterschool programming serving a handful of students is now struggling to (receive) grants for nearly 3,500 students all over the state. Through our recent Think Tank with the CEO of RBBB, Sophie Allen-Etchart, we looked at this common challenge that is typical for any growing organization and worked with SVPAZ’s current partners to dissect Human Resources solutions.
We found that when the time comes when there are too many tasks for the executive team to truly dedicate themselves to their executive-level to-do list, it showcases a need to source new hires. Our Partners recommend taking a close look at the already existing roles from which the excess workload stems and then creating a new tier of supportive roles to take on the tasks that are of lower priority than those of the executive team. This ensures that the leaders and executive staff of an organization can dedicate themselves to strategic tasks, and ensures that the administrative work of the organization can still be successfully completed.
In addition, if the time comes that an executive team member leaves, this measure also ensures there is someone trained and already familiar with the workload due to having supported an executive team, that is then able to grow within the company by filling the role. On-boarding a new tier of high-functioning employees to support the executive team is a priority when there is a gap in the support necessary to drive an organization with large goals.
The question is – how do you attract a staff matching your organization’s values and work style, especially in the middle of a resignation crisis?
Challenge 2: Hiring and Sourcing Excellent Employees
SVPAZ spoke with our Partner, Vanessa Garcia, to assess the current hiring market and answer this very question. Vanessa is a highly skilled and experienced professional within the field of talent acquisition, being both Partner and Founder of local hiring firm ‘Performant Scout’. During our chat, we learned that the current hiring market is changing fast and is especially in favor of prospective job candidates. Unlike in the past, businesses are offering more sign-on bonuses to new hires and referral programs to their current employees. Garcia notes three trends that attract new and loyal talent. The first is a trend for organizations to, “balance remote work and hybrid flexibility according to the needs of the organization”. The second trend that is consistently attracting more loyal and excited potential hires is, “ a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion programs”. The final trend that helps solidify an organization is, “having a solid sense of community within the company’s culture”.
Challenge 3: Improving Internal Culture
While many nonprofits are driven by passion, the desire to make a positive impact on a community should not make up the entirety of the organization’s culture. To ensure a driven team that is able to accomplish the needs of a growing nonprofit, the executive team should build an internal culture that showcases the positive traits that ultimately will improve organizational performance.
Culture is created and maintained through consistent and authentic behaviors that go beyond a mission statement or internal policies (although the commitment to both can help). Qualities of a thriving workplace culture include an alignment between an organization’s goals and the employees’ motivations and appreciation and acknowledgment of the achievements of employees. Especially in fast-growing, demanding organizations, a culture that promotes resilience and performance leads to employees that are able to support and push each other to succeed. Ideally, culture is something to be embraced and highlighted when preparing potential candidates for the future role they may take on. This will guarantee that new hires are aligned with the internal qualities valued by an organization. Making sure that there are no discrepancies between the expectations of the organization and those of new hires, creates better chances of keeping employee turnover low.
We’ve highlighted just a few of the challenges commonly faced by nonprofits and organizations as they grow and expand their reach. By working with our Partners and sharing their expertise SVPAZ is able to help local nonprofits foresee possible conflicts and provide potential solutions. If you are interested in learning more about how to become an SVPAZ Partner and utilize your experience to ensure that Arizona nonprofits exceed, click the button below.