A new initiative can dramatically impact how a nonprofit organization operates. That’s why it’s crucial for leadership to not only foster open communication with stakeholders, but also communicate why the desired changes are necessary.


Making sincere efforts to ensure decisions aren’t being made solely by those at the top will contribute to the successful launch and implementation of a new policy. Below, 13 Forbes Nonprofit Council members share additional steps nonprofit leaders should keep in mind when implementing new policies in their organizations.

1. Commit To Honestly Communicating With Your Team

The most important aspect of any policy change isn't just one step; it's committing to honest and transparent communication with your team at each step. Policy changes usually mean changes to employees' lives, and that can be scary. We ensure that our team knows why the policy change is necessary and what it means to them. - Renee WilliamsNational Center for Victims of Crime

2. Help Your Team Understand The 'Why,' What' And ‘How’

Communications, which includes listening and outbound messaging, is the critical component in implementing new policies. Helping the team understand the "why," the "what" and the "how" and then hearing questions and responding to any concerns in a clear, timely way sets the stage for the organization to metabolize and maximize the impact of the change. - Katherine BradyCatchafire


Forbes Nonprofit Council is an invitation-only organization for chief executives in successful nonprofit organizations. Do I qualify?

3. Utilize A Change Management Process

Whenever we need to implement new policies, we utilize a change management process. By adopting highly effective business practices and merging them with the core values of a nonprofit, we can achieve impactful and lasting results. It's the best of both worlds! - Jessica HallAmerican Eagle Foundation


4. Make Team Culture A Priority

The climate for social impact organizations was already charged. Now, due to the Great Resignation hitting our sector hard, and with pre-existing compensation strains now exacerbated by global inflation, our top priority should be building up team culture. We are currently in a company-wide restructuring process, and throughout every single phase, we are reminding the team that they are safe and valued. - Sarah EvansWellBeyond

5. Involve Staff In The Entire Process

The one important step that should never be forgotten here is that staff should be involved via an inclusive, co-design process from ideation to implementation. This ensures that there is never a top-down approach and that staff do not feel as though something is being "done" to them. It also ensures that they are on board as the process becomes theirs and they own it. - Shane RyanAvast Foundation

6. Get Staff Feedback

At Old Sturbridge Village, we make every effort to get staff feedback on new policies before they are adopted. We have an internal staff committee structure that supports this with committees around safety, the campus and landscape and staff culture. Staff at all levels of the organization have a chance to weigh in. If we have to adopt a policy quickly, then we do our best to communicate why. - Jim DonahueOld Sturbridge Village

7. Use Multiple Channels To Ensure Two-Way Communication

New policies should be implemented using a wide variety of top-down methods of communication as well as two-way communication. Consider multiple channels to communicate the reason for the change, the change itself and how it benefits the user and/or the organization. Also, provide ways for employees to respond with thoughts and questions so they truly feel heard. - Albert L. ReyesBuckner International

8. Gain Buy-In From Stakeholders

Policy change is inevitable and hard for most. However, when it's tempered, it becomes more palatable. Use buy-in from key stakeholders and cheerleaders well before the policy is implemented. Be Socratic and ask probing questions to explore staff beliefs that can help align views and opinions. Make them part of the process to ensure greater acceptance. This can often result in expedited compliance. - Howard ChiSF SPCA

9. Provide Clarity To Prevent Misunderstandings

It is important to remember that even the most well-written organizational policies can be subject to many interpretations. To avoid wide interpretations of new policies, it is important for leaders to discuss the intent of the policy change with policy writers and to communicate a consistent message about the intent of the policy change to all stakeholders responsible for policy implementation. - Christopher WashingtonFranklin University

10. Maintain Transparency Around Decision Making

The No. 1 thing I keep in mind in this situation is transparency. I'm a strong believer in authenticity as a hallmark of great leadership, and with that comes the responsibility to share insight into why, when and how decisions are made. The more informed people are, the higher likelihood that they'll support change. Information makes stakeholders feel valued. - Christina AllrichBeta Gamma Sigma

11. Review Policies Regularly

Review your policies in totality at least annually. The mistake that you want to avoid is creating a new policy that contradicts a previously adopted policy. - Kimberly LewisGoodwill Industries of East Texas, Inc.

12. Build In Monitoring Systems

Implementing a new policy is a test of that policy's objective and effectiveness. It's critical to build a transparent monitoring and direct feedback mechanism for those using or impacted by the policy. Be prepared to evaluate constantly and react dynamically if the policy isn't delivering the intended outcomes. - Puvan SelvanathanBluenumber

13. Remain Cognizant Of The People Being Served

While there will always be a need for top-down executive decision making, nonprofits in particular need to remain cognizant of involving the people they are serving. Human beings resist change. Perhaps the most important step is to acknowledge this reality. Pause long enough to ask if you have thoroughly identified the anticipated points of resistance and addressed them in your launch process. - Gloria HorsleyOpen to Hope