What are the barriers to cultural change for charities?

What are the barriers to cultural change for charities?

The thought of cultural change in any organisation can be daunting, but especially for charities. But why is this? There are a number of common barriers that exist which may block the road for undertaking successful cultural change. However, these barriers are not permanent and can be broken down with the right approach:

Value of culture change not understood

Often people don’t know what ‘culture’ actually means in the context of their organisation and so may not see the point in creating additional work on something they are not familiar with. People may also be resistant to such change if they have experienced the same culture for a long period of time and have never considered the opportunities that could arise from changing it.

Tip for removing barrier: Adopt a change management approach, where the meaning of culture and the value of culture change is clearly communicated across the organisation. Thinking about the change from stakeholders’ perspective is critical here, consider answering questions like ‘What’s in it for me?’ or ‘How does this impact me?’.

Can’t articulate the desired culture

On the other hand, people may understand the value of culture but cannot articulate what they want it to be. It may be that they have an idea of the desired state but formalising and establishing this vision can be difficult. Culture is not always tangible, so how can we pinpoint what we want?

Tip for removing barrier: A great place to start with trying to articulate the target culture state is agreeing on three top priority areas you want to see change – this helps formulate the target design and forms the building blocks for the desired culture.

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No senior buy-in

Another common barrier is lack of buy-in from senior stakeholders. If you do not have this support, it can be challenging to kick-start the discussion, let alone getting the change to be implemented and adopted.

Tip for removing barrier: Finding one senior stakeholder who supports the need for culture change is enough to get the conversation started. If they can then start communicating this need, through top-down messaging, and become advocates for the change, the idea will start to gain traction and lead the charity one step closer to achieving their desired culture.

Funding restrictions

Charities are commonly under-resourced and underfunded, so the thought of investing time and money into culture change can be a considerable barrier, especially if they think it will be a significant disruption to BAU.

Tip for removing barrier: Work on culture change should be approached as a project, supported by a thorough business case that clearly outlines the benefits to the organisation, including financial and non-financial outcomes. If the investment in culture change is not approached in this manner, it will be a significant struggle to get the green light. Having the senior stakeholder on board, as mentioned above, who can act as a sponsor to the project further reduces this barrier.

No dedicated resource to drive change

Not having a dedicated leader for the change means making progress is extremely difficult. Charities may not have access to, or the capacity, for someone to spearhead the change and drive the activities required to enable it alongside BAU activities.

Tip for removing barriers: If charities have a dedicated resource for culture change who can demonstrate the value to stakeholders, enthuse teams, and support design of the future state, it will open the door to achieving the target culture which would otherwise have remained shut. Hiring an external party to lead the culture change ensures this can happen without major impact to BAU.


Want to chat more about how you can futureproof your charity? Get in touch today!

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