How to Successfully Implement Shared Services in Not For Profit Organisations

September 1, 2015
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How to Successfully Implement Shared Services in Not For Profit Organisations

Have you been thinking about implementing shared services in your not for profit?

Not for profit organisations or “NFPs” often have a fragmented “federation” style governance structure and are usually staffed by volunteers.

These two common features bring many advantages and benefits to NFPs. However, they can also create problems for the implementation (and long-term success) of shared services in the organisation. After all, in federated models, few people see your organisation’s “full picture”. And volunteers have a reputation for being significantly change resistant.

The problem, then, is working out how you can take a centralised approach in an inherently decentralised organisation – one where you’re likely to experience resistance to change. So in this post, we explore strategies for increasing your chances of successfully implementing shared services in not for profit organisations.

Engage, Engage, Engage

In any organisation with a federated governance structure, support from underneath is critical to successfully implementing change. If the individuals in your NFP don’t feel like they “own” the change, it’s unlikely the change will endure.

So if you want to implement shared services in your NFP, then throughout the process, you need to focus on engaging the people in your organisation. This engagement must exist pre-change, during the change process, and post-change.

Build the Case for Change

As discussed, in general, few people in a federated organisation such as an NFP have visibility of the “total picture”. This lack of visibility means, for example, that it’s unlikely they’re aware of the total sustainment cost of all your current independent functions and systems for the whole organisation. So you need to educate the members of your organisation on your current situation, then build the case for change. When people have the facts, they’re better equipped to make an informed decision, and to see outside their area of the organisation. Fostering a shared view of the situation is more likely to foster a shared view of the appropriateness of the solution – shared services.

Consult, Consult, Consult

Building the case for change isn’t the only time you need to consult with your paid and volunteer staff. You need to consult with them early on (pre-change), and consult with them often throughout the implementation process. Get people across your organisation actively engaged with the shared services project, so they can feel that they “own” it. When people in any organisation “own” change, it’s more likely to endure. And the best way to begin to achieve this is to consult with your stakeholders.

Walk “Beside”, Not “Ahead”

Like we said, if you want shared services implementation in your NFP to be successful, the people in your organisation need to “own” the change. And that’s much more likely to occur if you’re engaging with them and utilising them to deliver your shared services project as much as possible. This is basically a case of working with your people, walking beside them, if you will, rather than simply leading your people and walking in front of them.

Initial Implementation

When it comes to implementing shared services, you need to start small. Select a pilot area – preferably one with some of the people who are most supportive of your proposed changes. Make sure they have realistic expectations by clearly communicating that the model is likely to evolve and change after implementation. Then implement, and carefully note any lessons learned and adjustments made along the way. Use this information to make any necessary changes to the delivery model prior to rolling it out across your NFP.

Ensure Long-Term Success

For shared services to be effective, those working within it need clearly defined directions, and clearly defined yard sticks for measuring their performance. So to ensure the long-term success of shared services in your NFP, you must establish clear governance and direction for the entity. If everyone in your shared services is working towards a common goal, your chances of success in the long-term are high. But this can only happen when you’ve established a clear vision and path.

Your Say

Have you implemented shared services in your not for profit organisation? What worked well, and what didn’t? Let me know in the comments below!

Who is Adam Stennett?

Adam is an experienced business management consultant and strategist, with a wealth of experience successfully implementing shared services in organisations of all shapes and sizes.

If you want to get things right the first time when implementing shared services in your business, you need to speak to Adam. Send him a message on LinkedIn, or email



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