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Living SVP’s Values (Part 2): “Risking & Growing”

Posted by olga

The second in a series of blog posts defining SVP’s core values, this post describes “Risk & Growth.” Find a complete list of our organizational values on this page.

Nonprofits are expected to operate under a clearly defined Theory of Change for their work. The list of reasons nonprofits shy away from risk is endless – the buy-in of key stakeholders, limited donor dollars, competing priorities squeezing staff, striving to offer quality volunteer experiences, and the opportunity cost of trying something that may not end up serving mission and clients. There’s sector-wide acceptance that risk is risky – and failure wastes precious, already limited resources.

However, daily changes at the micro- and macro-level require nonprofits to adjust rapidly. To remain relevant and meet needs in real-time, nonprofits must adapt; what started as a tightly-defined model shifts as client, stakeholder, and community needs change. In truth, nonprofits live in risk. But, making a positive impression for both funders and the general public discourages communication around anything but positive outcomes and success.

This disconnect is the reason SVP chose to name Risk & Growth as a core organizational value. Taking risks in business is a critical component of success; and because nonprofits are businesses (with a different bottom line), “…why,” asks Executive Director Jennie Arbogash, “should they be held to a different standard? We believe an essential part of building nonprofit capacity and improving a nonprofit’s rate of success is allowing for risk and failure. There must be space for improvement in the work.”

In crafting our organizational values, the Board sought to demonstrate SVP’s commitment to supporting the sector in an authentic way, and so opted to prioritize Risk & Growth.

Extending their own professional experience, SVP Partners – many of whom are business professionals and owners – know how to take risk in a thoughtful and informed way. In their nonprofit work through SVP, these high-impact volunteer consultants create a safe space for nonprofits to explore different ways of working, while also helping them reach their intended outcomes.

Inviting “safer” risk taking, Partners help nonprofits understand how to use a framework for innovation: #1, assessing the need; #2, trying a new approach; and #3, evaluating what to keep and what to change going forward. Whether, for example, taking big risks in program design through Catapult consulting or incorporating small leadership style tweaks identified through Execs Evolve coaching, risk has helped client nonprofits grow and propelled partner organizations forward.

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