Agile coaching practises to enable not-for-profits to make an impact 

In the years I have spent growing my not-for-profit initiative in Pakistan, Yemen and Egypt, I have come across many obstacles, societal, financial and political. As an Agile coach I have approached these challenges with an adaptive mindset, and now coach others on how to do the same. 

Crucially, it has been the Agile approach that has led to Peace Through Prosperity’s growing success, and having experienced both successes and setbacks, I would like to share what I have learned so that other not-for-profits can make an impact in their field without having to ‘learn on the job’ as I did!

Starting a not-for-profit or charity differs significantly from launching a business, necessitating a distinct mission and mindset. This ensures the recruitment of suitable personnel who can effectively operate in your targeted areas or localities. To successfully guide a not-for-profit organisation, consider the following essential aspects:

  • Coaching not-for-profit organisations is a rewarding yet a complex undertaking. Coaches about to embark on this journey should consider a factors to ensure its a symbiotic fit and that their coaching is effective and impactful:
  • Understand the Mission: Immerse yourself in the organisation’s mission, vision, and values. Learn what drives them and why, get curious and explore how those values align with your own, that of Agile ways of working, and facilitate them to build those bridges that can prove beneficial in enabling individuals and teams to manifest the organisation’s values and principles in their day to day.
  • Adapt to Resource Constraints: Recognise that the majority of non-profits operate under tight budgetary and resource constraints. Tailor your coaching strategies to be lean, be resource-efficient, focusing on creating high impact with limited resources. And recognise that teams know how to do more with less already! Explore with them how they might do it consistently.
  • Build Internal Capacity: Focus on building the organisation’s long-term capabilities, you’re a transient guide, equip them for their journey, ensuring the organisation can sustain its improvement journey over time.
  • Cultivate Empathy and Cultural Sensitivity: Develop an understanding of the communities and stakeholders the nonprofit serves, if possible immerse yourself in their servitude. Embrace the cultural, social, and economic contexts within which the nonprofit operates. You’ll not only develop a deep understanding, deeper relationships, you’ll win the trust of those you’re there to facilitate.
  • Address fire fighting and feast or famine: and both at the same time!
  • Help the organisation help themselves by experimenting with value based prioritisation. To quote Akhil Bhardwaj, an inspirational leader I recently had the pleasure of meeting: “…help them find time for business, not usual!’.
  • Facilitate Measurement of the right stuff! Guide the organisation in establishing or refining what they measure to evaluate impact effectively. And encourage them to challenge what donors require them to measure for securing and maintaining funding. Encourage them to hop off the Metrics hamster wheel! 
  • Foster Resilience and Adaptability: They’re already resilient  and adaptive, facilitating them to apply that adaptive thinking beyond the immediate! Oil their wheels so to say, to better navigate uncertainties and changes in the nonprofit sector.
  • Lead with sustainability of change: encourage them to teach to their volunteers what you are teaching and coaching them on, teaching is the best form of learning. Lead with the Protege effect.
  • Invite feedback, including anonymous feedback on your ability to facilitate individuals, teams and the non-profit to amplify their impact. Be clear on what done looks like for you and know when you’re done.

The teams I have coached operate in some very hard and unforgiving environments, with people with very different worldviews to begin with. This has to be taken into account not only when recruiting but when they are exploring their field and their supporter base. They must question who they are engaging, why and what will appeal to them. What teams need from their leaders? We must coach the leaders to be prepared, and to be able to create an adaptive plan of how this is provided. 

In coaching philanthropic projects, it’s vital to combine practical, experiential advice with mentoring, ensuring both the project’s message and its operational success are effectively addressed.

To coach an Agile approach educate the entire team, management included in Agile principles, values and practices that enable them to experiment and innovate within an adaptive framework. Create low fences around a playground for innovation, and nurture a safe space for them to experiment in.

Embrace change over rigid planning, and prioritise open, collaborative interactions. This alignment with Agile values, principles, and consistently working to bring them to life through good practices enables us at PTP to effectively respond to the diverse needs of the communities we serve across very different ecosystems.

Offer basic frameworks that teams can then adapt for their brief. With frameworks I advise starting at an atomic level – so build, experiment, rebuild, and work smart. Be empirical. Building, nurturing and evolving a culture of agility will facilitate the ability to reach needed outcomes sooner, have a more lasting impact and be sustainable from a cost and funding context. 

As a coach it is essential to be agile in how you deliver training and advice. Before you step into a coaching stance, start with a teachers stance, align individuals and teams on what Agility / adaptivity means, what’s at the core of agile, how does it align with their values and worldview, get them to teach their own, and support their journey as a coach, mentor and challenger. Encourage them to consistently reflect, adapt and enact.

About Kubair Shrazee 1 Article
Kubair Shrazee is an Agile practitioner and co-founder of Peace Through Prosperity which operates in Pakistan, Egypt and Yemen, from a UK HQ. PTP operates in conflict-affected and marginalised communities to enable individuals to become self-sufficient and grow their ideas into viable businesses. The initiative runs mini-MBA programmes for microentrepreneurs to educate on finance, budgeting, branding and more, to support them out of poverty and away from the threat of radicalisation. The programmes offer a one-stop-shop for street traders to learn the skills to build their trade into a thriving business.

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