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The nonprofit world is seeing a downturn in volunteerism, a squeeze on its revenue streams and rising competition. How can you be the “up periscope” for your organization to see what is ahead and to make important course changes to maintain your organization’s relevance?

An interesting comment made by an executive director during a board training session when asked his role led me to write this article. He said, “I need to be the ‘up periscope’ for my organization’. That is my most critical role.” Here are some ways to be proactive rather than reactive and be the “up periscope” for your organization: 

Pulse – Monitor the pulse of your industry or profession. Stay on top of trends, current issues and future issues that may impact your organization either negatively or positively. Bring these issues to your board of directors to either combat or capitalize on them

Change – It is easy to stay within the “bubble” of an office and work with a team to move forward the initiatives set by the organization. It is harder to step outside of the “bubble” and help to impact changes to the direction of your organization given outside influences. Burst that “bubble” and make smart changes to compete and to combat issues and take advantage of opportunities timely by seeing beyond your organization

Connect– Identify allied or complimentary organizations and reach out to their executive directors. Make it a habit to speak monthly and to discuss upcoming issues with other “up periscope” executive directors. The more “eyes and ears” you have in and around your industry or profession, the better

Monitor – Know what your competition is doing at all times. In the for-profit world, companies will conduct competitive intelligence regularly and is a main component of maintaining its market position. If the competitor is a for-profit entity, then subscribe to their publications, review their Website and attend their events. Knowing your competition is the first step in maintaining a strong presence as the leader in your profession or industry

Plan– By being the “up periscope” you are collecting global data in the industry or profession. During either a planning session or refresh of your strategic plan; ensure that you provide a report stating key issues and opportunities based upon your research, conversations and observations. But, don’t wait until a strategic planning session to communicate urgent issues or opportunities

Being the “up periscope” for your organization is one of the most important roles that you will play as an executive director. Start taking the steps to maintain a global view for your organization today so that it will not only survive in the future but also thrive!