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Trust and Transparency Through an Agile Mindset: Part 2

Agile is the ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment.

In Part 1 of this blog series, we discussed how being an agile organization helps create trust and transparency for all stakeholders, what being “agile” really means, how to “Find and Define the Work,” and understanding capacity, load, and time allocation. Next, we’ll talk about how to know when you need to pivot, and Foundant’s experience shifting gears in the midst of COVID-19. 

When to Pivot

When there is a high cost of delay, it is clear you need to pivot in the agile method. A built-in area for this is in “Relentless Improvement.” In agile, you are continually reflecting on: What should we keep doing? What should we stop doing? And what do we need to get better at doing?

Many clients have heard me reference the “Plan, Do, Check, Adjust” tactic. This is a continuous cycle that allows us to improve in increments through logical iterations as we learn, instead of feeling like we have to get it right the first time or risking burnout by trying to get too much done at once.

Agile Framework

Foundant’s COVID-19 Pivot

At the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Foundant Team made many pivots. The roll-out of our new Community - Compass - was originally scheduled for June 2020. When conferences started canceling, and after our first COVID-19 Coffee Talk had more than 400 attendees, we understood the cost of delaying the Community roll-out was high - not only for us but for the philanthropic community. Attendees were asking one another to share resources, those with resources were looking for a place to put them, and it was apparent they wanted to be able to continue the conversation . . . just like they would if live conferences were an option. We shifted by moving up our timeline to launch on March 30th  while keeping in mind that not all components would be ready on day one. We are now in “check” mode - Who is engaging? How are they responding? Then, we adjust based on what we learn in order to move forward with our next iteration. 

Speaking of COVID Coffee Talks . . . this was another pivot we made. Just two weeks prior to the first COVID focused Coffee Talk, the planned topic was Managing and Working with Committee Evaluators - a hot topic of conversation when planned in January. However, with an agile team ready to adjust, we were able to make the appropriate adjustments and lean into the needs of our community. This then trickled through the rest of the content to be created - case in point . . . this blog series! 

While none of this was perfect, these are real-world, non-technical examples of how an agile mindset allows you to adjust while being transparent with the rest of the team.  The big thing to remember when shifting is to not shift and chase something that doesn’t align with your objectives or, more specifically, your Mission. At Foundant, all of these shifts aligned with our mission to maximize the impact of the philanthropic community

We’ll tackle avoiding missteps along the way in our next post and will continue to share this agile journey through upcoming webinars, blog posts, and other relevant content. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, learn more from the resources below or register for our upcoming webinar with our partners at Exponent Philanthropy.


Webinar: Trust and Transparency Through an Agile Mindset provides a plethora of information and resources so you can dive deep and get to know this topic intimately!

Our friend and partner, Diane H. Leonard of Agile in Nonprofits provides agile resources specific to the philanthropic sector, has presented on agile frameworks for us in the past, and will be presenting again later this month on Being an Agile Leader in Your Nonprofit (Regardless of Your Title).


About the Author

In her time with Foundant (since 2011) Sammie Holzwarth has taken on many roles in her path to becoming the Product Manager of Grants & Scholarships. Starting as an intern with Foundant’s Marketing Team, Sammie then moved into a Client Success Manager role - successfully implementing well over 150 clients. Her Foundant adventure next took her to the Sales Team as Foundant’s GLM/SLM Product Implementation Engineer. Her breadth of knowledge and extensive experience working with a plethora of clients and in varying roles at Foundant fuels her passion and excitement to continually improve GLM/SLM, and herself which she now brings to her role as the Product Manager for Grants and Scholarships! Sammie has a passion for youth philanthropy and has spearheaded the Youth Giving Project in Bozeman, MT as well as serving as an Exponent Philanthropy Next Gen Fellow for 2016. Montana holds a special place in Sammie’s heart as she is a born and raised Montanan; from rolling plains to mountain tops, this is where she feels most at home and takes every opportunity to soak in the outdoors. When traveling beyond the Big Sky State, Sammie loves anywhere with a vibrant culture, and delicious food. Connect with Sammie directly at or on twitter @SammieHolzwarth.

Profile Photo of Sammie Holzwarth