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It’s a question on most grant applications and it also gets raised from time to time in the board room. It’s not a question we avoid, but it’s one of those loaded questions – the kind that elicits a tremendous amount of discussion, varied opinions, and multiple proposed solutions. The question is this:
What’s your sustainability plan?
We know we need it, but it’s difficult to get our collective mind around it. We often get caught up in trying to figure out the future. What will the world look like in five years or ten years? How can we plan for that? There are simply too many unknowns.
But, what about today…how do you know if you’re a “sustainable organization” right now? Sustainability is not a goal to reach or something to check off the To Do List. It’s a state of being. It’s a path that you choose.
So, what does a sustainable organization look like? Here are some indicators that I’ve gleaned from several articles:
- A single, clean, up-to-date patron/donor database – the life blood of the organization. This includes up-to-date policies & protocols governing its use and procedures that ensure the data stay up-to-date.
- Fund development activity fully funds expenses, satisfies reserve needs, and reasonably projects revenue needs and strategies for meeting those needs for the next three years.
- Communications activities reach their target audience(s) with appropriate frequency so that audiences feel welcomed, involved, connected, and inspired.
- Clear program policies and procedures as well as the supervision to ensure they are followed.
- Regular measures, assessments, and evaluation of program and administrative effectiveness.
- Succession planning for key roles in the organization (staff & board) – both short-term for sudden departures and long-term for planned departures.
I’m sure the list above is not comprehensive, but it’s a good start. What else would you add as a key indicator of sustainability?