THE Key to Nonprofit Sustainability

The Most Important Factor in Nonprofit Sustainability



Last week I spoke about 5 areas of nonprofit sustainability.  These are areas that nonprofits should target when planning for the endurance of their organizational success.

They are:

  • Financial Strength and Security
  • Great Leadership
  • Solid Programming
  • Technology and Resources
  • Monitoring and Adaptive Capacity

This week I will prioritize the list and pinpoint the key factor of nonprofit sustainability.  As per The Foundation Center’s Grant Space training (moderated by Peter York of the TCC Group) titled Adaptability: The Key to Long Term Sustainability, adaptability is the key!

Mr. York speaks about the success of organizations that are continuously learning to remain effective at fulfilling their mission and vision.  The research connects ‘continuous learning’ with effective leadership to guide the organization through change, adapting and improving as needed.  Adaptability is associated with nonprofit effectiveness.  He states that their research has revealed four core capacities regarding nonprofit effectiveness.

As per the TCC Group, the four core capacities are:

  1. Leadership Capacity– the ability to inspire, model, create and sustain a vision, make decisions, innovate and prioritize in an effort to meet the organizational mission.   Good leadership surrounds decision making.  It’s about inspiring people to give you their money and their time and then to make good on your promise to them and the community.
  2. Adaptive Capacity –the ability to continuously use information and data to learn about your organization and the community.
  3. Management Capacity – the ability to ensure the effective and efficient use of resources. Not enough management capacity can cause problems, too much can be a hindrance.
  4. Technical Capacity – the ability to secure and utilize the resources needed to run the organization.  This includes skills, knowledge and tools such as donor software to monitor your outcomes, someone who can run the reports/data, etc.


Not only is it important to continuously monitor and support these areas within our nonprofit organizations, but we must regularly use the information that we gain to improve our organizations where they need it.   Nonprofits are created to make positive changes in people and animals’ lives, in communities and in the world; these areas ensure that nonprofits are making the changes necessary to continue to survive and thrive.


Photo credit to: Microsoft Office Clip Art

Jeanne Ward is a Consultant and Personal Strategist who brings her knowledge of psychology, strategy and personal fulfillment to her current work. Jeanne started her career by helping mentally ill inmates to ‘get their lives back on track’ as they integrated back into society from jail in NYC. She leveraged this experience with a Social Work degree to manage teams who were supporting people trying to move back into the workforce. She later lived in Atlanta, GA and Frankfurt, Germany where she began consulting with nonprofit organizations to guide them on their strategy, volunteer development, and organizational development as well as to support the development of their leaders and board of directors. After the jolt of a divorce, Jeanne found herself doing a lot of soul-searching. Digging deep, she arrived at a new-found appreciation for herself and the world around her. This journey taught her that when we start with improving ourselves, the benefits multiply. Jeanne realized that her strengths of strategic thinking, relationship building, and implementation planning could be combined into her ongoing passion of personal leadership. Hence, her personal strategy work was born. Jeanne helps men and women between the ages of 35 and 55 who are fed up with their corporate jobs to create fulfilling professional and personal lives through the development of a personal strategic plan. This work ensures that her clients identify their professional and personal goals as well as create a plan to make those goals a reality. Jeanne is also the Executive Director of the Atlanta Road Trotters Kid’s Running Club, a nonprofit organization that provides a platform for children to build a foundation of running health and fitness which leads to a better connection to the organized running community as well as a strong foundation of Discipline, Self-Esteem, Respect and Team Work. She has also co-authored a workbook on networking, founded and organized the National Association of Social Workers-Georgia-sponsored ‘Social Service Career Network’ and organized a summit for the National Alliance for Mentally Ill attended by over 100 organizations from 6 Atlanta counties. Previously, she sat on the board of NASW GA as their Secretary as well as on the board of NAMI GA/DeKalb as their Co-President, was a senior consultant for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and helped to run a capital campaign for an independent school. Jeanne has an MSW from Hunter School of Social Work (City University of New York), an MA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (City University of New York) and a BA in Psychology from Emory University. Jeanne lives in Atlanta with her ten-year-old son.

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