Ensuring Sustainability in Times of Flux

The following blog post was contributed by Judith Teitelman. She will be leading a three-day certificate course on The Essentials of Fund Development on May 10, 17, 24. Click here to read more and register.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with saying “the only constant in life is change.” Asserted more than 2,500 years ago, it’s still true.

With change as a given, an organization’s leadership cannot fail to keep this reality at the forefront of their thinking. They must work continually and consistently to determine the most effective ways to be responsive to an ever changing landscape, most especially in regard to their resources, financial and otherwise.

How do organizations successfully thrive within this construct? How can they ensure financial and programmatic health, no matter what? Keep their infrastructure whole when a long-time, committed donor (be it individual, corporate, foundation, government) decides to no longer fund them? Remain afloat when the Executive Director abruptly leaves? Continue offering critical programs and services to their community, even if a new governmental administration—local, regional or national—has different priorities?

In brief, they must be proactive rather than reactive.

Being proactive means having a plan. A solid, comprehensive, responsive, not-written-in-stone plan that staff and Board regularly review and modify and update, as appropriate—at minimum once quarterly.

Plans ensure preparedness. Plans ensure not panicking about what’s taking place around you.

No matter the circumstances.

Planning is not about predicting the future. It’s about providing a framework for considering and anticipating different scenarios and possibilities. A plan can be detailed and in depth or broad and sparse. There is not one way to plan—the process must be reflective of each organization’s unique needs and culture.

Creating a plan for your organization the first time can be labor-intensive and time consuming. But once accomplished, it’s simple maintenance to update and guarantee that it stays relevant as new information is introduced. Planning is easily infused into any organization’s culture.

Importantly, plans and planning cannot be looked at as yet another deadline to respond to, achieve and move on. Effective planning is an ongoing process and not a product. It must be woven into the very fabric of your daily operations.

The tried and true way to become sustainable is to plan: for the inevitable, for the better, for the “what if” and for the “it’s likely to happen.”

And you can be assured that, no matter what, something unexpected will inevitably happen.

This blog post was contributed by Judith Teitelman. She will be leading a three-day certificate course on The Essentials of Fund Development on May 10, 17, 24. Clock here to read more and register.

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