52 Tips in 52 Weeks: Sustainability Planning

October 9, 2020

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies recently released the 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report. In this timely report by Lester Salamon and Chelsea L. Newhouse, with the technical assistance of S. Wojciech Sokolowski, we learn that the nonprofit sector remains the third largest workforce in any US industry, behind only retail trade and accommodations/food service. The report also looks at anticipated job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and calculates “a sizable 1.6 million nonprofit job losses” in the March to May 2020 time period.  The report offers that these losses represent 13% of nonprofit jobs disappearing in this period.  This is painful evidence of the fact that many nonprofits cannot sustain their programs and operations in the current climate.

Sustainability is a crucial issue right now for so many nonprofits across the board—whether they are facing job losses or not.  The Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector encourages nonprofits to take a broad view of sustainability-related to mission fulfillment—looking at financial sustainability, human resource sustainability, and other aspects of planning for the organization’s future.  Sustainability planning also looks different depending upon what stage the organization is in its life cycle—start-up, growth, peak performance, decline/crisis or renewal.  No matter what stage you find your organization in,

the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector helps you move your organization towards longer-term sustainability by providing resources in areas like governance, financial leadership, legal compliance, mission attainment, and resource development. Organizations that have made a commitment to the Standards for Excellence code will find access to a model and tools for identifying, developing, and evaluating their current systems to a higher level of sustainability. As plans, policies, and procedures are implemented, they form the building blocks of an integrated system for leading the organization today and into a sustainable future.

For more information on how to develop organizational sustainability and sustainability planning for your nonprofit, we encourage you to check out the Standards for Excellence educational resource packet, Organizational Sustainability and Sustainability Planning which includes a variety of helpful tools and resources such as financial worksheets (all available in excel format) to help nonprofits plan and achieve sustainability on topics like income, expenses, assets, and liabilities, planning for reductions and strategizing around for new initiatives. The packet also includes a comprehensive chart featuring various nonprofit life cycles with references to the characteristics exhibited by nonprofits in each life cycle stage and the Standards for Excellence educational resource packets relevant to that topic. 

This educational resource packet and the full series of all packets  – including sample policies, tools and model procedures to help nonprofits achieve best practices in their governance and management – can be accessed by contacting a licensed Standards for Excellence replication partner, one of the over 150 Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultants, or by becoming a member of the Standards for Excellence Institute.

Amy Coates Madsen is the Director of Programs for Maryland Nonprofits and the Director of the Standards for Excellence Institute, a national initiative to promote the highest standards of ethics and accountability in nonprofit governance, management, and operations, and to facilitate adherence to standards by all organizations. The Standards for Excellence Institute is a program of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations where Amy has served for more than twenty-four years. Amy is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the association’s comprehensive ethics and accountability program and efforts to replicate the program nationally. She serves as a frequent trainer and writer in the areas of board conduct, program evaluation, program replication, fundraising ethics, and nonprofit management. She has taught courses on nonprofit ethics and accountability at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies Certificate Program on Nonprofit Management.