Nonprofit Lifecycle

January 14, 2016

By Allison Albert, Director of Marketing and Membership, Maryland Nonprofits

Members often ask whether something that’s happening

their organization is ‘normal’… Thankfully the answer is almost always YES, most organizations move through predictable stages of development – commonly referred to as Nonprofit Lifecycles.

Just as people grow-up, organizations “Start-Up” and go through a “Growth” phase. At “Peak Performance” organizations are mature and high-functioning. Sometimes life presents unexpected obstacles for people; organizations, too, can face a “Crisis or Decline” phase. Lastly, the “Renewal” stage results from a significant change and is a time of reflection, reinvention

rebuilding. (In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting more details about each stage – stay tuned!)

The length or duration of a stage, as well as the progression order, are unpredictable and rarely ‘tidy.’ For example, it may take one organization a decade to progress from the Growth phase to Peak Performance while another nonprofit could quickly – within one to three years – reach maturity. Similarly, an organization in the Growth stage could face an unexpected crisis like the loss of a major funding source that, depending on the response, could either move it


to the Start-Up stage or catapult it forward to Peak Performance. 

Knowing where your organization is in its lifecycle can help you to:
Build internal support for needed change – or find stage appropriate organizational development help
Understand the common pitfalls faced by nonprofits at your stage
Recognize weaknesses as growing pains and not personal failures

Maryland Nonprofits is proud to release a Nonprofit Lifecycles framework – rooted in the Standards for Excellence Guiding Principles – that clearly outlines the tools, resources, and member benefits available to help your organization at each developmental stage. As you review them, think about your organization’s ability to achieve its mission

the utmost goal. We invite you to call us with any questions about which stage your nonprofit is in or advice on how to progress. 



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