“We made it. Now what?” Nonprofits can face maturity with strength and relevance
loat the balloons — your nonprofit is now several years old or older. You’ve gone through growing pains and “lived to tell about it.” In today’s environment, any nonprofit that makes it to maturity has reason to celebrate. But to continue to meet your mission and serve constituents in the best way possible, your organization should think strategically about its future.
Setting sight on the even longer term To begin with, set your sights on sustainability. By now, your organization should have a good handle on its resources and be adept at forecasting its needs. From a financial perspective, that means you should maintain enough cash on hand to support daily operations, and stash enough to keep adequate operating reserves. Additionally, this may be the time to initiate planned giving and endowment efforts to sustain your not-for-profit’s programs into the future. Your organization likely requires more funds than ever. But a nonprofit of this age must be wary of “mission drift.” This happens when an organization begins to make compromises to generate funds or meet other objectives rather than stick to its mission. Although diversifying your funding streams is important, you also should develop a formal process for evaluating new opportunities.
At the mature stage, not-for-profits often see greater coordination of programs and operations — and more formal planning and communications. Exploring best practices becomes a part of the routine. Your nonprofit also may want to explore alliances with other organizations. Such affiliations can both extend your organization’s impact and boost its financial stability.
Maintaining a valuable board of directors At this time, you may face another hurdle called “Founder’s Syndrome.” If your founder is still serving as executive director or board chair, it may be time to initiate an annual board evaluation to transition your board into a more strategic focus. You can continue the founder’s involvement and investment while bringing in other perspectives. You also may boost financial stability by adding members to your board. A mature nonprofit’s brand identity may enable it to attract more wealthy, prestigious and well-connected members. Ideally, these members will have more to offer than simply money, such as expertise in certain areas or a strong commitment to your mission.