Nonprofit sustainability – the ability to deliver relevant social impact over the long term – has always been important to leaders in the nonprofit sector.  A recent national survey found that 93 percent of nonprofit respondents have had to adapt or curtail services since February 2020.  And, a year’s worth of dealing with the spread of COVID-19 and economic upheaval has elevated the sustainability conversation, for sure! Financial health is crucial to ensuring that your nonprofit can continue its work in the months and years ahead. And, before you can discuss financial health and organizational preservation, you need to pause and consider your social purpose. Getting clear on the impact you want to have will help guide decisions about how to financially sustain your work, and how to build the capacities needed to deliver that impact. Here are three areas you and your team should be looking at now.

Social Impact

Make time to revisit your vision for social impact as context and needs continue to change. In addition to informing decisions on finances and capacity, this helps ensure that your work remains relevant. Questions to consider:

Another important consideration is how you frame the value of your work in the current context:  “why your mission matters now” – to rally donors, engage partners, and motivate staff.

Financial Viability

Nonprofits need to be financially viable to deliver impact. Sustainable nonprofits have the following items in common:

Are you facing an increase in demand for services?  Have you experienced significant disruptions to your funding stream(s)? Conversations that occurred last spring, and again this fall, indicated that most nonprofits are experiencing destabilizing conditions that are threatening their long-term financial stability.  Even more nonprofits expect to experience continued threats in the months ahead. Despite this destabilization and uncertainty, there are some things you and your team can do right now:

Capacity to Deliver On Your Mission

Delivering social impact requires talent, systems, and processes. Nonprofits have had to shift to virtual operations, make up for lost volunteers, and deal with other challenges to capacity. While different nonprofits have different capacity needs, these four are critical to sustainability:

Last Words- Stay True to Your Purpose

The volatility and uncertainty of the past year have left many of you feeling like you’re in a tailspin. My advice is to apply the same mindset to your nonprofit that you are (hopefully) applying to your personal life. The global pandemic and continued economic uncertainty have caused me to refocus on the things that matter most to me personally.  I encourage you to use the first part of 2021 as an opportunity to bring that same focus to your nonprofit. Reground yourself in why you “do what you do”, and use that as your compass.  This will help you determine what you need to support your vision on a financial basis and organizational capacity.