Can Your Organization Survive? The 4 Keys to Nonprofit Sustainability

In an ideal world, organizations would never have to compete against one another for money.

But unfortunately, sometimes organizations with the same cause are even competing for funds.

But you’re different. You have this amazing idea to make the world a better place. And truth be told, we need more people like you. But how do you know if your idea has the will to survive? Sustainability is often an afterthought that deserves much more consideration.

So does your organization have what it takes? Let’s put your idea (or established organization) to the test.

1. An Idea So Great, It’ll Rock… Your… World.

Even the nonprofit sector needs leaders and followers. So ask yourself—is there already an organization doing exactly what you want to do? If so, there might be ways for you to be heavily involved with that organization instead of creating a direct competitor for that nonprofit. Sure, it might not be ideal. But if your overall goal is to help the cause, it might be a better use of your time and resources.

What you need is an idea so great it’ll rock your world. Or maybe to put it into better terms, an idea that will rock this world (with everybody else included). If there’s no one doing what you’re doing currently, then it’s time to be the change you want to see in the world. If that’s the case, you may proceed with the rest of the nonprofit sustainability checklist.

2. It’s Going to Cost You

Like most things in life, starting a nonprofit will cost you. So first, figure out how much it’ll cost you to start your organization. You’ll learn how to budget for a nonprofit, the cost of registering and incorporating your organization and tips to cut costs. Plus, you’ll learn about the big expenses that your organizations might expect.

For your organization, this is all about opportunity cost. Is the reward worth the original money you’ll be putting into your organization? You might not make that money back monetarily since you’re funneling the money back toward your mission (but it is a possibility). But the cost to start your organization might be worth it, because then you get to actually start your NPO.

3. The World Just Can’t Live Without You

Now more than ever, your organization may be competing for fundraising dollars. And that’s OK. You’ll be competing for fundraising dollars with different causes during the entirety of your organization’s lifetime.

Consider the longevity of your organization. It’s easy to become blindsided by the short-term and to not see past getting started. Is your cause something that’s going to be around for a long time, or is it a fundraising campaign for an issue that can be resolved quickly? Remember to keep a long-term mindset, even though it’s hard to think past getting started.

4. The Resources are Plentiful

You might not know exactly where your funding is coming from. But you DO need to know if there is interest in funding. Start by networking or sending surveys to find out if other people are just as passionate about the cause as you are.

You’ll need to research to see if there are any grants that your organization could apply for, or investors who support your idea. It’s all about putting yourself out there. Plus, think beyond the monetary contributions. Your NPO will basic supplies to operate similarly to a startup organization. If you can develop a plan to get those resources in place, you’re on your way to sustainability.

So, does your organization have what it takes? A great idea, the funds to get started, longevity and plentiful sustainable resources are all necessary. If you think your organization can meet those requirements, you’re on your way to a sustainable organization. Get out there and make the world a better place.


Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

September 6, 2014

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