Sustainability means being adaptable and responsive. Not just changing and growing, but knowing how to change and grow in manageable, sustainable ways.
It’s important to realise that when we talk about sustaining something we’re not talking about keeping it going just as it is. Things change. Organisations and systems change as they evolve through different stages of their lifecycles. Sustainability requires us to evolve in anticipation of, and response to, what’s going on around us.
However this also comes with risks. Because funding pays for activity and outcomes, non-profits that want to diversify income (that’ll be everyone then!) have to diversify their activities or outcomes. This can lead to them becoming pulled out of shape – or losing their way altogether. Download free Lasting Difference to find out more about what we call the Octopus Paradox. Or buy the book to find out how funders, boards, managers, operational teams and policy makers can all tame the octopus.
It’s easy to get pulled out of shape by pursuing new ideas, opportunities, partnerships and funding. Sustainable organisations develop criteria for assessing new opportunities, helping them to be clear on what to say yes – and no – to. The examples below don’t just assess financial capability, they also explore knowledge, capacity and other strategic resources.