Lifecycle of a Nonprofit (Part 3): The Mature Stage

Adrianne DuMond

In these times of economic uncertainty, even mature nonprofits work hard to sustain their effectiveness. The most important criterion for staying power is adaptability. As they did budgeting for 2013, two of my well-endowed clients spent time in strategic planning to determine which programs needed fine tuning, whether any should be cut, and looking at the competition for where they might combine resources. One moved from grant-funded programs to fee-based programs.

As a nonprofit enters the mature stage the responsibilities of the Board shift. The Board may expand and formulate a committee structure that adds specific skills needed. They may decide on an advisory Board to ensure a positive impact of the organization in the community, its programs, and its focus on fulfilling the mission. Some may call it capacity building, but it’s also responding to the environment and being adaptable.

Let’s look at some of the ways an agency might be adaptive.

  • Link strategic initiatives with other nonprofits to provide services and programs.
  • Be involved in community-level decision-making bodies to learn how they advance programs and determine policies.
  • Have evaluation systems in place to monitor community feedback, program quality and quantity, and client expectations and outcomes.
  • Make sure that all programmatic decisions include discussions of evaluations findings with staff and Board. Chief Executive input, understanding, and agreement are crucial for any changes to be effective.

We know that it is impossible for a mature organization to progress without being adaptive to change. For a fuller discussion of these concepts please see “Navigating the Organizational Lifecycle” by Paul. M. Connolly”. Author Connolly provides detailed examples and case studies of the lifecycle stages and the book can be ordered through BoardSource.

Author:  Adrianne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,