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Organizational Sustainability, Capacity, and Growth: Not Just for the Big Guys!

I recently had the opportunity to meet with a small, grassroots nonprofit organization that was justifiably proud of its growth. It had proven organizational sustainability by reaching the 10-year milestone and had proven capacity by quintupling its annual budget since its inception. And, the organization had a current grants strategy that was for a larger amount than the entire annual budget during its first years. However, it still operates on an annual budget of less than $500,000—not one of the “big guys,” but still quite successful.

This got me thinking about the fine line between success and failure for small nonprofit organizations.

Reflections on Sustainability

I had three people approach me about nonprofit sustainability last week.

The Path to Sustainability


Joshua Tripp is a man who thinks a lot about what it means for an organization to be sustainable. He is the chief financial officer of Grameen Foundation USA, a nonprofit organization founded in 1997 by friends of Grameen Bank to help microfinance practitioners and spread the Grameen philosophy worldwide, sharing the ideas of 2006 Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus. Its mission is to help the world’s poorest people lift themselves out of poverty through access to information, small loans, and viable business opportunities. In other words: helping them achieve self-sufficiency or sustainability. (A transparency note: I serve on the Grameen Foundation USA board of directors.)