Sustainability Success Factors to Maximize Your Organization’s Full Potential

People walking on a cliff

“Sustainability success factors are the essential components that enable any organization to move forward. With these seven factors in place, organizations large or small are positioned to transform planning into impact, enabling them to reach their full potential.”

During a program held in August at Foundation Center Washington, DC, Marshall H. Ginn, Managing Director of Capital Development Strategies LLC, shared seven sustainability success factors that can help maximize a nonprofit’s full potential:

1. Thoughtful Planning—an essential first step
A strong plan creates a solid foundation for all subsequent sustainability work. It includes strategic or long-range planning and provides direction while avoiding vagueness.

2. Clear Objectives—what has to happen
Clear organizational and programmatic objectives are outlined in ways that promote broad understanding and buy-in by all stakeholders—staff, donors, partners, and volunteers.

3. Action-Oriented Plans—to make it work
Objectives become real when they are driven by detailed plans that include clear timelines, responsibilities, and benchmarks. Plans must be focused on results and impact concerning programs, communications, fundraising, or other aspects of  the organization’s operations.

4. Consistent Messages—telling the story
Sound communication tactics should be supported by a thoughtful strategy that coincides with the organization’s overall goals. Strong messaging and effective communications inspire stakeholders and strengthen an organization’s brand.

5. Diverse Resources—a sound financial plan
A fundraising plan must be diversified to guard against an overreliance on any one strategy. The plan must be strategic and based on an understanding of what it takes to accomplish the mission.

6. Dedicated Staff—the right team in place
Programs and plans are executed most effectively by individuals who are trained and equipped to succeed.

7. Committed Leadership—the driving force
A culture of leadership, in place at all levels of the organization, creates an environment in which everyone can play a part in the organization’s success.

Marshall also shared several “big picture” concepts that all nonprofits should understand in order to be successful:

  • Financial resources are critical, but they are just the means to an end
  • Nonprofit organizations are complex and all parts must be in working order
  • Nonprofits should spend time, resources, and energy addressing all the ways that make things works
  • Don’t focus too much time on any one factor while ignoring the others

At the end of the session, Marshall distributed a detailed checklist and a newly created scorecard--a tool to assist a nonprofit organization in rating how well it’s currently doing when it comes to the seven sustainability success factors and to recognize areas that may need improvement.

The handout from this program, including the checklist and scorecard, and several other resources are at Capital Development Strategies LLC's website

About the Speaker:

Marshall H. Ginn

Marshall H. Ginn, CFRE is a consultant with nearly 30 years of experience working with local, regional and national organizations. He is the managing director of Capital Development Strategies LLC, a consulting firm founded in 2000 and based in the Washington, DC area.

JANICE ROSENBERG is Senior Librarian at Foundation Center-Washington, DC.