What non-profit sustainability means and why it matters
Charity and public finances are shrinking, demand is growing, and capacity is overstretched. Time and again, sector surveys in the UK and abroad identify sustainability as the number one concern of non-profit organisations and their funders. It is therefore the core focus of our work. We define it as the capacity to make a lasting difference:
- Capacity: sustaining the money, resources and capabilities that healthy organisations need
- Lasting difference: sustaining the focus on impact and service, not survival for its own sake
We support and promote the five capabilities of sustainable organisations:
- Income generation
- Impact measurement
We have been researching and developing resources on the topic since 2012, leading to the launch of the free ‘Lasting Difference’ toolkit in 2016 and Making a Lasting Difference, the full length paperback and e-book in 2019. Read on to find out more about these, contact us or visit The Lasting Difference website for more information on our groundbreaking sustainability support.
The Lasting Difference toolkit
A unique, valuable (and free!) resource, the toolkit has quickly become the go-to guide on sustaining non-profit organisations and impact. Over 6000 copies are now in use around the world, with dozens of new downloads every week.
The guide sets out principles and practices for sustaining charities, social enterprises and non-profit organisations of every kind. With straightforward explanations, a transformational self-assessment, action plans and exit strategies, this is the most comprehensive guide there is. Find out more at the Lasting Difference website, but here’s a flavour of how it has helped:
- ‘We are more focused on what now needs to be done.’
- ‘The staff became much more aware of the sustainability issue for the organisation as a whole.’
- ‘It made me think about not just the sustainability of (my) work, by all the projects overall in the organisation.’
- ‘Fantastic toolkit. Really exciting stuff.’
- ‘Really good toolkit…especially exit strategies and continuing the lasting difference.’
Demonstrate your commitment
We award the Lasting Difference Symbol to organisations that are working towards non-profit sustainability. Application is easy and, once awarded, gives you access to a growing network of other organisations working to sustain themselves and their impact. Learn more.
Graeme’s book, Making a Lasting Difference is an urgent exploration of organisational sustainability. Based on the popular Lasting Difference toolkit, it explains the main challenges to survival and growth in helpful new ways, illustrating why they are more complex – but more manageable – than we might think.
With a focus on action, Making a Lasting Difference identifies clear strategies for policy makers, commissioners, funders, trustees, managers and staff. The book is grounded in 30 years of practice, containing straightforward examples and practical models for assessing and addressing sustainability. It makes significant new contributions to understanding why and how charities and social enterprises – and a viable non-profit sector – should be sustained, despite the financial and other pressures they face. It introduces the five capabilities of sustainable organisations and the steps that can be taken to achieve them:
- Income Generation
- Impact Measurement
Much of the book’s content was crowd-sourced and tested in workshops, conferences and events over the last five years.
Praise for the book
The book is an incredibly useful resource which helps you think about what sustainability means for you (not just financial) and your organisation, and how you can have the most impact. It’s laid out in easy to pick up sections, works for everyone involved (board, staff etc) and is clear and concise.
Pat Armstrong OBE, Chief Executive, Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations
Anybody in the non-profit sector who believes their organisation has a right to exist for its own sake needs to revaluate their purpose and identity. This book expands our understanding of sustainability, putting impact and communities at the centre. It rightly challenges our understanding and emphasises our collective responsibility and the need for collaboration and partnership. Well-worth reading.
Keith Wimbles, Chief Executive, Impact Funding Partners
Graeme’s thinking on sustainability should be required reading for every leader in the third sector.
Jane Griffin, Head of Partnerships, LGBT Youth Scotland
An excellent book. A must have for anyone trying to navigate change. Practical. Based on real experience. Inspiring.
Frances Simpson, CEO, Support in Mind Scotland