A nonprofit organizations lifecycle, is very similar to a person starting off in their professional career. In the startup phase, you are enrolled in college, pursuing a variety of classes working to ultimately build your skill set. Prior to graduation, you being identifying industries you can work in to employ the new skills just attained. You begin the interview process and if luck has it, you have a choice of where to begin your career after receiving offer(s). In this career startup phase, you invest in wardrobe, communication skills, and transportation, to name a few. As you begin the new career/position, your investment needs change from landing the job, to learning the job. It usually becomes evident, after your first day, the continued investments you must make to be successful. As you enter the growth stage, those needs will continue to morph in different ways to support your career goals and success in the position you hold.
Lifecycle assessments for nonprofits, follow a similar path. Using Susan Kenny Stevens Lifecycle table metaphor, there is a table with four legs. The table top represents the programs and the four legs represent governance, finance, management, and systems. As a nonprofit enters startup lifecycle, its needs will begin to change in each of the four “legs” supporting the programming. Recognizing when the table legs become wobbly, allows you to assess quickly where investments can be made, offering the greatest impact. The process depersonalizes each of the areas allowing objective decisions to made quickly and effectively.
Assessment of where an organization is in its lifecycle, and identifying the stress points, enables a fresh perspective on investments that can optimize the success of programming, while building a sustainable future.