Building Sustainable Non-profits: The Waterloo Region Experience

Centre for Research and Education in Human Services & the Social Planning Council of Cambridge and North Dumfries

Year: 2004

This manual on sustainability provides non-profit organizations of all types with practical strategies for building their capacity to weather sustainability challenges. The manual is intended to be useful to non-profit organizations anywhere, but arises directly out of the experiences of non-profit organizations in Waterloo Region.

When we think of sustainability challenges, the questions that immediately jump to mind have to do with finding funds, recruiting volunteers, and other immediate practical concerns. Sustainability challenges like these arise, in large part, because of factors that are well beyond the control of most non-profit organizations.

However, this manual is not organized around writing proposals, securing sponsorship, or other funding-related strategies. Rather, it is built around four chapters that deal with basic, underlying factors that (according to our research) are within the control of non-profit organizations, and seem to enhance the capacity of nonprofit organizations to weather the crises and uncertainties that are a fact of life in the sector. In response to funding cuts or reductions, many organizations return to these four factors to strengthen their organizational sustainability.

Specifically, the manual explores four dimensions:

  1. Relationships and partnerships
  2. Organizational culture
  3. Planning and leadership
  4. Organizational relevance