Management, Management & leadership, Finance & law, Strategy

Sustainability: the capacity of an organisation

Ahead of his upcoming training course - Charity Survival and Sustainability - Graeme provides the first article in a series, featuring practical tips and tools for organisational sustainability.

Sustainability is about organisational resilience and development, not just survival. Things change, so your organisation won’t survive by staying the same, it has to evolve. It’s also about more than money, because even financially healthy organisations sometimes fail because they, for example, are badly run, mis-manage their staff, underestimate their stakeholders or fail to adapt to change.

For these reasons, we define sustainability as the capacity of an organisation, service or system to make a lasting difference. The following five principles are a great way to keep you focused on sustaining the right things in the right ways.

1. Sustainability does not mean sustained. Things change. Sustainability means not staying the same.

2. It’s about more than just the money. Other factors like capacity, development and staff wellbeing are just as important. Experience tells us that money follows good work, not the other way around.

3. Diversifying activity does not necessarily mean reducing risk. Sustainability means being clear on what you do – and don’t do – best. Sustainable organisations know when to say ‘no’. Saying ‘yes’ to everything leads to reduced quality, safety and sustainability.

4. Sustainability requires capacity. Organisations, teams and individuals need time and space to think. Without spare capacity, there can be no innovation or development.

5. Sustainability does not mean self-sustaining. On their own, organisations are closed systems which will atrophy without inputs from and exchange with their environments (funding, staff, ideas, support etc.).


making a lasting difference book cover

Join Charity Survival and Sustainability

Brand new for 2020
, Charity Survival and Sustainability is a one-day workshop taking place on Tuesday 7 April to help you understand, assess, prioritise and implement strategies to tackle sustainability. You will even receive one copy of Graeme’s book – Making a Lasting Difference.