But in the midst of all this interesting analysis, tucked away under a box four pages into the study, was the sentence that left me speechless:
“Financial vibrancy is the capacity of an organization to make the transition from one sustainable moment to the next.” I experienced a moment of ultimate clarity, marveling at the purity, the honesty of that statement.
“Take no more than your fair share.”
That was one definition of sustainability offered by Margo Flood, Executive Director of the Environmenal Leadership Center and Chief Sustainability Official at the new student plenary at Warren Wilson College last week. (One of our sons transferred there this year).
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that one of my great concerns is the concentration of the resources of the nonprofit sector in the hands of so few organizations. Fewer than 6% of US institutions hold more than 80% of the income and assets of the sector.
I’ve asked the question before “How much is enough? Philanthropic greed”
That’s why Ms. Flood’s definition resonated so strongly with me. What would happen if all philanthropic institutions held themselves to the standard of taking no more than their fair share. Perhaps more philanthropy, bequests, grants and government funding would flow to organizations that are just as worthy (maybe even more so) but without the class connections and fund development capacity that accrue to many of the largest institutions.
In my book, any nonprofit that has lasted for 20 to 150 years and continues to achieve important societal outcomes, while nimbly executing on a measly budget (by report standards) of a cool $1-5 million without accumulating debt, is doing pretty well and shouldn’t feel that it hasn’t worked out a viable financial model.