Making Growth Work

Planning and Management Guidelines for Nonprofit Organizations

Published in: GIA Newsletter, Vol 9, No 1 (Spring 1998)


The Conservation Company, 40 East 42nd Street, New York, New York 10017

Making Growth Work is a briefing paper from The Conservation Company. Written by senior consultants Paul Connoly and Laura Colin Klein, this paper discusses "techniques for managing growth in a way that maximizes a nonprofit's impact." Sections of the report describe brief case studies, identify "growing pains and their treatment," present "a user's manual," and, finally, list management assistance resources that will be useful to organizations considering whether and how to grow.

Here are a few comments from "Growth: A User's Manual."

Plan Ahead. No company should ever embark on a new venture without first drafting a business plan. The same rule applies to nonprofit organizations.

Know Your Market. Market research can enable an organization to assess the demand for current or potential services and provide a realistic context for growth.

"Show Me the Money." Growth can be a costly proposition. In many cases, an organization should consider ways to diversify or expand its fundraising and earned income activities.

Elicit Everyone's Input. Undertake formal board recruitment, organizational development, fundraising, and operations and systems planning to address barriers (to the planning process).

Don't Overlook Infrastructure. When planning for growth, it's important to focus on programs, but not at the expense of less "glamorous" concerns such as management and infrastructure development required to support programs, including computers, facilities, financial management and control systems, and program reporting procedures.

Take Advantage of Outside Expertise. Some organizations can manage growth on their own. But most will find that resource books, courses, technical assistance, or a consultant's advice can be valuable.