Why Non-Profits Should Practice “Organized Abandonment”

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Management Guru, Peter Drucker said, “The one thing non-profits must learn to do is how to kill programs”. Drucker called this process, “organized abandonment”.

In recent months, I have been involved with several non-profit organizations that have seen their funding decreased dramatically from last year’s levels. It has caused intense concern, but contingency plans have been implemented and administrative functions have been reduced in order to continue programming to those they serve in the community.  Based on the projections for the remainder of 2010, this may not be enough. They may need to consider other options.

While extremely difficult, it may be time to consider eliminating some programming in order to ensure survival. This can be a difficult decision for a non-profit because many typically think it is their responsibility to assist all in need.

Following is a suggested process for determining how to achive “Organized Abandonment”.

Step One: Recognize that all programs should be producing positive outcomes.

Step Two:  Evaluate the program’s alignment with the organization’s mission and purpose. If the program is not producing positive results and is not aligned with the purpose  and mission, it should be eliminated.

Step Three:  Identify which programs are critically necessary and how the organization can best meet the needs of those it serves. If the organization is the only provider of the service, then the program should be retained, but steps should be taken to ensure that it successful and produces the desired results. If the organization is not the only provider of the service and there are others that are doing the same thing  with better results and more efficiency, consider joining forces with that group or have them absorb your clients for that particular service. This not only helps your organization, but improves service in the community by concentrating resources where they are most effective.

This is a defining period in the life of non-profits. Many will not survive the economic downturn, but those that do will emerge stronger and more focused. It is the difficulties and challenges in life that define who we are…not our successes. Embrace change, make the difficult decisions, chart a new course and deepen the relationship with your core clients and stakeholders. This will ensure future success.

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