You’ve had and developed an idea, got it started and hit the ground running with people involved, projects happening and hopefully some outcomes.

Now what happens?

After the initial adrenalin and enthusiasm wears off, just keeping going, growing and knowing what to do next can be one of the most difficult stages in any not-for-profits lifecycle.

Reviewing where you’re at

At regular intervals you should take time to evaluate and review your organisation and those working within it. This doesn’t have to be in the form of the formal yearly reviews you may be familiar with from workplaces and large businesses. It can be something informal and casual based around a meal, drinks or other social activity. This kind of review could be part of an Annual General Meeting or help influence it’s agenda. You are trying to gain a broad view of the organisation by reviewing at an individual level as well as a strategic overarching level, hopefully building a picture of how every piece of the organisation is working and contributing (or not).

We’ll cover this in more detail below, but here are the top broad questions you should be asking at review time:

  1. What are we trying to achieve?
  2. Are we achieving it?
  3. What resources are at our disposal that we’re under-utilising?
  4. How participatory is our work?
  5. How happy is our team?

You may find it useful to refer back to the lean canvas process mentioned on page xxx and assess if it needs revising or updating.

Individual input

Give everyone working and volunteering with the organisation or project an opportunity to relay their experiences since the last review. Ask for feedback on processes, working with clients and their feelings on progress and outcomes. Everyone should feel comfortable enough to bring concerns they may have up at organisational reviews (mentioned on page xxx). No one should be excluded from criticism as this may help identify solvable issues with people before reaching the final recourse.

Most crucially, ask if people are still enjoying working with the organisation and what their new personal and professional aims and goals are. Identify if they learnt new skills or would like to learn new skills that they can contribute. Take this opportunity to update your personal and organisational asset maps (See page xxx) to reflect gains and losses in your organisational assets and what you may or may not now need or posses.

This same individual feedback should be added to any volunteer or staff exit processes you have. It’s important to know what people’s opinions of your organisation may be when they leave as you will gain different insights from current staff and volunteers.

Organisational assessment

Is your organisation still striving to achieve what it set out to do in the ways it intended? Allow everyone to contribute in an open and non-judgemental way to answering this question (see tips on meeting facilitation earlier on page xxx) and if available, have notes from previous reviews or founding statements to use as a comparison point.

Breaking out of bad habits

As time passes and people within an organisation become more comfortable with each other and their place within an organisation good working habits will develop. Unfortunately so will bad ones that, left unchecked, will infuriate and frustrate people and, at worst, cause them to leave. Seemingly small to begin with, at an organisational level these bad habits can lead to lost time, opportunities and less efficient organisation.

On page xxx we discussed drafting an agreement with all your staff and volunteers that they must agree to when joining the organisation. A list of the potential unacceptable ‘bad habits’ should be included in this agreement alongside any repercussions from breaching them.

An example of such a bad habit and it’s repercussions might be:

Particular participants regularly turn up late to meetings with small, unimportant excuses. It may be just a few minutes late, but added up over time plus the time that is then spent with that person catching up with what they missed and it can fast become significant.

Some ideas for addressing this challenge include:

  • Imposing a two minute lockout rule. Two minutes after the meeting has begun, shut and lock the door, no latecomers admitted.
  • Schedule meetings with the assumption that people will be late and allow a ten minute buffer between the scheduled and actual start times. The main problem with this technique is that people will eventually wise up to it and it will become defunct.
  • Remove the right to have input or an opinion during a meeting. The offender(s) may only be a passive participant.

If the organisational review is open enough to allow people to speak their mind non-judgementally, these habits should be identified reasonably quickly. Depending on the organisation or the length of time staff have been involved, it may be better for these types of comments to be kept anonymous. A certain level of trust and mutual respect within an organisation is needed before being able to take some comments genuinely un-personally. As you document some of these bad habits, patterns and groupings should appear, helping you identify those recurring habits that are a real problem verses one-off grievances.

Tips for anonymous feedback gathering

A very simple method for acquiring anonymous feedback is providing sheets of matching paper for people to write their thoughts upon and provide a box they can place them into. If people are worried about their handwriting being recognised then suggest they submit their opinions typed instead.

Assessing new opportunities and keeping up with the competition

Whether we like it to admit it or not, many not-for-profit organisations are competing with each other, even those outside of your particular area of interest. Most organisations are competing for mind share and often a share of the cash in people’s pockets.

As part of the organisational review process, have attendees bring examples of other organisations, businesses or projects from around the world who may be attempting to accomplish similar or related aims (See page xxx). Assess what they do differently that works or doesn’t work or that you may be able to incorporate into your practices. Never rule out the opportunity of collaboration with emerging newcomers in your space or established incumbents. If you are all truly all aiming for the same goals and outcomes, then working together should always be on the agenda and if it isn’t, find other collaborators.

By assessing where your organisation and those around you stand you can begin to identify potential new opportunities and ideas your organisation might want to supplement or replace its activities with.

For example:

You notice that your website is receiving an increasing amount of mobile device traffic and you know that your website currently looks bad on these devices. A staff member mentions a friend working at another not-for-profit who recently created a mobile version of their site and it resulted in extra traffic and donations. This is a strategy you would love to pursue to remain current but you have no budget left for such a website development. Luckily, as part of your discussions with staff you discover that a staff member’s partner is a mobile developer and offers to develop a simple mobile site for you in a voluntary capacity.

Redefining your mission, or ‘pivoting’

As a result of this process you may reach the conclusion that it’s timely and appropriate for your organisation to change it’s main mission or methods of working. Again, there is a phrase for this in the start-up world that nicely sums up what your organisation may need to do, it’s ‘pivoting’. It essentially means that you have been following a particular path and at a particular point you decide to break away from that path, but are generally still aiming for the same destination.

Let’s look at an example from the for-profit start-up world first, one that everyone would have heard of:

YouTube began in 2005 as a video dating site. The dating side didn’t work out but the founders realised they still had a great platform for sharing videos and after stripping out the dating functionality the site gained rapid traction.’

A simple example in the not-for-profit world might be:

Your organisation is a social enterprise that aims to provide funds to build wells in Africa. To fund these activities you open a café that is initially successful until a rent increase means it starts losing money. After analysing the financials you realise that, instead, running a mail order business from your existing office of coffee beans and accessories is far more profitable and reliable.

The trick with a not-for-profit pivot as opposed to pivoting a for-profit start-up is finding a way to maintain your mission in a different way, whereas a for-profit company can just decide to change its direction completely.

When pivoting or changing your focus remember to take a look at your marketing materials. Will they need to be changed and will they still make sense? Updating them could be a costly process and should be factored into your decision making.

Unless of course you realise you need to change your mission statement or mission. In this case it may be a better option to completely end the organisation (see more on this below xxx), but this must be determined on a case-by-case basis. A rule of thumb may be that if your overarching aim remains the same but you methods for achieving this should change, then seek a mission change. If your overarching aim changes completely then it’s probably best to begin a new organisation.

There are legal issues behind changing your organisation’s mission that are dependent on your structure and location. Generally it involves amending your constitution and taking a vote from your membership.

Knowing your worth

Reporting has always been a hot topic in the not-for-profit world and now so more than ever. The abundance of cheap and easy tools that provide statistics about more things than you care to know about have meant that the modern not-for-profit can be drowning in data. This is a good thing isn’t it?

Well, to a point. Raw statistics are a quick and easy way of demonstrating interest in your organisation. They are often referred to as ‘Quantitative statistics’ and are numbers that can be measured, have a scale and which mathematical functions can be performed upon.

Examples of ‘raw’ statistics that a typical not-for-profit may be recording:

  • Website statistics
  • Event attendances
  • Survey responses
  • Social media statistics
  • Mailing list numbers
  • Donation amounts
  • Number of members
  • Activities undertaken

However, they only show part of the picture. Maybe one visitor downloaded a pdf from your website, printed it and distributed it to 100 people. There’s no real way of knowing for sure that this happened, or that any resulting website traffic or interest was due to this or something unrelated.

This is where analysis can show the other side of statistics to form a more complete picture of your organisation. This may be tying statistics to events or particular people. Or perhaps analysing statistics over a longer period of time to spot patterns and regular variations.

A good rule of thumb with reporting and statistical data is to use it for short-term demonstration of interest in what you were doing, but find long-term qualitative data to show real long term interest, engagement and impact.

For example, in Chris’ work establishing Green Renters, the organisation had quality web, email and social statistics that demonstrated that people were interested in what the organisation did. For example:

  • An extremely low amount of people only visiting one page on the site and leaving quickly. People arrived, looked at several items of content and stuck around for a while.
  • With Facebook and Twitter profiles, the organisation had higher than average engagement and growth statistics.
  • A low unsubscribe rate and high level of interaction with email newsletters. i.e. People opened and clicked on links more than the industry average.

However a long-term measure of the organisation’s success was that in the time since the organisation started, renters were being spoken about and included more and more in mainstream media and government discussions. Whilst Green Renters couldn’t claim complete responsibility for this, it was an indication that the organisation’s aims were being realised.

Tools for Reporting

  • Website analytic tools such as: Google Analytics, Crazy Egg and Parsely
  • Social Media statistics including: Facebook insights, Twitter Analytics (currently not available in Australia at time of printing), Sprout Social and Hoot suite.
  • Mailing list statistics: Depends on your provider but you are interested in knowing subscriber rates, unsubscribe rates, open rates, interaction rates (did anyone click anything) and ‘churn’ (new subscribers vs unsubscribes).

Create your ‘Definition of done’

As part of better handling your statistics and reporting, it is important you create a yardstick and measurement for knowing when your project (or even organisation) is successful. This may be something simple and tangible such as:

We aim to build one new community centre a month.

Or perhaps something harder to pin down such as:

“We aim to raise awareness for ."

Whilst the latter is appropriate as a mission statement it doesn’t help you define a measurement you can measure your ongoing success and effectiveness against. A better version may be:

“We will raise awareness for our cause by undertaking two media interviews and promotional events each month.”

Thus, as you iterate and improve your processes and systems you know if your changes are helping or hindering the progress towards your aim.

These ‘targets’ don’t need to be concrete outcomes per se, they could be a measurement of people’s satisfaction with your services through follow-up surveys, such as:

“We aim to deliver services with a minimum 75% approval rating from our clients.”

Don’t let these definitions intimidate you, they don’t exist as a method to berate staff with or make you feel inadequate. Rather they are a method for you to know how well your systems and practices are performing and to be able to assess tweaks you make to them.

Succession planning

Replacing individuals in an organisation is termed ‘succession planning’. It can apply at an individual or organisational level, but we’ll cover handing on an organisation in more detail later and focus on individual succession here.

In any organisation’s development, there will come a time when you need new staff, or old staff are ready to move on and need to be replaced. An organisation should always be more than it’s founder and not dependent on them, their knowledge or personality (as discussed in chapter 2 with respect to documenting business systems).

Tools such as CRMs, project management tools and information repositories have already been covered in chapter 2. If your organisation has been following best practise thus far then it should be a reasonably simple task for someone to wrap up their time with the organisation.

There are many tools available to help with this process. In fact, there are almost too many, but the one thing we have learned is that often the biggest hurdle in implementing these tools is not technical, it’s institutional.

Examples of key things to ensure you have documented and recorded:

  • Meetings had with the contact and outcomes from those meetings.
  • Events that contact attended.
  • Contributions made by the contact.
  • Whether or not the contact is a member of the organisation.
  • Is the contact a volunteer or staff member.

If these don’t match your organisation or it’s activities, make a list of the items of information that are the most important to you. Make sure those are recorded.

Handover notes need to be understandable by anyone coming into the organisation who may not know the original context, situation or relevance. A comment such as:

“Joe Blogs is great to us so be nice to him”

is not as useful as:

“Joe Blogs has gone out of his way to help our organisation. He has donated over $10,000 to us, has volunteered at our annual fundraising event and regularly recommends us to his clients. “

Even better is an actual record of the contributions this person made, the events they attended and the clients they referred. If you are using a CRM correctly this should be happening automatically, but at very least a list along with these notes is useful.

Staff and Volunteers need to be on board with the importance of why an organisation should maintain these details. Ensure it is part of training and orientation programs and utilise encouragements (and discouragements) to ensure it is adhered to. In the modern era, data truly is king, this applies to your own internal processes as well as data about those you interact with.

An organisation should be able to change or gain a member of staff and that person should be able to be up and running with their work within half a day of starting and not be wasting their time (and others) by constantly having to ask questions and not know where answers and resources can be found.

Training and development

Staff and volunteers are an organisations’ most valuable asset. Often employees of a charitable organisation are working at below market rates or are volunteering, especially in the early stages of an organisation.

As well as treating staff with respect generally, give them opportunities to develop and improve themselves. This doesn’t have to be expensive corporate style training sessions, but can be as simple attending local meetups or events (frequently free or low cost) so they can network with likeminded people and learn new ideas and skills. These events can often be great opportunities for spreading the word, so make sure you send people along with flyers or business cards.

It could be allowing daily time to read relevant blogs and listen to podcasts. Another idea is to allow staff time off to talk at conferences and other events. This is not only good for them, but spreads the name of your organisation.

Allowing people to grow, learn and expand their horizons can result in many positive outcomes for your organisations. External activities and discussions and breaking the sometimes monotonous flow of office work can lead to stronger teams. The most likely potential outcome is the generation of new ideas. There have been many examples of the intersections of disciplines generating innovation, from the Renaissance to companies such as 3M, FedEx, Google and Lonely Planet allowing staff free days to work on their own ideas.

Resources to find events, networking opportunities and stay current

  • A weekly newsletter for events and thoughts
  • Conferences, Webinars and other resources for non-profits and their interactions with technology
  • The global equivalent of ConnectingUp
  • A global resource of community organised events covering a wide variety of topics
  • A ground breaking organisation that provides a variety of resources for social entrepreneurs
  •“ Beth’s blog is a fantastic resource for nonprofits wishing to leverage data and networks.

Organisational and personal health

Driven and passionate individuals have a tendency to exploit themselves and to allow themselves to be exploited. There is also a slight attitude that permeates through the not-for-profit sector and that is a feeling of self-righteousness. Often people are doing great things of great benefit to many, but one can still be balanced whilst doing this.

Whatever the reasons behind it, how many times have you stayed back working late on a task or project, casting aside family or other personal commitments? There are of course times when this is truly needed, aid organisations working with a crisis for example. But a lot of the time, does that task really need to be completed at 8pm? Regularly needing to work late on tasks can be an indication that your organisation needs more staff, is taking on too much, needs to re-focus or is just poorly managed. Tired and exhausted staff are not productive staff and will rapidly burn out, become bitter and potentially leave, wasting more of your time.

Constantly consciously encourage people to work normal hours, take regular screen and desk breaks and proper lunch breaks (not at their desk). Encourage (maybe force) staff to take holidays regularly and if you’re willing to go one extra step, encourage power naps. There is a lot of evidence to show that short naps, especially in the afternoon can rejuvenate and energise people and make those final few hours of the day more than a slow creep to 5pm.

Most importantly, ensure that you do not develop a culture of ‘overtime as a norm’, with people awkwardly waiting for the first person to leave to know it’s now OK to go home. It may seem that enforcing these policies will mean you have less person hours to spend on work, but generally rested, refreshed staff accomplish far more in far less time and will be more loyal.

Letting go of dead wood

People are often your biggest and best assets, willing to take the plunge, get involved and spread the word about your good work. But occasionally they can be a liability and bring your organisation down. If it becomes evident that staff or volunteers (even well meaning ones) are hindering and not helping your organisations aims and are still involved just because you don’t want offend them, in the long run it’s better for everybody to let them know professionally and pleasantly as soon as you can that it may be better if they were no longer involved with the organisation.

Admitting you’re wrong

We all make mistakes. Often in the heat of the moment, decisions are made and actions are taken that upon reflection, were not the best plan of action. That’s OK. People will understand, especially if your heart was in the right place and it seemed like a good idea at the time. What isn’t a good idea, however, is lying or attempting to cover your tracks, if you are in the public spotlight in the slightest, the chances are this will be uncovered eventually. Find an appropriate avenue (that matches the mistake) to constructively and authentically acknowledge your mistake and apologise and explain how you will prevent similar mistakes happening in the future.

There are some existing examples of this in the not-for-profit sector, Engineers Without Borders in Canada created a site full of them after realising the power of admitting their own mistakes.

Running a largely ‘open’ organisation has generally positive outcomes. But open can also means exposed, bear this in mind in relation to the above advice.

For example, many people are sceptical about how some not-for-profits spend money. If your financial records are publicly available then a determined analyst with a particular agenda may represent this information in ways that you never considered. Twisting decisions made to represent their desired agenda and not the real reasoning behind it. These cases are rare, but you may need to be prepared to answer and justify decisions you made.

Sustaining a community

During the scaling phase of an organisation, you’re likely (and hopefully) going to gain followers, supporters, volunteers and an extended network of people who know of, understand and value your work. To sustain an organisation or project, these people - your ‘community’ - will become a valuable asset and should be engaged effectively. In addition to being able to undertake some of your work, especially in the marketing, social media and awareness raising areas, they can also become a strong justification and manifestation of your cause itself.

The Australian Organisation GetUp is a great example ( They have run many campaigns in this style by motivating large groups of individuals to achieve a particular campaign’s aims, such as:

  • Organising 15,000 volunteers to hand out party independent ‘how to vote’ cards in two general elections
  • Rallied their community on many occasions to fund prime time TV ads for many diverse topics and campaigns.

A global equivalent to GetUp is Avaaz, who work in similar ways. Many of their successes have involved raising the profile of struggles in developing nations to the developed world and International media. Some of their successes include:

  • Gaining 1.6 Million signatures towards reforming Brazil’s political system and making it easier for people to have their voices heard.
  • Gaining 80,000 signatures to ensure the safety of local translators employed in the Afghanistan conflict by the British government.

Both GetUp and Avaaz achieve a lot of their success by allowing and encouraging their communities to undertake a lot of their work for them. The numbers they get behind a cause represent it’s importance and the publics opinion on it far better that staff members simply lobbying on an issue they claim is ‘important’.

The Open Source community generally is a great example of sustaining a community through effective usage of appropriate tools. Many participants from around the globe are involved with crafting and promoting products, often in their spare time. For example:

  • The vast majority of websites run on a system called ‘Apache’ on top of the operating system ‘Linux’. Both of these are open source and contributed to by several hundred contributors in all corners of the globe.
  • The most popular mobile operating system in the world, Android is fundamentally (not completely, but lets not go into details here!) open source.

The open source community relies heavily on a variety of tools for controlling the quality of contributions and determining what will make it into the final product. There is often a handful of people who are the gatekeepers for these processes, but the vast majority of the community is self-sustaining and motivating through sheer enthusiasm for what they do.

In order for a community to grow and sustain itself there are several important factors to bear in mind, they mainly boil down to treating and running your community in some of the many ways we have proposed you run your organisation.

Trust your community enough to give it the space and freedom to grow in the way it wants to, not the way you want it to. It’s an overused word, but very relevant in this case, empower your community to run itself, to a point. There need to be some boundaries that will be dictated by your audience and issues. Language and attitudes that work in a youth community may not work in a community of domestic violence survivors, for example. However, try not to tell people what they can and can’t do. Instead, suggest what is appropriate and acceptable and allow the community to self-manage what they feel is right and wrong. It makes your community feel more involved, saves your staff and volunteers work and also relinquishes your organisations’ liability for comments that may be made. There will be occasions were you need to step in to arbitrate libellous or other potentially criminal comments, but generally you should step back.

The same applies to the tools you use and set up for your community to use. Keep their features as open and simple as possible, step back and see what your community uses, creates and then demands. This is a far more effective process than spending a long period of time developing a suite of features that no one ends up using, it easy to add and amend later.

For example:

Twitter initially created a very simple service with only a handful of tools. The ‘@’ symbol to indicate you want to get someone’s attention and the ‘#’ symbol. That’s it. There was never any definition of what the ‘#’ symbol should be used for, but over time is has become used for everything from a rallying call, to pseudo-chat room to conference conversations. Twitter is a perfect example of creating something, stepping back, seeing what your community does with and then improving based on that.

If you need some ideas to get you started, then we would suggest that at minimum your community probably wants somewhere to discuss. This can even be as simple as comments on posts on your website, even a forum can be a step too far and a lot of work to manage.

Bear in mind that you don’t need to create these community tools from scratch or set your own up either. Unless you have good reason (chiefly privacy) most existing social networks offer many of the community organising tools you will need and you have access to their wider network if you wish.

If you would rather not use an existing social network, you still don’t need to start from scratch. There are many open source tools to help you create a suite of community organising tools, many of which will integrate well with your existing online presence.

Examples of these are:

  • A plug-in for Wordpress sites that provides groups, messaging, profiles and more.
  • Organic Groups is a Drupal Module that adds groups, messaging, subscriptions and much more.

As your community grows, and depending on how central it is to your work, you may need to bring on board one or more members of staff to manage your community(s) or make it part of someone else’s role. This person(s) helps encourage and regulate the community, but it should still from a distance obeying many of the principles above. This is especially true with association or club type organisations. One of your main activities is community management, so this work may be intrinsically part of many of your staff.

Coping with haters

The asset-based approach outlined in Chapter x on Resilience is your best bet for ensuring harmony across divisions. However, if you are opinionated and passionate, you are likely to offend people who will also want to make their opinions and thoughts heard. If you are giving your community a platform and space to express opinions, you can expect counter expressions. These can range from ‘trolling’ (The act of deliberately making offensive comments to elicit a reaction) social media and website comments, to public bad-mouthing, threats of physical harm and legal/legislative pressure.

Depending on the manifestation of the hate, the methods to cope with and counteract it can vary, but many can be resolved by having a strong and empowered community to help you through. For example, instead of deleting or banning an offensive comment, trust your community enough to let them handle it. Often demonstrating the power and opinions of your community in support of your ideas can be a very strong message to haters that vindictive or inappropriate comments are not accepted by the community, and actually prove a reinforcing method for sustaining your community!. .

On the rare occasion something illegal or concerning happens in your community look into and fully understand the legal support and rights you have to help you through the issue. Make sure you have records, screenshots and any others logs that may be useful. Again, enlisting the power of your community and supporters to demonstrate the support for your organisation and ideas may even help encourage reforms to legislation.

When to ask for help

There will be times in your organisation’s existence when you hit rock bottom. It may not be time to end completely (we will cover that below), but for financial or other reasons it’s close to impossible for you to undertake any more work.

Honesty is always the best policy, you will gain respect in the long-run even if in the short-term it feels like you may be about to lose some. Often we live in a world of assumption, assuming that our supporters have noticed we’re in trouble and supporters assuming all is well.

Similarly to admitting you’ve made a mistake, issue a statement on the most appropriate medium(s) for your organisation addressing the following points:

  • What kind of trouble the organisation is in.
  • What you plan to do or not to do in the future to prevent the mistake(s) happening again.
  • How it got to where it is now
  • What you need

It’s also worth bearing in mind that sometimes the best time to ask for non-donor financial help, for example bank loans, is when you don’t need it. You’re more likely to be approved and more able to pay it back. A cash injection at the right time in your growth cycle could be just the thing needed.

Ending it all

Perhaps one of the hardest challenges for any organisation, especially a not-for-profit organisation, is knowing when to cease operating.

There is an adage in the startup community that we in the not-for-profit space could do to embrace.

“It’s OK to fail.”

In fact, sometimes it’s the best option available to you, your organisation and everyone involved. Your energy and drive may be better spent on new projects that are pursuing similar or better aims.

There are positive reasons it may be time to end an organisation or project. Perhaps you’ve achieved your aims? This can often be hard for passionate, driven people to recognise and acknowledge as pursuing them and the constant work along the way can form a very large part of their life. Removing that part of your life and all the social connections that come with it can be daunting. Often in the lifespan of an organisation those involved with it will gain skills and experiences and perhaps become involved in other organisations or projects that better achieve your aims than the original. Again, this is a good thing and whilst it means that it’s time for the original organisation to wrap up, your aims are still being pursued.

There may be negative reasons behind an organisation ending and this will be a sad event. Perhaps your organisation has run out of money or has got into debt and can no longer continue. There may be irreconcilable differences in the personalities or the running of an organisation and it’s easier to start again. Saddest of all is the realisation that a cause or battle you had been fighting for is lost and that for the time being it is a waste of everyone’s time and energy pursuing the cause.

In this case it’s important that loose ends are wrapped up and that everyone gets fair chance to decompress. Hire a professional facilitator to help you through this process if it’s difficult or painful.

Whatever the reasons, there are effective and useful ways to end an organisation to make sure that your time wasn’t wasted, that future individuals may benefit from what you learnt and that everyone feels some kind of ‘closure’.

You’ve likely achieved great things during the organisations life span, so try not to end on a completely negative note. Throw a party, invite your wider networks and have a celebration of what was. Those involved with the organisation are likely all still good friends, so plan to get together once in a while to discuss what everyone has been up to.

The Legalities

There are certain legalities that need to be taken care of when you decide to close the doors on your organisation. A lot of the detail depends on what was written into your original constitution or bylaws, but guidelines are generally found with your regulatory authority, such as your State’s Consumer Affairs department or Office of Fair Trading or, if relevant to you, ASIC / ACNC.

Be sure to read, understand and think about the implications of the wind-up clauses in your constitution. They may have been written some time ago and not looked at since. You will need to take care of your assets and liabilities fully as well as notifying any relevant parties involved in office renting, utilities and other services. Aside from these main and obvious services that will need to be notified, also take the time to go through anything else that may need to be dealt with. This could include:

  • Clients
  • Suppliers
  • Media
  • Website hosts
  • Newsletter subscribers
  • Social Media profiles

If you have been following our advice so far, you hopefully have all of these and their contact details recorded so it wont be hard to accomplish! You can use this as an opportunity to remind people of your accomplishments and what’s happening next.

Before commencing any legal procedures, you should notify members and, depending on your organisational structure, you may need to take a vote of the board or members to get their opinion and permission to wrap up.

Preserving the legacy

If you were able to keep your organisation as open as possible throughout it’s lifespan (see page xxx) it shouldn’t be too much work to open up your organisations learning’s and resources over the years so that others may utilise them.

Depending on the work your organisation undertook, you may need to anonymise or exclude sensitive data and details, but generally we would encourage you to open everything that helped and hindered your organisation, this might include:

  • Grant applications
  • Budgets plans
  • Strategic reviews
  • AGM agendas and minutes
  • Statistics and reports
  • Marketing materials

You might also want to include specific advice and resources that were useful to you, such as:

  • Event management
  • Fundraising tips
  • Testimonials and anecdotes

We would recommend you release these materials under Creative commons attribution licenses so that your organisation will be acknowledged for any resources that are utilised by others in the future.