The life of a non-profit organization has always been quite predictable as most of them enjoy a similar life-cycle. They all have a start or a birth phase after which they grow and develop into adulthood and maturity. Each of the various stages in the life of a non-profit organization has opportunities for success and challenges or threats. It also face other issues that affect its growth and development. Knowledge of these stages will help any individual who is planning on starting a non-profit organization of their own.
The first stage is usually the imagination and vision phase. In this stage, a group of people come together with the purpose of starting a non-profit organization to cater to certain needs of the society.
The start-up phase which is the second phase usually involves a group of individuals with not only a goal and vision, but also a passion to develop the project. The work in this stage is mostly done by volunteers who may also serve in the board of the organization. During the early days, this is quite alright, but as the organization begins to grow, this model can be quite confusing. The few volunteers will be unable to deal with the workload presented after a few years. After some time, the non-profit organization will need some structure and at this time, it will have to move to the next phase of development.
The third phase is organization building which is usually a response to the challenges phased in the second stage. The founders have to shift from their hands-on approach to activities that involve policy making and raising funds to run the program. This is in order to establish a base for growth for the organization. This period of change can be quite exciting for some and disheartening for others. However, it is important for all the members to understand the options available in order to ensure that they sail smoothly through this phase. The challenge during this phase is usually fund raising as the organization is bigger and most of the time the budget is more than the funds raised.
The fourth stage is organizational maturity and at this stage, the organization has establish itself through its reputation, systems and leadership and it has been able to get a strong funding base. However, the challenge at this stage is to ensure that they maintain this streak and that they continue to offer the same programs and services that the community requires. They also need to respond to the ever-changing environment. It is also challenging to anticipate the threats that the organization may face such as poor decisions or poor leadership. The aim of this stage is to continue producing and to sustain the activities of the organization.
The final stage is the reviewing and renewal stage. In this stage, the organization reinvents itself in response to changing needs, a changing environment and changing approaches to doing things. In this stage, the organization can revisit its mission, its services or even its structure and find ways to improve in order to offer better services to the community.