Foraker Nonprofit Sustainability Model

Nonprofit sustainability is a holistic approach to making good decisions for the success of your mission.

Nonprofit sustainability is not just about money. It is a holistic approach to making good decisions for the success of your mission. At Foraker, we don’t think of sustainability as a destination – either your organization is sustainable or unsustainable – we think of sustainability as a journey. And we’ve created a model to help you on that journey.

The Foraker Nonprofit Sustainability Model is comprised of four lenses that will guide you to see your organization more clearly and stay on course.

Using the lenses, you can begin to understand the dynamics of sustainability. Then, and only then, is it time to develop programs and services. That’s why they are presented at the other end of the diagram.

Programs and services are flexible – they are not sacred activities. One simple way to understand this is, “what you do is not who you are.” The strategic organization modifies programs and services, drops them, or adds new ones as it adjusts to the needs in its community – always influenced first by its mission and the factors of sustainability.


We start with FOCUS. Organizations that have a clear focus can answer two key questions: Who are we? and Where are we going?


Right People

Having the right people as staff and board leaders and maintaining a balanced and healthy relationship between them is another critical lens for sustainability.



Collaborative partnerships are another essential factor in an organization’s sustainability.


Unrestricted Funds

Unrestricted funds are a key factor in an organization’s sustainability because they are the only financial resources that the organization can use at its discretion.


Want to learn more?

Take the class: The Foraker Nonprofit Sustainability Model: What is it? How does it work?

Read the book: Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey
Focus on Sustainability is designed to be a guide, an inspiration, and a chance to shake up long-held theories of nonprofit management. We encourage you to return to it often and use it in different contexts, such as board and staff meetings and perhaps as the subject of a retreat. It is intended to be a useful aide for the dedicated board members and staff of nonprofits, tribes, and collaborations that serve communities every day.

Participate in a Sustainability Snapshot: We can help you to assess where your organization is on its sustainability journey. Call us to learn more.

Get a copy of the model here