Organizations Can Move From Surviving to Thriving

Posted: August 30, 2011

Sustainability planning offers non-profit and other community organizations a useful framework for thriving in difficult time

As we all know, these are challenging times for community, civic and non-profit organizations.  Public sector expenditures continue to decline while competition for foundation support and the demand for the services many organizations provide continue to grow.  Amidst these challenges, however, a number of tools and approaches are emerging and being successfully employed by a wide range of organizations,.


One of the most promising of these is ‘Sustainability Planning’.  Sustainability in this context provides a useful framework for organizations to purposefully align all their human, social, and material resources in such as way as to ensure their activities are prioritized, mutually supporting, and above all, strategic.  This allows organizations to move from the mindset of simply surviving in difficult times to putting the structures in place to thrive in both the short and long terms. 


Effective sustainability planning means engaging the entire organization in an effort to synthesize a number of already commonly understood concepts and culminates.   As such, it identifies – and focuses on the relationships between – a group’s organizational development, communication, strategic, evaluation, and fundraising goals and strategies.  The ultimate goal is to develop a comprehensive picture of where an organization is going and how it can get there in the most efficient and effective manner possible.


Over the last year, Penn State Extension’s Economic and Community Development team has provided workshops and assistance to dozens of organizations across the state to develop effective sustainability action plans.  If your group or organization would like to explore this opportunity please contact your local Extension office or Walt Whitmer, Senior Extension Associate at  


Contact Information

Walt Whitmer
  • Extension Educator, Energy, Entrepreneurship, and Community Development
Phone: 814-865-0468