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Growing Resiliency: Turbulent Times Call for Dialogue Between Funders and Nonprofits

In an era when social sector leaders face uncertainty and significant change, resilience is critical to organizational survival. At their best, resilient nonprofits respond to disruptions as tipping points rather than tragedies, finding new opportunities to learn, grow, evolve, and, ultimately, better serve their communities.

There is no single recipe for resilience. This has become abundantly clear over the last several months as nonprofits, along with funders, have adapted to the massive changes triggered by the pandemic, the uprising for Black lives, and the economic crash – and there will undoubtedly be more significant shifts ahead. Adapting to disruption and uncertainty will never be a linear journey. This is a reality many nonprofits know well. However, it’s a point less readily acknowledged by funders and, even less, a topic for open discussion among funders and their grantees.

The Resiliency Guide is designed to help funders and nonprofits engage in candid dialogue about the complex, turbulent environments nonprofits operate in, and to reflect on organizational strengths as well as areas that may benefit from attention. As a tool for grantmakers, it can prompt new thinking about where, when, and how to invest in capacity building.

We originally developed the Guide in 2014. As a limited-life foundation, we have an especially strong interest in helping nonprofits develop the resilience to thrive long beyond our December 2020 sunset. In that spirit, we have updated the Guide as our understanding of resilience has evolved.

Today, we announce the release of version 4.0. This iteration represents our latest thinking, informed by findings from Resilience at Work, a study of resilience published in March.

The Guide remains a work-in-progress. We are in the midst of revisiting the Resilience at Work findings, exploring how nonprofits have responded and adapted to the massive and interconnected disruptions of the last several months. Later this fall, we will update both the study report and the Guide to reflect that learning.

The Resiliency Guide will also benefit from refinement based on lessons learned through use. We invite readers to share their feedback on the current version of this tool by the end of October 2020. Email comments to effectiveness@sdbjrfoundation.org.