Thrivability—simply put as the degree to which a person, place, thing, or idea can thrive—has taken a massive hit across the board ever since the onset of COVID-19, especially within nonprofit organizations.

Companies and organizations of all creeds and types have been facing unprecedented challenges and have been forced to make excruciatingly difficult decisions regarding their operations and structure. In several cases, closed and for sale signs have been placed in the windows of formerly thriving businesses across almost every sector.

Survival became the goal and thrivability, for most, only a dream. So with COVID-19 hitting every type of organization, why would nonprofits be especially affected?

It’s never easy to make cuts to an operational budget, but in a nonprofit, there is another complicated but essential layer to consider: its mission. Similar to the North Star, the mission of a nonprofit generally guides every decision its board and staff make. But when in survival mode, how can an organization ensure its mission remains at the center?

For 141 individuals representing 56 nonprofits from our 4-county region, that answer was discovered through innovative labinars and webversations as part of The Patterson Foundation’s new program, Advancing Mission Thrivability (AMT).

AMT participants engaged in two fast-paced and immersive “labinars” with one uniquely interactive “webversation” in between serving as a new iteration of a question and answer session. Wait. What?

Why the made-up words???

Because the words that existed before did not do justice to the format or style of what AMT sought to create. Our lab assistant, Alexander Myles Thrivemore (yes, he’s an emoji), will tell you more as he shows you our definitions.


Make sense now? It couldn’t be in-person, but we knew an ordinary webinar wouldn’t be appropriate either. So we made up entirely new experiences.

Throughout these experiences, we learned about coping, adapting, and innovating, and new ways to approach decision-making through both economic and mission-centered methods. Ultimately, we landed on a mission-centric model that considers economic impact, and could be applied to each individual program, product, and service an organization offers.

This thoughtful approach allows for each program, product, or service to be separately evaluated for its mission impact and economic return, resulting in a ranking system that can then be evaluated wholly. With a thorough understanding of each relationship to mission and economic return, decisions regarding cuts to programs, products, services, staff, and general operating procedures became clearer.

For a glimpse into the method, take a look at this simple but powerful tool from No Margin, No Mission consultants Larry Clark and Mike Oxman—the AMT decision-making matrix.

decision making metrix2JPG

This matrix allows an organization to place their programs, products, and services where they fit in relation to their mission impact and economic return. Once placed in the matrix, it becomes more clear what is worth the continued investment and what might fall short. For example, if it has little mission impact and a low economic return, it should not continue to be a high priority.

decision making metrix

In this example, if you had to reduce your budget, what might go would likely be the online store. This is a highly effective decision-making strategy but depends on the honest evaluation of an organization’s programs, products, and services to truly see them ranked authentically. That process may take some work, but its value will far outweigh the time spent in thorough evaluation.

With the initial run of AMT behind us, some nonprofit organizations that participated in the full program will now be able to secure 1:1 consulting from No Margin, No Mission as a gift from The Patterson Foundation. This consulting is designed to help nonprofits dig in and ensure they make mission-centric decisions while considering the economic impact that helps their mission thrive into the future, no matter the challenges they face.

Nonprofits seek to operate so their missions can thrive. When missions thrive, the thrivability of the communities served increases exponentially. That was the impetus for Advancing Mission Thrivability.

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