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Scenarios are stories about different future environments in which today's decisions might play out. We cannot predict the future. However, by thinking creatively and rigorously about a range of scenarios, we can rehearse future possibilities and prepare for what might be next.In the summer of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, job losses mounted, and the movement for racial justice grew across the U.S., one thing was clear: nonprofit leaders were trying to figure out how to manage in such a volatile, highly uncertain, and complex environment. The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation had long been committed to helping nonprofits cultivate resilience and grow the related capacities for responding and adapting to significant change and uncertainty. Scenario thinking was a natural fit for this moment. In the second half of 2020, the Foundation offered a training program, Rehearsing the Future, to four cohorts of grantees, partners, and staff. Through a series of virtual working sessions participants were introduced to the discipline of scenario thinking and the core steps of the scenario-creation process.
Nonprofits that are intentional about cultivating organizational resilience are better at anticipating and adapting to the disruption, uncertainty, and significant change that are a constant in our world. There is no one recipe for resilience. Context matters -- a lot. And, adapting to disruption and uncertainty will never be a linear journey. Resilience is a way of being, not an endpoint. This is a reality many nonprofits know well. However, it's 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 help deepen thinking about where, when, and how to invest in capacity building.
In fall 2018, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, along with fellow funders and the authors of this report, set out to study what it takes for nonprofits to survive and even thrive amid disruption, and to better understand how grantmakers can help grow this resilience. "Resilience" was defined as a nonprofit's ability to respond effectively to change and adapt successfully to new and unforeseen circumstances while staying true to mission. Ultimately, seven characteristics emerged as critical to organizational resilience, presented in the resulting report, Resilience at Work. None of the stressors profiled in the original study reached the magnitude of the multiple and interconnected crises that defined 2020 – the pandemic, the uprising for Black lives and racial justice, the economic downturn, the crescendo of natural disasters. The authors wanted to know: What does it take for nonprofits to be resilient in the face of the profound and far-reaching change and uncertainty that no organization was immune from in 2020? Can nonprofits bounce back better equipped to weather future crises? To find out, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation commissioned this update.
Today and in the future, there is one thing social change leaders can be sure of: they will experience disruption, uncertainty, and significant change. Whether recovering from a hurricane, navigating global health concerns, responding to shifts in public policy, or regrouping after the departure of a top leader, nonprofits that get intentional about cultivating organizational resilience are better at anticipating and adapting to disruption.Resilience is critical for surviving these turbulent times. Nonprofit organizational resilience is the ability to respond effectively to change and adapt successfully to new and unforeseen circumstances while staying true to mission. 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.So, what does it take for nonprofits to survive and even thrive amid shocks? This research points to seven crucial characteristics, and surfaces principles and practices for funders who seek to boost grantee resilience.
The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation has a strong commitment to building and scaling organizations capable of continuing to achieve results after the Foundation's sunset in 2020. The Resiliency Guide is an aid for Foundation staff and grantees as they assess an organization's ability to adapt and achieve long-term success in a dynamic context.The Guide begins with a one-page checklist of factors that contribute to organizational resiliency. This checklist caninform conversations and illuminate areas of strength as well as areas that may benefit from additional attention.As a tool for grantmakers, it can help deepen thinking about where, when, and how to invest in capacity building.Plus, conversations with grantees about the dimensions of resiliency can help their organizations prepare foreventual independence from grant funding.
The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation defines resiliency as the capacity of an organization to respond effectively to change, to adapt successfully to new and unforeseen conditions and circumstances – and to seize opportunity.Because the Foundation is investing all assets by 2020, it has special interest in the ongoing sustainability of grantees. We know that resiliency matters to grantee success. In 2013, Foundation program officers began working in partnership with grantees to examine and discuss seven factors that can contribute to organizational resiliency. These factors are now available for broad use via a free, downloadable Resiliency Guide. In advancing this work, the Foundation commissioned Monitor Institute to conduct a comprehensive literature review. In 2015, the Monitor team developed a rich bibliography of publications relevant to resiliency, including specific sources related to each of the resiliency factors used in the Guide. The Foundation is pleased to share the results of their search with you here.