In the course of my nonprofit board involvement over the past few years a recurring theme has come up again and again—the pull between creation and maintenance.
Whether you’re talking about creating entirely new ventures or simply starting a new initiative within an existing organization, my experience has so far told me that creation tends to be easier that maintenance. What I mean is that it’s easier to start things than it is to continue them—yet the difficulty of continuing, of the maintenance of efforts, initiatives, and programs, is almost universally downplayed either explicitly or implicitly.
Creation is relatively easy because ideas are cheap, whereas maintenance is difficult because execution is costly. It requires a larger and coherent strategy for overall activity. It requires consistent and unrelenting effort. And it tends to require sensitivity to the accretions that define an institution’s past—whether healthy or harmful.
It’s important not to build a house that’s bigger or more expensive than you can maintain, and so it is with nonprofits especially. If there’s money in the bank, you stay in business—maintenance is easier when there are funds for the future.
What am I saying? Simply that creation and maintenance should both be on the minds of any board member looking to create resilient institutions with lasting impact.