As the father of two kids with Spring birthdays, I find myself thinking about stages of growth and development a lot this time of year. It’s incredible to watch a child enter into their next phase, whether it’s demonstrating improved language or mastering a new physical skill. This development is often not linear; there are growing pains, detours, setbacks, spurts, and surprises. But, looking back over the journey, the changes are truly miraculous.
Like kids, organizations have stages of growth and development, too. According to the literature, there are seven typical lifecycle stages of a nonprofit: idea, start-up, grow, sustain, decline (and/or renew), dissolve, and closure. In the start-up phase, leaders are typically working on envisioning and developing core programs. The growth phase is usually characterized by infrastructure development. And, if all goes right, organizations that reach the sustainable phase demonstrate continued and expanded impact. Nonprofits that have been around a long time typically go through many iterations of the growth, sustain, decline, renew cycle. In other words, if an organization doesn’t adapt over time to respond to the environment, it is likely to peter out and fold.
In its twenty-two year existence, Center for Health Progress has gone through many iterations of this nonprofit lifecycle. Although our mission and vision has stayed largely consistent, over the past three years, we’ve been squarely in the renewal phase. We’ve reinvented and reimagined our organization’s core work and infrastructure as we’ve worked to develop new programs and build new internal infrastructure. In 2016, we grew our staff and launched a statewide campaign to expand access to health care for immigrants without documentation. In 2017, we changed our name, committed to becoming a more equitable organization, and launched community organizing programs in Fort Morgan and Pueblo. And last year, we launched an ambitious new strategic plan, envisioned powerful new campaigns, including Nuestra Comunidad, Nuestra Salud in Fort Morgan, and developed innovative initiatives, like our EquityLab and Legislative Equity programs. In 2019, we’re primed to expand and sustain deep impact across all of this work.
Although Center for Health Progress’s renewal and reinvention has been generally exciting and positive, as is typical with nonprofits going through growth and renewal, it’s also come with its fair share of growing pains, detours, setbacks, spurts, and surprises. At times, we have had to work hard to maintain morale and optimism in the midst of constant change and uncertainty. We’ve had to be honest about our deficiencies and deliberately build out new capacities, skills, and cultural norms. And we’ve struggled with celebrating progress around our internal transformation in a way that doesn’t overstate the progress we’ve made and is clear about how much work we still have to do.
We’re grateful to all of our members, volunteers, funders, and partners for supporting us on this journey of renewal as Center for Health Progress grows into our next development phase. If you want to learn more about this new work, join us at our Annual Meeting on May 22 at 8:30am at Mile High United Way in Denver. We are honored you continue to remain by our side as we pass each development milestone, and we promise we’ll try hard to make you as proud as a parent watching their young one take on that next life hurdle.