Nonprofit Lifecycles



by Susan Kenny Stevens, Ph.D. with a Foreword by Paul C. Light.


Throughout the country, foundations, nonprofit managers, and board members are realizing the relationship between organizational competence or capacity and a nonprofit’s ability to accomplish its mission and deliver important services. Yet, current definitions of capacity generally describe one-size-fits-all practices and protocols for mature organizations. The fact is that not all nonprofits are mature. Some are start-ups, others are in rapid growth, and still others are undergoing organizational regeneration. NONPROFIT LIFECYCLES: Stage-based Wisdom for Nonprofit Capacity weighs in with a developmental perspective on nonprofit capacity and its relationship to increased organizational performance. Offering practical insights and thought-provoking case illustrations, this book presents seven nonprofit lifecycle stages and the predictable tasks, challenges, and inevitable growing pains that nonprofits encounter and can hope to master on the road to organizational sustainability.

More than ten thousand nonprofit and foundation officers have attended the Growing-Up Nonprofit seminars in which Susan Kenny Stevens originally introduced the hands-on wisdom of lifecycle theory. Now, as foundations and nonprofits seek to understand the principles of capacity and capacity-building activities, Stevens again showcases the lifecycle approach she pioneered more than two decades ago, and has since served as the cornerstone of her own successful consulting practice. Reviewers are calling NONPROFIT LIFECYCLES seminal wisdom and a must for:

  • Nonprofits seeking an overall understanding of the predictable characteristics and challenges they will face at various stages of organizational development.
  • Foundations interested in making capacity investments that add value, hit the mark, and effectively strengthen nonprofit capacity.
  • Consultants, evaluators, and academics seeking to diagnose and assess organizational challenges and performance against normative patterns of organizational development and maturation.
  • The capacity-building field as a whole to embrace a common language and set of definitions about the lifecycle dimensions of nonprofit capacity.

The lessons contained in NONPROFIT LIFECYCLES are timeless. Learn for yourself the stage-based wisdom from this nationally-recognized expert on nonprofit capacity.


“Evaluators have learned that organizational effectiveness depends on astute situational diagnosis and adaptation so that interventions aimed at improvement are appropriate, relevant, timely, and grounded in organizational realities. Stevens’ holistic lifecycle theory and its pragmatic, stage-based application to developing nonprofit capacity are supported by a quarter century of evaluation evidence. Bottom line from an evaluation perspective: It’s useful and it works.”

Michael Quinn Patton
Author of Utilization-Focused Evaluation

“Unlike those who study change without ever engaging it, Susan’s work is designed to help nonprofits diagnose their own place on the lifecycle and make choices about how to sustain effectiveness at different stages. It is the right book at the right time, and essential reading for anyone who truly wishes to meet nonprofits where they are.”

Paul Light
Paullete Goddard Professor of Public Service, NYU’s Wagner School

“For years, Susan Stevens’ lifecycles work has been strengthening the development of countless nonprofits. What a joy, then, that NONPROFIT LIFECYCLES makes that work available to all those striving to balance mission and management. This book tells you how (and when!) you can have it all: vision and viability, excellence and efficiency. NONPROFIT LIFECYCLES sings with Susan’s special personal style ~ a combination of practical wisdom and unabashed enthusiasm.”

Virginia Esposito
Founder and Senior Fellow, National Center of Family Philanthropy

About the Author

Susan Kenny Stevens, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized consultant, author, and lecturer on financial, management, and organizational issues pertaining to philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. Her books and case studies are used throughout the country by nonprofit managers, foundations, evaluators and academics to strengthen their understanding of nonprofit dynamics. Her other books include All The Way to the Bank, Investing In Capacity, and Budgeting Your Way to Financial Stability.