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When a Program Ends

How do you handle shutting down a program that’s no longer effective?

This is, of course, something we hope never happens but the reality is it sometimes does. Funding sources can dry up, client interest can fizzle out as needs are met, or staffing and managing the program may no longer be feasible. Here are a few ways to get closure on a program, surrounding it in a positive light.

Quantify the retired program’s highlights and record its successes.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How many were served? How much money was raised to combat a certain issue? How much awareness was raised?
  • How did the community respond? Did the world outside your nonprofit’s doors contribute in interesting and wonderful ways, lending support to this problem to get to a solution?
  • Were any major partnerships forged during the administration of this program? Did that lead to other good things within your organization or the larger community?
  • Did your program have a special success story that’s worth retelling and remembering?
  • If you had it to do all over again, what would you do the same and what would you change? (Keep in mind this is especially important information to have on hand if this program is ever resurrected.)

We encourage you to write these things down, however formally or informally to keep on hand to refer back to later. Internally, this information could be shared with all your staff members and your board. If the question ever comes up again to bring the program back, you will have already drawn yourselves a roadmap.

After you’ve written down your thoughts and shared with those who need to see it, take another important step as an organization: turn your focus and energy back to what’s in front of you, and move forward.

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