On the Art of Exiting Well

“As much as we love our students, we want them to leave after they’ve been successful.” The room filled with chuckles as university coordinators resonated with Lynda’s statement.

The mark of a successful student is their ability to be launched from their post-secondary foundation into employment or graduate opportunities. As much as an institution may have loved the student or bonded over the progress made in the past few years, a healthy trajectory involves leaving.

But leaving is difficult. It necessitates adaptation to big changes, perseverance, new support systems and a different way of relying on the old ones. Sometimes it’s uncertain and other times it’s not.Exit

But for the most part, leaving for the sake of launching into something new offers exciting opportunities for growth and expansion.

Philanthropy and nonprofits must view exit strategies through this lens. A responsible discontinuation of funding is a healthy step forward, offering opportunities for both organizations to revel in their impact and launch into something new for the sake of growth and expansion.

Exit strategies are an art form; a delicate balance of support and release. We must see them as such and attend to them with the appropriate amount of attention and care. We must apply the Hippocratic Oath to our philanthropy and “do no harm” in our exit or our stay.

A good exit requires wisdom on behalf of both the grant maker and grantee. If the goal is to do no harm, then there can be no one-size-fits-all strategy. Open conversations are to be had to land on an agreement that leaves neither party high and dry. Whether it’s a gradual decline in funding, an increased proportion of matching funds, endowment building or a cold turkey goodbye, the exit must be beneficial to both parties.

What are good exit strategies you and your organization have come across? We’d love to hear from you!


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