Locking up and Going Home: Nonprofits That Choose to Close

April 2, 2011; Source: New York Times | A story by Stephanie Strom in the New York Times Saturday reviewed the stories of a number of nonprofits that have closed or are planning to close in the next few years – not because of any financial trouble – but because they have accomplished their missions.

In the case of Malaria No More, a nonprofit that provides bed nets to people in malaria zones, their plans to close are linked to projections about the elimination of the disease. Another group, Out2Play, which has built 120 playgrounds in New York City, finds it is fast running out of potential locations that need their services. It hopes to put up another 40 and then declare victory and go home, leaving an endowment to pay for upkeep.

Robert Daum, the chairman of Out2Play’s board is quoted as saying, “We just decided to declare victory and go home. Money is a scarce resource, and there are lots of other good causes out there, so there is no point in hitting up our friends and contacts for gifts simply to perpetuate the organization.”

Water Advocates, who chose to close last year, similarly is not hurting for resources, having raised $100 million in five years. “We weren’t trying to attract attention to ourselves, which allowed us to focus on the issue itself, and we were always looking at ways to hand off things to other nonprofit groups,” said David Douglas, the founder. “And we weren’t competing for money, which also helped us build relationships.”

This is a "story" simply because a voluntary closing in a moment of strength is a fairly unusual outcome for a nonprofit. Many nonprofits institutionalize to such an extent that closing becomes virtually inconceivable. We'd love to hear from you about any other examples.—Ruth McCambridge