A Beautifully Crafted Goodbye from a Bankrupt Nonprofit


Architecture for Humanity

January 22, 2015; Dezeen

A few months ago, I wrote a newswire about the fact that a group called Architecture for Humanity had found itself in an untenable financial state and was planning on closing. Yesterday, I received a goodbye letter that was about as graceful and gracious and authentically hopeful as such a thing could possibly be. It made me feel enormously positive about the future of its mission.

Read for yourself:

Dear Ruth,

You are receiving this final message because you are one of the countless volunteers, supporters, design fellows, and former staff of Architecture for Humanity. I thank you for all that you gave to this organization over the past fifteen years.

This week, Architecture for Humanity will file for bankruptcy. While we are saddened by the organization’s closure, the mission of Architecture for Humanity is far from ending. Our affiliated international network of designers and allied professionals have resolved to carry on their work at the local level. Over 30 volunteer chapters on five continents, now self-governed, have recommitted to the mission and are emphatically and collectively forging a new path forward. We are overwhelmed by this response, and could not be more proud of those who volunteer their time and expertise to bring design services to where they are most needed within their local communities. We encourage you to keep in touch with the Chapter Network by subscribing to their news feed here.

For the past fifteen years, the mission of Architecture for Humanity was so resonant because its values already deeply resided within its community. Nothing about the closure of an organization changes that. Please continue to carry out the mission of Architecture for Humanity through your own work and practice.

Best Regards, 

Matt Charney, Board Chair, Architecture for Humanity

Free Download: A Nonprofit Guide to Executive Compensation 

Here is what I am taking away:

  • One organization is gone, but the movement is not because the effort had many nodes. The network still exists, although the central hub may not. Very impressive.
  • These people care more about the work than about one organization.
  • They identified for me how to stay connected to that work.

Priceless.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Nikki Kirk

    Awesome! It’s so nice to see that the work will continue and they are able to forge forward. Not enough stories like that. What an awesome leadership they must have.

  • Scott Mattoon

    Priceless indeed, Ruth. The organization managed more than a soft landing with the help of the network of chapters, giving realistic hopes that a beautiful metamorphosis has occurred. Of all the great examples of resilient design delivered by Architecture for Humanity over its 16 years, perhaps the best is the chapter network, which has proven resistant to financial hardship and diffuse interest in humanitarian design, refusing to let the mission fade. In many ways this network of committed volunteers is a super-organism with greater potential to adapt to the rapidly evolving needs for humanitarian design, and to advance the rights of the most in need to access good design where they live and work and play. Thank you for your support!

    Scott Mattoon
    Former Secretary, Board of Directors, Architecture for Humanity

  • JR

    Not wishing to pour cold water onto the positive aspect of this article, but my first thought was, “What caused their bankruptcy?” Lately, there are so many nonprofits coming under fire for fraud, scamming, and corruption (even the giant, Red Cross, is under investigation) that I can’t help but wonder if their downfall was due to illegal or unethical actions, including an irresponsible and gross lack of attention to good management practices. “Gracious” letter writing is fine and good, but would seem hypocritical if the bankruptcy could have been avoided with better business practices.