“In order to keep up with the world of 2050, you will need not merely to invent new ideas and products – you will above all need to reinvent yourself again and again.”

– Prof. Yuval Noah Harari

The 21st century has been defined by rapid change and unprecedented disruption. Our methods of communication, entertainment, commerce, and so much have all changed dramatically due to technological advancements and an increasingly interconnected global community. The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has only exacerbated these transformations, sending shockwaves that have deeply shaken every area of our economies and communities – the nonprofit sector included. Looking to the future, perhaps the only prediction that we can make with any certainty is that the coming years will continue to bring extreme upheaval in nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives. The institutions that survive will be those who are the most adaptive, creative, and flexible. The Gifford Foundation is committed to helping nonprofit organizations across CNY address these challenges through our new program Embracing Disruption: Resiliency Amidst a Changing Environment.

How can your nonprofit adapt to a remote work environment?

What steps can you take to diversify your funding sources?

How can you create effective contingency plans?

Learn How To Prepare

The Embracing Disruption Cohort is a 15-month virtual cohort program developed to support organizations as they navigate the ever-changing environment through a Lifecycles approach to organizational development.  Based in the Nonprofit Lifecycles model developed by Susan Kenny Stevens, PhD., this program is designed to host 5 organizations through a brief self-assessment, planning process and capacity implementation period. While similar to POWER and ADVANS, the Embracing Disruption Cohort program focus is building organizational resiliency in the ever-changing environment.

The program design uses similar concepts from the ADVANS and POWER programs developed under the direction of organizational consultant Dr. Susan Kenny Stevens. This “meet them where they are” approach is known as the Lifecycle Approach to capacity building. The Gifford Foundation launches this new capacity building initiative with lead consultant, Jennifer Bonnett, MPA, CLCC, CEO & President of the Nonprofit Lifecycles Institute.

The Embracing Disruption program incorporates The Nonprofit Lifecycles Institute’s table leg analogy to help organizations visualize and assess their structure.

Embracing Disruption will kick off in March 2021. The cohort will participate in a 15-month capacity-building initiative culminating in May 2022, designed to strengthen the operating capacity of five organizations in our funding area. The Foundation recognizes that the organizations may have been shaken by the effects of 2020 disruptions. The Foundation recognizes that these organizations may have been developing their capacity steadily, yet, the changes of 2020 require a moment of reflection to adjust, refine and plan for an uncertain future.

The Embracing Disruption cohort program will support the organizations as they reflect on their current lifecycle to inform their best strategy forward. Embracing Disruption differs from previous cohort sessions by focusing its time and attention to supporting organizations through the capacity improvement period, focusing more on financial scenario planning and budgeting and embedding equity throughout the assessment and implementation periods.

The Foundation will support the organizations in this cohort program with a financial investment in their capacity improvement plan and with the support of a Lifecycles Capacity Consultant to work with the organization throughout the program.

Gifford will select five organizations to participate in this pilot round of Embracing Disruption based on the following criteria:

  • Organizations must be receptive to change.
  • Reflect strong leadership at the organizational and board levels.
  • Be able to field a leadership team-Minimum 4 people to each leadership team.
  • Leadership Team members need to be committed to stay with the team to monitor the progress of the capacity work plan and stay engaged for the entire 15-month period.
  • Organizations must have ongoing programming that is critical to the community.
  • Serve Onondaga, Madison, or Oswego Counties.

Dates to Remember

Application Deadline: December 11th, 2020

Program Launch: March 3rd, 2021

View the Full Program Timeline
Participation in Embracing Disruption is time-intensive, so please review the schedule below. This is a tentative schedule but is provided to ensure an understanding of the expectations of participating organizations.


Phase One: Organization Selection (November 2020 – February 2021)
  • Application open (November 2, 2020)
  • Reach out to Lindsay McClung for application questions and Nonprofit Lifecycles overview (November 2, 2020 – Dec 10, 2020)
  • Application Deadline (December 11, 2020)
  • Gifford staff will schedule zoom meetings with organizations (January 4-22, 2021)
  • Gifford will select five organizations to participate in Embracing (week of February 1, 2021)
  • Gifford staff and lead consultant will select organization and consultant matches (February 7, 2021)
  • Gifford staff will meet with selected organization’s leadership team (week of February 15, 2021)
Phase Two: Self-Assessment/Work Plan Process (March – July 2021)
  • First Leadership Team Orientation (March 3, 2021)
  • Organizational Selfie Due (April 15, 2021)
  • Organizational Capacity Improvement Plan Due (May 7, 2021)
  • Second Leadership Team Cohort Meeting-Consultants & Organizations (June 2021)
  • Capacity Investments- up to $15,000 (July 31, 2021)
Phase Three: Capacity Improvement Period (August 2021 – June 2022)
  • Capacity Improvement Implementation begins (August 2021)
  • Third Leadership Team Cohort Meeting (September 2021)
  • Fourth Leadership Team Cohort Meeting (November 2021)
  • Fifth Leadership Team Cohort Meeting (February 2022)
  • Sixth Leadership Team Cohort Meeting/Celebration (May 2022)
  • Final written Reflections due (June 2022)

Would you like to learn more about Embracing Disruption?

Use the Calendly app below to set up a time to talk. If you have a specific question and would prefer not to set up a meeting, you can reach her at lindsay@giffordfoundation.org

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