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New York Times Examines Nonprofits That Close For Mission-Related Reasons

“A few nonprofit groups have recently announced plans to wind down, not over financial problems but because their missions are nearly finished,” the New York Times reports, noting that though the number of organizations closing shop “for mission-related reasons is too small to call a trend. … the novelty of organizations going out of business once their work is done has attracted attention.”

The article highlights several organizations undergoing these transformations, including Malaria No More, which supplies bed nets in malaria-endemic areas. Scott Case, a co-founder of Priceline and vice chairman of Malaria No More, said, “We never planned to be around forever,” adding, “We have thought of this more as a project than as an institution-building exercise, and the project is nearing its completion.”

The experience of Water Advocates, which raised more than $100 million over five years and closed toward the end of 2010, is noted. “Knowing that we were going to close helped us work with extreme urgency and intensity and not slack off for a minute,” said David Douglas, a founder of Water Advocates, which aimed to increase awareness of water issues. “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,” he said, adding that since the group wasn’t “competing for money,” it helped with relationship building.

The article also addresses concerns that arise when nonprofits close, such as the fate of employees (Strom, 4/1).

After the article was published, Malaria No More sought to address some of the content of the piece on its “Buzzwords Blog.” In noting its disagreement with the New York Times’ characterizing the organization as having completed its goal, the blog writes, “Malaria No More’s goal is to end malaria deaths in Africa. While we hope to accomplish that goal by 2015, we will only close our doors on the accomplishment of our mission. We have not announced plans to shut down on a specific calendar date. The article itself claims that Malaria No More has announced that it is closing in 2015. This is misleading. The purpose of the article was to demonstrate nonprofits that choose to close upon achievement of their mission.”

The blog concludes, “We look forward to the day when no one is dying from malaria – but we know that there is a lot of work to do until then” (Bergantino, 4/3).

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