LESSONS FROM A SUNSETTING FUND
Planning to close our doors in December 2015—thoughtfully, and with consideration for our partners and coworkers—has meant breaking new ground.
Walking into the conference room in Fall 2013 to inform all of our colleagues they were going to lose their jobs is a moment we will never forget.
We had worked on what we were going to say for weeks. Lives were about to change, and we knew the reaction would be heavy. Co-workers arrived unsure and curious. We had never before had a mandatory staff meeting that demanded co-workers cancel other meetings and rearrange vacations to attend.
There was the normal buzz in the room as people settled in. But when our board chair arrived, you could see interest levels intensify. She called the meeting to order, and began her comments by saying that we were entering bittersweet times.
Scanning the room, we could see people’s faces change as they internalized the announcement. Our entire team formally learned that day what some of us had known for years: that we had mapped out the timeline for when the foundation would complete its programmatic work.
There was never a question about whether we would “sunset,” so that part wasn’t a surprise. Our founders had made it clear from the Orfalea Fund’s inception that it would have a limited life, but the details of the timeline had not been established. It wouldn’t have been advantageous to do so; our founders imbued the organization with a certain style of entrepreneurial opportunism. We were free to redefine ourselves and our grantmaking strategy as we went along; our culture encouraged the flexible approach we needed to strive towards our audacious goals while helping to build leadership in our community partner organizations. Had we established an end date at our inception, we wouldn’t have allowed ourselves that flexibility. So the premise of sunsetting had always been there, but the nuances of when or how went unaddressed until now.
CONTINUE READING: A JOURNEY WITHOUT A GUIDE