Getting Serious About Sustaining And Proving Impact

Grant awards are investments in change, and funders want to make a good investment. They don’t want to throw money away on programs that will cease to produce impact the minute the grant money runs out. “Sustainability doesn’t relate to the program activities,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “It relates to continuing impact. Think of it as ongoing dividends paid on the funder’s initial investment.”

You might need to continue program activities (or some of them) to sustain impact, or you might not. It depends on the program design and what you’re trying to accomplish. But if you’ll need to continue activities beyond grant funding, your proposal must address how you intend to do that. Even if you aren’t sure of which activities will be continued, how that will be done, or where new resources will come from, it’s critical to include a plan.

    “A sustainability plan won’t necessarily provide all of the answers,” said Floersch. “But it does have to lay out the process you’ll use to ensure continuing impact.” When describing how you’ll sustain impact, keep these four key elements in mind.

  • A Leader. Identify who will be responsible for sustainability planning and include the work in that staff member’s job description. Unless someone holds the responsibility and reports regularly on progress, working towards sustainability is too easily lost in the hustle and bustle of program implementation.
  • Community Support. Explain how board and staff members, collaborating organizations, beneficiaries, and other community groups will be involved in the work. Establish a diverse community advisory council to begin working on sustainability early in the life of the program.
  • Good Data. Explain what data you’ll gather and how you’ll use it. Data is essential for rallying community support and making decisions about which activities to continue.
  • The Plan. Define how you’ll establish and implement a sustainability plan. How will you decide what activities to continue? What approaches will you consider? If you’ll need new funding streams, what will you look at? What time-line will you follow to accomplish the work?

Demonstrating that you’re serious about sustaining impact will increase the competitiveness of your proposal. Commitment to sustained impact also increases the effectiveness of your organization. “After all,” said Floersch, “The mission of your organization is to make positive change, not to just carry out activities.” © Copyright 2017 The Grantsmanship Center.