Most grant awards last between one and five years. While some foundations and federal programs renew awards for longer periods, grants seldom provide the kind of permanent ongoing support that allows projects to be nurtured and grown over time.
“Most grantmakers require applicants to address the tough question of sustainability,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center, in Los Angeles, Calif. “A grant is a social investment. Funders want to know how your organization will continue the work once the grant runs out.”
Many managers think this question is all about replacing lost grant funds. But that’s not quite right. The question is really about continuing impact. And that’s why you have to think more broadly, she said.
Your program might result in an infrastructure that can be readily maintained. For example, a middle-school, student-led website established by a grant-funded literacy program might be integrated into the curriculum of the school’s English Department.
A grant-funded lake cleanup might produce a corps of dedicated volunteers who will work to maintain a much healthier site under ongoing volunteer leadership.
An expensive, grant-funded program could provide ongoing services and supports to a single group of 25 troubled children for a five-year period. But if this produces changes in behaviors and attitudes that are proven to result in greater future success, the grant managers can argue that the program impact will continue far beyond the life of the grant.
Sometimes organizations must find new funding streams to replace lost grant funds. “It’s a real and stressful part of working in the nonprofit world,” said Floersch. “But if organizations focus their planning on continuing impact rather than continuing funding, the possibilities expand, and this enhances the chances that the grant-funded investment will really pay off.” © Copyright 2015 The Grantsmanship Center. All right reserved.