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The Great Grant Sustainability Question

There are many ways to sustain grant projects -- embrace the question.


Fred Rogers, of the famed Mr. Rogers Neighborhood PBS show, told his television audience, “Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” Mr. Rogers and I are going to take you on a guided research tour to Grant Sustainability Land.

We all know that question that provokes fear in some: 'How will you sustain the project once grant funding ends?' As with any research, the first resource you should examine is your own knowledge and skills concerning grant sustainability. I look forward to the sustainability question -- as it can set my grant application above others. I use the “keep it simple” approach when tackling this issue and formulate a plan of action with the grant team. Some common plans used to sustain the grant project are:

1) Contact select donors for matching grants - this concept can maximize your monetary intake with minimal effort

2) Hold a charity auction - use your donor list and connections to collect memorabilia, vacations, staycations, dinners at restaurants and gift bottles of wine

3) Hold a fundraising breakfast-lunch-dinner; combine the charity auction and fundraising feast

4) Online shopping; a percentage of Amazon purchases through the Amazon Smile webpage go directly to the charity of your choice

There are hundreds of possibilities to sustain a grant project. What is your favorite option?

The logical next resource is to obtain information from your Grant Professional peers. Look at the GPA website; there are more than a dozen blog articles discussing and sometimes cussing the two most dreaded words in a grant professionals vocabulary, “grant sustainability.”

Diane Leonard, grant professional, wrote in her We Will Apply for More Grants blog, “strengthen the response…provide details of your grant calendar related to the proposed program.” Leonard also advised “give the reviewer more detail about your plan, so they realize how serious and robust your plan is.” Her words are spot on for grant sustainability.

Danny Blitch, grant professional, wrote Are You Answering the Sustainability Question Correctly? Blitch opined, “Funders ask the sustainability question because they want to make sure their funds won't be wasted.” This was an eye opener for me. He penned, “sustainability is both an art and the science of self-perpetuation.” I learned from his blog that outcomes and the ability to manage funds are two important pieces of grant sustainability.

Over the past few years, I attended several workshops sponsored by Dr. Beverly Browning, grant professional.  Just like her seminars, Dr. Bev delivers sage advice in her book Perfect Phrases for Writing Grant Proposals. Some pointers on grant sustainability are: hold annual fundraisers, recruit volunteers, develop community partners, charge for some services and aggressively seek other donors.

 A search of “grant sustainability” on Google resulted in over 88 million results. Whittling this down, I found a Grants Edge article, The Ultimate Guide To Answering The “Sustainability Question” In Grant Applications. Grants Edge uses “Ugly Answers, Not Quite as Ugly Answers, and Good Answers.” “Good Answers have a plan in place to diversify revenue streams; decrease program costs; learn more after the evaluation and strong collaboration aspects.”   

As this blog ends, I channel my inner Mr. Rogers and say, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers.” Use Mr. Rogers inspiration, and advice from my esteemed colleagues, to assist your organization in embracing the great grant sustainability question.

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