February 8, 2018

The sustainability section of a grant proposal is always somewhat tricky, if not slightly ironic. You must make the case that your organization or program will be fine if you do not win the grant, but that you do still need the funding.

In general, this section should be an explanation of where other funding will come from to support your work as an organization. Foundations will rarely be your sole funding source; you will need to demonstrate money is coming from other sources and that your program can sustain itself over the long term.

To paint a full and accurate picture of your organization or program’s sustainability, you should provide details about your strategic plan, fundraising plan, fundraising streams, and program expansion and changes. And because it can be difficult to know exactly where to start or what to include, we’ve listed some key phrases and concepts below that can help you tackle this tricky section of your proposal with confidence.

Diversified Funding

Your organization supports its work through some combination of earned income, individual contributions, government contracts, and philanthropic support. In some cases, this is even a consistent ratio. The strongest case for diversified funding provides some specific percentages and comments on the stability of each funding stream.

Multi-Year Funding

Multi-year funding is a nonprofit holy grail. If you have it, be sure to tell your funders that at least a portion of your revenue is committed for multiple years!

Renewed Funding

Does your organization renew a significant proportion of its funding every year? If so, you will want to provide those stats.

For example:

“The organization has received renewed funding from 15 long-time organizational supporters for each of the last three years.”

Annual/Strategic Planning

If you’ve already established that your organization has strong planning processes in the Leadership section of the grant, then mentioning that a particular program or initiative is included in the annual or strategic plan is an indicator of sustainability.

For example:

“Doubling the number of children served through our program is a key goal in our 2012-2016 strategic plan and therefore a focus of our fundraising.”

Development Capacity

For those organizations who rely heavily on institutional fundraising or individual giving (i.e. they do not have government contracts or earned income streams), it is important to emphasize their capacity for fundraising. This is particularly important for organizations proposing a programmatic expansion or another change that will increase the fundraising burden.

With organizations who are working with Elevate, we emphasize that they have dedicated development staff that research and apply to new funding sources. If your organization has had a lot of success identifying new funding, provide that information; for example, development staff have successfully applied to 10 new funders in the last year.

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