When funders are reviewing grant proposals, they are looking for two types of sustainability: the first is that of the organization and the second is that of the project for which you are seeking funding.
Sustainability- capable of being sustained; to carry or withstand a weight or pressure.
They want to know if your organization and your project have what it takes to go the long haul. Will you be able to finish the task or will you fall short of what you say you’re going to do? Organization sustainability is essential to obtaining funding from foundations and private donors. They want to be sure that they are putting their money to work in the best way possible. So when seeking grant funding, it is important to try to think like those foundations and donors think. One of their main questions is of course the sustainability factor. So the challenging question for the nonprofit becomes, “How do we prove that the organization is sustainable?”
This is when the numbers really come into play. Sustainability is precisely the reason many nonprofits request:
- current financials
- financials from the most recent fiscal year end
- a copy of the audit or 990.
The information contained within these documents shows the funder that the organization is operating “in the black.” This allows them to start that trust in terms of believing you’ve been successful in the past and will continue to do so in the future. You want to put the foundations and private donors at ease in proving, as best as you can, the sustainability of your organization and project. When a nonprofit can demonstrate that they have a surplus at the end of the fiscal year, it enables them to create a fund balance to save funds for a large project, a rainy day, etc. The reports also show a funder that the organization knows how to develop and operate within a realistic budget.
Demonstrating project sustainability tells a funder that the organization will be able to continue the project after the initial funding is used. They don’t want to fund something that will fizzle out after the initial investment has been utilized. You will need to communicate your thoughts and strategies for doing so. Show them you’ve thought beyond the initial investment and have a plan for the future of the organization and longevity of the project’s success.
“For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14:28 (CSB)
Some methods of project sustainability include:
- providing services on a fee for service schedule
- obtaining additional grant funds
- integrating the project into the operational budget of the organization.
It is important to begin thinking about sustainability at the start of the project—when you are seeking initial project funding. Realistic plans to sustain the project will enable the organization to communicate their plans with the funder or donor and will increase the likelihood of funding success. The Faith Based Nonprofit Resource Center is here to help every step of the way. If you have questions about a particular project or would like help with your grant funding, we would love to partner with you.Photo Credit: SophieG