Join Karl Kapp for an in-depth discussion in this video Sustainability, part of Grant Writing for Education.
- What happens when the funding runs out? Will the project end or will your school or institution be able to keep the program running? If you do plan to keep the project running, how are you going to accomplish that goal? How will it be funded in the future? These are the types of questions you answer in your sustainability plan. While some grants are for a one and done, such as a one-time purchase of technology or a one-time presentation by a well known speaker, many educational grants are focused on providing start-up funds for an initiative the funding agency wants to see continue after their funding is expended.
An example of a Sustainability Plan from a winning proposal is contained in the exercise files. It is short, because space is precious in a grant narrative, and that is why it is so important to have a carefully worded few paragraphs for your Sustainability Plan. Sustainability is the continuation of a project's goals, principles, and efforts to achieve desired outcomes. It does not have to mean an exact as-is continuation of the project.
Sometimes it's impossible to run a project after the funding has ceased at the same level. Often, changes and compromises need to be made. These can be explained in your grant proposal's Sustainability Plan. Before writing the sustainability section of your grant, consider what can and cannot be done once the funding is expended. Then you need to craft a plan to keep moving forward to the desired goals. Start by creating a detailed description of what products, outcomes, and services you plan to continue after the grant has expired.
Next, determine whether those elements can be incorporated into the daily operations of your college, university, or school. Sometimes an educational grant will be used to kick start a program, and the school then just absorbs the program. If this is the case, you need to explain how the formal process of absorbing the program will take place and outline the administrative, academic, and other resources required and in place to make the absorption possible, and don't forget to obtain sign-offs and commitments from the proper officials related to sustainability.
No administration likes a surprise requirement that they have to suddenly fund a program that just came off grant funding. Other times, sustainability is not so simple. In those other cases, you may need to expand your thinking and become creative when considering ways in which key elements of the project or research can continue after the funding is expended. Some ideas include Corporate sponsorship, Commercialization, Membership fees, Crowdfunding, and Angel investors.
Let's look at these options separately. Corporate Sponsorship. If the Educational program is to be funded by a government agency and has clear value to local corporations, there may be an opportunity to approach corporations and see if they will continue to sponsor the project once the government funding expires. If your grant has any type of industry advisory board to help shape curriculum or inform decisions, member companies of that group would be a good place to start.
Commercialization of product or service. If the project results in a tangible product or common services offered to the educational community, there may be opportunities to monetize these products or services. Sometimes a college or university has the capacity to commercialize products through an incubator or accelerator program, but sometimes that capability is not available. You need to check with both your institution and the funding agency to see if commercialization is an option.
Sometimes projects that are funded are required to disseminate products for free, and, therefore, commercialization is not an option. Membership Fees. If you have been providing a valuable service through a grant-funded initiative, if the organizations find it valuable enough, they may be able to fund it through Membership Fees in order for them to continue receiving the funding. Crowdfunding. This is the practice of soliciting funding for a project by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people.
The process is most often accomplished via the internet, on such sites as Kickstarter and GoFundMe. You may want to consider if this is a feasible way to continue your project. Angel Investors. While most people think of an entrepreneurial business when they think of Angel Investors, it is possible to find Angel Investors who are interested in improving schools or in contributing to educational causes by sustaining already proven work. Finding an individual or group that is interested in funding such projects can be difficult, but local school officials or a university foundation might know of such individuals and could possibly help link them to you as a grant writer.
Developing a plan for sustaining activities after grant funding has expired is important. Take time to think through all your goals and outcomes and be creative when it comes to finding ways to keep your good work continuing. Write up those ideas and create a logical, well thought out sustainability plan.
- Finding a private or governmental funding agency
- Locating collaborators
- Understanding an RFP
- Dissecting the anatomy of a grant proposal: front matter to appendices
- Avoiding common grant-writing mistakes