When funders ask you to address sustainability, I don’t think they’re looking for an Energizer bunny replyyou know, this project will keep going and going and going! However, you must assure them that the project will not come to a complete halt the day the grant period expires.
Sustainability can be a tricky issue to address. In order to respond thoughtfully to any question about it, one must have the vision to picture ways that project activities can be maintained to allow students and teachers to continue benefiting from the positive effects of a project. What this often means, however, is that funding from other sources has to be secured to cover the costs of these activities. And that’s where the tricky part emerges.
Let’s first examine the idea of sustaining project activities and forget about cost for a moment. How can you show a funder that your activities will continue to be implemented with a positive impact after the grant period? Here are some thoughts:
• If your project contains professional development activities for teachers, have you considered making the activities become part of the staff development that is conducted each year for your staff?
• If your project contains activities for preservice teachers, is there a way to build these activities into an already existing curriculum of a postsecondary institution?
• Is it possible to develop training materials that can be used on an ongoing basis in your district?
• If your project contains activities that focus on one curriculum area, is it feasible to expand the activities to other areas over the course of a few yearsso that perhaps by year five, the activities are taking place in all curriculum areas in the school?
• If your project involves the development of student portfolios, is it possible to make this a part of every student’s educational experience in your district before they graduate?
• If your project involves your students in a collaborative partnership, is it possible to continue the collaboration on a long-term basis after the grant period is over?
Now, let’s turn our attention to the funding issues. Remember, in most cases, it will not be enough to state that you will “pursue other sources of funding” to keep the project going. You must be as specific as you can be about what the possibilities for continued financial support are. Here are some ideas about how to do this:
• Is your district willing to make some of the maintenance-of-the-project expenses a permanent part of your district budget? This might include security fees, maintenance of telecommunication equipment, or software, for example.
• If your project involves the hiring of new staff members, is it possible to build these positions into your district budget so that perhaps within three years, these will become permanent positionsnot just grant-funded ones?
• Is it possible to develop training materials that could be marketed to a larger education audience to help offset some of the expenses?
• Have you contacted any other funding sources, such as local foundations, and asked them to consider funding some of the expenses to continue the project? Have you talked to a local corporation about this?
• Are there any activities in your project that could be turned into fee-for-service activities?
As you address sustainability, keep in mind that it’s important to let funders know you will be working on this from the beginning of the project period. Don’t let it fall by the wayside until the last quarter of the project! And finally, if for legitimate reasons your project is time-limited, make sure you explain this to the readers in your proposal so they fully understand. A “not applicable” response is not a good idea!