Building Sustainability For Your Funding
One of the questions I’ve received most often since joining Management Concepts is, “Where else can I get funding?”
This question goes to one of the weakest areas in the grant community: Sustainability. In this context, I’m not talking about the triple bottom line or climate change. It’s something much more basic: The resources that will keep your grant project going once funding source A is gone. Because deep down we all know that no funding stream lasts forever.
So, it was with this sustainability lens that I approached yesterday’s National Capital Region Grants Conference. I spent my professional development time outside my comfort zone: On the philanthropy track since that is where the other resources are.
The day started with a condensed lesson in nonprofit success 101 with Glen O’Gilvie, CEO of the Center for Nonprofit Advancement. The lesson focused around relationship building with a dash of learning from failure. O’Gilvie emphasized how important it is to your organization’s success to take the time to know your funders before the RFP drops — and then having the confidence to ask them for debriefs after a failed application. Simply put, people fund people.
This resonated with me in my role as a product manager. When I have this hat on, this relationship building with funders is called business development.
O’Gilvie also provided the audience with a succinct list of where nonprofits (and others) can find funding:
- Earned income
All of these potential funding streams have something in common in that they can’t happen overnight. Each funding channel requires a cultivation plan. These plans in turn require a long-term commitment, potentially taking months if not years before you take in that first dollar.
The thread of O’Gilvie’s path to a diversified set of resources through relationships continued throughout the day, from the funders panel to evaluation. Sustaining sources of funding won’t appear in your checking account overnight.
This focus on relationships was refreshing. But this is not to say that the data doesn’t matter. Part of your cultivation plan could very well include the production and presentation of outcomes based on results. Which can and will be one of the hardest aspects of grants management. We’re still telling the anecdotal stories that emulate our organizations’ missions.
Not at all. The cultivation of relationships is hard enough without layering on the need for evidence of success. But that’s where you learn that you aren’t going at it alone. Ask for help – especially when it comes to ways of funding to sustain your grant-funded programs.