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Strategies for Sustainability. June 4-5, 2008 Presenter: Mike Smith Social Entrepreneurs Inc. Agenda. The Context for Sustainability Planning in Stanislaus County Key Elements of Sustainability Resource Management: Optimizing Resources for Sustainability

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strategies for sustainability

Strategies for Sustainability

June 4-5, 2008

Presenter: Mike Smith

Social Entrepreneurs Inc.

  • The Context for Sustainability Planning in Stanislaus County
  • Key Elements of Sustainability
  • Resource Management: Optimizing Resources for Sustainability
  • Revenue Enhancement: Diversifying and Strengthening Long-Term Funding Streams
  • Non-Financial Elements of Sustainability
  • Sustaining Collaborations
  • Planning for Sustainability
how sustainability is used
How “Sustainability” Is Used

Service providers:

  • “Keep my funding at 100%+ of current levels.”
  • “Keep my staff in place, avoid layoffs.”
  • “Keep my current programs going.”


  • “Keep the program alive after we cut or eliminate your funding.”
  • “Take over roles we are currently serving.” (e.g. promoting collaboration, technical assistance, evaluation)
a preferred definition
A Preferred Definition

SUSTAINABILITY:The continuation of community health or quality of life benefits over time.

Center for Civic Partnerships, “Sustainability Toolkit: 10 Steps to Maintaining Your Community Improvements”, page 8

implications of the definition
Implications of the Definition
  • The focus should be on sustaining positive change for children and families, not perpetuating specific programs or rigid service models
  • Sustainability is about much more than money – vision, leadership, relationships, community engagement, public policy and other factors are just as important
key questions
Key Questions
  • Sustainability of what?
  • To achieve what end results?
  • At what level of activity?
  • For how long?
essential elements for sustainability
Essential Elements for Sustainability

1. Vision

2. Results Orientation

3. Strategic Financing Orientation

4. Broad-Based Community Support

5. Key Champions

6. Adaptability to Changing Conditions

7. Strong Internal Systems

8. Sustainability Plan

The Finance Project, “Sustaining Community Initiatives: Key Elements for Success”, April 2002


Impact of Organization Type: Private Nonprofits

  • Usually have great flexibility with respect to organization structure, fiscal strategies, staffing, partnerships, etc.
  • Must invest in governance and all types of internal infrastructure; leads to big variation in quality of internal infra-structure compared to public agencies
  • Sometimes in survival mode; can be hard to engage in long-term thinking
impact of organization type public agencies
Impact of Organization Type: Public Agencies
  • Subject to policies and funding changes at multiple levels of government
  • Different funding mechanisms are available
  • Usually able to leverage infrastructure found within the governmental system
  • Political will to protect programs and initiatives is critical
  • Can have less flexibility due to legislated service “silos” and decision making processes

Impact of Program/Project Type: Single Agency

  • Have direct control over decisions and actions – often easier to chart a course and proceed
  • Management and leadership are vital; must be self-motivated to be proactive about the elements of sustainability
  • Can tend to think in terms of competition, not collaboration
  • May be limited by resources, expertise and internal infrastructure

Impact of Program/Project Type: Multi-Agency Coalition

  • Critical success factors are different – much more emphasis on relationships, protocols, trust and other elements than for a single agency
  • Complexity of everything goes up – planning, decision making, communications, coordinated action, etc.
  • More options are usually available for both revenue generation and cost management
  • Often has greater access to resources, expertise, key champions, general community support
impact of economic cycles the obvious
Impact of Economic Cycles:The Obvious

During economic downturns:

  • Funding is squeezed from all sides: government cutbacks occur, private donations often drop, foundation assets (and grant making) shrink
  • Demand for services often increases
  • Volunteerism may drop
  • Stress abounds on all fronts

Impact of Economic Cycles:The Not-So-Obvious

  • Staff turnover often increases – but can also be an opportunity to add new skills and expertise
  • Scarcity mentality can tear at coalitions – but can also be an opportunity to build or strengthen coalitions (“circle the wagons”)
  • Public scrutiny of services can intensify – can either damage or enhance the reputations of services and agencies

Impact of Economic Cycles:The Net Effect

  • The eight core elements of sustainability are the same for all economic cycles, but strategies may vary depending on cycle
  • Readiness is key – need to anticipate both risks and opportunities with economic upswings and downturns, and be ready to move quickly
  • Long-range planning can help smooth out the cycles
inverted approach to financing
Inverted Approach to Financing

Define Resource Requirements

Optimize Cost Structures

Develop and Diversify Revenue Sources

defining resource requirements
Defining Resource Requirements
  • What resources are truly necessary to produce and sustain results?
  • In what quantities?
  • Can we clearly justify the resource needs to funders and other stakeholders?
  • What resources do we already have available? What do we need to obtain or enhance?
cost management strategies nine ways to optimize costs
Cost Management Strategies: Nine Ways to Optimize Costs
  • Convert fixed costs to variable costs
  • Change policies for expense line items
  • Change suppliers or ordering patterns
  • Streamline operations
  • Obtain in-kind support
  • Collaborate for cost sharing
  • Outsource (or in-source) functions/activities
  • Re-design the organization or components
  • Defer or eliminate discretionary costs
convert fixed costs to variable costs
Convert Fixed Costs to Variable Costs
  • Variable cost = a cost that varies based on volume or level of usage
  • Examples
    • Staffing: Use contractors on a per-hour basis, use temporary staff for fluctuating administrative duties
    • Rent: Downsize/sub-lease space and rent special use space by day
  • Strategy is most appropriate if
    • Amount of resource needed is subject to moderate fluctuations or usage/need is declining
    • Unused capacity exists

Change Policies for ExpenseLine Items

  • Can change policies for individual types of cost
    • Employee benefits: Shift to defined contribution health plans, change employer contribution together with adoption of a cafeteria plan
    • Phone: Alter phone use or reimbursement policy
    • Travel: Change approval or reimbursement policy
  • Can change policies for how expenses are incurred, such as purchasing policies for approval/ordering of items

Change Suppliers or Ordering Patterns

  • Negotiate price breaks for bulk orders of high-usage items
  • Frequently seek better bids from other vendors
  • Used effectively for many expenses, including:
    • Supplies
    • Publications/materials
    • Telephone service
    • Professional services
    • Insurance
streamline operations
Streamline Operations
  • Look hard at where staff time is spent, to:
    • Optimize workflows
    • Eliminate activities that add little or no value
    • Minimize errors and re-work
  • Consider subsidized staffing
  • “Factor substitution” – is there a lower cost option to accomplish the same purpose?
obtain in kind support
Obtain In-Kind Support
  • Look for non-cash contributions that reduce costs: supplies, equipment, people/time (both volunteers and in-kind services), use of space
  • May be able to use excess business inventories in several ways
    • Use
    • Barter (trade)
    • Sell
collaborate for cost sharing
Collaborate for Cost Sharing
  • Arrange bulk purchases at discounted rates on behalf of multiple agencies
  • Jointly contract for services – can work for a broad range of services (e.g. fiscal, IT, transportation, others)
  • Share space, equipment or staff
  • Do not need to be limited to collaborating with similar kinds of agencies – you can collaborate with anyone!
outsource or in source functions activities
Outsource (or In-source) Functions/Activities
  • Contract out low volume or highly specialized activities; common examples are:
    • Specialized child/family assessments
    • Program evaluation
    • Information technology (IT) support
    • Human resource administration, including employee benefits administration
  • Conversely, if the volume/workload is rising for activities that are currently contracted out, assess whether it is now more cost-effective to bring these activities in-house
re design the organization or components
Re-Design the Organization or Components
  • Fundamentally re-think and re-structure staff roles
  • Re-design programs and services, e.g.
    • Change intensity of services
    • Consolidate programs/services
    • When necessary, eliminate programs/ services that are not sustainable
  • This is the hardest strategy to use but often has the greatest long-term impact
defer or eliminate discretionary costs
Defer or EliminateDiscretionary Costs
  • This is the typical “do without” approach
  • First need to separate discretionary costs, i.e. those expenditures that are not absolutely required, from mandatory costs
  • It is often used as the first strategy … and in fact should usually be the last option after other strategies have been considered
prerequisites for cost management
Prerequisites forCost Management
  • Accurate and timely information about current costs, including cost trends
  • Ability to link costs to activity and results
  • Understanding and commitment by staff
  • Willingness to change past practices
  • Ability to re-negotiate line item budgets with funders
cost management case studies
Cost Management Case Studies
  • Sierra Valley Library & Children’s Center, Loyolton CA (Sierra County)
    • Shared building costs
    • Shared maintenance costs
    • Co-location of services, offering the potential for other cost sharing
  • Inyo County, CA
    • Private preschool operating on a school campus in Lone Pine

Cost Management Case Studies

  • Heads Up, Washington D.C.
    • Access underused school/classroom space
    • Wage subsidies for various staff positions
  • Kaleidoscope after-school program in Monongalia County, West Virginia
    • Public/private partnership where the school district provides transportation and administrative support, and nonprofits provide services for children
the first rule of revenue enhancement
The First Rule of Revenue Enhancement

There usually aren’t any “silver bullets”!

dimensions of revenue enhancement
Dimensions of Revenue Enhancement
  • Alignment: Fit between agency’s mission and revenue strategies
  • Diversity: Variety of revenue sources, non-dependence on any source or concentration
  • Stability: Potential to continue and grow revenues over multiple years
  • Magnitude: Total dollar potential after deducting all costs required to generate the income
  • Control: Degree of decision-making and management influence; flexible use of funds

TraditionalFund Development Options









sources of grants
Sources of Grants
  • Private foundations
    • Local or regional
    • National
  • United Way
  • Corporate grants
  • Government discretionary grants
    • Federal
    • State
special grant opportunities
Special Grant Opportunities
  • Rural Community Facilities Grants/Loans
    • Limited to areas under 20,000 population
    • Broad use – child care, health care facilities, family resource centers, many other possibilities
  • Rural Health Outreach Grants
  • Grants and loans from financial institutions under the Community Reinvestment Act
public giving
Public Giving
  • Giving by individuals and families
    • One-time contributions
    • Annual campaigns
    • Planned giving
    • Memberships
  • Civic groups
  • Community foundations
    • Donor advised funds
  • Businesses
  • Special events can raise money through
    • Ticket sales, registration fees
    • Sponsorships
    • Event activities, e.g. auctions
    • Sales of goods and services during event
    • Other donations from event participants
  • Most successful when built up over a period of years
service fees
Service Fees
  • Fee for service charged to service users, with or without a sliding fee scale based on income
  • Fees based on level of service
    • Example: free home visits for first-born child, fee for additional children
  • Service contracts
    • Businesses
    • Government
government funding
Government Funding
  • Entitlement programs: open-ended appropriations to pay for services to eligible people
    • Example: Medicaid
  • Formula or block grants: appropriations based on formulas that provide a fixed amount of funds to states or counties
    • Examples: Community Development Block Grant, Child Care Development Block Grant
government funding cont d
Government Funding (cont’d)
  • General revenues
    • Can come from city, county or state
  • Special fees/taxes
    • State earmarked taxes – e.g. Prop 10, Prop 63
    • State user fees and special programs – e.g. Children’s Trust Fund, specialty licenses
    • Local earmarked taxes and user fees

Specific Opportunities to Leverage Federal Funds

Maximize use of existing programs:

  • Medi-Cal and Healthy Families reimbursements
    • Coverage for a broad range of medical, dental and mental health screening and treatment services
  • CHDP exams to draw on federal Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) program funds
  • Women, Infants & Children (WIC)

Coordination of services is the key – use state/ federally funded services where possible and use local dollars to supplement

specific opportunities to leverage federal funds
Specific Opportunities to Leverage Federal Funds
  • Medi-Cal Administrative Activities (MAA)
    • Federal reimbursement (usually 50%) for activities necessary for the Medi-Cal program including outreach, enrollment, transportation, and program planning and policy development
  • Targeted Case Management (TCM)
    • Federal reimbursement (about 52%) to assist Medi-Cal recipients with access to necessary medical, social, educational or other services
    • Services eligible for TCM reimbursement include client assessment, service plan development, linkages and assistance with accessing services, crisis assistance planning and periodic review

Specific Opportunities to Leverage Federal Funds

  • Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance
    • Federal reimbursement (50%) for administrative costs related to services to help prevent placement of young children in foster care
    • Eligible activities include referral to services (but not providing services), case plan development, case management, assisting with child placement, data collection and reporting, and licensing of foster care homes and institutions
    • Used successfully in Alameda and Santa Barbara Counties for early mental health and special needs services; could be used for other types of services
issues in accessing federal leveraging opportunities
Issues in Accessing Federal Leveraging Opportunities
  • Must be administered by appropriate county department; community-based organizations cannot claim on their own
  • Must carefully design services, e.g. staff reimbursed under MAA cannot also be reimbursed under TCM
  • Extensive preparation, claims management, cost reporting and audit requirements exist
  • May have cash flow issues; payment could occur over a year after services are delivered
opportunities to create local public revenue streams
Opportunities to Create Local Public Revenue Streams
  • Dedicated sales tax
    • Aspen, CO (pop: 6,000) – 0.45% sales tax dedicated to child care and affordable housing
    • Ames, IA (pop: 48,000) - $450,000 a year for human services through 0.5% sales tax
  • Developer fees
    • Santa Cruz County + Cities of West Sacramento, Concord and San Francisco use to fund child care
  • Local children’s fund – designated set-aside of local property tax dollars or other funds
    • Oakland, San Francisco, several Florida counties use this approach successfully
other underused opportunities
Other Underused Opportunities
  • Targeting and tailoring for diverse groups
  • Win/win partnerships with businesses, public agencies and community groups
  • Collaborative fundraising
  • Engaging clients in fundraising
  • Leveraging large donations, e.g. matching campaigns
  • Service-specific funding resources
critical success factors for traditional methods
Critical Success Factors for Traditional Methods
  • Compelling case for support
  • Personal contacts and relationships
  • Outstanding communication skills
  • Perseverance – building income streams over time
  • Flexibility to adapt to new opportunities or changing funder priorities – “re-package” yourself as necessary
case studies for traditional methods
Case Studies for Traditional Methods
  • MAA and/or TCM claiming being used successfully in many counties in California
  • Truckee/Tahoe Community Foundation issued over $1.6 million in grants in 2007
  • HEART program, Tulare County CA
    • Public/private partnership raised $400,000 in initial community donations
    • Then obtained $600,000 state grant with continued local fundraising for 50% match
    • Sustained over 10 years so far

Case Studies for Traditional Methods

  • Kids After School, Reno County, KS
    • 25% of funding from government sources, evenly split between federal and local funds
    • 8% from income-based service fees
    • 14% from United Way and other grants
    • 13% from events and local cash donations
    • 39% from in-kind support, much from public/private partnerships with schools and Parks & Recreation Department
    • 1% from vending machine profits

EntrepreneurialFund Development Options

Social Ventures

  • Direct service social enterprise
  • Affirmative social enterprise

Unrelated Business

  • Active for-profit venture
  • Passive for-profit venture

…which can be pursued by

  • Expanding an existing venture
  • Launching a new venture
  • Acquiring an existing venture
  • Joint ventures

Critical Success Factors for Entrepreneurial Methods

  • Leadership and management skills
  • Choice of market opportunity
  • Ability to compete against other companies according to what customers value most
  • Quality of the business plan
  • Ability to implement the business plan
  • Flexibility – ability to adapt quickly, make prompt decisions, kill failures when needed

Cautions and Risks aboutSocial Enterprises

  • Ventures directly tied to the organization’s main mission are much more likely to succeed
  • Innovation (doing something new) does not equal entrepreneurship (doing something that makes money)
  • Cash flow is critical; must plan for and arrange financing
  • Can’t succeed by “tiptoeing” into a venture – be ready to fully compete or don’t play!
social enterprises the bottom line
Social Enterprises: The Bottom Line

Yale study:

  • 42% of nonprofits were operating an earned-income venture (thrift stores being the most common)
  • 1/3 of those reported profits large enough to contribute substantively to their nonprofit mission
  • Over 1/4 were losing money on their venture
social enterprise examples
Social Enterprise Examples
  • Redwood Community Action Agency in Eureka CA: used expertise in home weatherization to create profitable building remodel business
  • Esperanza Unida in Milwaukee: fee-based training programs, including child care, linked to for-profit businesses
  • UDAC Mailing trains and employs persons with disabilities to provide direct mailing and document shredding services
  • Many examples of temporary staffing services run by nonprofits that train and employ people
evaluating and selecting revenue diversification strategies
Evaluating and Selecting Revenue Diversification Strategies

1. Assess Current Revenue Sources

  • Assess Internal Capabilities
  • - Knowledge, expertise, infrastructure
  • Identify Potential Revenue Opportunities
  • - Research, brainstorm, look at other agencies

Evaluating and Selecting Revenue Diversification Strategies

  • Assess the Opportunities
  • - Net benefit vs. mission fit, risk, expertise, etc.

5. Select Best Options and Plan

- Feasibility/business plan, action plan, budget

6. Strengthen Capabilities

- Focus on capabilities that lead to more options

criteria for evaluating revenue generating opportunities
Criteria for Evaluating Revenue Generating Opportunities
  • Alignment with the agency’s mission
  • Diversity of revenue sources
  • Stability
  • Net revenue after deducting costs required to generate the income
  • Control over revenues and use of funds

Capacity, Politics and Partnerships are other important considerations

sample opportunities plot
Sample Opportunities Plot


Low High

Low High


non fiscal dimensions of sustainability the california wellness foundation
Non-Fiscal Dimensions of Sustainability: The California Wellness Foundation


  • Mission
  • Commitment and passion
  • Defined core values
  • Alignment of actions, systems, culture, etc. with the core values


  • Fit with environment and trends
  • Strategic partnerships
  • Community relations & engagement


  • Leadership and governance
  • Human resources
  • Service design and evaluation
  • Knowledge management



Non-Fiscal Dimensions of Sustainability: The Finance Project

1. Vision

2. Results Orientation

3. Strategic Financing Orientation

4. Broad-Based Community Support

5. Key Champions

6. Adaptability to Changing Conditions

7. Strong Internal Systems

8. Sustainability Plan

  • Clarity is needed about fundamental issues:
    • What is being sustained?
    • For how long?
    • At what level of activity?
  • Vision should be unique or differentiated within the community
  • For collaborative efforts, all partners must embrace the vision
results orientation
Results Orientation
  • Back to the definition of sustainability: “The continuation of community health or quality of life benefits over time” – the focus should be on results for people/communities, not perpetuation of rigid programs or services
  • Infrastructure for evaluating results achieved
    • Clear articulation of desired results
    • Measures/indicators of results
    • Systems to collect and compile good data
  • All decision making – budgets, program design, etc. – is based on maximizing results achieved
key champions
Key Champions
  • Visible champions in the form of business, political, media and/or other community leaders are valuable for sustainability
  • Proven strategies include:
    • Use personal contacts & link to interests of people
    • Provide multiple specific ways to be involved
    • Ask people to connect with their other contacts
    • Conduct a public campaign specifically to cultivate key champions
  • Once you get key champions, keep them through regular communication, feedback & recognition
key champions case study
Key Champions: Case Study
  • Sierra Valley Library & Children’s Center, Loyalton CA – lessons learned include:
    • Need a strong vision before anything else happens
    • Start with a few key allies and build from there
    • Publicize successes – getting a grant was key to adding a local newspaper editor as a supporter
    • Jump on incorrect information, make sure people have the facts (and have the facts straight)
    • Constant visibility and promotion is needed
    • You don’t always know where your support is coming from – be open to new supporters
    • Stay committed, don’t get discouraged

Key Champions: Case Study

  • Sierra Valley Library & Children’s Center – lessons specifically on building political support
    • Be prepared, have solid information and a clear plan, don’t just rely on emotional appeals
    • Be honest, tell the same story to everyone, put everything on the table (nothing hidden), earn trust
    • Don’t accept hearsay – go by what politicians say in official public meetings
    • Keep educating people and reinforcing the facts; people need to hear information many times
    • Be open and positive
broad based community support
Broad-Based Community Support

Sustainability is greatly enhanced when a broad range of community members are aware of the initiative and support it through:

  • Volunteerism
  • Donations
  • Advocacy
  • Other forms of involvement
creating a communications plan
Creating a Communications Plan

1. Learn About Community Constituencies

  • Define Target Audiences and Goals
  • Develop Key Messages for Each Audience

4. Define Communication Strategies

5. Create the Strategic Communications Plan

strategies for building broad based community support
Strategies for Building Broad-Based Community Support
  • Go to your target audiences
  • Engage the people that are served
  • Work through established groups
  • Sponsor visible public events
  • Locate “opinion leaders” and enlist their help
  • Use local media outlets systematically
  • Develop community advocate groups
  • Use creative tie-ins with events of other groups
  • Collaborate with others on any/all of the above
key champions and public support
Key Champions and Public Support

Discussion questions:

  • What strategies have you found to be most successful in building awareness and support for your programs?
  • What challenges have you experienced in building public support or enlisting champions? How can these challenges be overcome?
adaptability to changing conditions
Adaptability to Changing Conditions
  • Flexibility is maintained to change strategies, services, systems etc. over time without losing sight of the end results sought
  • Characteristics that enhance adaptability:
    • Proactively monitor and analyze proposed federal, state and local policy changes
    • Monitor and react to changes in local conditions (demographics, economics, attitudes, providers, etc.)
    • Engage funding sources in understanding changing conditions and assessing the effect of changes
    • Be willing to make prompt decisions and take action
strong internal systems
Strong Internal Systems

Many types of internal infrastructure are needed….




Management& Operations





continuum of organizational development
Continuum of Organizational Development




Does theorganizationhave theattribute?

Does theorganizationdo it or use it?

Does it work?

sustaining staffing levels
Sustaining Staffing Levels
  • Fiscal strategies discussed earlier – on both the cost and revenue side – can help
  • But … staffing is often NOT a fiscal issue
  • Keys to sustaining staffing levels include:
    • Minimize unwanted staff turnover through good job design, feedback, support, work environment
    • Proactively plan for staff changes/succession
    • Creative recruiting – cultivate many sources of candidates

Align- ment

External Environment


  • External and internal
  • Quantitative
  • Qualitative
  • Trends
  • Best practices
  • Policies

Stakeholder Win/Win





SEI Organizational Model

  • Niche
  • Goals
  • Strategies
  • Board
  • Staff
  • Collaborators

Organization Objectives

Strategic Framework

Operations Framework


  • Governance
  • Org design
  • Partnerships
  • Function design
  • Procedures
  • Facilities





value of collaboration
Value of Collaboration

More expertise

More opportunitiesto share or coordinateresources

Access to more waysto generate income

More relationships = opportunities for key champions and public support

Better services for the community

levels of collaboration
Levels of “Collaboration”

Lower intensity

Higher intensity

characteristics of effective collaborations
Characteristics of Effective Collaborations

Mutual respect, understanding and trust

Open and frequent communications

Representative nature of the group

Clear decision making guidelines involving all levels

Specific, attainable goals


Characteristics of Effective Collaborations

Established formal and informal communication channels

Clear roles and policy guidelines

Members share a stake in both process and outcome

Members see collaboration as being in their self-interest

strategies to sustain collaborations
Strategies to Sustain Collaborations

Be inclusive of membership (with groups willing to participate)

Create a charter

Develop Memorandums of Understanding

Establish internal and external communication protocols

strategies to sustain collaborations79
Strategies to Sustain Collaborations
  • Share leadership
  • Address key elements of sustainability as a group
    • Evaluation plan (tied to Results Orientation)
    • Public communications plan (to garner key champions and broad based community support for the collaboration)
    • Strategic financing plan
why collaborations fail
Why Collaborations Fail

Loss/lack of leadership

Unequal involvement or recognition of members

Unrealistic goals or demands

Turf battles and competition

Unwillingness to contribute resources or fully participate

Poor or no planning

Bureaucratic structure

the case for sustainability planning
The Case for Sustainability Planning

Getting results for children and families while addressing the essential elements of sustainability is complex, and coordinating something this complex requires a good plan

Planning is capacity building – it strengthens understanding, relationships and focus

Better able to leverage efforts – can conduct short-term actions in ways that promote long-term sustainability

The alternative (not planning) doesn’t work; too many programs come and go depending on short-term funding


Sustainability Planning Process

1. Get Organized

  • Set Sustainability Vision and Results
  • Assess Current Situation and Assets

4. Plan for Community Support

5. Plan for Internal Systems and Relationships

6. Create a Strategic Financing Plan

7. Finish Plan + Implementation Plan

1 get organized
1. Get Organized

Output: Timeline with roles and responsibilities

Who should be involved?

How much time can be devoted? How often and when should the group meet?

Who will facilitate the process?

Who will document the results of each step?


2. Set Sustainability Vision and Results

  • Define the vision for sustainability: what to sustain, at what scale, for how long
  • Define the specific results (outcomes) to be achieved and sustained
  • Determine service delivery strategies to create and sustain those results

Output: Vision and Desired Results sections of the sustainability plan


3. Assess Current Situation and Assets

  • Complete a simple self-assessment to:
  • Identify current strengths and gaps in relation to the essential elements for sustainability
  • Inventory assets to leverage
  • Reflect and learn from past experiences

Output: Completed self-assessment


4. Plan for Community Support

  • If a public communications plan exists, review/update it to address both broad based community support and cultivating key champions
  • If a public communications plan does not exist, create one

Output: Public communications plan that is fully consistent with the sustainability plan


5. Plan for Internal Systemsand Relationships

  • Do an assessment of internal systems
  • Select capacity building priorities, define action steps to strengthen those areas
  • Evaluate strategic relationships and define strategies to enhance relationships that can contribute to sustainability

Output: Elements of the sustainability related to strategic relationships and internal capacity building


6. Create Strategic Financing Plan

  • Define resource requirements
  • Develop cost management strategies
  • Forecast revenues from current sources, identify gaps, set fundraising goals
  • Evaluate and select revenue generation strategies to meet fundraising goals
  • Prepare long range financial forecast

Output: Strategic financing section of plan, with long range financial forecast


7. Finish the Sustainability Plan & Create an Implementation Plan

  • Review the completed sustainability plan (built through steps 1-6), reflect on it, amend it as needed, and adopt it
  • Create a one-year implementation plan or action plan showing specific action steps, timeframes and responsibilities

Output: Completed sustainability plan and related one-year implementation plan

santa barbara county sustainability planning lessons
Santa Barbara County: Sustainability Planning Lessons
  • Get the right people committed
    • For collaborative: must have all partners in the collaboration on board
    • For single nonprofit agency: must have the Board, Executive Director and managers (at a minimum)
    • For public agencies: must have applicable department heads and other managers/supervisors
  • Start at the beginning; don’t assume you can skip early steps like vision
  • Take one step at a time – go fast but be methodical

Santa Barbara County: Sustainability Planning Lessons

  • Link sustainability planning to existing work (meetings, projects) whenever possible
  • Build your plan as you go through the steps – put the plan in writing and get people to react
  • Leverage the power of non-traditional collaborations, e.g. across program/service areas, where shared objectives or target audiences exist
  • General resources
    • Nonprofit resource centers
    • Internet
    • Associations
    • Books and publications
    • Other resources
  • Topic-specific resources

It IS possible to strategically and systematically sustain positive results for children and families. Doing so takes diligence, effort, a willingness to tackle all of the elements of sustainability (not just financing), and a commitment to learning and adapting. The good news: there are many models and tools to help!