Sustainability Planning: Moving To Continue Your Program

Sustainability is a major phrase used today in a wide array of programs or initiatives funded by various organizations or groups.  Sustainability is also a major practice of grant management and is established rhetoric for federal, state, local, national, corporate, philanthropic or charitable organizations.  Time-limited grants, grants made for specific purposes, or grants received from a sole source funding stream are common place today.  Many of us working in support of children, families, and communities are constantly involved in an elaborate dance of seeking funds in order to continue the growth of our work.

Sustainability PlanningUnfortunately, what really happens for most of us is the time for doing something about sustainability never seems to come at an appropriate time or when we want it too. In addition, when sustainability does appear on our radar screens, it arrives so late or we started thinking about it too late because we are busy doing other things or we have run out of time.  Our intentions are strong, especially in the beginning, but being caught up in the day-to-day operations, administration, supervising of staff, and planning intensive activities in-and-of-themselves is consuming.  Without additional time considerations focused on long-term survival or continuance, expecting or hoping for sustainability does not always translate into doing something about it.

Good sustainability involves skillful planning, beginning a dialogue with those connected to the program, working in a “win-win” situation for continued success, and ending in the creation of a sustainability plan that provides a road map for the future.  As a part of this effort, all quality sustainability plans have many of the following core questions answered and solutions provided in their plans:

  • What is it in your program that you want to sustain?
  • What ideas, beliefs, principles, or values is the program based upon or promotes?
  • What results or outcomes would you like to achieve over time?
  • Can you identify and do you know current assessments, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your program?
  • Where are we now?
  • How are we going to get there?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • What is the final vision or what will our program look like in the future.

Figuring out what needs to be done and how to do sustainability effectively is good strategy development.  How one thinks a program or initiative can be sustained, diversified, changed or modified from is current origin is a critical component for success.  Figuring out where a program or initiative needs to be is change work that is also exciting and challenging.  Being able to recognize and figure out that the initiative or program is “different” from its origin, is different from its birthplace, or different from what gave it life, is part of answering, “how is it different today” and “how will it be different into the future”.

Sustainability is a process that should begin early for a program or initiative.  Waiting until the end is neither desirable nor healthy for a successful future or continuance.  The issue of sustainability should be done throughout the initiative or programs lifecycle.  Sam Walton, CEO and founder of Wal-Mart said it best, “You can’t just keep doing what works one time, because everything around you is always changing.  To succeed, you have to stay out front of that change.”

Joseph P. Herrity

Preferred Visions
“Consulting Solutions for Organizations”