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This post is one of a series about what goes into proposals that win grants. Its topic is sustainability plans. Its context is the United States of America.


A plan for long-term sustainability should guide development of virtually every grant proposal. Its focus should be what is expected to happen after requested funding has been spent and the funding period has ended. Its goal should be to carry forward those aspects of a project or initiative that proved most beneficial or most effective.




Government grant makers often require a sustainability plan (or a continuation plan); generally, private grant makers require such a plan somewhat less frequently. A sustainability plan must describe how the applicant will sustain (or continue) activities and efforts similar to those for which it seeks funding from a specific grant maker.


In a sustainability (or continuation) plan, an applicant may provide evidence of commitments from:

  1. Internal leadership, e.g., the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or the Chair of a Board of Directors
  2. Partnering organizations (authorized executive leadership) or individuals
  3. Key community stakeholders


Among strategies for creating a viable sustainability (or continuation) plan are to:

  1. Structure the undertaking to reduce the costs of its long-term continuation
  2. Use a Train-the-Trainers Model for professional development
  3. Plan to build organizational capacity during the grant period
  4. Minimize grant-paid personnel as a portion of the total proposed budget
  5. Identify and secure alternate funding sources during the grant period
  6. Plan to use marketing to persuade key audiences of the undertaking’s worthiness of long-term funding
  7. Plan to use evaluation findings to identify which elements are worth sustaining


If a project or initiative is not sustainable, future funding to continue it is unlikely. Conversely, if the funding for a project or initiative is not continued by other means, its activities are unlikely to be sustained beyond an initial grant period.


Both closely related questions – sustainability and continuation – require an applicant to anticipate what it will do in the long term, which is typically beyond the duration of an initial grant-funded project. They represent two of the most challenging aspects of both seeking and making discretionary grants for the purpose of local capacity building.



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