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Importance of Sustainability Planning

When a grant ends, the philanthropy may no longer be interested in or able to fund the program, even if the program has been highly successful. This may happen for a few reasons:

  • Philanthropies receive many grant proposals and may choose to support other programs
  • Philanthropies' interests and priorities change
  • Philanthropies' leadership (president, board, key staff) changes

With this in mind, it is important for rural programs to think about sustainability beyond seeking grant funding from one specific philanthropy. In addition, building relationships with new philanthropies takes time, so it is important for rural programs to begin planning ahead, 18 months to two years in advance of when the program would like to seek funding from a new philanthropy.

Some philanthropies structure grants to rural organizations with this in mind: providing the bulk of the funding in the first year so that the program can purchase equipment or begin operating so that, in future years, the rural organization will be able to apply to other programs or seek reimbursement for new services.

Sustainability strategies are described in the Rural Community Health Toolkit. Important strategies to keep in mind include:

  • Seeking funding from new philanthropies
  • Seeking contributions from partner organizations
  • Assessing the possibility of reimbursement for services
  • Selling a product for profit (for example, a tool or curriculum) developed as part of a grant

Further, maintaining strong relationships with philanthropies, even after funding has ended, is a sustainability strategy as well. Philanthropies know one another and will reach out to philanthropies that have previously funded your program to learn about your organization, if they are interested in funding it.