Sustainability refers to the continuation of a project’s goals, principles, and efforts to achieve desired outcomes. What this really means is not merely finding the resources to continue performing the project activities beyond the grant period, it is that the positive effects achieved by the project remain in among beneficiaries. Thus, the project should have empowered the beneficiaries, their communities and the systems that affect them to function optimally to holistically meet the development needs.
The project team must produce a suitable written sustainability plan which will provide a road map to guide the team and partners who will work in the project. Including a well-written sustainability plan can also strengthen the prospective funders’ and partners’ buy-in and understanding of the efforts needed to keep the project operating and improving. A sustainability plan can help identify what resources are necessary to sustain the project, encourage the development of partnerships and support collaboration, and help define progress and the necessary action steps needed to ensure long-term success after the grant ends. Engaging in sustainability planning gives you an opportunity to map out how you can maintain valuable projects and innovations in a changing environment.
There are 6 Key Steps in the Sustainability Planning Process. They are as follows:
Clarify the project goal.
Every planning pertaining to the project must begin with the goal. The need to ensure that project goals are met need no overemphasis.
Determine what to sustain.
The main things to sustain are the outcomes of the project, not activities or funding. The focus at this point should be results-based. So the impacts, outcomes, outputs of the project must be identified. The factors that ensure their sustenance must be identified. For instance, if a project aims to increase knowledge of tuberculosis among students in community X through sensitization workshops. What has to be sustained is knowledge.
Partnerships and linkages with similar organizations is a great approach to sustainability. When the project life cycle is complete, partners will still be on the ground. Continuing with our earlier example; potential partners in this project could be the school authorities or the schools’ management board or even the ministry of education. Once identified, they can be approached and persuaded to buy-in to the project.
Choose your desired sustainability strategies and methods.
Strategies for sustainability will vary from project to project. In our case, we could decide to develop sensitization manuals which will be available in the libraries for students to read or mainstream tuberculosis awareness in an already existing subject area or modify the teaching curriculum. It is obvious that the more powerful your partners the better the chances of creating stronger strategies and methods.
Develop action steps for sustainability.
Develop a step by step action plan on how to achieve the identified strategies. The plan has to be as realistic as possible. This plan is what is included in the proposal.
Document and communicate your sustainability successes.
In the course of project execution, it is important to record and document every success and challenges too. These should be shared with funders and partners alongside other reports.
Michael is a Project Manager with years of experience in nonprofits and managing startups. He shares what he has learnt over time with like-minded persons. He gives classes to persons who plan a future in the nonprofits sector or as entrepreneurs.