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January 20, 2022
Program Sustainability Builds on Assets and Resources
By Kevin Monroe

Kevin Monroe
Kevin Monroe
Because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability, figuring out the financial and human resources necessary to sustain a program can take more thoughtful planning than designing and launching it in the first place.

Each organization must develop a plan that is unique to their organization by seizing on their gifts, talents, abilities, and capabilities. Consider the following.

1. Determine your current location.
You must know your starting point to develop a plan or set of directions.
  • Where is your organization in its growth and development?
  • Are you in start-up mode with few established sources?
  • Is the program well established with a track record of successful outcomes?
Knowing where you are is important, but it’s just the beginning.

2. Determine your destination (or, articulate your aspirations).
To do effective sustainability planning, you must also know the desired future state that’s envisioned for the organization.
  • What short-term and long-term goals have you established for your organization?
  • Where does this program fit into the organization’s strategy and plans?
  • How does it connect with other programs provided by your organization?
Once you know where you are and where you want to go as an organization, it’s time to take a serious look in the mirror. What are the outcomes of your programs?

3. Identify program (or organizational) results and their value.
Unless your program produces meaningful results and benefits for those it serves, why bother sustaining it? Here are a few questions to consider as you begin this process:
  • What are the benefits produced by this program?
  • Who directly benefits from this program?
  • How do they benefit?
  • Who else benefits from this program (could be indirect)?
  • Who values this benefit and why?
As you begin to reflect on your results, it’s beneficial to look inside your organization to understand what it truly takes to produce those results.

4. Inventory your assets.
Conduct an organizational asset inventory to identify the current strengths and assets. You can begin with an informal inventory or complete a comprehensive assessment. Here are some questions to get you started:
  • What unique skills, qualifications, or talents does your organization have that equip you for success with this program?
  • Has your organization developed programs, services, or curriculum that are proven to effectively serve your community or clients?
  • Do you have staff members with specialized degrees or certifications for a particular program or service?
  • Do your staff members have unique cultural connections with the clients and communities you serve?
  • Is the board of directors actively involved in providing leadership and direction for the organization?
As you identify your internal assets, take time to develop an appreciation for the strengths that currently exist in your organization.

After looking within, it’s time to look outside the organization.

5. Identify your sustainability network.
Your sustainability network consists of all of the individuals and institutions connected to your organization, especially those that are committed and invested in your current and future success.
  • Do you have an established base of financial support from a mix of individuals, corporations, foundations, and civic groups?
  • Do board members use their community connections and influence to open doors and create partnerships for the organization?
  • Is your organization actively engaged (formally and informally) with a broad range of community leaders and stakeholders?
  • Is the organization actively engaged in community coalitions or collaborations and seen as a key asset to the safety net or continuum of care in the community?
Sustainability planning can begin only where you are; there is no other starting point. Every organization has assets #147; categorize and appreciate the strengths you have so that you can leverage them. For example, if you have board members who are involved and committed to your work, then engage them in identifying peers who share their interest. If you have investors, find out why they invest and see if they are willing to provide additional investment or know others who are.

Kevin Monroe is founder and managing partner of X Factor Consulting LLC, specializing in leadership development. He can be reached at or 404-713-0713.

March 2011
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