Sustainment of a project beyond the period of grant funding is a sign of a wise investment for a project funder
Nearly all grant applications have a section requiring the explanation of your EMS organization’s sustainability. Funders want to know that when their funding of a one year or multiple-year project ends your organization will be able to continue to support the project. Sustainability is proof that a grant was a wise investment for a funder.
The sustainability plan is often the most difficult piece of an application to write and as a result often is the weakest section. Sustainability refers to the ability of administrators to maintain an EMS organization over the long term . This is especially important for EMS agencies given that they serve high-need communities that require consistent and continually available services. The goal for any organization’s sustainability plan is to maintain or expand services while developing resilience to occasional, short-term economic burdens.
Funders consider grant applications as investment opportunities. They want to be assured that their contribution is having a lasting effect on the community. Even for equipment purchases, like an AED or power-cot, funders want to be assured that your organization has the ability to financially support required maintenance, replace parts and continue training necessary for optimal utilization of the funded purchase.
Here are four ways your EMS agency can demonstrate sustainability in grant applications.
Many EMS agencies, especially volunteer organizations, have operating budgets largely met through fundraising efforts. Due to this dependence on fundraising, tough economic times hit these organizations the hardest.
A way to improve this fundraising model is to garner participation from your board members in annual fundraising drives. Studies have shown that agencies that have required participation from their board members secured over 50 percent of their operating budget from individuals within their service area . A fundraising plan should be integrated into other planning efforts, such as strategic planning, program design and budget setting.
Funders invest with the organizations that they have strong relationships with. Get to know local funders in your area and begin to build a relationship through constantly showing your value to the community. This can be done by offering station tours or sharing your ride-along program with the community foundation in the area. Opening your doors allows investors to see the impact of a potential investment and builds credibility.
EMS agencies depend on marketing and branding efforts to help promote and sustain their programs and services. The goal is to establish a clear and consistent message about your mission and services you provide so the organization stands out in the community.
One of the biggest pitfalls observed is not developing and defining the organizational mission. It is also important to have a consistent logo absolutely critical to have an up-to-date and informative website.
The value of EMS is serving our community. However, how do we demonstrate true value to funders that have a hard time conceptualizing our role? Evaluating sustainability is about using a "dual bottom line" that determines sustainability based on fiscal responsibility and mission impact of your services and programs . Annual reports communicate these goals best and create transparency between funders and your organization.
Following these four steps will demonstrate sustainability to funders, increase grant revenue and strengthen your organization.
1. Bowman, Woods, “Financial Capacity and Sustainability of Ordinary Nonprofits,” Nonprofit Management and Leadership, Vol. 22, No. 1, Fall 2011, pp. 37–51.
2. Besel, K., Williams, C. L., & Klak, J. (2011). Nonprofit sustainability during times of uncertainty. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 22(1), 53-65. doi:10.1002/nml.20040
3. Bell, Jeanne, Jan Masoka, and Steve Zimmerman, Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010.
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