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Section 1. Developing a Plan for Financial Sustainability

Example 1: Interview with Tom Wolff

Tom Wolff, former director of AHEC/Community Partners in Amherst, MA, is considered a national expert on community coalitions. Here, he discusses his ideas on how a coalition can be sustainable over the long term.

"Generally, people think about sustainability at the point at which their grant is a year from ending, at best, often three months. And they say, 'What we need now is to replace the 1.2 million, hundred twenty thousand, forty thousand dollars,' - whatever it is their grant was. They say financial sustainability is replacing that money and continuing to do what we're doing. That's the general thinking, and it's erroneous. It really is a status quo way of thinking of sustainability.

"You have to ask yourself, what have we been doing, what is worth maintaining, and how do we maintain that. One of the ways of doing that is by institutionalizing the effort. That is, you do a curriculum on domestic violence prevention and after your first year of doing it, the schools, the YMCA, or the shelter pick it up. They find a way to get a state grant or something but they keep doing it and so you've institutionalized it into some more formal part of the community. This is the most successful way of doing it, 'cause it means it will keep going.

"The second way to be sustainable is you create policy change. They recently did a policy in the courts in Massachusetts that requires all divorcing couples to go through a course on the impact on kids before you divorce. So, if you had been doing a prevention program on trying to limit the negative effects of divorce on children, you get the courts to make this mandate. You've now created a policy that will institutionalize this program.

"The third way to be sustainable is really to turn to the community and to strengthen the community in their capacity to solve the problems. This is the idealistic community development approach. I think it's the hardest and longest term, but I think it's a goal that's worth achieving.

"But generally, when people talk about sustainability, they're not thinking about any of those three. They're thinking about incorporating, getting the cash, and continuing to do what they are doing using the money. All this has a place, but only has it after you've asked yourself some questions about the other three.

"The way you should develop sustainable coalitions is when you get your funding, think about what your goals are, and how you're going to sustain your work.

You think at the beginning of a coalition what is that you're trying to do and how would you sustain the pieces of what you're trying to do over time. You don't think about it just in terms of money."

Example 2: Example internal audit sheet

This is the example of an internal audit for a teen pregnancy prevention project in the Midwest. The group had been awarded a four year grant and had obtained significant commitments from the community for funding over the next five years. This is the audit their group came up with, based on their action plan and expected expenses.

Thanks to Chris Hampton, Jacquie Fisher, and Adrienne Paine-Andrews for their work on the development of this example.

 Internal Audit Sheet

  Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5
Amount of Funding
Funding from Source 1: Foundation Grant $77,750 $77,750 $77,750 $77,750  grant ends
Funding from Source 2: Health Department $21,125 $21,000 $20,500 $20,125 $20,000
Funding from Source 3: Community organization $18,125 $18,000 $18,500 $18,500 $18,500
Funding from Source 4: School District $15,625 $16,700 $17,950 $17,105 $18,310
Funding from Source 5: Area churches $4,250 $4,200 $4,500 $4,000 $4,000
Total of funding from all sources $136,875 $137,650 $139,200 $137,480 $60,810
Amount of expenses
Staff #1: Project Director, 100% $37,500 $38,000 $38,000 $39,000 $39,500
Staff #2: Administrative Assistant, 50% $11,250 $11,500 $11,500 $12,000 $12,250
Staff #3: Outreach Coordinator, 75% $25,000 $25,300 $25,300 $25,900 $26,200
Staff #4: Outreach Coordinator, 75% $25,000 $25,300 $25,300 $25,900 $26,200
Staff #5:  --  -- -- -- --
Total Personnel Costs: $98,750 $100,100 $100,100 $102,800 $104,150
Program #1: Graduate Teacher training $22,875 $22,875 $22,875 $22,875 $22,875
Program #2: Baby Wait a While high school program  -- -- $1,500 $1,500 $1,500
Program #3:  -- --  --    
Total Program Costs: $22,875 $22,875 $24,375 $24,375 $24,375
Travel $2,500 $2,500 $2,225 $2,225 $2,225
Equipment $2,000 $1,000 $500 $500 $500
Supplies $2,000 $2,500 $2500 $2,500 $2,500
Printing $2,000 $2,000 $2,125 $2,125 $2,125
Media/publicity $3,000 $3,000 $3,250 $3,250 $3,250
Phone/fax $1,000 $1,000 $1,125 $1,250 $1,250
Postage $500 $500 $750 $750 $750
Miscellaneous $2,250 $2,000 $2,000 $2,000 $2,000
Rent/housing n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Utilities n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Amount paid on debt n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Total of all expenses: $136,875 $137,475 $138,950 $141,775 $143, 125
Expected deficit or surplus: 0 + $175 +$250 -$4,295 -$82,315

Example 3: Example Timeline

Nashua Literacy Coalition Timeline for Developing Funding Possibilities 

Goal Action Steps to Meet Objective By whom By when

Renew current grant
(current grant ends 6/2014)

Write a new proposal that takes into account the foundation's new emphasis on community collaboration Jeannie, Marcelo, Robin, with input from area churches, schools, shelters, the library, and Head Start 12/2013
  Edit proposal Board of Directors 2/2014
Develop a fee-for-service tutoring program for high school students who will be taking standardized tests Look into the legal consequences of a fee-for-service program Leslie (a lawyer on the Board) 8/2013
  Decide fee scale, logistics Rashma, Jeannie 9/2013
  Train literacy tutors for this type of tutoring Robin 10/2013
  Market program at area schools Tanisha 11/2013 and continuing
Work with other organizations in town to do some of the literacy work Meet with heads of area organizations to suggest the idea Jeannie 10/2013
  Train staff and volunteers of interested groups as tutors for literacy Robin 11/2013 and continuing
Ask city to pay for base costs as part of annual budget Meet with council members, discuss possibilities Jeannie with help from the Board 3/2014

Examplel 4: Executive Summary

Daleton Crisis Assistance Center:

Plan for Financial Sustainability - Executive Summary

Current situation

The Daleton Crisis Assistance Center (DCAC), now in it's twelfth year, currently has an annual budget of $260,000. That amount can be broken down as follows:

  • $100,000 comes from the local University
  • $50,000 comes from the United Way
  • $50,000 from a grant from the Dinkerston Foundation
  • $25,000 from a grant from the Cuassa Foundation
  • $25,000 (total) from area churches
  • $10,000 (approximately) from our annual membership drive

Expenses for the center are as follows:

  • $168,750 for staff costs (5 full time staff, 3 part time)
  • $24,000 for rent and utilities
  • $30,000 office/miscellaneous (e.g., equipment, travel, supplies, publicity, communications )
  • $30,000 program costs (Community Crisis Readiness Program, Picking up the Pieces Family Support Program, Daleton Area Community Resources Directory)

For this year, the Center has a slight ($7,250) surplus.

Projected situation

Our situation remains relatively strong, with all of our money expected to continue at the same level for the next two years. However, in January 2001 the Dinkerston grant will end, and the Cuassa grant will end in August 2001. The Cuassa grant is nonrefundable.

Staff has made clear the fact that additional support is necessary, with a particular need for a director of volunteers. The Center also has two goals that will require additional funding: the purchase of a facility, and a fund to offer financial assistance for families or individuals struck by crises.


The recommendations of this report are as follows:

  • Set a goal to double the amount raised in the membership drive in the upcoming year, and increase the amount by 15% in each of the subsequent two years. Use this money for a down payment on a facility.
  • Consider implementing a sliding scale fee-for-service for the Picking up the Pieces Family Support Program
  • Search for additional grants; reapply for the Dinkerston grant following the recommendations of our program officer