The following guest blog post is written by PSW Road Show partners and presenters, Impact City Founder Salah Boukadoum & CEO Jennifer M. Ware.
“How will you support your program in future years?”
Some form of this question usually finds itself in the financial section of a grant application. It may be worded differently, but the general idea is the same: if we invest in your organization or program today, will it still be operating next year? And the year after that? Are your operations contingent on an annual grant from our foundation?
At the heart of this question is sustainability. Can the nonprofit organization generate enough support to cover 100% of its costs year over year? A typical nonprofit answer to this question reads something like this: “Our organization is working to diversify its revenue. Over the next three years, our team will focus its efforts on growing individual donations by 10%.” Sounds good on the surface, but what does this answer really tell you?
At Impact City, we’re tackling this question using the Sustainability Spectrum. This tool provides a new lens through which nonprofits and funders assess an organization’s financial and operational sustainability. At its highest point a nonprofit is Scalable; its business model generates meaningful returns and it has very significant capacity for scale. At its low point, an organization’s resources aren’t sufficiently reliable for it, or you, to be certain it will be able to deliver its mission over the long-term. The organization is Vulnerable.
For foundations, knowing where an organization sits on this scale may influence their grant-making decisions. For nonprofits, an understanding of where they are on this five-stage scale can help them take the steps to ultimately become truly sustainable and scalable. No matter its use, the Sustainability Spectrum provides a starting point for common vocabulary among foundations, philanthropists, and nonprofit organizations. When we share the same language, we open doors to more meaningful partnerships and better coordinated strategies.
Join the conversation at a Philanthropy Southwest Road Show event near you where you will learn more about the five steps in the Sustainability Spectrum, along with innovative solutions to help your grantees become sustainable.