Unit 5 Section 5.4: Securing Sustainable Long-Term Funding

As your partnership seeks long-term funding, you may find it tempting to become “funding-driven” rather than “program-driven”, due to the relative lack of CBPR funding sources available. Being funding-driven means that the overall goal to fundraising is to bring in money to fund any project or intervention – even if it means designing a new project or altering an existing project – to fit the requirements of funding opportunities that arise.  In contrast, being program-driven means that your partnership only applies for grants that fit with your previously decided upon program priorities. While some may think that applying and receiving funds outside a partnership’s priority areas is a worthy short-term solution that keeps a partnership together during lean times, it is hardly a long-term solution. In the long run, focusing on fulfilling new grant objectives and adding in new partners to meet that area of expertise can distract the partnership and take away valuable time and energy from making progress on its identified focus or priorities.

Instead, it is wise for partnerships to develop a sustainable long-term funding plan – well in advance of the end date of current funding.  Planning should start at least a year in advance of the date that funds are projected to run out.   However, when determining when the right time is to create such a plan, note that it is never too early to begin planning, as federal government agencies have been known to reduce grantees’ funding due to budget cuts. (See related discussion of this topic in Unit 7, Unpacking Sustainability in CBPR Partnerships)

Creating a sustainable long-term funding plan

There are a number of steps involved in creating a sustainable long-term funding plan.

1. Assess your current situation

Before you determine how much money you need to raise in the future, it is helpful to have a clear context of your partnership’s current funding situation.  Figure 5.4.1 provides a way to examine your situation through several different perspectives.  When listing funding sources, don’t forget to include in-kind support (i.e., goods or services that are given, rather than money).


Figure 5.4.1: Current Funding Matrix

Funding Sources




Cash Totals

In-Kind Totals

Time Remaining






Renewal Option?


























Exercise 5.4.2: Assessing Your Current Funding

Complete Figure 5.4.1: Current Funding Matrix and answer these questions:

  • Which funders are the major supporters of the partnership, each activity/project?

  • Who should be funding this effort, but isn’t?

  • What funders may be able to increase their level of support for a particular activity/project?

  • Which activities/projects may be ending/reduced in the next few years?

  • What surprises you about the matrix?

  • What have been some funding successes?

  • Is there a way to reallocate some of our existing funds?

  • What is good about this funding structure?

  • What challenges does this funding structure present?

  • Are we meeting our fundraising goals, or not?

  • What is working, and what isn’t working?

  • Are we getting enough return for the effort we’re putting in?

  • What changes can we make to improve this situation?

  • What are 3 changes our partnership can implement within the next few months that can positively impact our chances to sustain our funding?

Adapted from: Center for Civic Partnerships. Sustainability Toolkit: 10 Steps for Maintaining your Community Improvements. Public Health Institute. 2001. http://www.civicpartnerships.org


2. Decide where to place your priorities, given your particular situation

Carefully review the answers you wrote down in response to Exercise 5.4.2. Both the matrix and discussion questions will also help you identify new funders (or types of funders) to target, and enable you to identify other areas that your partnership has not yet tapped for funding, by noting where your current financial supporters are concentrated.  Lastly, the matrix may also show you where you can reallocate existing resources for greater impact. These answers will help show you where you may want to place your fundraising energy.

Consider how much time and energy your partnership may have available to raise funds. Will the partnership be able to pull off a proposal to a federal funding agency, which can take anywhere from to 6 months to up to a year (for grants that require pilot data) to complete?  Do you have the time to incorporate pre-grant planning activities/data collection into your programming? If not, then applying for foundation funding may be more appropriate for you.

3. Research active RFPs and forthcoming funding announcements, and create a plan with a timeline

By identifying active RFPs and funding opportunities that you know will be announced in the coming year, your partnership will be able to put together a plan that allows you to ample time to respond, without sacrificing and compromising the work you have already been funded to do.

The plan you create should have a list of tasks associated with each funding opportunity, along with the estimated time it will take to complete each task. When estimating timeframes, think conservatively to be on the safe side, as unexpected setbacks can arise (for instance, you may be waiting longer than expected to hear back from a potential consultant on the grant or a key staff member may resign suddenly).

4. Maintain your plan with regular check-ins

To ensure that you will implement the plan, take time once a month to review the plan as part of the agenda of regular partnership meetings. This is important, as situations, conditions, and priorities can change. Discuss with partners whether or not it still makes sense to follow the plan as written. If not, make changes or substitutions based on what is realistic for the partnership’s work plan at the time.

5. Make contingency plans and take constructive steps even when your funding is not secure

What happens if the current funding is about to end and the partnership hasn’t been successful in securing additional funding to continue?

  • Find an organization willing to give resources to continue the effort for a few months, to give the partnership time to search for resources or to bridge the gap until the new funding starts?

  • Ensure that there is good documentation on the effort (e.g., activities, findings, budget), so that it will be easier to restart the activity once new resources are in place.

  • Apply for awards to keep the effort visible and demonstrate its worthiness.

  • Engage those who are affected by the discontinuation. Get testimonials from community members – ask them to speak to policymakers, potential funders and/or the media.

Example 5.4.3: Maximing Resources and Distributing Them Equitably

Since the end of our original funding under the Community-Based Public Health initiative in 1996, we have not received funds to support our work. However, the partnerships and projects that evolved from the initial funding are receiving financial resources. The partnership decides how resources are divided through a “consensus plus” process. We still struggle with issues of fairness such as the health department and universities' indirect cost requirements, but in so far as possible, we treat the community, academic, and practice partners equitably, reflecting the input that each will provide to the project through steering committee participation and coordination of intervention programs and other activities. We maximize the amount of funding directed to the community itself that can be used to enhance the capacity of community such as employment, office space, and the use of contracted services such as catering. The following organizations and core projects currently receive financial resources through this partnership: the Prevention Research Center Community Board, Fathers and Sons, REACH 2010, Youth Violence Prevention Center, Ruth Mott Health Careers, and Friendly Access. The University of Michigan is no longer the only lead agency. The Health Department is the fiduciary of REACH 2010 and the Greater Flint Health Coalition  is the fiduciary of Friendly Access.

Excerpted from Flint PRC proposal