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the dreaded question about sustainability with Kylie Hutchinson

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How are you going to make this program sustainable after we stop funding you?

Most people who have written a grant have been asked that question, and guess what, most people just improvise the answer.

There’s a lot to unpack about program sustainability. Is it a fair expectation to ask from nonprofits? If nonprofits do want to sustain a program, what factors should they consider.

Today’s guest on the podcast, Kylie Hutchinson from Community Solutions, has spent many years researching and trying to understand more about this subject. She even has a book specifically on this topic.

Give it a listen, and know that next time when you’re scratching your head trying to answer that million dollar question about program sustainability, you’re not alone.

Myths that Kylie want us to leave behind

  1. Let us run the pilot, then we will think about sustainability. If you want your program to sustain, start planning for sustainability now. There’re many external factors that will help shape that, and although those factors can vary from program to program and organization to organization, it is never too early to think about sustainability, given that sustainability is aligned with your organization’s strategic goals.

  2. Sustaining a program means sustaining all parts of it all the time. Sometimes, like right now during the pandemic, even with the best intentions, it’s unrealistic to sustain all parts of a program. Instead, Kylie advises to focus on sustaining the core components of the program that can reignite momentum for the whole program.

Kylie’s tips on program sustainability

  1. Show and talk about your impact. No matter how great your program is, no external stakeholders will know unless you tell a compelling story about your impact. Showing and talking about your impact is instrumental to bring attention to why your program deserves support and should be sustained.

  2. Build community support through partnerships and collaboration. Kylie recognizes that partnerships and collaborations take work and require capacity, and sometimes it is very tempting to roll out a program all with internal support and no external collaboration. However, having community partnerships is like gaining legs for a table that is harder to shake down. Do the upfront work of collaborating now and your program will be stronger in the long run.

  3. Find your program champions in your community. Program champions are usually those who are at an arm-length with your organization (so not your board or staff) and believe in your impact. They have the connections and resources in local communities that you roll out your program, and so can contribute to your program needs in a practical way (like connecting you with a local media) or in a reputational way. These champions can have a huge impact in supporting your program in the long run.

My favourite quotes from this episode

Post your favourite quote on social to share with us!

“Don’t wait till you have a month left in your funding, start planning for sustainability now.”

“Ask yourself what are the embers of your programming absolutely need to maintain? So that when you are in a position to start rebuilding, you can blow on those embers and get your services back to where they were.”

Resources from this Episode

The Good Partnership


Find Kylie at Community Solutions

Finally, a Guide on Program Sustainability!