Planning for Sustainability

Sustainability is an issue that all ANA projects need to plan for.  Learn from Dan Van Otten, our training manager, about how good project design lays the groundwork for sustainability. Jenica Beatty, our technical assistance specialist, describes different strategies for continuing project outcomes over time. Finally, we highlight the Warm Springs Native Asset Building Initiative (NABI) project, a grantee example from Western Region that makes planning for sustainability a priority.

Sustainability Starts In Project Design

By Dan Van Otten, Western Region Training Manager

Dan Van OttenProjects that help accomplish long-range community goals through sustained efforts to reduce problems standing between communities and those goals are a major ANA funding priority. ANA’s emphasis on sustainability is reflected in the application scoring criteria, which ask what steps your project will take to ensure that project outcomes are sustained and how the project will achieve programmatic sustainability.

The steps you take to sustain your project over time should be built into your project design from the beginning. Your project activities should include strategies for continuing project outcomes (ongoing measureable positive change in community conditions) that maintain movement toward accomplishing long-range goals after the end of the project period.

Sustainability is also the result of the process used in project development. If your project has had community involvement in defining your long-range goals, identifying the conditions standing between the community and those long-range goals, and designing project activities to reduce or eliminate those problems, the community will feel ownership of the project, understand the benefits from the project, and support efforts to sustain the project.

Sustainability does not mean that a project will continue to operate in its initial, start-up form. A sustainability plan focuses on continuing project outcomes, not on making sure a project looks exactly the same after its ANA funding ends. An effective sustainability plan that focuses on continuing outcomes by building organizational capacity, working with partners, nurturing community support, and continuing selected project activities should be built into your project design as part of the planning and development process.

Choosing Your Sustainability Strategies

By Jenica Baty, Western Region Technical Assistance Specialist

To plan for how your project outcomes will continue after ANA funding ends, determine what outcomes must be sustained to continue to reduce your current negative community condition. These long-term outcomes are called impact indicators. Once you have defined impact indicators that must be sustained, build your strategy for accomplishing that process.

The first thing most people think of is funding. Finding other funding seems like a straightforward sustainability strategy: market your new project and products, approach new funders, apply for more grants, and diversify revenue streams. The problem with this approach is that you’ll end up chasing funds rather than strengthening your new project. So, while new grants and contracts can be a piece of the sustainability puzzle, there are other methods of sustainability that you should consider.

Incorporating program activities into your organization, often termed “institutionalization” or “routinization,” can be a sustainability strategy. What project elements that sustain outcomes can be incorporated into your tribe or organization’s ongoing operations? Institutionalizing activities through continuing a project partner’s contribution to the project also can be an effective approach to sustaining project outcomes. Partners often continue to support program activities and outcomes through leveraged resources they commit to sustain project operation.

Generating program income is another method to make projects self-sustaining. Project entities or partners often support the continuation of institutionalized activities, especially if they can use revenues generated by the project to do so.

For other methods of sustainability, read through your Post Award Manual and Grants Management Toolkit. You can also access sustainability tools and training by conducting a simple online search. Don’t let your projects fizzle out when your ANA funding ends!

Grantee Focus: Warm Springs NABI Project

Couple with child and puppy in front of their first home

Sarah and Jacob Dowty moved into their first home with support through the Warm Springs Native Asset Building Initiative Project (Warm Springs, OR).

The Warm Springs Community Action Team (WSCAT) has administered individual development accounts (IDAs) for community members on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in north central Oregon since 2009. IDA account holders’ savings are matched at a high rate to help them save for home purchases, business startups or expansion, education expenses, or other major asset-building purchases.

In September 2011, WSCAT began their Native Asset Building Initiative (NABI) project through ANA to extend the reach of the IDA program and provide community members with other asset building and financial management resources. NABI funding lasted through September 2016, but because of WSCAT’s strategic planning and leveraging of partnerships, it has secured resources to support certain program activities through 2019.

Man standing in his autoshop

Gordon Scott used his small business IDA to purchase over $12,000 of equipment for his auto shop, which will open in summer 2017.

WSCAT applied for and received new operational funds from two private funders in Oregon and the Northwest. WSCAT also continues to participate in the Oregon IDA Initiative, a state program supplying IDA matching funds that is legislated to last through 2024.

ANA no longer funds NABI as a separate competitive area, but funding under the Social and Economic Development Strategies (SEDS) program area can be used to fund asset-building projects in Native communities.