Thanks to Kristal Johnson, presenter of the NPA training The Grants Needs Assessment: Connecting Your Data and Your Nonprofit Story, for these insights:

How will you sustain your program once the funding period ends? A common question in grant applications is: “How will you continue your project if you do not receive funding?” Unfortunately, a common answer I see when reviewing applications is that applicants will continue to seek additional sources of grant funding. This doesn’t answer the intent behind the question, which is to explain to the funder that your program can be sustainable. As a grant reviewer, I assume that the applicants will continue to seek sources of additional funding, so what I really want to know is what you are doing to create a sustainable plan beyond grant funding.

So, what should you include in your answer about a sustainability plan? You want to show that as an organization, you will be accountable for ensuring the continuation of your project. A funder does not want the responsibility of knowing they are your only hope. You also want to send the message that you have an immense amount of community support from local organizations and other grant making organizations.  And, most importantly, you want to show that the continuation of your project does not solely rely on the grant proposal you’ve submitted.

Usually a grant application does not allow much space for writing a detailed sustainability plan, so your words need to count. Rather than simply stating that you will look for other grants, there are better ways to show a potential funder that they should be interested in partnering with your organization.

  1. Include letters of support with your application. This is the time to brag and really highlight why the funder would want to collaborate with your organization.
  2. Include information on pledges from organizations that have agreed to help fund your project to ensure continuation.
  3. If you choose to indicate that you will continue to seek grant funds, include the names of the funding sources.  It shows the reader that you have begun to formulate a plan for sustaining your program.

Reviewers like to see descriptive statements. Broad general statements without any support leave too many questions on the table. Your efforts in providing a clear sustainable plan can make a difference in your grant being funded.

Kristal Johnson is a certified grant writer and program evaluator who specializes in helping non-profits achieve success and build communities.  She works collaboratively with non-profits in the areas of prospect research, development writing, and program evaluation. Kristal enjoys helping non-profits discover new opportunities to support program development.

Kristal has worked with educational institutions, community service organizations, and child welfare agencies. She is a member of the Grants Professionals Association and a Grant Peer Reviewer with the United Way of Greater Houston. Learn more about Kristal at If you want to learn more from Kristal, check out her training The Grants Needs Assessment: Connecting Your Data and Your Nonprofit Story