Sustainability Planning - Webinar I Nov. 2007


Webinar: Sustainability Planning I


The following information was presented in a Pass It On Center webinar on November 27, 2007, by Rob Groenendaal of the U.S. Dept. of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration, and Carolyn Phillips, Director, Pass It On Center. This is an excerpt of the content. The PowerPoint presentation is available at


Goals of Sustainability Planning


The goals are to increase knowledge and skills of sustainability planning, to develop more structure in the sustainability plan, and to provide tools to further develop a sustainability plan. By networking and learning from each other, it will be possible to build more effective programs, and will assist in the development of a stronger network of Assistive Technology (AT) Reuse Programs to serve people with disabilities.


Elements of Sustainability: Planning to Plan


This webinar explored four of the eight elements of sustainability and provided guidance on how to use this framework during the planning process.


The elements of sustainability include:

• Vision

• Results orientation

• Strategic financing

• Key champions

• Community support

• Adaptability to changing conditions

• Strong internal systems

• Clear sustainability plan


Sustainability planning is important because AT reuse programs are

interdependent and share successes and struggles. It provides a

framework from which to build stronger AT reuse programs.


Sustainability planning helps to clarify where the program is and where it should go, to develop strategies for long-term success, to provide benchmarks to measure progress, and it demonstrates to partners and others the value of the work.


The following are steps toward an initial sustainability plan:

1.              Define the program, project or initiative.

2.              Clarify planning parameters: How much time and resources can be put toward the process?

3.              Decide whose input is needed.

4.              Decide how the process will be structured.

5.              Decide how the process will be managed.

6.              Collect the needed information.

7.              Develop a work plan.


The plan should focus on diversifying funding, building organizational capacity and building community support.


Sustainability planning is important because many funding sources are short-term in nature, the operating environment (political, economic and

demographic) changes rapidly, and society cannot afford to lose quality programs and important innovations.


Some of the following information is based on training provided by The Finance Project,[1] a project that assists organizations, both commercial and nonprofit, to build programs that benefit children, families and communities.


A sustainability plan clarifies where the organization is and where it wants to go. A written plan can provide overarching guidance for the initiative over time. [1] The Finance Project offers training and tools to support this effort.


Assess the Organization’s Current Position


The goals of the first phase of the planning process are to introduce the sustainability framework and planning process and to benchmark progress by identifying strengths and weaknesses. A special self-assessment tool is used by The Finance Project for this purpose. The tool helps to assess progress, identify strengths and weaknesses, and determine where to target scarce resources. Organized by element, the tool ranks progress toward the desired state. It forms the first step in developing a sustainability plan.


Whether third-party training and tools are used, or the organization develops its own, the initial assessment is key to further progress. A summary of the self-assessment results should be shared with the program staff and the Advisory Council.


Create a Vision and a Results Orientation


The next phase in the Finance Project training is to create a vision and to develop a results orientation. A further tool (the Logic Model) is provided to define what is meant by sustainability and how progress toward the goals will be measured. [1] In this phase, the organization must:

Clarify vision and desired results Identify conditions and causes Identify and prioritize strategies and activities Define scale and scope Identify measures of progress


Develop a Strategic Financing Plan


Clarify “Financing for What?” The organization must quantify the scope of support and services to be offered (e.g., population, geographic area, type of

service, when it’s offered, where it’s located, and standard of quality). This should include the scale of support and services (number of clients served).

If expansion is contemplated, the ramp-up assumptions and benchmarks should be specified.


Estimating fiscal needs requires substantial analysis by Finance and Accounting. The program costs, both start-up and operating, and infrastructure costs are the basis for building expansion assumptions. It is important to be able to define costs for each strategy and activity.


Projecting future spending is contingent on a clear picture of current budgets: current sources of funding (both cash and in-kind), how the resources are used, which resources are restricted and in what fashion, the time period over which those resources will continue to be available, and the stability and reliability of those resources.


A comparison of current budgets to projected fiscal needs makes it possible to assess the spending gap. The projection should be a multi-year projection that identifies both anticipated income and expenditures.


The analysis of funding sources should include a review of the current mix and extensive information about the sources. That should lead to a determination of which funding sources are most appropriate for long-term sustainability.


Gap analysis by the financial analyst will clarify what is needed and when. Based on gap analysis, the organization should review short-term and long-term needs, differentiate between one-time fiscal needs (start-up, capital investments) and on-going operating needs, and match short-term needs to short-term strategies and long-term needs to longer-term strategies.


The analysis of the current funding mix should include consideration of the following factors:

  How many funding sources?

  Public vs. Private: Percentage from public sector? Percentage from private


  Stability: Percentage of support that’s time-limited (1 to 3 years)

  Reliability: Funding sources at risk of being cut or reduced?


Potential funding sources include:


Community Development

  United States Department of Agriculture

  Community Development Block Grant Funds

  Economic Development / Microenterprise – state and local level


Social Services


  State DD Councils

  State Centers for Excellence on Disabilities

  State Department of Elder Affairs / Aging


Workforce Development

  U.S. Department of Labor

  Workforce Investment Board – state and local level

  State level funding



  Rehabilitative Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education

  Vocational Rehabilitative Services – various state agencies


Do other funding sources exist that might provide support the organization?

Who are the decision makers who administer these dollars in the local community? How can those decision makers be engaged in supporting the AT reuse program? Determine which funding sources are most appropriate. Which source fits best with the organization’s mission? Are the timeframes right? Do benefits outweigh administrative costs? Does the source expand the balance in the funding portfolio? Is the funding source politically feasible?


Generating revenue internally is another funding opportunity. (See the PowerPoint presentation for some examples.)



[1] Module references and tool descriptions are excerpted from training materials © by The Finance Project. The Finance Project offers customized training and The Sustainability Planning Workbook, plus an array of other publications. The training and tools may be purchased from The Finance Project at



Please note that by selecting an Internet link you will be directed to an external site, and the Pass It on Center does not control the content of the site.



This work is supported under a five-year cooperative agreement # H235V060016 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and is administered by the Pass It On Center of the Georgia Department of Labor – Tools for Life.  However, the contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the Department of Education, or the Georgia Department of Labor, and you should not assume endorsements of this document by the Federal government or the Georgia Department of Labor.

















File Name File Size
There are no attachments for this article

Other Information

Title: Sustainability Planning - Webinar I Nov. 2007
Module: Sustainability
Author: Robert Groenendaal and Carolyn Phillips
Audience: Administrator
Sub Title: Excerpt from PIOC webinar, Nov. 27, 2007
Procedure: How to begin sustainability planning
Organization Source: PASS IT ON CENTER
Last Reviewed: 09-22-2009 3:18 PM