For each of my clients, we set aside time near the end of each fiscal year to assess the mix of grants — sustaining and investment. This might involve a series of meetings or even a planning retreat with staff. Some questions we use to guide our conversations include:
- Which programs have the most traction — that is, are attracting the most interest and have fundraising momentum?
- Which programs appear to be stagnant — that is, are losing grant income or seem to have attracted less interest?
- Of our list of current supporters, which grantmakers appear to have the potential to invest more? What opportunities, results, messages might move them to the next level of support?
- For the same list, which funders are likely to remain steady or perhaps not continue support next year?
- Are there any emerging trends in the client’s programming that point to new opportunities to present to funders?
- Are there emerging needs among the client’s constituency or community that need to be addressed?
These questions help inform our strategy for the coming year. Strategic issues that surface might include:
- The creation of new programs to meet growing demands and opportunities
- Re-framing our case for support using new data, goals, objectives and outcomes
- Assessing whether our case for support should focus on investment (significant growth/opportunity) or sustainability (maintenence/modest growth)
- Creating new evaluation measures for reporting to grantors or meeting the evaluation/reporting expectations of new prospects
By looking at the bigger picture — what is working, where opportunities lie, what is evolving in the organization’s work — we are prepared to undertake better research and cases for both sustaining and investment levels of support.