Sustaining what, exactly?

The question posed usually runs along the lines of “How will you sustain the project or activity beyond this grant?”

Before answering, it’s necessary to answer a larger question: “What, exactly, are we sustaining?” — are we sustaining a one-off activity, a program, the organisation, our beneficiary children or their communities on an ongoing basis? And from here, the answer to the sustainability question become clearer.

One-off activities:

The funding requests we make most frequently at Royal Far West for one-off activities usually revolve around philanthropic investments in program trials and efficacy studies, new service offering start-up costs, or considered investments in people and systems to improve operating efficiency.

If the funding is for a program trial or efficacy study, the project being funded has a defined start and finish, with the study data then informing our ongoing approach to both the program itself, and how we might fund it. If you like, we are asking philanthropy to invest in testing and proving a service model and developing a corresponding business case (or part of a business case) to secure further funding. Options for that future sustainable funding may involve government, fee-for-service, corporate sponsorship, or be a combination of all of these, plus additional benevolent support if required.

If the funding is for program start-up costs (perhaps new physical equipment, or implementation expertise), the philanthropic investment is upfront, one-off, and does not require continual reinvestment. The funding allocation itself is an investment in future outcomes for country children, and/or sustainability of the families and communities we support.

Our third type of one-off ask may be for investment in Royal Far Wests’ own capacity. This may take the form of systems and process investment, or investment in our people. Investing in our own systems and processes leads to operating efficiencies, reduced levels of risk, a broader funding base, improved staff satisfaction and employee retention. It could also take the form of investing in staff and volunteers via training and other supports, which both improves our own abilities, efficiencies, staff retention and succession planning, and also has the potential (depending on the type of training, etc) to improve donor experiences, or beneficiary outcomes. Investment in our capacity is an investment in our sustainability.

Ongoing program funding:

Let’s be frank here.

Securing funding for ongoing programs or to cover core operational items such as covering electricity bills and meeting staff payroll is not as easy as securing funding for activities seen as ground-breaking, newsworthy innovations. Furthermore, if the whole ongoing program was totally fundable through other options, there would be no need to seek a grant to fill in a gap or meet total demand.

Answering the sustainability question in these instances means looking beyond the program itself, and to the children and families and communities that will benefit:

Ongoing investment in the Healthy Kids Bus Stop (mobile, multidisciplinary developmental health screening checks for preschool aged children), ensures health issues likely to inhibit a child’s ability to engage and learn effectively are detected prior to school — enabling an optimal start to education, and all the attendant, sustainable, health, wellbeing, academic, social and economic outcomes that provides.

Funding our special adaptation of the “Tuning into Kids” parenting program for isolated parents/carers with developmentally vulnerable children, which improves understanding, communication and relationships within families. It reduces stress, for both adults and children. It provides immediate strategies for day-to-day coping and situation management and builds long-term capacity for the future sustainability of the family unit and the individuals within it.

Donation to our Paediatric Developmental Program scholarship fund moves children from our waitlist to active assessment, diagnosis and therapy. It is a life-changing key for country families seeking answers and support for children with complex developmental health needs, and often their access point for additional assistance via Royal Far West’s Telecare and Windmill programs, in-community support through schools and local health care services, et cetera — and the key to that child reaching their potential throughout their life.

Untied gifts (“liquid gold” for charities) enable us to address the most pressing of needs quickly — be it ensuring we have a social worker on hand to call all our clients in bushfire impacted areas to determine their specific needs, or to flex quickly so children receiving therapy via Telecare at school can continue to receive Telecare at home during school shut-downs, or simply taking the extra time to support one child in one family during particularly difficult personal circumstances. And although sometimes less definable, quantifiable and measurable, these can be the most sustainable, and sustaining, of all activities. They are tailored investments in the future wellbeing of individual children and their support networks — and these children are our future.

 

How do you view sustainability? We’d love to hear from you. Please email us at corporate@royalfarwest.org.au with your comments. 

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