Sustainability...what does that even MEAN?!
10 years ago we founded KIK with the idea of SUSTAINABILITY in mind, but honestly, what does that even mean?
Ten years ago if you were to ask the community we work with what their dreams looked like, it was to get OUT of Africa; as soon as possible and for good. Not a single person looked at their current life, environment, country and thought to themselves that a better life where they were was even possible. It was absolutely heartbreaking. At KIK we wanted to change that, but we knew it would take time. We knew it would take SUSTAINABILITY on our end first in order to build a foundation these people could believe in. Now, here we are over ten years later and we are breaking ground within the next six months.
BUT we cannot do this alone. We need the sustainability of our dedicated partners to accomplish this goal. I recently came across a blog post on www.nonprofitaf.com and it had some valid and incredible points on the struggles nonprofits face when it comes to aspects of internal sustainability.
"Sustainability is in large part determined by funders, not nonprofits. As much as we love individual donors, many of us still rely on grants, and grants are usually small and one-year in duration. We get a bunch of one-year grants that are Frankensteined together to support programs, each one with their own set of demands and restrictions. As one ED puts it, “Why is fidelity to the mission so highly valued and expected of nonprofit leaders and staff but funders expect to 'sleep around?' One year and you’re out. [They] don’t even come back and ask.”
This lumbering, unwieldy, tenuous system is the antithesis of sustainability, so to ask how we nonprofits will maintain and grow our programs within it is kind of like setting a fire and asking how we will be putting it out."
"The nonprofit model is unique in that success at carrying out our missions leads to increasing costs, not revenues. The more successful programs are, the more clients they will serve, the more staff and other expenses will increase, without a proportionate increase in support."
Point is, nonprofits and funders must be equal partners, with different but symbiotic roles, and sustainability of the work must be shouldered by both parties. We nonprofits think all the time about sustainability, even without being prompted, and we will continue to build strong programs and diversify our funding. Funders, as equal partners, should provide multi-year funds, general operating funds, capacity building assistance, and help connect us to other funders and partners. And come visit the programs once a while! We must work together to figure out how to sustain and advance the work. We have to because the needs of and challenges facing our communities are only going to increase."