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Sustaining Programs: Lessons Learned from Former Federal Grantees
Introduction. A common concern of federal funders and grant recipients is how to sustain program activities once their federal funding period ends. Federal funding can be intended to develop or seed a program but not necessarily to continue its activities indefinitely. Understanding the importance of programmatic sustainability, the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) conducted research in 2015 on the elements that contribute to sustainability. As part of the Sustainability Study, OPA collected information from former Pregnancy Assistance Fund (PAF) program grantees.
Methods. Grantees that were awarded cohort 1 PAF program funding (2010–2014) but not awarded cohort 2 funding (2014–2017) were eligible for study inclusion because their OPA funding ended more than 1 year prior to the Sustainability Study, allowing for an assessment of sustainability after federal funding. Seven former PAF grantees were identified as eligible. Interviews were conducted with six of these grantees; grant applications and interim final reports from all seven were reviewed.
Results. Five lessons emerged from interviews and review of grant documentation. Programs successfully continuing beyond the federal grant period tended to (1) diversify funding sources, (2) communicate regularly with key stakeholders, (3) form partnerships with like-minded programs, (4) consider implementing evidence-based interventions, and (5) begin planning for sustainability early.
Discussion. By considering these lessons learned from the research, grantees can be well positioned to continue beyond a federal grant period. The lessons garnered from the Sustainability Study have informed, expanded, and affirmed OPA’s sustainability toolkit, sustainability framework, and technical assistance.