Grant Geek

Creating a Sustainability Funnel for Nonprofits – Part 1

Hello grant fans! It is a pleasure to virtually meet you. My name is Deb Montgomery and I am the founder of Resource Associates’ Grant Writing Firm. I have been writing grants for 26 years and will hopefully be retiring soon (very soon). Working 10 plus hours a day as a grant writer for so many years will be a challenge to just give up. So…I have chosen blogging as my new hobby. Via my occasional blogs, I will be sharing with you my experience, tips, and knowledge about grants and grant writing. Resource Associates’ grant experts will still be posting general articles on specialized grant writing topics AND will continue to post Grant Sirens so don’t worry about losing out on what will continue to be a steady flow of great information.

Today’s blog topic is “Creating a Sustainability Funnel for Nonprofits.” I have intimate and in depth knowledge of this subject but it is NOT because I am a grant writer. It is because I founded my own 501C3 a few decades ago. You can find out more about Capacity Builders Inc. (CBI) at: www.capacitybuilders.info. Even though CBI was created in name and incorporation many many years ago, it wasn’t until 2010 that I began to pursue grant funding for the organization. There are many reasons why I waited so long but it had always been my vision to use my grant writing skills to help the community where I live – primarily the Navajo Nation. Because most grants are eligibility targeted towards 501cs and public entities AND because Resource Associates is for profit, CBI would be the vehicle that would allow me to accomplish my vision. In my next few blogs, I will explain how CBI transitioned from a $0 agency to what is now a $10 million operation in less than 6 years. But for this blog article, I would like to provide you with an example of how CBI created a well-functioning and highly effective sustainability funnel for its teenage pregnancy prevention initiative. There are many other examples I will tell you about in future posts so look out for those!

In 2010, CBI was awarded nearly $5 million in federal grant monies from the Office of Adolescent Health. We were able to implement a wonderful, scientifically-based prevention program in reservation schools with results that were close to unbelievable; including a 75% reduction in teen pregnancy and unprotected sex. Even though we are all grant experts at CBI and even though we actively pursue about 50 grants a year, every member of the CBI staff was scared about would inevitably happen on September 10, 2015. We were actually scared to the point where our whole crew of grant experts dedicated about 1,500 hours of their own time over 5 years because of this day. You see, September 10, 2015 was when our grant term was over…all money was to be spent…and the day we would have to lay off 8 staff members if alternative funding was not secured.

CBI, of course, pursued other grant funding opportunities and did secure some money. We worked with our school and other partners to try and use an institutionalization strategy for sustaining the teen pregnancy prevention program. We even created a really neat internship partnership with a local university that helped train and recruit new prevention educations (this will be discussed in future blogs). BUT…none of this was enough. If we were going to provide the same level and quality of services, we needed income we could rely on over a long period of time. Perpetual income.

Enter the concept: Gym Lou’s (note that Lou is my nickname). It was my idea to establish a 24 hour gym that focused on no body shame principles. A gym that would be sexy and really cool but that didn’t force people (like me) to look at oneself from a 1,000 different mirror angles and who could have a private workout experience. So check out Gym Lou’s if you have a second: www.gymlous.com. This is considered a division of CBI as a nonprofit. All proceeds from the gym go to continuing our teenage pregnancy prevention program, which comes to about $5,000 or so a month in net monies. This reliable income – along with the partner work and grant funding from state sources – allowed us to continue our program as though the federal funding never went away. September 30 was no longer a scary day for CBI.

Gym Lou’s runs similar to a YMCA. It brings local youth in for classes and for facility access. It is offered at a very low cost so our low income community can access it. All of our staff members are able to secure memberships from their fringe benefit and (sometimes) other funds so the gym is a win-win for our staff in terms of added value for employment and for furthering our healthy staff initiatives. When writing the 50 plus grants a year for CBI, gym membership costs for staff, partners, and program consumers are always included in the grant budgets and will someday be embedded into the agency’s continual indirect cost billed to grants. Moreover, because CBI is an ongoing AmeriCorps grantee, the gym offers program participants learning opportunities in the field of physical fitness and gym management.

These are just a few examples of how the gym has become CBI’s primary sustainability funnel. Creating the gym and making it operational was definitely a labor of love. There were many sleepless nights involved and a few tears from stress. But it was all worth it to save jobs in the local community and to continue our important pregnancy prevention program. These accomplishments are invaluable.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. You can always email me with questions about grants and sustainability through Resource Associates’ grant wizard at: development@grantwriters.net. I look forward to chatting with you soon!


Deb Montgomery

About the Author

Dr. Deborah Montgomery
Dr. Deborah Montgomery

For over twenty-five years, Deborah has had a diverse and successful career in writing grants for schools, higher education institutions, and tribal governments and agencies. She has been awarded well over $200 million in the grants that she has written during the past several years for Resource Associates and is nationally recognized as an expert in grant proposal development and grant management. Deborah is a strong dependable leader who is responsible for connecting Resource Associates’ education and tribal clients with the best possible funding solutions to meet the unique needs of their service communities.

As a twenty year resident of northwestern New Mexico and the Four Corners, which is greatly composed of tribal land, Montgomery founded her own thriving nonprofit agency a decade ago. With Montgomery’s help, this organization writes grants and provides direct services to the Navajo Nation and other local tribes in the realm of youth career and life skill development, drug/alcohol/teen pregnancy prevention, cultural learning and the arts, and comprehensive wellness.

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