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Sustainability of the YouthBuild program model is a goal that every grant organization should be focused on from the first moment they begin the program.  In fact, some of the work – to develop necessary partners and solidify grant matching funds – must begin even before the program is funded by the Department of Labor.  No organization can be guaranteed that Department of Labor funding will continue.  For this reason, we encourage programs to be thinking about their sustainability plan in an ongoing strategic way.  We highlight some of the important considerations for sustainability, as well as one program’s success in finding additional resources to carry the program forward, in this month’s newsletter.  ~ Jenn Smith, YouthBuild Program Director

Utilizing Partnerships and Diversifying Funds to Achieve Sustainability

This month’s webinar and newsletter are focused on sustainability – a topic that can seem overwhelming, but with focused attention is actually quite simple.  What is sustainability?  It’s the ability to implement programming over time, and it’s accomplished by creating an organizational plan for long-term fiscal and programmatic health.  Building sustainability is being proactive, creative, innovative, and adaptable when considering your program’s partners and funding streams.  To be successful and to build true long-term program sustainability that can weather funding fluctuations, planning must be an ongoing process, even as the program is in a position of relative fiscal strength and stability.  Here, we focus our attention on building strong partnerships and diversifying funding to achieve sustainability. YouthBuild programs can also learn more about how to build sustainability by downloading Making Your Dollars Go Further.  This resource provides valuable tips and strategies to support YouthBuild program sustainability.

Ensuring sustainability inherently means that Department of Labor (DOL) funding becomes one source of funding, not the sole source of programmatic funding.  This allows the program to maintain stability through the ebbs and flows of funding.  Stability is essential to ensuring consistency and dependability in the program for both the current students who rely on the services offered by the program for their own livelihood and future growth and the staff that represent the professional investment made by the program to ensure participant services are available and effective.  The sense of consistency and dependability provided by a stable organization increases viability and visibility in the community for potential future students, beneficiaries, partners, and funders.  The flexibility available in a sustainable organization also ensures that the program’s current partners see the lasting effects of their investment, which both serves to ensure their own continued funding and also leverages new partners.

Partnership Development

Partnerships are a cornerstone of any strong community development organization, and certainly of any YouthBuild program.  They can create capacity where it didn’t previously exist, fill gaps in services, and leverage new resources, including in-kind and cash funding.  Partnership development must be intentional.  All strong and long-lasting partnerships are based on relationships that have been thoughtfully cultivated.  Partnerships can be time-consuming, requiring focused attention to ensure they flourish.  A partner’s staff turnover, funding loss, mission shift, or changing expectations can require renegotiation or even reevaluation of the partnership.  Partnerships must be mutually beneficial, so that partners can see the long-term return on investment of their time, energy, and funds.

When developing partnerships, the first step is to do a scan of your organization, considering what resources or services the organization lacks or needs strengthened and what strengths and values your own organization can bring to any new partnership.  Next, educate yourself.  Make sure you understand your local community – the labor market, emerging industries, dropout rates, employer needs, available resources, etc.  Use that data to connect with desirable partners.  Visit local businesses and community organizations to network, attend potential partners’ open meetings, join committees, and, initiate meetings with major entities in your community.  Be prepared to describe your program’s needs, the mutual benefits of partnership, and plan to negotiate to get to a desirable middle ground.  Finally, formalize partnerships with MOUs that lay out both partners’ goals, expectations, and responsibilities.

Examples of potential partners for YouthBuild grantees include those that can provide support in key programmatic components like a local post-secondary education institution for high school equivalency (HSE) instruction or a local employer who can provide the required work experience for a Construction Plus industry.  Other YouthBuild programs in your state can also be excellent partners to collaborate with for shared state funding.  Corporate partners can bring volunteers, in-kind donations, funding, and local media attention to build capacity and visibility.  As required partners, American Job Centers can fill many service needs, such as recruitment, participant assessments, and placement services.

Diversification of Funds

In the best of circumstances, partnerships can also lead to new funding streams to support the organization.  Ensuring such funding streams continue for the long run means ensuring awareness of the needs of funding partners, which are often more complex than those of service or referral partners.  Many funders want to be prioritized as a primary funder – perhaps wanting their logo to be used throughout program resources, or requesting frequent engagement and/or specialized reporting.  It’s imperative to ensure that the grantee has the capacity to manage these relationships with special care, as well as ensuring multiple funding streams can be tracked responsibly, accurately and with full accountability.  When establishing the relationship, funders need to understand the scope of the organization’s work and how they might add to that framework.  With that in mind, also remember that funders often want to fund something new – something that adds to the existing work instead of funding the existing work as it already stands.  Be creative and thoughtful about how the grantee sells a new twist on existing work and how to match that ask to the interests and goals of the funder.  On the other hand, it is important that organizations do not chase money just for the sake of increased funding.  If a funding opportunity is too far afield, the grantee runs the risk of poor performance.  Once a program has failed to meet funding requirements, that funder, and potentially others, may be lost. 

When considering how to diversify funding streams, investigate many different sources of grantors, including Federal, state, local or regional private organizations or corporations, national private organizations or corporations, as well as using fundraising events and strategies, and fee-for-service options.  Some examples of each include:
  • Federal/state – WIOA Youth and Adult funds, Community Development Block Grants, state line items, or grants from other Federal agencies, such as  the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, or the Corporation for National and Community Service
  • Local/regional private organizations or corporations – United Way, local family foundations, corporate giving options, banks and credit unions
  • National private organizations or corporations –partner with other organizations (other local YouthBuild programs, local Housing Authority, etc.) to collectively seek funding from larger grant sources
  • Fundraising – direct mail campaigns, donor cultivation, events (ribbon cuttings, graduation, celebrations, etc.), social media campaigns
  • Fee-for-Service – create a business plan focused on an area of strength in your program, for example a handyman business, catering, or weatherization
For more information on utilizing partners and diversifying funds to build sustainability, watch the recording of our August 2018 webinar, Sustainability: Partnership Development and Diversification of Funds.

Keep reading to learn how one program built sustainability by selling housing projects to build revenue.

Sustainability at YMCA Kingston/Ulster YouthBuild

One of the means through which the YMCA Kingston/Ulster YouthBuild program has built sustainability is by the sale of their housing projects, which has created a cyclical flow of funding back into the YouthBuild program.    

Over the course of many years, they have worked to develop relationships with city leadership to receive donated housing units for renovation.  The housing units often have been abandoned or taken by the city due to nonpayment of taxes.  The city wants these housing units back on the tax rolls so they have been willing to work with the program.  But a lot of time has gone into building relationships with city leaders to make this work.  It can be a slow and political process to build the multiple layers of relationship that are necessary to bring this to fruition. 

Additionally the program has been able to purchase foreclosed housing from the U.S, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  These HUD houses have been foreclosed or are "surplus" houses that HUD will sell.  Land Banks are another entity that exist in many communities.  Land Banks are governmental entities or nonprofit corporations that are focused on the conversion of vacant, abandoned, and tax delinquent properties into productive use.  A new Land Bank will be opening in Kingston this year and the program is hopeful they will be a viable partner going forward.  
The program cautions that, with all three of the options described above, due diligence must be done to be aware of what you are purchasing or receiving as a donation.  All of the housing partners described can sell properties “as is” and will not necessarily assist with any of the work that might need to be done under the regular sale of a house.  The program has seen mold issues, rot, and properties that are not salvageable after transfer of ownership and need to be demolished.  They caution against getting stuck in a "money pit."

Additionally, the program works with local lumber and hardware distributors to get materials donated.  In situations where a donation is not possible, they have worked with the companies to allow delayed payment for materials, without interest, until the housing unit sells.  Upon completion of each donated housing unit, it is sold to a low-income family with the proceeds from the sale going back into the YouthBuild program for future housing ventures or other programmatic needs.  When looking at this type of sustainability, remember that it will take patience, time, and relationship building.

Related Resources

Achieving Sustainability at a YouthBuild Program

Sustainability Planning Guide

Sustainability Worksheets

The Sustainability Framework and Assessment Tool

Additional Resources and Information

HUD Grants to Address Urban and Rural Youth Homelessness

To help end youth homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $43 million to 11 local communities, including five rural areas, through its
Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP).  This program supports a wide range of housing interventions including rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, and host homes.  YHDP recipients will use funding for rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, and transitional housing, and to fund innovative programs, such as host homes.  Recipients can begin requesting funding for specific projects as soon as they are ready.  YHDP will also support youth-focused performance measurement and coordinated entry systems.  Over the next several months, selected communities will work with their youth advisory boards, child welfare agencies, and other community partners to create a comprehensive community plan to end youth homelessness.  See the map below for information on the 11 communities awarded funding, including the funding amount (in millions).  For more information on the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, click here.
Training and Employment Notice (TEN) 03-18 Released

In June 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order (E.O.) on Expanding Apprenticeships in America, which lays out an expanded vision for apprenticeship in America. This Training and Employment Notice provides a framework for an important part of this expanded approach: industry-recognized apprenticeship programs. This new initiative encourages trade and professional associations, employers, educational institutions, unions, labor-management organizations, states, and other third parties to collaborate to create new, industry-driven apprenticeship solutions.  Review this TEN

Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act

There’s been a lot of focus on workforce issues in in the past few months. Last week, President Trump signed the 
Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act into law. This means that more students will be able to get the skills they need to compete in today’s economy. It will also make it easier for employers to find trained, skilled workers to fill one of the country’s six million open positions. The National Skills Coalition hosted a pop-up briefing on Perkins last Friday. Click here to watch a recording. 
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