Grant work can be exceptionally rewarding because it presents an opportunity to make an impact on communities. In the world of GEAR UP, grants are making an impact on students and their families, by supporting students to graduate high school and prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. Funding for state and partnership GEAR UP provides competitive six-year or seven years grants that must include both an early intervention component designed to increase college attendance and success and raise the expectations of low-income students and may also a scholarship component (United States Department of Education, 2023). GEAR UP benefits students, many of whom may not have had resources available to them if they did not have access to GEAR UP. That said, the impact of a grant does not have to end when the funding cycle ends. It is therefore critical for grantees to adopt a sustainability mindset throughout the life of their grant. By adopting this mindset and taking purposeful actions, the grant can have proper documentation that can help establish an enduring legacy.
During a recent evaluation retreat, Xcalibur engaged a grantee in its 7th year of implementation in conversations about leaving a legacy. These discussions were robust and rejuvenating. Grant staff engaged in deep thinking about the successes and challenges regarding the work, as they thought about leaving a legacy after funding for the grant ends.
Here are a few strategies for leaving a legacy after grant work:
- Determine the grant’s stakeholders, and conduct a stakeholder analysis to classify and prioritize stakeholders based on their power over the work and their interest in it. Once grant staff determine the stakeholders who have high interest and high power in the grant, determine the story to share with them, when they need to hear the story and how the story will be shared.
- Document and share grant successes – This involve creating documentation that highlights the grant outcomes or sharing the stories and testimonials from students and/or families who were impacted by the grant. Documentation can be in the form of newsletters, short videos that can be shared across multiple platforms, and adaptable presentations. Prioritize the areas of the grant that have been most successful and/or is the closest to being sustained already and then work from there. Sharing the information with stakeholders will help build awareness and support for sustaining the work.
- Invest in capacity-building with the districts and/or partners that the grant worked with. This may involve sharing resources that may help them continue the work even after the grant funding ends.
- Continue to foster partnerships and collaborations with organizations that share or support the grant missions and objectives. This creates joint effort and may help the grant be more effective and sustainable with some of the program offerings.
Grant staff found value in the legacy exercise and discussions, as expressed in the feedback instrument that they completed following the evaluation retreat.
As a recap, leaving a legacy after your grant work is over is an important step in ensuring that the impact of your grant continues after funding has ended. Grantees should be intentional in documenting and sharing grant successes and outcomes, invest in capacity building and continue to foster relationships and partnerships.