Sustainability Key Area 2:


Developing and Maintaining Funding

If you are interested in more in-depth information, click on the links provided throughout this key area.

Funding is essential to sustaining suicide prevention efforts. There are a variety of expenses that coalitions need to cover in their suicide prevention efforts, such as space fees, technology costs, and curriculum or programmatic licensing fees. Developing the funding necessary to cover these costs requires strategic investment by partners and the administrative authority necessary to ethically and effectively manage funds. State suicide prevention partners may also have financial resources or free services that you can use to support the implementation of your strategic plan.

Before looking for funding, strong partner commitment for the suicide prevention coalition is needed to provide legitimacy to the suicide prevention coalition. These partners can be key as you seek letters of support, engage in fundraising, and apply for grants. If you have not yet developed a suicide prevention coalition, visit the Unity element before seeking funding. It is also important to have a strategic plan in place before seeking funding. See the Planning element for more details.

When strong community partnerships are in place for suicide prevention, organizations can share the costs. However, coalitions will benefit from either (a) identifying a lead organization that will provide administrative and financial oversight or (b) developing 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit coalition. These structures allow suicide prevention partners to accept and manage formal donations, apply for existing funding opportunities, and ensure there are safeguards in place that minimize the risk of financial misconduct. Key steps and considerations for developing these types of financial arrangements are described below.

Key Steps

Develop administrative ability to manage funding

Before seeking funding, coalitions must decide how to manage funds. Following are two common ways of doing this:

  • Select a lead organization, such as a health department, other government agency, or private organization, that will provide legitimacy, administrative authority, and support to the coalition.
    • Needs: Local nonprofit, crisis center, hospital, or other prominent community partner willing to:
      • Provide key administrative items (e.g., physical address for the coalition, access to financial accounting resources)
      • Be responsible for ethically managing incoming and outgoing funds
    • Benefits:
      • Has the ability to manage funds quickly due to established channels
      • Provides established administrative resources
    • Drawbacks:
      • Results in decreased coalition partner input into financial matters (one organization makes key financial decisions)
      • Creates a risk of coalition failure if lead agency leaves
  • Apply for 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax status for the coalition:
    • Needs: Formal coalition bylaws and a board of directors that is responsible for ensuring the bylaws are followed. Regular audits of the coalition.
    • Benefits:
      • Coalition can directly apply for funding, accept donations, and develop its own fundraising methods.
      • There is an increased ability for the coalition to make mutual financial decisions.
      • There is an increased visibility and recognition of the coalition.
      • The administrative structure is easily sustained with changes in coalition membership.
    • Drawbacks:
      • Requires significant time investment to gain 501(c)(3) status
      • Requires time and energy to maintain 501(c)(3) status (visit the IRS and your state’s IRS office for specific requirements)
      • Creates a risk of small nonprofits becoming financially insolvent if they cannot raise enough funds to support their efforts

    For additional information on developing a 501(c)(3), visit the National Council of Nonprofits.

Draft annual budgets

Regardless of your coalition’s model for financial administration or chosen types of funding, it will help to draft annual budgets. Use the goals, objectives, and action steps you have identified in your strategic plan to identify the cost of your key activities. Be sure to take into account administrative costs, such as fees for virtual meeting technology and meeting venue costs.

This budget should show secured funding sources versus current gaps in the funding necessary for coalition efforts. Use it to plan your efforts to seek funding. If your coalition has an executive committee, it should play a key role in developing the budget. A treasurer should track expenditures and income in relation to the budget each year. If your coalition has a board of directors, it should inform and approve the annual budget.

For additional information on drafting an annual budget, visit National Council of Nonprofits.

Pursue funding

After you have developed your coalition’s ability to manage finances and have established your budget, it is time to decide which types of funding to pursue. Your coalition will benefit from seeking more than one type of funding since different sources can supplement funding gaps left by others. Each type of funding also has its own processes, requirements, and considerations.

Funding may be available at the local, state, and national levels. There are five main types of funding that can support your suicide prevention efforts: donations, fundraisers, grants, membership dues, and fee-for-service activities. Some of these funding sources are “restricted,” meaning they can only be used for previously established purposes described in formal agreements. Others are “unrestricted,” meaning they can be used for any coalition needs. The chart below compares different characteristics of these five types of funding.

Type of Funding Description/How Obtained Restricted Vs. Unrestricted Typically Used to Support… Typical Portion of Budget
Monetary Donations Money donated on website or during fundraising events Unrestricted Any area of need in the coalition Small portion of budget
Grants Foundation or hospital funding, state or national requests for proposals (RFPs), and contracts with organizations Restricted Pre-determined activities described in grant proposals Large part of budget
Membership Dues Coalition members’ annual dues Unrestricted Meeting or venue fees, refreshments, or technology needs Small portion of budget
Fee-for-Service Activities Services that the coalition provides at a preset cost Unrestricted Administrative needs that support services (e.g., travel, certifications, printing, materials) Varies
In-Kind Donations Services or resources provided free of charge by coalition partners (e.g., program trainers, volunteer hours, meeting space, printing) Unrestricted Any area of need in the coalition Varies

Be sure to use your annual budget to identify the amount of funding to pursue across the different types of funding available. For example, a budget can show how much unrestricted funding you need to meet your coalition’s administrative needs. Keep in mind that you will not be able to pursue every type of funding all the time.

Be responsive to your coalition members’ preferences as well as your budget. As a coalition, discuss which types of funding are the most feasible to pursue. For example, your coalition members may support hosting annual donation drives. But they may feel that membership dues would prevent key community members from joining the coalition. As you discuss potential types of funding, consider the culture of your community.

When you have decided on the types of funding and specific funding opportunities to pursue, list them in the Strategic Planning Worksheet, Section 3, Column 5.

For additional information on pursuing funding opportunities, visit the Community Tool Box: Getting Grants and Financial Resources.

Track and report on annual budgets

Collaborate with either your coalition’s treasurer or lead agency’s financial accounting arm to track your budget progress throughout the year. Aim to provide regular financial updates as part of coalition meetings, as well as to your board of directors if applicable. Whenever possible, provide annual funding reports that can be shared with your internal and external partners. Include information on how much money is coming in, how much you are spending, and the activities or reach the funding has supported.

Whenever possible, link the implementation of funded activities with your larger data tracking efforts. For example, “X foundation’s donation was used to cover the costs of seven gatekeeper trainings. During this time, there were significant increases in the number of youth referred to mental health providers.” These connections between finances and outcomes show your return on investment.

For additional information on tracking an annual budget, visit National Council of Nonprofits.

Expand funding over time

Developing funding is an ongoing process. If your coalition is showing a strong return on investment with small amounts of money, it is likely that opportunities for more funding will arise. Be sure to share these returns on investment with the broader community so that they are aware of the coalition’s efforts. As you develop strong funding from one source (e.g., an annual fundraiser), consider how you can supplement that funding with other types of funding (e.g., grants). The more you can diversify your coalition’s funding streams, the more sustainable your efforts will be.

As different funding opportunities arise, use your strategic plan as a guide. Do not jump from activity to activity just because funding is available. You need to consider how the funding will contribute to carrying out your strategic plan. When your coalition is consistent in its interests and pursuits, community partners will recognize your group for its influence. As a result, they will be more likely to provide additional funding for areas that are showing positive impact. For more information on strategic planning, go to Planning 3, Step 4: Implement Your Plan.

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A grassroots coalition in New Hampshire submitted a formal request to their local government for funds to support the improvement of mental health and suicide prevention efforts. The City Council asked the community to take a formal vote on use of the funds, and the funds were approved. For several years, the annual town budget included line items that helped cover the cost of mental health services for residents who were uninsured and supported the rollout of suicide prevention trainings across the community.

– Elaine de Mello, LCSW, Director of Suicide Prevention Services, NAMI New Hampshire