You’ve secured funding, hired staff, supplies are stocked, and your program is underway. While these are great first steps, the key to a successful fatherhood program is sustainability. Sustainability is the ability of your program to continue to meet its mission, provide services, and maintain a steady flow of clients and funds over time. Ultimately, programs succeed because they deliver effective services and can adapt to changes in a community’s needs and client feedback, findings, and fluctuations in the economy. Here, we review the role of documentation in contributing to program sustainability, provide helpful links and resources, and give tips and promising practices from the field.
Tips & Best Practices
- Understand the basics of program sustainability. This brief provides an overview of the various aspects of program sustainability, along with tips and helpful resources to ensure your program can continue to provide critical services for years to come.
- Assess your program's current capacity for sustainability. This sustainability assessment tool is a 15-minute multiple choice test that you can use to better understand where your program is now and how you can better plan for sustainability in the future.
- Consistent, comprehensive data collection should always be part of a program’s design. Having a solid record of success motivates funders to keep investing, and attracts new donors, clients, and potential staff. All these factors help a program mature into a long-lasting organization.
- Explore ways to explain your program's successes through data. This webinar provides insider advice from experts in the field. They explain how to capture the right quantitative and qualitative data, how to interpret and describe that data, provide examples of brochures, and more.
- Data collection tools should be clear, efficient, and tied in a logical way to program implementation. Re-visit your mission statement and sub-goals within the services you offer. Tailor the data you collect to reflect successes in these areas.
Joe Jones began working with Baltimore fathers as a city health department social worker in 1993. With support from city government leaders, particularly the health commissioner, Jones built a fatherhood program as part of the department’s Healthy Start program and eventually spun it off as an independent nonprofit organization. Now firmly established in the community as the Center for Urban Families, the program provides training and support in parenting, relationships, and employment. In addition to Jones’s drive, passion, and organizational ability, the program’s success has been built with skilled staff with long tenure, input and support from an active board, effective community partnerships, successful client outcomes, and local foundation support.
What is the purpose of documentation and data collection?
Some of the key purposes include:
- Demonstrating your program’s success
- Identifying areas for program modifications and improvements.
- Providing a powerful story for local and state government agencies, foundations, businesses, and other partners.
What are some examples of the outputs and outcomes I should be measuring?
This could include but is not limited to outcomes directly related to your logic model and fatherhood program’s goals and programs such as:
- a change in dads’ knowledge or behavior such as understanding the importance of and making on-time child support payments
- A change in the number of fathers you’re your program participating in in regular home visits
- Increasing children’s timely and current immunizations to fathers in the program
How do I ensure my staff maintain good documentation procedures in day to day business?
Management and leadership should articulate the importance and rationale of tracking information and regularly train and re-train all staff on the process and tools to capture this information (Excel, Web based software, etc.).