Mission Sustainability Initiative FAQ

Mission Sustainability Initiative Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the Mission Sustainability Initiative?  The MSI offers a confidential, transparent, and accessible process for organizations to consider strategic partnerships and collaborations as a tool to further their mission.  Strategic partnerships and collaborations may take the form of a permanent alliance, a back office collaborative, a joint venture, or a merger or acquisition.  The MSI provides information, educational resources, referrals to pro bono legal and specialized consulting services, and grants to help meet the costs of exploration or implementation.

Why is this project needed?   Long-term or permanent partnerships can sometimes be a good choice to respond to a rapidly changing external environment or to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of nonprofit work.  A number of other regions across the country operate similar programs dedicated to long-term or permanent strategic partnerships and collaborations, and their positive experience has helped to inform the development of the MSI.

What is the desired impact? What will the benefits be?   In addition to providing support for exploration and implementation of long-term or permanent strategic partnerships and collaborations, the MSI has four primary objectives:

  • Sustainable missions;
  • Improved nonprofit capacity;
  • Greater nonprofit financial health; and
  • A more prepared field that will include these strategic options as a regular part of mission planning, rather than as a crisis response.

How much money will be available for grants? Our goal is to award $1 million in grants over the next three years. We also offer in-kind support in the form of education and access to assessments and other tools

How large are grants? Although actual grant amounts depend on the specifics of the proposed transaction, we make three (3) types of grants:

  • Pre-Exploratory Grants (up to $5,000 maximum) – for an organization seeking to assess its readiness to engage in a strategic partnership or for multiple organizations needing to assess their preliminary compatibility or define their goals prior to exploring a formal partnership
  • Exploratory Grants (on a sliding scale from $5,000 to $75,000) – for two or more organizations engaging in good faith negotiations regarding a strategic partnership
  • Implementation Grants (on a sliding scale from $5,000 to $75,000)  – once a partnership has been consummated or finalized, for the one-time costs of implementing the partnership

Are organizations expected to move through all three stages of funding support?   No. Each type of funding request is considered independently (as opposed to being part of a formal continuum from pre-exploratory to exploratory to implementation). Some organizations may receive an implementation grant following an exploratory grant. It is also anticipated that after conducting thorough exploratory work, some collaborative projects will not proceed to implementation based upon the findings of the exploration. No organization will receive more than $75,000 in cumulative funding regardless of which types of grant(s) it receives.

What kinds of projects are eligible for a grant?   Grant support is available to cover the necessary one-time, out-of-pocket costs incurred in exploring or implementing a strategic collaboration. Although these costs may be modest compared with the potential benefits of the collaboration, they often become stumbling blocks, in part, because most funding is tied to programs and, therefore, unavailable for process-related costs. MSI grants will not support the ongoing programmatic, operational, or capital costs of the grant applicant or proposed partner(s).  Due to our partnership with the Community Law Project and the availability of pro bono legal support, the MSI will not fund legal costs.

When and how do I apply for a grant?  A sample grant application and grant guidelines are available on our website. Grant applications may be submitted at any time; however, the website lists deadlines of approximately every six weeks. We are committed to getting responses within 30 days to applicants whom submit by the posted deadlines. Potential applicants must be invited to apply by having an initial conversation with the MSI Director, Genita C. Robinson. Please contact Genita at grobinson@myforefront.org to schedule a time. Potential applicants should be aware that there is a particularly high demand for appointments leading up to the posted deadlines. Based on the initial conversation, Genita will provide guidance as to next steps, which may include suggesting that the applicant take additional steps before submitting an application. 

Will applying for a grant jeopardize my funding or funding prospects with members of the MSI Funders Committee? The members of the Funders Committee believe that nonprofit boards, leaders, and funders should routinely consider strategic partnerships. Organizations that make the decision to undertake the hard work of exploring strategic partnerships should be acknowledged, encouraged and supported by funders. Recognizing the sensitive nature in general of partnership negotiations, initial conversations with the MSI Director are confidential. When and if the Director recommends a grant proposal to the Funders Committee, the names of the applicant and potential partner(s) will be disclosed.

What other resources are available?  MSI has assembled a set of resource materials that should help you get started with considering and planning a strategic restructuring.  These are available on the Forefront website at myforefront.org/MSI.