Sustainability and Institutionalization
Once you have your intergenerational program(s) up and running, it is time to think about how to sustain and institutionalize this work over time.
Sustainability refers to continuing a program beyond its initial planned period.
Institutionalization implies making a program an integral part of your mission and services.
Build Internal SupportBuilding support among other staff and administrators is a critical step toward program sustainability. You will need internal and external partners to help you implement high-quality programming. Here are some strategies for increasing support:
- Lobby to have intergenerational programming written into the mission of your organization.
- Invite supervisors or administrators to intergenerational events.
- Involve other staff members in your programming.
- Display program-related products such as art work, photos, and essays in public areas for residents and families to see.
- Invite local media to attend events and write about your program.
Deepen and Expand Your Partnerships
Often, it is the partnership itself, not the specific program you created, that should be sustained and deepened. The range of intergenerational programs and activities is endless and can easily grow if your collaboration is strong.
As you think about your partnership, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you and your partners continuing to meet on a regular basis to plan both short-term and long-term programming?
- Are the expectations of each partner clear?
- Are you assessing the programs periodically to make sure all age groups are benefiting?
- Are you addressing problems as they arise?
- Are all partners publicly acknowledged in materials and in the media?
Understanding the strengths and challenges you have experienced in your partnerships, as well as the impact of programming on participants, will help you determine how to move forward. Ideally, intergenerational programming will become an integral part of your and your partners’ organizations. Knowing that every year, faculty from a nearby college will send students to your community, or that older residents are welcome as tutors at a local elementary school, will make your job easier and increase the likelihood that your intergenerational work will be sustained.
You can also look for new organizational partners if you want to expand your intergenerational activities or work with a different age group. Working with a variety of partners can offer residents a wide range of meaningful experiences that will positively impact the quality of their lives.
Prepare for Staff Turnover
Staff turnover is one of the biggest risks to program sustainability. When the person coordinating a program leaves, things can fall apart. There are several things you can do to prepare for this situation.
- Document what you are doing. Make sure you have copies of your partnership agreements, job descriptions, activity/project plans, and assessment tools.
- Involve other staff members in your program. That way, you are not the only person who knows how to implement the work. If possible, have a back-up staff person who can serve as a liaison with your partner.
Public relations encompasses all the activities involved in promoting a positive image for your programming. It can include getting media coverage, developing promotional materials, and sharing information about the benefits of your program with members of the wider community, and with housing and partner staff. A positive public image can help you attract and retain volunteers, build pride among program participants, and enhance support among community members.
Raise Additional Funds
Most housing communities do not need a lot of funding to implement ongoing intergenerational programs. Whether you try to obtain some additional funding for your programming efforts will depend on your program’s size, staffing capacity, and needed supplies.
The idea of bringing generations together in mutually beneficial activities is very appealing to many funders and individual donors. However, fundraising takes a significant investment of time and energy. Be clear about how much money you and/or your partner need, what the funding would cover, and the best source of funding.
Funding could come from different sources, including:
- Individual donations: Consider reaching out to the families of residents or the parents of young people involved in your program to solicit small donations or supplies like food or art supplies. Make sure donors know how you will use their money and recognize their contributions.
- Corporate donations: Corporations tend to donate to local projects that are aligned with their priorities or products. Some corporations only accept funding requests brought to them by employees, so ask people affiliated with your program if they work for a corporation with a charitable giving program, or if they know anyone who does. Other corporations donate materials they manufacture, such as computers, software, toys, and books.
FUNDRAISING IN PRACTICE
Housing providers have received funding through these mechanisms:
- Contributions made in memory of a deceased resident or contributions made to resident memorial funds.
- Resident-initiated fundraisers.
- United Way.
- Rotary clubs or other county-specific organizations.
- School-based funds that are dedicated to supporting social service activities. This funding typically pays for transportation for youth, snacks, and program supplies.
- Foundation grants: Grants typically come from foundations or government agencies. The grant-writing process can be cumbersome, particularly for people who have little experience with this task. Consider partnering with an organization that has a strong track record in fundraising. Many schools, nonprofits serving youth, or universities are well-suited to work with you on a grant that would benefit their constituents and yours.
- In-kind support: You might be able to increase your resources by attracting in-kind donations of gardening tools, art supplies, or refreshments from businesses or civic groups.
- Special events: You can raise some money for your program, and let the community know what you are doing, by organizing a talent show or selling arts and crafts, food products, or cookbooks that were made by youth and older adults. These activities can be time-intensive, so it is advisable to create a committee of residents, students, and family members to organize them.
We hope that you have found information in Connecting Generations in Senior Housing: An Implementation Toolkit helpful as you plan and implement high-quality intergenerational programs that benefit residents, children, and young people, some of whom may pursue careers in the aging field. Now that you have reviewed the toolkit in its entirety, we hope you will refer back to specific sections as needed. We also encourage you to explore the valuable tools and activities included in the appendices to this report. We hope these tools will help you enhance the quality of life for older adults and youth in your community.