6. Focus on Sustainability

Even though sustainability is listed last in this section, it is probably something that you will be thinking about from the outset. You will probably be considering whether and how you will be able to continue the program, not just on an ad-hoc basis but as an ongoing element of older adult services.

You may receive some help from your system in planning for sustainability. However, in all likelihood you will be responsible for attracting the some or all of the funds required to continue the program.

Aside from raising public or private funds to support new workshops, you may be able to sustain some group activities by simply providing a place for people to come together to continue drawing or singing. In fact, by providing space for shared arts activities, you may be creating a powerful message for potential funders regarding the community’s needs for creative aging programs.

Do not assume that fundraising is beyond your capacity. In fact, many of the skills that you use as a librarian are also key to fundraising, including research, communications, and building ongoing relationships. Basic promotional efforts to bring your library and the new programs to the attention of decision-makers and the general public is one aspect of sustaining the programs.

Researching Potential Funders

Research on potential funding sources is important; there must be a good match between the funder’s priorities and the program goals. Remember that there are few private sources for “libraries” per se, however, there are sources for aging services and for health improvement – both of which you can claim.

Think beyond your usual donors. Consider such sources as:

  • State, regional or local Council on the Arts;
  • Your community foundation;
  • the AARP Foundation,
  • the local Council on Aging;
  • Local elected officials; and
  • Service organizations (e.g.: Junior League, Elks, Kiwanis, Rotary, etc.)

Also, remember that the majority of cultural and educational funding derives from individuals. Each and every library patron or Friends group is a potential donor.

Include Donors in Culminating Events

Once you have identified potential funding sources, both public and private, it will be important to make sure these sources’ program officers know about the classes and are invited to the culminating event.

As the program unfolds, you can continue to inform your community and, indirectly, potential funders, about the ongoing series and the responses of participants. If and when you do receive support for continued programming, pay careful attention to how the funding sources want to be acknowledged and provide progress reports to them as often as possible.


  • Do not assume that you must bear the entire burden of sustaining your program. During your community assessment you probably identified one or two community organizations with which to partner in promoting your program and recruiting participants.
  • If the initial program is well received, and if it complements your partners’ services and helps meet their goals, it is possible that joint fundraising would work for everyone’s benefit.
  • A joint approach can increase your chances of success: partnering can widen the base of potential funders, and many local funders prefer collaborative applications.

Case Study:

Roaring Chorus, Richmondtown Library, NYPL, Staten Island