Strategies for Success:

A Short Course for Project Directors

Printable .pdf version of the course outline

Detailed sample course agenda

This three-day, intensive course will provide project directors with the key financial planning, analytical, and communication skills they need to enhance their project’s or program’s continuing development and financial sustainability.  Expert faculty will use lectures, group work, discussions, and case studies to:

  • Provide tools and tips that participants will use to assess their project and develop methods for financial sustainability;
  • Introduce essential strategies for effective communication with stakeholders; and
  • Provide guidance and best practices to help participants succeed as they innovate and add value to their projects.

Upcoming Dates :

Who should attend?

Ideal applicants include experienced Directors and Principal Investigators of biological infrastructure projects (such as digital data resources, museum and living stocks collections, field stations, and marine laboratories) that have been established for at least two years.  Their resource must have direct relevance to the biological research community, and the applicant should be able to express their need and preparedness for training in business planning and communication.  Up to 25 participants will be selected based on these qualities, and to ensure an appropriate mix of project and participant diversity.

Course fee:

Please check back for the updated course fee for 2019, which includes all course materials, plus lunches and refreshments during the three course days. The course fee does not include accommodation and other meals (which participants can purchase onsite at modest cost), or travel to and from the course.

Our training approach:

We believe in learning by doing.  Our ultimate goal is for you to come away from the Strategies for Success course with an action plan and enhanced skills to improve your project’s sustainability.  Our faculty will present key concepts in course lectures, but you will spend most of your time in discussions with each other and working through relevant case studies and group assignments.

What to expect:

Throughout this course, you will have opportunities to engage with our expert faculty, advisory committee, and distinguished guest speakers.  We also expect participants to learn and share a lot with each other during group activities. Please come prepared to share your own challenges, success stories, and lessons learned.

We will also ask you to do a little advance preparation so you can hit the ground running. Don’t worry – it’s nothing too onerous. You’ll be asked to read one of our case studies in advance, prepare a mini-pitch for the first day, and to bring along your project or program’s recent financial statements and annual report. During the course, you’ll also need to do a little work in your spare time to prepare your pitch for the final day of the course (see Session 10).

Course outline:

We’ll kick off the course and begin getting to know one another with a group dinner after participants arrive onsite.  The next three days will be very intensive and hands-on.

SessionWhat You Will Learn and Do
Day One:
Session 1: Introduction (early morning)
  • Give a mini-pitch to introduce yourself and your project;
  • Discuss your goals and objectives for attending the course;
  • Learn about your fellow participants
Session 2: Evaluate Your Current Sustainability (late morning)
  • Examine aspects of both financial and program sustainability;
  • Identify your project's business lines and their profitability and mission impact
Session 3: Finance 101 (early afternoon)
  • Learn how to analyze and communicate financial information to a variety of audiences;
  • Define a financially sustainable project;
  • Determine the financial health of your project and assess strengths and vulnerabilities
Session 4: Create Your Business Model Canvas (late afternoon)
  • Learn how to use the Business Model Canvas;
  • Create a Business Model Canvas for your own project or program
Day Two:
Session 5: Rethink Your Mission, Vision, and Future Activities (early morning)
  • Learn how to evaluate the mission and vision of your project or program;
  • Learn to use the Kellogg Logic Model as a planning and prioritization tool;
  • Plan out your project's future activities using the Kellogg Logic Model
Session 6: Measure Your Success (late morning)
  • Evaluate strategies to monitor and document project use;
  • Identify key performance indicators for your project; Discuss ways to communicate project success effectively
Session 7: Analyze Your Stakeholders (early afternoon)
  • Discuss the relationships among stakeholder analysis, communication, and financial sustainability;
  • Use a framework to conduct a stakeholder and marketing analysis for your own project
Session 8: Communicate Effectively (late afternoon)
  • Learn how to strategically communicate with different audiences;
  • Learn how to use some common marketing tips and tools;
  • Develop and present an "elevator speech," and receive feedback from other participants
Day Three:
Session 9: Harness Private Funds (morning)
  • Analyze your project for private funding potential;
  • Learn how to make federal grant proposals into private foundation proposals;
  • Discuss the possibilities of licensing and commercial partnerships
Session 10: Make the pitch (afternoon)
  • Practice pitching an idea to course participants and faculty who will play the role of potential funders;
  • Receive feedback on the content, style, and delivery of your pitch

How to apply:

Registration opens January 28th, and will be handled through the iDigBio conference page. Please note that you may register for the SBI Course, the iDigBio Conference, or both*.
*A discount will be offered to those who apply to both the conference and the course! We will also be offering our popular colleague discount for the SBI Course: bring a colleague that is working on the same project and save!


If you have questions at any point, please contact Jill Parsons, ESA Associate Director of Science Programs at

What our alumni say:

“Diversifying approaches to funding is important, and I have learned valuable skills that will help with this – not just the sources themselves, but approaches to communication and establishing partnerships as well.”

“I hoped for practical information about how to diversify my funding base, and my expectations were certainly met.”

“I feel more equipped to take an organized approach to managing my facility… the team of instructors, advisers, and guest speakers was phenomenal.”

“I learned a huge amount about private funding.”

Strategies for Success:  Mini-Courses

We can adapt sections of our Strategies for Success course to offer skills training in a variety of formats. If you are interested in having us conduct a full or half-day workshop in conjunction with your meeting or conference, please reach out to us!