Financial Sustainability Index Pilot Information

Recruiting Pilot Testers

  • The application is available at
  • We will have four waves of pilot tests: one in the summer, one in early fall, one in late fall, and one in early winter. There will be about 10 local governments in each wave.
  • GFOA will start reviewing and accepting pilot testers in mid-June, however, the application process will remain open throughout the summer or until all pilot spots are filled.
  • The application will give you sense of the governments we are looking for, but, broadly, we are looking for local governments that fit the category of an “innovator” or “early adopter” of advanced financial management practices. Early adopters are comfortable operating under a degree of uncertainty and in adapting new products to meet their needs. This is important because the FSI is a new product and there will likely be bumps in the road to implementation.
  • GFOA is asking the finance officer and a representative of the chief executive’s office to sign the application. This is because we think chief executive support will be important for the self-evaluation to have the desired impact

Conducting the Pilot Test

  • For each wave, the work of the pilots will take place in three steps:
    • Communicate financial sustainability to other stakeholders of the government. Make them aware of what financial sustainability is, kindle their desire to be a part of it, and give them knowledge of how they will be able to help.
    • Conduct self-assessment in a collaborative fashion with others in the government. Consideration of financial sustainability should go beyond the finance office. We will leave it to the pilots to decide who exactly should be involved and in what capacity, based on organizational culture, structure, etc., but we do believe it is important that evaluation team include people from outside of the finance department.
    • Pursue opportunities to improve financial sustainability based on what is learned from the assessment. The financial sustainability framework recommends tactics to improve financial sustainability. Your results from the self-assessment may suggest tactics you wish to pursue.
  • For each wave of the pilots, we will hold a two-day meeting in Chicago to prepare you for your experience. GFOA will reimburse up to $1,500 in travel expenses in exchange for participation in the training and pilot project. We ask that each government send at least two representatives: one finance officer and one representative of the chief executive’s office. We will survey participants ahead of time to focus the topics, but a preliminary agenda includes:
    • Messaging and communication plan for financial sustainability (including eLearning element). The goal is to help you best communicate financial sustainability to others.
    • Review and refine self-assessment questions. The pilots will review the self-assessment questions and suggest refinements, ask clarifying questions as a group, etc. The goal is to help make sure you are as comfortable as possible with the question set before using the questions with your colleagues at home.
    • How to conduct the self-assessment.  The self-assessment is primarily intended to catalyze a conversation. However, holding a constructive conversation about financial sustainability could be challenging, especially if the organization must confront difficult choices or patterns of decision-making that work against sustainability. Hence, the goal of this element of the training is teach facilitative techniques to help you conduct an objective and constructive self-assessment.  
  • We recognize that each government will be subject to some scheduling constraints that will influence how soon and how quickly they will be able to complete the assessment. That said, below is a rough timeline pilot participants could expect to follow. The exact dates of each point in the timeline will depend on what wave a pilot government is in.  Of course, if a participant would like to accelerate the evaluation, they would be welcome to do so.
    • Starting point: attend kick-off meeting in Chicago.
    • Week 1 and 2: Assemble core team that will support the evaluation. For many governments, we expect that this will primarily be staff people. Core team decides who else to bring directly into the evaluation process. Also develop strategy to get governing board support for evaluation and taking steps to become more financially sustainable.
    • Week 3: Hold informational meeting with participants in the evaluation process to overview the financial sustainability framework and answer questions about the evaluation process.
    • Week 4 thru 9. Evaluate Leadership Strategies 1 through 6 (average 1 per week).
    • Week 11 thru 12. Rest and regroup.
    • Week 13 thru 20. Evaluate Institutional Design Principles 1 through 8 (average 1 per week)
    • Week 21 thru 22. Prioritize best opportunities to improve based on results of evaluation
    • Beyond week 22. Implement best opportunities to improve your financial sustainability.
  • In terms of time commitments, it is difficult to identify a precise number of hours because hours will be variable based on size of government, receptivity of others to the idea of financial sustainability and other factors. That said, below is a summary of the activities that will happen at each phase and our estimation, which should help you estimate a minimum time commitment.
    • Communicate financial sustainability to other stakeholders of the government. Form a core group of supporters within the organization to sponsor the self-assessment. Develop a short “elevator speech” to describe why financial sustainability is needed and make key stakeholders aware of the financial sustainability project and build their desire to participate in or support it. If there are particularly challenging segments of your audience, more time might be needed.
    • Conduct self-assessment in a collaborative fashion with others in the government. Hold a series of meetings with key stakeholders to self-evaluate each of the 6 Leadership Strategies and 8 Institutional Design Principles. We might assume about 1 hour per Strategy/Principle, including your set up/prep time – it will probably not take your team of stakeholders a full hour to actually do the evaluation of any given leadership strategy or institutional design principle.
    • Pursue opportunities to improve financial sustainability based on what is learned from the assessment. This will vary widely depending on which tactics you choose to pursue
  • GFOA will want to see the results of your evaluation. We will not be “grading” one participant versus another. We wish to look for patterns, etc. that will help use further develop the product.
  • GFOA will be evaluating your experience throughout the pilot. We want to know what aspects of the sustainability framework are most helpful to you and what the best strategies are for conducting the self-assessment.  Hence, you will be asked to complete a few questionnaires about your experience and participate in interviews, including one at the start of the pilot so we can get a baseline of your situation. This evaluation will not be onerous.
  • GFOA will ask you to consider participating in supplementary research related to the financial sustainability framework. We are want to increase the profession’s knowledge of financial sustainability in certain key areas and we may need your help. For example, one project seeks to test out different long-term financial forecasting techniques so we can find out which ones will be most accurate and practical to use. We need local governments to donate data for this purpose. This and other supplementary research opportunities will be described to the pilots and volunteers solicited.

After the Self-Evaluation

  • After the pilots conduct their self-assessment, we will want to evaluate their experience so that the approach can be updated for the next wave of the pilots and, ultimately, GFOA’s final product.
  • We hope you will stay engaged with financial sustainability and form the core of a new movement within GFOA to advance financial sustainability within local government.
  •  It is likely that you will find at least some opportunity for improvement as part of the self-assessment. You may find that you want more information on tactics we have suggested for improving financial sustainability. GFOA will be compiling resources to provide further guidance on the tactics found in the financial sustainability framework. We will also wish to continue to work with you and evaluate your experience with improving your financial sustainability following the evaluation.