In this review of a recent set of faculty development initiatives to promote geriatrics teaching by general internists, nontraditional strategies to promote sustained change were identified, included enrolling a limited number of "star" faculty, creating ongoing working relationships between faculty, and developing projects for clinical or education program improvement. External funding, although limited, garnered administration support and was associated with changes in individual career trajectories. Activities to enfranchise top leadership were felt essential to sustain change. Traditional faculty development programs for clinician educators are periodic, seminar-based interventions to enhance teaching and clinical skills. In 2003/04 the Collaborative Centers for Research and Education in the Care of Older Adults were funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation and administered by the Society of General Internal Medicine. Ten academic medical centers received individual grants of $91,000, with required cost sharing, to develop collaborations between general internists and geriatricians to create sustained change in geriatrics clinical teaching and learning. Through written and structured telephone surveys, activities designed to foster sustainability at funded sites were identified, and the activities and perceived effects of funding at the 10 funded sites were compared with those of the 11 highest-ranking unfunded sites. The experience of the Collaborative Centers supports the conclusion that modest, targeted funding can provide the credibility and legitimacy crucial for clinician educators to allocate time and energy in new directions. Key success factors likely include high intensity and duration, integration into career trajectories, integration into clinical programs, and activities to enfranchise institutional leadership.