Today, successfully procuring organizational funding from new or existing grant sources takes high level work and collaboration between teams. The competitive nature of current grant opportunities demands for organizations to put their best foot forward to get funded.
I have been a grant professional for some time now. I used to think, “Anyone can do this, it’s easy. Write a few pages, submit them and get people money…Voila.” And at the very least, this is basically what it is. However, the more I work with organizations in the many capacities my company does, I have come to learn in order to offer everything I have as a professional (key word) to my client organizations there is so much more that goes into this.
The process for scoring grants, foundation and government, is becoming more and more competitive with tightening budgets and the influx of additional organizations. The ability to effectively compel a group of people to give your organization thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars over others creates a situation where craft is key. That is why it is crucial you select the right team to piece together your proposals to ensure competitiveness when requesting funds.
When you are looking for funding for your organization and you decide to hire a grant professional, there is a lot to consider if you want to have a successful experience. Today, having a good grant professional that is a true advocate for your organization is key to getting funded and to the ultimate success of your organization. Here are some expectations you should have from any grant professional you choose to work with.
If you want someone to plead a case on your behalf, you need to make sure you have a healthy relationship. Trust, on both sides, needs to exist, there must be some level of good rapport and good will must be reciprocated to a certain extent. Here are some key components that will create a healthy relationship between you and your grant professional.
A grant professional needs to be bought in to your organization. She needs to realize the key fundamentals behind what you do and why you do it. This means that a grant professional must seek to understand your mission, vision, values, strategies, goals and anything else that gives her insight into why your organization is important and impactful.
Not only must this be understood, but the grant professional must believe in it as well. Today, grantors ask for a lot of information that is mostly quantitative and impact driven…the hard facts. However, the ability to infuse anecdotal, emotional verbiage with the data to provide a compelling argument as to why you need, and deserve, money is key. And, unless one is truly bought in to an organization and stands behind its cause, I am unsure this can be effectively accomplished.
A good grant professional will ensure he has a thorough understanding of all programs, what function they serve and what limitations each have. You, as a leader in your organization know you can’t just go after every grant program out there with dollar signs in your eyes when you, and everyone else knows your organization does not have the capacity to handle it if funded. Therefore, you certainly do not want a grant-writer that does the same. Money only buys so much, then it gets you in trouble!
A good grant professional will take time to understand the inner workings of your programs so he knows what your capacity is; he understands where and how you need funding to accent or expand upon existing or desired programs; and, he carefully considers all funding sources to ensure alignment between your direction and that of the funding agency as well.
The Ability To Say No
A yes man can be detrimental and toxic to any team or organization. A true grant professional will tell you the honest truth about whether or not an opportunity is right for you. If she is truly bought in and cares about your agency, and understands your programs and their limitations, then she will effectively communicate the good and the bad news to ensure you are not lead into the snare of ineffective delivery when funded.
You must expect any grant professional to provide their best and honest opinion about the appropriateness of any opportunity you are considering. These conversations may be tense and uncomfortable but are certainly worthwhile.
Webster defines professionalism as, “the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.” When you hire a grant professional you must expect that they will deliver the best quality, high level work that can be offered in every aspect of the grant-making process. You should expect nothing less than skill and good judgment from a person who is trained to do a job well when seeking to work with a grant professional.
When working with a grant professional you must, at least, expect him to provide you with a minimum amount of services. Such services may include the following.
Grant professionals should be expected to analyze proposals to learn about grantor’s and your desires and intentions, identify and address potential weaknesses and make determinations about the best approach to ensure a competitive proposal.
Research and Discovery
Grant professionals are connected to grant databases and search engines. They should be able to offer you effective research and discovery of potential grant opportunities that are right for your organization.
Research and discovery also entails identifying project partners and essential data that will strengthen you case for support.
Writing, Formatting and Proofreading
You should expect grant professionals to assist with actually writing, formatting and proofreading proposals. He should know the best way to write, format and submit the proposal so that it is differentiated from competitors and caters to the needs or desires of the grantor. If for some reason, your grant professional does not write your proposals, he should at least revise, edit and proof read them.
Following up after the submittal of a proposal is key to maintaining good rapport with funding agencies and expedite the process of addressing revisions they may request. This is more important than you may think. Funding agencies can get a good sense of how an organization will function if funded, just by seeing how efficiently you react to requests in the proposal phase.
All this being said, anyone can write out a few pages and submit a grant application. You may even get lucky and score some dollars. But, a true grant professional is more careful than this. Organizational development happens when teams are intentional about every move that is made to ensure alignment with key goals and strategies. Your grant professional should have the same mind-set and foster such intentionality.
So what should you expect from a grant professional? Nothing but the best…Don’t settle!