Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hello? Is anyone in charge here?

As a grant and proposal writer, I find myself asking that question a lot, and too often the answer is no.

Oh sure, there may be someone assigned to answer questions or provide data, but no one seems to be able to make a firm decision. In fact, it happens so often that it has become one of my top questions when qualifying a client…what is your approval process for accepting a grant application or LOI deliverable? The least desirable answer is that it will be "reviewed by the staff and/or board".

The bane of any grant writer's existence is the serial editing process. That means you submit a proposal or LOI for review and it makes the rounds throughout the organization not once but many times.

You know you are in trouble when you get back multiple edit requests signed by six different people and they target six different goals.

What you have then is six different people all defending their piece of the turf. That doesn't move the process forward, and it may indicate to the grantor that your planning process is not effective as a means to provide long-lasting outcomes.

Understand, I don't have a problem with the people or the input. It's the lack of coherent planning that serial editing represents.

With rare exception, grantors focus on supporting a proposal that targets one of their must-have results. Let's say  they are into acquiring housing for the homeless. They are looking for ways to assist you in putting that roof over someone's head.

While many conditions contribute to homelessness, the grantor's ultimate goal is reducing the number of homeless people. However, in your organizations serial editing process, one person wants to include funding for substance abuse counseling, another wants to provide job training, another wants to address domestic violence, while someone else is focused on acquiring properties for temporary housing.

Only the last will meet the goal of this specific grantor. That doesn't mean the other three are not worthy of funding, or couldn't be presented as individual programs or phases, but they don't provide the physical roof.

Someone needs to be in charge of maintaining a focus and assigning a priority to the specific needs that align with both the grantor and grantee's mission.

In the example above, the physical building meets the grantors guidelines. All of the other peripheral elements can be targeted once the person is safely housed. That might require writing more grants and applying to several grantors.

It very seldom happens that one grantor will support every facet or nuance of fulfilling your over-arching mission. As a grant writer or adviser, it isn't up to me to  prioritize your needs. The best I can do is make suggestions that will strengthen your chances of winning funding.

The decision on whose interests or needs are most important within your organization at any given point in time needs to made before you approach a funding prospect. Then, when you review an RFP or a proposal one person should be able to make a decision and evaluate the proposal or grantor on that basis.

That saves you time and money by allowing me to provide you with a quality targeted proposal or assist you in finding appropriate grantor prospects to approach, and more importantly, it maximizes your chances of winning funding.

Make a plan and put someone in charge of it.  It will make both of our jobs easier and more productive. 

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