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Grant Seeking Teamwork Toward Success, Satisfaction, and Sustainability

Too often, grant seeking is assumed to be the work of a single writer laboring behind a keyboard. But there’s much more to winning a grant than the solitary work of writing the application. Succeeding in all the stages of the grants process requires a team approach.

A team approach to grants can unify ideas, build organizational knowledge, boost morale, and lead to greater success. There are opportunities to foster teamwork and collaboration at each stage of the grant seeking process:

Stage 1: Vision + Strategy:

Winning grant proposals are grounded by the best ideas and shared agreements cultivated during organizational group-think. Have an emerging program idea? It’s vital to vet, discuss, and finalize your concept with the appropriate internal and external partners. Be sure to engage the input and involvement of your organization’s executive and program staff early on. Better yet, a strategic plan built by staff, leadership, and key stakeholders can help direct the long- and short-term goals of a program or project and produce a clearer, more compelling grant application.

Stage 2: Needs Assessment + Unique Value Proposition:

Once your team has decided on core, fundable operations, programs, and projects, it’s time to build a case for each, in partnership with your best allies! Schedule a meeting at least annually with key colleagues to define the distinct needs your specific projects will meet, and the unique value your organization brings to the process. Managers who offer or oversee programs and direct service can help you define key challenges and opportunities and how your organization is best-suited to meet or overcome them.

Stage 3: Relationships + Partnerships:

When seeking new or renewed grant funds, relationships with foundation contacts are key. Share the names of foundation prospect trustees with your leadership and board to assess connections, then leverage alliances and build trust through introductions, proposal cover letters with important signatories, follow-up calls, and post-grant thank you notes. When approaching a foundation for the first time, it is ideal to collaborate with a specific leader or program manager on a brief call to the organization’s grants manager to make introductions, assess the project’s funding viability, and answer any questions. Your colleague will then bring his or her own knowledge to any pre-proposal brainstorming and will be a powerful addition if a foundation site visit is scheduled post-application.

Stage 4: Proposal, Budget, and Materials:

Engage others as you prepare your proposal for submission. Weeks before the proposal is due, alert your organization’s financial officer about proposal budget requirements. Wrap back to program managers to gather program service numbers and powerful quotes. Factor in attachments that might require design or technological help from your colleagues. For another set of eyes, schedule proposal review and editing time with a key coworker.

Stage 5: Evaluation, Reflection, Refinement, and Renewal

Hooray, you got the grant! Be sure to inform staff members, especially those who assisted you. Convey any guidelines, recognition requirements, or measures of success required by the foundation, so that your colleagues can help you meet or exceed expectations and prepare an impressive report at the end of the program period. Weeks before your final report is due, encourage allies to reflect on any significant successes and challenges of the particular year or project, and to consider if or how they might refine the project based on their learning. What thought leadership can they share for the betterment of their field?  These are considerations that will not only benefit your grant report and funder relationship, but also increase your chances of renewal and strengthen your organization’s sustainability.  

You aren’t in this alone! As your grant seeking teamwork increases, so will your esteem, your colleagues’ enthusiasm to assist, and your success overall.

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