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Win the Grants Game with Three Plays for Program Staff

Who in your organization is responsible for getting grants? If development staff are the only players in the grant seeking process, it’s time to rethink your game. Grant seeking requires the whole team—including program staff—to achieve maximum success.

Want to be better and smarter at winning grants? Following are three ways program staff should be playing in your grants game:

1. Find grant opportunities: Leverage the connections and knowledge of program staff for prospecting

Program staff take part in networks, meetings, and events that can be ground zero for learning about funders and grants. They may be the first to hear about new grant opportunities or shifts in funders’ priorities. Sometimes grant makers themselves are active in these coalitions—you may not know that your colleague on the program side is on friendly terms with the program officer you’ve been wanting to reach. Don’t fail to capitalize on the valuable insights and connections that program staff can bring to your grant prospecting. A simple place to begin is taking a colleague out to lunch and learning how and with whom they interact in the community—one fruitful conversation may jumpstart a routine of knowledge sharing.

2. Craft better grant proposals: Lean on program staff to make you smarter

Funders want to invest in organizations delivering fresh and winning approaches, so your grant proposals must spotlight the real ways your organization is leading the industry. How do you keep on the cutting edge of what’s happening in and outside your organization? Talk to program staff about innovations in their specific program and in the broader field. By being on the front lines, they will be the first to know about emerging trends, changing dynamics, and innovative solutions in the sector. The benefits will go both ways: you’ll gain crucial intelligence that will make you a smarter grant seeker and your program colleagues will be reassured to know they have an ally who is hungry to recruit resources for their programs.

3. Build better relationships: Engage program staff in funder stewardship

Program staff can give funders a first-hand look at how their grant is playing out in the community, which can help them feel more confident about their investment and eager to fund again. Invite program staff to participate in site visits and other opportunities to interact with funders. Encourage program colleagues to update you frequently with client stories, photos, and other demonstrations of impact that will spice up your funder updates. And don’t wait until a funder report is due to check in with program staff about how a grant funded project is unfolding. Keep up steady communication so you know in real-time about program changes, accomplishments, and set-backs that you may decide to share with funders outside of the formal reporting schedule.

Members of a team are bound to be more enthusiastic and dependable players when they feel valued and engaged. By actively involving program staff in grant seeking, you will gain partners in taking your organization, and its grants game, to new levels.


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