Grantwriters often tend to work in a vacuum, sometimes due to organizational dynamics and other times because they prefer to. How many times have we wished that our program people were more hands-on, more involved, more knowledgeable? How many times have we wished that we weren't doing everything from A to Z by ourselves? And how many times have we been glad that we didn't have to deal with the drama of the program department who do nothing but delay our proposal writing process? Sounds familiar?
The reality is that those who work in teams with program staff always say: despite the headaches, it's worth it! In a well-defined organizational setting, the grant writer should not be the sole owner of a grant proposal from start to finish; he or she should instead be a coordinator of resources and people, working with staff and volunteers to gather information, write, compile and follow-up. Just as there are many pieces to the application, there are many people who can support the grant writer in this adventure. And the core set of individuals who are vital to this project, from inception to completion, are the program staff.
Step 1: Once a program or project that needs funds has been identified, gather the people whose job it will be to make it happen. Not only program directors but also front line staff - case workers, teachers, counselors, builders, docents - their insight into the operations of the programs, and the connections they may have within the community can be an asset when it comes to completing an application.
Step 2: Explain how those identified above can support you during the grant writing process:
Assist in working through the “nuts and bolts” of a proposed program. These logistics may include: what school/organization will be involved, what specific program(s) will be implemented and by whom, and the timeline. Rely on the program staff for information as to what may be realistic in terms of the community being served and the outcomes being anticipated.
Assess the current evaluation system in place and if needed, develop an improved plan for outcome measurement. This should be the responsibility of the program staff, and not the grant writer.
Identify and contact individuals from the community who may be needed as partners for program/project implementation. Program staff may be also be helpful in securing letters of support for the program/project based on the connections they have within the community.
Step 3: Begin the grant writing process. As a grant writer, you can obtain information from the program staff through informal conversation or provide them specific criteria, which you would like them to flesh out on paper. Remember, the program staff may not consist of eloquent writers. Putting the grant together – creating the language – is your forte. Determine in advance who will conduct research, needs assessments, and the like, who will write the first draft, who will put the package together, etc.
Step 4: Make sure that deadlines are met and tasks accomplished as agreed-upon in Steps 1-3. This may be easier said than done, with a lot of the burden unexpectedly falling on the grant writer. The best way to ensure that everyone pulls their weight is to put things in writing. In Step 1-2 above, create a document which lists the tasks (e.g. collect statistics on mentoring programs, gather program numbers, draft MOUs, etc.), the person responsible, and the deadlines. Ensure that tasks are completed on time by sending reminders by email and conducting frequent "grant status meetings" with all those on that list.
Remember that the program staff can be a valuable resource and can often help get the job done more efficiently and effectively. However, like any relationship, this too needs to be well defined, with each member of the team understanding and appreciating their role and responsibility.