Sunday, August 29, 2010

Working with Other Departments to Enhance Grant Seeking

The concepts of teamwork and synergy have been around for decades, and used religiously by businesses as well as nonprofits to improve performance and efficiency. But for some reason, grantwriters often tend to neglect or ignore this essential determinant of organizational effectiveness. Be it due to a lack of cooperation between departments, or a tendency towards being an introvert, many grant writers work quietly behind their computers, plodding towards arbitrarily set goals of number of proposals submitted or grant reports submitted. There has to be a better way to work, don't you think?
The first step towards improved grant performance is to understand that when departments work together, the grants function improves. Rather than working in a vacuum, grantwriters should (a) team up with other development staff and fundraising volunteers within their organizations to align goals and create cohesive plans of action; and (b) work together with other departments in their organization such as programs, marketing, even finance and accounting in order to ensure that deadlines are met and there is no overlap or duplication of efforts. Easier said than done? Not if you keep in mind the following rules of thumb:
  • Determine well-defined goals and objectives for the grants department, broken down annually, quarterly, and monthly.
  • Determine a fundraising plan that includes grants as part of the entire development effort.
  • Involve high-level volunteers in grant seeking, such as board members or other high-profile volunteers.
  • Use the same fundraising database (or other type of recording system) for grants as is being used for other development activities such as major gifts, events and memberships.
  • Create a grants team that includes not only the grant writer and his/her supervisor, but also key staff from programs, marketing, accounting, public relations etc.
  • Discuss collaborative grantseeking efforts with other nonprofit organizations, starting with current program partners.
  • Assess grant readiness and application feasibility in a team environment by seeking input from program managers and finance staff.
Each of the above suggestions will need organization-specific actions to ensure success. But they are all important to ensure a new beginning at the same-old grants office. Good luck!

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