Julie Assel, GPC

One of the most important resources in nonprofit organizations is the staff. They form relationships with the people they serve. They build relationships in the community to find the resources clients need. Without them, the nonprofit programs and services which affect millions of lives would fall silent. While we are advocates of writing grants which describe how the target population is involved in the program, this does not mean that organizations should stop describing the strengths of their staff. Here are four ways to highlight the quality and importance of your staff in your next grant:

I am a grant professional for whom the written word is a more comfortable form of communication than face-to-face communication. Once I understood the concepts and intent of grant proposal writing, I fell in love with it. The majority of my time is spent alone in my office writing or in one-on-one conversations with program, financial, and executive leadership staff. Given that my learning style is also visual text, reading RFPs, gathering the information needed, and conducting the research is all easy for me to understand. Recently though, I have needed to be involved in meetings with program officers. These are not my favorite activity. Oh, I love hearing all the things funders have to say about their organization that help me better understand their mission. I also love to hear all the things about the program that my organizations say to the funder that I have not heard before in quite the same way. (Haven’t we all been here?) If my only task was to listen, these meetings would be easy, but these were conversations in which I was the lead for a significant portion of the conversation.

As pointed out in the Value Your Volunteers blog by Jennifer Murphy, GPC, it is important for grant professionals to properly communicate the value of volunteers, both programmatically and monetarily. Grant professionals should also be aware of ways they personally can volunteer their time outside of where they work. In addition to volunteering for organizations like food banks, youth development centers, and animal shelters, grant professionals can give back to their profession by volunteering their time.

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I am the type of person whose brain is constantly thinking, even in my sleep. The harder the problem, the more likely I am to have several nights of sleep interrupted by fragments of thought my brain is trying to work through. Two weeks ago, this was my situation. I was preparing to submit a grant to a funder on the cutting edge of the equity discussion. As a significant funder with a large corpus, the Health Forward Foundation is leading by example and investing in organizations that otherwise might be overlooked by other foundations. My client serves a population not in Kansas City, Missouri proper, but one whose challenges mirrored those living in the middle of the city: high unemployment, low-paying jobs for those who are employed, high mobility for families struggling to pay their rent, and families in and out of homelessness when ends did not always meet. Families struggle with the trauma common to multi-generational poverty. Children struggle with adverse childhood experiences. But there are no mental health resources located in the community, and this is what my grant was trying to address. The grant had been drafted for over a week when the demonstrations against systemic racism began. As I watched, listened, read, and thought, this grant proposal started to bother me. Had I truly reflected the need of the population and the context of the situation? How had I described the population who would receive these services – as those in need or those with a need? Were we truly putting forth the best portrayal of the client organizations we serve? Were we showing the strengths of the clients they serve? Were we doing anything to push back against systemic racism?

This is a strange time for many nonprofits. For some nonprofits, they are busier than they have ever been, even at the height of the Great Recession. Other nonprofits have closed their doors due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing. Some wonder if it is indecent to even be fundraising right now for anything outside of basic necessities, while others are organizing new and extra fundraising methods because their annual fundraising events are now canceled. How will this change the funding landscape and for how long? We don’t know. What we do know is that the funding landscape will continue to be incredibly competitive just as it was during the Great Recession. At Assel Grant Services, we were writing before, during, and after that recession, and we are writing in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis as well. Experience has taught us that in order to be funded, grants must be about more than just passion and need. Programs must be of the highest quality and they must directly align to community needs. How can we ensure that alignment? How can we prove to funders that we are truly meeting the needs of the community? Run your programs through a logic model.

Here at Assel Grant Services, we don’t just write many successful federal grants each year. Many of our clients are receiving their first federal grant or their first federal grant in the last five years. One of the reasons so many agencies large and small come to us is because we keep up with the constantly evolving federal government trends. So, what do we look for and how can you keep up on the departments most relevant to you?