As a grant professional, are you asked to identify performance measurements for your organization or clients? Evaluating the performance of a grant department or grant professional is a nuanced task. Yet data helps leadership and the board of directors quantify the year-to-year success and progress toward department goals. All too often, an organization will set unrealistic goals without adequate resources or available opportunities or set unreasonable expectations for the number of applications an individual needs to submit. Looking at a “success rate” can fail to consider the organization's readiness, quality of program design, or ability to identify strong opportunities and stewardship. So, how can an organization effectively evaluate the performance of a grant department and set realistic goals? How can grant professionals articulate their skills and achievements to those who are data-minded?

Have you ever stopped to consider the reasons why you sign up for webinars, attain or continue to maintain your grant professional certification (GPC), or set out to learn an entirely new skill set (like project management)? For some, an employer prioritizes professional development and encourages developing a training plan. Perhaps your certification or licensure requires continuing education. Do you ever feel like you are taking action (e.g., attending workshops or reading professional articles) but it’s not adding up? Are you missing a sense of accomplishment? Actions without a bigger picture may seem productive in the short term, but they may not connect with your larger goals or leave you feeling like you haven’t made progress. Identifying your “why” may be the missing piece.

Observation is a method to gather data by watching events or behaviors that can give information beyond what you can draw from numbers and is helpful in several situations:
  • To collect data that is unavailable through other methods. People are sometimes unable or unwilling to participate in surveys or interviews.
  • To understand an ongoing situation or process. For example, you want to identify efficiencies/inefficiencies in the process of college registration process as students meet with advisors to create a semester schedule.
  • To know more about a physical setting. For example, you want to determine if a residential rehabilitation center’s facilities are conducive to recovery.
  • To understand more about interactions. For example, you want to determine if a motivational guest speaker sparks interest in at-risk youth in a college preparatory program.

Have you been tasked with evaluating a program and don’t know where to begin? If so, you aren’t alone. Many people struggle with program evaluation. This new three-part series on evaluation will prepare you to design and implement a strong evaluation comprised of quantitative and qualitative data analysis. You will also understand how to secure a third-party evaluator, if you need one. This post focuses on how to conduct an environmental scan and needs assessment.

Federal prize competitions are a means for federal agencies to crowdsource ideas and engage public innovators to develop innovative ideas and solutions to societal problems (referred to as competitions, prize competitions, challenge, or competition). According to Challenge.gov, the primary platform for managing competitions, “Longitude and ship navigation, Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, even initial designs for the U.S. Capitol and White House—all resulted from open prize competitions. Even those self-driving vehicles got their start in federal prize competitions too!” Other notable concepts derived from challenges include the “lunar loo” (space toilet), digital wallet interface, protections for fish from water infrastructure, opioid detection in the mail, and “getting out the count” for the most recent census. These competitions, organized by Federal agencies, encourage participation from individuals, businesses, and organizations, driving them to create groundbreaking solutions to complex problems. This blog post delves into the world of federal competitions, exploring their significance, impact, and considerations for interested organizations.

It’s not news that grant professionals are often underrecognized for their vast knowledge, technical and subject matter expertise, and contributions to organizational success. It’s also not infrequent that grant professionals are excluded from project planning or meetings with potential funders until late in project development when they are asked to “just” find funding or write a grant. For many individuals, that lack of validation can often be internalized as a lack of acceptance or value. For others, the recognition received is passed on to others they believe are more worthy than themselves. This is especially true for women, BIPOC professionals, and those who have been subjected to microaggressions in their community and workplace (but that’s an entirely separate subject worthy of its own time and space). When highly qualified, high-achieving professionals question their value, competence, or adequacy to successfully perform work that they are 100% capable of performing, it leads to self-doubt, negative self-image, burnout, and workplace toxicity. While not a recognized mental health disorder – you won’t find this in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the common term for these unfounded feelings of inadequacy is imposter syndrome.

I attended Laura Cochran’s session, “Work with Your Brain: How to Accommodate Your Neurodiversity,” at GrantSummit 2023 with a minimal understanding of neurodiversity and its relevance in my life. Laura’s opening line was, “If you’re wondering if you should be in this room or if the topic applies to you, you’re probably in the right place!” The room was filled with grant professionals identifying as neurodivergent (someone identifying as being neurodiverse) or exploring the concept. Participants spoke about their professional and workplace challenges, accommodations that have helped their workflow, and the strengths and weaknesses of those identifying as neurodiverse.

Audited financials are a common component of grant readiness discussions and are often requested by funders. However, new or small nonprofits may wonder if an audit is really necessary. Understanding why an audit is helpful to a funder, how to find an auditor, and what to do if an audit seems unattainable can help small nonprofits plan.

If you were to ask grant professionals how they arrived at their current position/role, most would laugh and relate a roundabout journey. Grant Professional is not at the top of the list of jobs to which children, youth, and teens aspire. Many of us find ourselves working as grant professionals by way of degrees in journalism, education, social work, and even the STEM fields. Through our various career paths in nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and social service agencies, grant professionals develop unique skills and have various areas of expertise and specialization that support our grantsmanship work. As a result, there are many professional certifications that benefit the grants profession. Certifications help uplift the profession by establishing a level of knowledge and ethical practices and acknowledging experience and expertise within an industry. Below is an overview of professional credentials related to the grants profession and the requirements for obtaining them.