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Lately, I have been thinking a lot about relationships. Perhaps it is all the talk of social distancing, self-quarantine, and isolation. As a seasoned grant professional working at my home office for more than ten years, I can honestly say this is the first time I have ever felt “alone.” One might wonder how I could feel lonely with my new “co-workers”; my once-quiet office is now interrupted by two kids, markers, paint, notepads, and maybe even yesterday’s fruit snacks stuck to my desk (don’t judge)! But I desperately miss face-to-face meetings with clients, board and committee meetings, and live trainings that provide valuable in-person adult time to connect and build or strengthen relationships.

With summer in full swing, vacation planning is or has been on everyone’s mind, including mine! As I booked reservations for a family road trip with my husband and three kids along with five other families, it got me thinking – this vacation planning is a lot like grants management planning. There are some key strategies used in vacation planning that can and should be used in grants management to answer the dreadful question, “Are we there yet?” with a confident “yes.”   Whether you are a grants professional working with a university managing lots of complex federal grants or a small nonprofit agency managing several foundation grants, there are some simple strategies we all can employ to alleviate bumps in the road.

When you say you are going to “partner,” what exactly does that mean?  In today’s grant-seeking world, it’s not necessarily enough simply to say you will “partner” with XYZ organization to achieve your objectives. HOW exactly will you partner? Agreeing to put another organization’s flyers on your front desk is not the same as allocating time and effort for full-time staff to participate in a stakeholder coalition, in order to develop a charter for collaboration that conducts joint fundraising and has a mission extending beyond that of any of the individual agency partners.

I have started this blog about ten times and never finished. The topic of equity and the concept of applying equitable lenses to the grant process is of great interest to me. Just like Maryam stated in her blog (Maybe We Need Lasik®), I do want to develop a greater ability to sense and evaluate equity within myself and in my work over time and strive to improve upon it.

As grant writers, we help secure much-needed funding so projects or programs can fulfill their objectives. As our society evolves, more and more funders are including cultural competency questions in their grant applications. Funders want to know that investing in your organization’s project or program helps a vast array of people and that your organization is cognizant of serving people in a way that is inclusive, respectful of diversity, and equitable. However, much like the for-profit world, the non-profit sector is not always diverse or culturally competent.

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.