Last week, I (Whitney) had the opportunity to attend the Grant Professionals Association’s national conference in Seattle, Washington. This is my 9th national GPA conference. I’m a GPC, a GPA Approved Trainer, and I’ve presented at multiple national GPA conferences on the topic of grantsmanship...

When I was a kid, I loved Halloween. I loved dressing up and pretending to be someone else - someone that was better, stronger, and more capable than I felt I would ever be. Fast forward through the decades and I recognize there are times when I want to pretend to be someone else - someone who is better, stronger, and more capable than I sometimes feel. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized what I was feeling was imposter syndrome. During my tenure with the Grant Professionals Certification Institute board of directors, I started to see that many grant professionals feel the same way.

by Rosie Brennan, GPC, and guest blogger Jennifer Murphy, GPC, Manager of Institutional Giving, Lyric Opera of Kansas City   Spooky season is upon us, and at AGS we’ve been thinking about what keeps us up at night when it comes to grants. As grant pros, we are skilled at anticipating challenges and putting controls in place to mitigate negative outcomes in our grant programs. Here are some eerie grant scenarios with suggested actions that’ll have you sleeping like a baby.

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:

Are you laboring too much over grants? Grants are great to have, and they’re often crucial to an organization’s mission, but there are only so many hours in the day to apply for and manage those grants. Grant professionals are susceptible to burn out from the heavy responsibility and high-pressure, deadline-driven work, which continues day in and day out in our profession. Grant applications and management can even get in the way of your organization’s mission. I was recently on a call with a client who was looking for help managing their grant portfolio. When I asked why they were seeking support, the client shared a striking comment: “We are so busy trying to get the money that we struggle to actually carry out the work.” I understood completely because I’ve seen this state of affairs before.

Recently, I conducted a pre-submission peer review on several federal grant proposals from organizations located in rural Kansas. The first question each organization had to respond to was, “Describe your geographical/service area.” Each organization named the counties served in their respective service areas and then went on to describe just how ‘rural’ their area is. While each applicant organization had some aspects of serving rural areas of Kansas in common, they each approached the description differently. Some of the descriptions included the total square mileage contained within their service boundaries; others referenced the state’s definitions that place a county on a continuum of ‘frontier’ to ‘urban’; others pointed out the distance in hours to the nearest major city. Ultimately, each applicant described their geographical service area with the purpose of convincing federal reviewers that Organization XYZ was the only provider of important services for its region.

You want me to write about what? How can I write about progress when the right data wasn’t collected to measure progress? Grant professionals are frequently faced with the reality of gaps in data in pre-award, and post-award. We are asked to respond to sections which require a discussion of national, regional, and local data to justify need; as well as sections requesting data-supported rationale for the proposed intervention, and finally a proposed series of measurable objectives indicated by an improvement over baseline. Sometimes there is something to work with. Oftentimes we are asked to work magic!

As grant professionals, we all know that using strong, relevant data from reliable sources to support our case for funding is essential to a quality, competitive application. Although this is true across all types of applications, it is especially relevant when applying for federal grants. While stories bring our programs to life for a reviewer, used artfully data provides the foundation that makes it possible to build a captivating (and winning) case for support. I’m going to provide you with some resources you can use to make finding - and citing - that crucial piece of data easier next time you need it.

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.