Competition and Training: Not just skills for the court By: Kellie Brungard, GPC

March Madness is in full swing, and all this talk about competition and brackets makes me think about how grant writing relates. Grants, much like professional sports, are competitive, and increasingly so. We can’t come in on gameday and put together a proposal without any preparation and expect to win big. To be competitive, your grant team must train and prepare to advance through the rounds and win awards. So, while building out/reviewing your bracket for college basketball, consider how these strategies can help your grant team gain a competitive edge.

Building the Team

When your organization decides it’s time to pursue grants, there are several players that will be on the starting lineup, playing to the strengths of each position. You have an executive director or board who sets the vision for strategic priorities, a finance director who understands the financial needs of an organization, program personnel who understands the capacity and logistics to providing services, a data manager who knows data management processes and how and what can realistically be measured, and a grant professional who can interpret opportunities, facilitate program design, and develop proposals. The size of your organization may mean more– or fewer– roles are needed to round out the team, potentially including partner organizations or different departments. Having the right people on the team ensures grant seeking is a cohesive process that addresses your team’s true needs and capabilities.

Practice (Grant Readiness)

Once a team is developed, practice is where you develop and perfect all the plays and roles required for game day. Before pursuing grants, your team needs to understand and assess its grant readiness. Instrumental defines grant readiness as a measurement of your organization’s capacity to research, apply, win, and manage grant applications successfully. This includes making sure organizational registrations and common attachments are up to date and accessible, the team has the capacity and processes for grant development and management, there is leadership support and clear grant strategy, and you have programs or services with a clear impact on the community. In addition, the team should understand the legal and ethical requirements for managing grants, which can vary based on the source and scope of funding.

Study the Competition (Prospect Research)

Next step…study the competition. There are many types of funding sources from family foundations to federal agencies, innovation challenges and competitions to managed trusts. Knowing where to start and how to determine the right fit can be overwhelming. Grant professionals often use Foundation Directory, Grant Station, local foundation list serves, and Google. First, you want to look for open opportunities, commonly referred to as requests for proposals (RFP), notice of funding opportunities (NOFO), grant or funding cycles, or simply funding opportunities. Your organization is a good fit with an opportunity when there is a similar geographic service area; shared mission, purpose, or funding priorities; and you meet all the eligibility requirements. Another critical factor – a manageable deadline!

Prospect research is a skill that takes time to develop. Engaging a consultant, such as the experts at AGS, can be an effective way to jump-start your prospecting efforts.

Game Strategy (Pre-Application)

Your team identified an opportunity and needs to develop a game-day strategy. Review the funding opportunity and make a note of all the requirements, including portal access, attachments, allowable expenses, and narrative questions or guidelines. Reach out to the program officer (if allowed) and introduce yourself, the organization, and how you align with their goals. Be courteous and express that you have an interest in applying to the opportunity and inquire about any suggestions for the approach. With this information, work with the grant team to determine what program or need best aligns and how grant funding can support or impact the work. Create a logic model to outline the program components in a cohesive manner. Assign responsibilities and discuss a timeline.

The Big Game (Proposal Development)

The preparation and practice leading up to game time have given your team the confidence to play their best. Now, it’s time to see it all come together. Preparing an application doesn’t have to be stressful if you give yourself adequate time, have input from team members, and do the prep work to define the program and request.

There are many components to a proposal that help tell your organization’s story and how this funding will make an impact. Drawing from case statements or existing written content about programs can be a great place to start. Assel Grant Services has on-demand training to guide the development of new, quality writing for your proposal. Make sure to proofread your finished proposal and review the checklist of application requirements before submitting it.

Much like the state of your NCAA bracket, funding is never guaranteed. Incorporating these strategies can help your team beat the competition and win grant awards! If you are interested in grant services, training, or federal review services, or our career opportunities,  Julie Assel, CGMS, GPC, President/CEO, will be happy to talk with you about this opportunity and provide you with a quote for grant services.

This blog post is aligned with the Grant Professional Certification Institute’s Competencies and Skills.

Competency #2: Knowledge of organizational development as it pertains to grant seeking

Skill 2.2: Assess organizations’ readiness to obtain funding to implement specific projects

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