Four Ways to Describe Your Quality Staff in Your Grant Applications by 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:

1) Professional Qualifications – Often the staffing portion of a grant proposal focuses on the degrees and years of experience of the staff. But too often, organizations do not describe the internal and external training staff participate in during orientation to the organization and on an ongoing basis. An especially important aspect is training which your organization provides on cultural awareness and competency. You can start by talking to your human resources department to determine what training is provided in the onboarding process, what training is tracked by the organization, and what training is required annually for various licensed or credentialed positions. Often the most complete record of this training is gathered both through these human resource conversations and portfolios and through conversations with staff, especially if they are going to be a project director or principal investigator on your grant project.

2) Personal Experience – In addition to the external knowledge gained by your staff is the knowledge staff gain through their personal experience. Now I’m not just talking about stating that a person has a certain number of years of experience. No, I’m actually saying that proposals can also describe the life experience of staff. It is what staff have seen and experienced while working for the applicant organization and what experiences they have had outside the organization which have made them who they are. It is often the things that are not on individual’s resumes that make them a good fit for your organization. As described in the previous section, it is important for grant professionals to really get to know program staff by having conversations with them to understand how they came to be in their position and why the work they are doing is important to them. Often these details are collected over time with a relationship of trust between the program staff and the grant professional.

3) Activities – Describe interactions between the organization’s participants and your staff. Often funders are not experts in your services, so you must provide enough information for them to picture exactly how the program works in their heads. Describe how much contact your staff have with program participants. Too often the intensity, frequency, and duration are missing from grant proposals. If funders can mentally picture the interactions between the staff and participants, the impact of the staff is better understood. Client testimonials describing an individual’s interactions with staff along their journey within a program are great opportunities to bring to life information that can otherwise be difficult to picture. Remember that your readers are people, and people fund people.

4) Budget Narrative – The budget narrative is a key document which ties together the funding ask with the organization and program description in the rest of the grant application. Even when you don’t have room in your narrative due to word or character counts, you can describe many of these same aspects right alongside of the cost of these staff. With all of this information side-by-side, the costs seem reasonable, thus allowing nonprofits to pay more competitive rates to their staff.

Without program staff, programs can’t provide services. To funders, remember they are vital resources in all nonprofits. To nonprofits, don’t hesitate to express the importance of these staff to the success of your programs.

Competency #4: Knowledge of how to craft, construct, and submit an effective grant application

Skill 4.5. Identify appropriate, sequential, consistent, and logical presentations of grant-narrative elements and ideas among or within proposal components.

Skill 4.8. Identify effective practices for developing realistic, accurate line-item and narrative budgets and for expressing the relationship between line-items and project activities in the budget narrative.