Good Work Requires Strong Infrastructure

July 30, 2018       The NonProfit Times      

Almost every nonprofit requires grant funding. But even though they’re often a major revenue source, the infrastructure to support grant acquisition and management is commonly neglected.

“Large nonprofits, hospitals, and educational institutions typically invest in infrastructure to support the grants process,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “But in small and mid-sized nonprofits, grants work is commonly catch-as-catch-can, with various staff members taking on roles that can be matched with their skills and squeezed into their workload.”

    To win more awards and consistently roll out successful grant-funded programs, be proactive. First, review your organization’s grant-related resources. Then, make a plan for filling in the holes.

  • Does your organization have Policies & Procedures (P&Ps) to guide grants work? Policies define who is responsible for what and provide a framework within which grant-related tasks must be accomplished. Procedures flesh out the details of how the work must be handled. Clear P&Ps guard against the submission of rouge proposals (those unknown to and unsanctioned by leadership); specify who must review what so that essentials such as wages, indirect costs, budgets, and program details are correct; define required timelines for review and sign-off by administrators; and much more.
  • Is staff time dedicated to grant acquisition? The staffing required for proposal development will depend on an organization’s size and the number of proposals submitted annually. But all high-quality grant work takes serious time, skill, and knowledge. It’s a mistake to leave it to whoever is willing to catch the ball, or to require that staff members write proposals in addition to their other full-time duties. Define who will handle proposal development, provide the materials and technology they need, and invest in professional development that will keep them on top of their game.
  • Is grant management systematized and handled by a team? The quality of an organization’s grant management makes the difference between excellence and a lack-luster performance. Define the grant management team and include staff from administration, finance, communications, program services, and evaluation. For each grant award, assign someone to coordinate the team’s work. Establish check
    lists, standard weekly meeting agendas, internal reporting tools, and other systems to keep the work on track.
    “Neglecting an organization’s infrastructure is never a good move,” said Floersch. “It weakens the ability to do good work and to retain high-quality staff.” To win more awards and produce consistently excellent results, build and maintain a strong foundation to support the development and management of grants. ©2018 The Grantsmanship Center.