Resiliency is somewhat like nirvana. We know it’s good. We all want it. But, many of us are not quite sure what it is exactly. “The word resiliency conjures up images of rubber bands and trampolines, and those aren’t bad metaphors for the idea,” said grants professional and consultant Barbara Floersch. “For me, it’s about the ability to bounce. It’s the ability to carry on with hopefulness despite adversity and find workarounds and fresh ideas when old ways become useless. It’s the capacity to rebuild.”
Grants professionals usually bounce back quickly from the trials and stress that are routine in pulling together competitive proposals. But things can quickly unravel if you throw in a dash more chaos, drama, or crisis into a high-dollar, and tight-timeline job. Resiliency is what helps them hold the situation together, regain equilibrium, and keep pounding out high-quality work.
Experts agree that personal attributes such as optimism and tenacity contribute to resilience, and that environmental factors also play a huge role. “That means grants professionals will ideally possess certain traits,” said Floersch. “But it also means the work environment will either support or undermine their ability to keep steady in a crisis, find a work-around in a pinch, and produce competitive work under trying circumstances.”
Research shows that a positive work culture results in a stronger bottom line, and since grants professionals play an essential role in funding nonprofits, supporting their resilience is critical. “After combing through resources on how to promote resiliency, I pulled together a mash-up list,” said Floersch. “It’s not scientific, but it reflects broad thinking on the topic and can provide guidance for maintaining an environment that will help your grants staff thrive.”
- Support: Understand the demands of their work. Let them know they can safely ask for help. Be sure they have the technology and resources required for the job.
- Communication: Express appreciation. Promote the open exchange of ideas. Be sure they have easy access to organizational information they need.
- Empowerment: Invite them to the decision-making table. Value their opinions. Be sure their viewpoint carries weight in go/no-go decisions on projects.
- Life/work balance: Occasional overtime work is part of the job, but don’t let it get out of hand. Encourage them to give their family roles, social relationships, and personal interests high priority.
- Clear expectations: Be sure their role is clear and the work outcomes you expect are reasonable and well defined.
- Professional development: Encourage them to expand their knowledge and skills. Include professional development in the organization’s budget.
- Flexibility: Allow flexibility in work hours and work location.
- Teamwork: Nurture staff connectedness, celebrate successes, and speak truth to failures. Pitch in on big jobs. Expect other staff members to contribute their expertise.
- Professional safety: Approach mistakes as learning opportunities.
“Since connectedness and communication show up in every list I’ve found, start by spending some time with your grants professional,” said Floersch. “Begin an honest, robust discussion about their work and where they could use some help.”