The ubiquitous use of “we will” in grant proposals paves the way for grant-management nightmares. “When the grant proposal does not assign tasks to specific positions, those tasks usually fall by the wayside when the intense work of program start-up gets underway,” according to Barbara Floersch of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif.
Here are four examples of important tasks that often end up unassigned.
- Communications. When your organization lands a grant award, you’ll need to inform and update various stakeholder groups. Communicating clearly and promptly sidesteps misunderstanding and misinformation, and promotes more powerful collaboration. Everyone is stretched during program start-up. Don’t leave this important work in the never-never land of unassigned tasks.
- Data gathering. Program evaluation depends on thorough and timely information. Unless you assign someone responsibility for gathering the data, you’re likely to get an unpleasant surprise when the first report is due. “This is one of the most common mistakes I observe,” said Floersch. “Failing to get data systems in place quickly can limit your ability to measure results.”
- Sustaining impact. Nonprofits are in the business of producing positive change and then sustaining it. When it comes to a new grant-funded program, you won’t know which components should be sustained until you know which are producing results. Be sure grant proposals include evaluation plans that will provide regular, periodic data on which program components are performing well. Designate a staff position to lead the charge of sustaining program components that work. “There are many ways to tackle sustainability,” said Floersch. “But to be successful, you can’t approach the work as an afterthought or begin it just before grant funding ends.”
- Coordinating grants management. Grants management includes wide-ranging demands. It takes a team to do it well. Assigning people to lead program implementation, evaluation, finances, sustainability, regulatory compliance and other major components is crucial. “All these pieces must work together,” said Floersch. “Be sure to assign someone responsibility for overall coordination. One hand must know what the other hand is doing.
Eliminate “we will” language from grant proposals. Be sure important tasks are assigned to specific positions, and be sure major tasks and responsibilities are included in job descriptions and in program implementation timelines.
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