Don’t let constant deadlines derail critical long-term work

Are you spending most of your time meeting deadlines while other essential — but not deadline-driven — tasks go wanting? With a full to-do list, getting out each grant proposal on time usually becomes the urgent matter that drives a grant professional’s days.

“To be most successful, however, grant professionals need to consider all their priorities, not just deadlines,” said Holly Thompson, contributing editor for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. Thompson suggests grant-seekers make sure they set aside time for items such as assembling a strategic grants submission calendar, developing and nurturing relationships with funders and colleague organizations, and creating an outcomes reporting system.

“Carve out what I call investment time for the work that will strengthen all of your grant-seeking efforts,” said Thompson. “These long-term investments are seldom urgent, but they can make all the difference in winning grants.”

Some proposal deadlines can’t be pushed aside in favor of longer-term work, but some can. A $1-million reapplication is very different from a $2,500 long shot. “Gather your team. Discuss upcoming deadlines, and make decisions about how you will allocate your time,” Thompson said.

“One characteristic of a highly functioning organization is that it doesn’t let critical, long-term work get squeezed out by urgent, but short-term, matters,” according to Thompson. Making the decisions can be hard, and you might need help from your executive director or from a consultant. But the focus and direction your team will gain from investing time on truly critical tasks will serve your organization well.

“Grant proposals will be more targeted, funders and colleague organizations will be more onboard, staff will be less stressed, and you’re likely to win more grants to fund exactly what’s needed,” said Thompson.