Developing grant proposals is a fast paced, make-a-difference profession with the allure of bringing in big dollars that make a big difference. But doing it well is not all about high-level organizing, lofty thinking, and brilliant writing. “There are many mundane, but absolutely necessary tasks in this work,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “You’ve also got to make your bed and wash your bowl.”
- Most successful grants professionals have learned the importance of routine housekeeping the hard way. With so much going on, it’s easy to lose things, confuse assignments, and generally spiral into chaos. “If your housekeeping has become sloppy, clean it up,” said Floersch. “If you don’t, I guarantee you’ll regret it.”
- Backup Electronic Files Often. Everyone knows this, but few do it. Losing files poses enormous logistical problems and in the worst case can result in a missed deadline. Most grants professionals have experienced this misery at least once, and vowed that it will never, ever happen again. Use portable hard drives, flash drives, laptops, and the cloud. Go for redundancy. When you’re deep into the work, back up files every hour. Take one backup home in case of fire. Keep a hard copy of the draft for the insane, unthinkable circumstance in which you’ll need to create a new electronic version.
- Organize Files. Good file hygiene takes constant attention. Handling the spinning plates and deadlines means something has to give, and what usually gives is organization. But when your files (electronic or otherwise) become a jumble, you’ll waste precious time looking for material, reproducing it, or asking teammates for copies. You’ll also be more stressed. Straighten up your desk. Put papers into folders. Organize the electronic documents logically. An investment of a half hour each day in housekeeping will pay huge dividends in productivity and peace of mind.
- Follow Up and Follow Up Again. In fast-paced, deadline-driven meetings the details of who agreed to do what easily become confused. After each meeting, promptly confirm assignments and recap discussions and decisions. When community partners agree to commit time or resources, thank them immediately, confirm your understanding in writing, and set a deadline for receipt for their letter of commitment. Track the letters you’re expecting and follow-up quickly when one is overdue.
- Check and Check Again. When you’ve farmed out research tasks to others, be sure the material they submit includes clear, accurate citations of sources. Check the sources to be sure they’re correct and if a fact or figure seems odd, ask for clarification. Double check budget calculations and totals. Reread application guidelines. Take nothing for granted.
Having your house in order provides solid footing as you navigate the turmoil and demands of developing grant proposals and meeting deadlines. “There’s no substitute for the grounded feeling of trusting your own systems,” said Floersch. ©Copyright 2017 The Grantsmanship Center.