In small nonprofits, it’s not unusual for one staff person to handle the entire grants process. These lonely grant professionals design programs, decide whether to enter competitions, represent the organization in community meetings and partnerships, develop budgets, and submit the proposals with little oversight.
“Even when resources and time are scarce, administrators can’t accept this approach,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles. “It’s unfair to the staff member carrying all the weight, and it’s dangerous for the organization.”
In addition to providing resources, grants impose obligations. The funded proposal becomes the map telling the organization which way to go. A small award might result in minor changes in course, but a large award can hijack the ship and turn it in an unintended direction.
“Because they dictate what an organization will do and what goals it will pursue, grant proposals are a high-level organizational issue that require deep consideration and the involvement of top administrators and board members,” said Floersch.
- If your organization has been depending on one person to handle grant proposals, reconsider that approach. Put a system in place that acknowledges the skills and commitment of your grants professional, but that also responds to the significance of grant-related decisions. Here are four more things:
- Use administrative meetings to assess grant competitions and their fit with your organization’s mission and priorities. Include the grants professional on the administrative team and make go-and no-go decisions collaboratively;
- Engage organizational subject matter experts in planning programs;
- Engage financial and human resource staff members in budget development; and,
- Engage administrators in community meetings and partnership decisions.
A highly skilled grants professional is a huge asset to your organization, but the consequences of putting all grant-related decisions in the hands of any one staff member can be damaging. “Strengthening your grant application processes builds your entire organization,” said Floersch. “Appropriate grant-related systems will increase your competitive position, ensure that you stay on the intended course, and protect your grants professional from the burnout that so frequently comes with the job.” © Copyright 2017 The Grantsmanship Center.