Much has been written about the core beliefs of great managers and CEOs. Many of those core beliefs can be directly applied to grant proposal managers. There are eight fundamental core beliefs that I think are highly appropriate for nonprofit grant proposal managers to follow.
1. Proposals are an ecosystem, not a battlefield
Developing a grant proposal is not like going to war, and it need not involve conflict and aggravation. Great proposal managers build teams that thrive on cooperation and partnerships, even with competitors. To build such relationships, treat your proposal team members like colleagues. Provide them with direction and support and help them succeed.
2. An organization is a community, not a machine
Members of proposal teams are professionals, not cogs in some impersonal machine. Great proposal managers help inspire team members to help each other and their organization, not treat each other as expendable parts. Proposal development often involves long hours, tough deadlines, and nighttime and weekend work. Within your hectic schedule, be sensitive to team members’ schedule and workload.
3. Management is primarily a form of service, not control
Proposal teams work best when they are not micro-managed. Great grant proposal managers set a general direction, coach and mentor provide team members with needed resources, and help them succeed. When your teammates become stars, you become a star. You can coach and mentor your team by:
• Holding a kick-off meeting to start the proposal effort.
• Conducting a training session at the beginning of the proposal effort to orient everyone, provide direction, and set expectations.
• Having frequent meetings with the team to check progress and provide advice.
• Frequently meeting one-on-one with team members to review their work and provide advice.
• Communicating face-to-face as often as possible.
• Adding “mentoring” and “coaching” to your job description.
4. Proposal team members are colleagues, not children
Team members are not immature, inferior beings who cannot be trusted. Great proposal managers treat their colleagues with the respect due professionals and adults. Proposal development often is a frustrating process, but that is no excuse to yell, belittle, and undermine your colleagues. Patience and restraint will go a long way to building collegial relationships.
5. Motivation comes from something positive, not from fear
Good proposal managers do not strike fear in their teams or manage through threats. Instead, they inspire the team to perform well by forging a culture that thrives on cooperation, support, the sharing of knowledge and resources, and that expects great things from everyone.
6. Change leads to growth, not pain
Change is inevitable and need not be upsetting or threatening. Great grant proposal managers help their proposal teams make the kinds of changes that lead to the submission of winning proposals.
7. IT offers empowerment, not control
IT can be used to monitor proposal teams, but that is not an important function. Great proposal managers use technology to help teammates achieve their goals and build better relationships.
8. Work should be enjoyable, not just toil
Great grant proposal managers try to help teammates work in ways that will lead to satisfaction and even enjoyment. Find ways to enjoy your work and achieve balance in your life. When was the last time you took a long walk in a beautiful park and smelled the flowers?
Great grant proposal managers have great core beliefs, which they use to develop highly competitive proposals. Having a sterling vision is not enough, but successful proposal managers must find ways to use the workplace, their organizations, and team dynamics to accomplish an ambitious goal. And what could be more ambitious than developing a winning grant proposal from scratch?
Dr. Jayme Sokolow, founder and president of The Development Source, Inc.,
helps nonprofit organizations develop successful proposals to government agencies.
Contact Jayme Sokolow.
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