Get your Grant Proposal Team Engaged: The Importance of People

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    I recently finished a government grant proposal that had only a two-week deadline. Of course, it required many hours, day and night, and over the final weekend to complete. And, as you may have guessed, it was submitted at 2:00 am on Monday.

    It would be nice if I could take sole credit for this accomplishment, but that would not be accurate. As the proposal manager, I worked closely with a dedicated team of consultants and employees who put in as much time and labor as I did. It was a forceful reminder that in proposals, as in life, the most important resource we can call upon is the people around us.

    This is hardly a piercing insight, but it is one that grant proposal managers and organizations may forget, often with unanticipated/undesired consequences.

    There is a mountain of research demonstrating that nonprofit employees are likely to stay longer at their when they: (1) are matched well to their positions; and (2) feel respected and valued by management.

    Sybil F. Stershie, president of Quality Services Marketing, tells her clients that there are three important points that organizations should learn: 1) “Mission matters;” 2) “The people-behind-the-mission matter;” and, 3) “Passion for the mission can’t be taken for granted – once engaged doesn’t mean always engaged.”

    She recommends three approaches to developing committed and satisfied employees. I’ve added a fourth and suggested how to apply them to government grant proposal development.

    Four Approaches to Engagement
    • Proposal teams must feel connected to the nonprofits that employ them.
    • Proposal members must feel connected to fellow team members.
    • Permanent staff and consultants must feel connected to each other.
    • Proposal teams must involve young people if they want them to stay, learn,
    and advance in their professions.

    The alternative to these four elements is a vicious cycle that begins with the inability to build successful grant proposal teams and ends with people leaving because they do not feel connected. This is not a staffing problem. It is an organizational problem.

    Promoting Engagement
    Here are some basic ways to can promote engagement and connection in your grant proposal teams:

    • Start every proposal effort with a kick-off meeting.
    • Get the support of senior management before you begin.
    • Provide the proposal team with adequate resources, especially office space.
    • Provide the team with a detailed schedule and proposal outline at the beginning.
    • Communicate frequently with everyone.
    • Solicit advice from everyone.
    • Listen and learn.
    • Mentor and coach those who need more assistance.
    • Lead by example. Arrive early and do what is most important.
    • Work as a team and through the team.

    Find ways to connect everybody in your proposal team and you are likely to produce competitive proposals. It is that simple, and that difficult.

    Dr. Jayme Sokolow, founder, and president of The Development Source, Inc.,
    helps nonprofit organizations develop successful proposals to government agencies.
    Contact Jayme Sokolow.
    Look for Jayme’s ebook on
    Finding & Getting Federal Government Grants.
    It’s part of
    The Fundraising Series of ebooks
    They’re easy to read, to the point, and cheap 🙂

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