Gearing Up For Grants: A New Reality

National Safe Place Network (NSPN) offers exclusive grant support services to members seeking funding for a myriad of activities critical to the mission of each organization.

Gearing Up for Grants is a series of perspectives and tips designed to help put you and your team in the right frame of mind to be successful and maintain a degree of calm control in the midst of grant writing storms.

In 2020, the grant season will be significantly different than previous years. The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), stay at home orders, mandated social distancing, transitioning to remote offices – all of these factors will influence your ability to rely on the “tried and true” techniques that support your sense of control and organization. In preparation for this year’s grant realities, consider the following suggestions:

  • Refrain from wasting time on ‘wondering why.’
    Some of you have shared hopes funding competitions would be postponed or addressed differently. Certainly, there is anxiety about writing narratives and creating logic models in the midst of a crisis. However, when funding opportunity announcements (FOA) are posted, spend your valuable time crafting the best response possible.
  • Mitigate the work at home challenges.
    If you have been working remotely, you already know the challenges in your environment. What needs to happen differently? Have a discussion with family members about needed focus time. Find a safe place to write. Set aside time before or after home schooling to address needs.
  • Organize your meeting platform and processes.
    Technology is your friend. You may argue sometimes, but at the end of the day you need your technology to like you and be there for you. Make sure your virus protections and updates are complete. Decide what platform (Microsoft Teams, Google Docs, or others) work best to streamline your communication and document exchanges.
  • Increase intentionality of communication.
    When your team was working in the same building or could meet over lunch, things felt different. Distance can create ineffective communication patterns, assumptions, and frustrations if not intentional. Discuss with your team the best way to address the application in light of COVID -19 challenges.   
  • Set aggressive timelines.
    Create a shared calendar of deadlines for all aspects of the application and keep to them. It is always better to give yourself time to review and edit.

If you are an experienced grant writer or fund raising executive, many of these tips may reinforce what you already know. Sometimes, it is very lonely and stressful to wear the “development” hat. Each year, the stress of writing successful applications to keep people employed and programs open is significant. This year, the competition will be fierce as entities seek to replace lost funds and find new ways to get their workforce up to full capacity. In this light, prioritizing what you can do and letting go of what you can’t should serve as guardrails to your emotional journey. You may certainly cross the line between professional functions and personal investment. To protect yourself and to achieve a better product, remember the following about your role:

  • You share the story – you don’t create the story. 
    If you find yourself having to imagine what could be done by yourself, there is the potential the outcomes you are promising may not be possible. Even a small team is more effective than you working on your own.

  • Ask for what you need as far ahead as possible. 
    Everyone working on your team is also responsible for their daily jobs and their family obligations. All hands on deck does not mean “Let’s all stay up until midnight to get it done.” Create a task list and negotiate reasonable deadlines given the applicable due date.

  • Build in time for rest and review. 
    Exhaustion leads to mistakes. Mistakes lead to missed points. Missed points lead to rejection letters.

  • Ask for support. Often.

NSPN has provided grant support services for more than 40 years. In this time, consultants have witnessed the individual and team approaches that vary from organization to organization. Most grant professionals find their own rhythm and sense of organization. Do what you know has worked well for you in the past and consider changing up habits you know are challenging. If you have said, “I won’t do that again,” remember you meant it when you said it. Mean it now.

Good luck this grant season, and look for future editions of Gearing Up for Grants. 

Watch for more Gearing up for Grants emails. You may also visit www.nspnetwork.org and contact us at [email protected] if you have questions about grant proposals. 

NSPN members with the Organizational Development package may utilize their technical assistance and review benefits for all types of funding proposals. Weekly grant support calls will start directly following the funding opportunity announcements (FOAs). NSPN will share the announcements as soon as they are released. Don't delay in contacting NSPN for assistance.