Canadian Christian Relief & Development Association

3 Principles for a Great Grant Strategy

By Philip Tanner, EPIC Consultancy

Preparing a Grants Strategy has a zillion moving parts and procedures that you need to put in place to oil that revenue-making engine. When asked to boil that down to 2-3 priority actions that will make your company a slick grant-making machine, it’s no easy task.  But I’ll give you my 3 go-to principles that will move you towards a Great Grant Strategy!

1.    Be prepared end to end!  Pay attention to the Pre-Award, Award and Post-Award phases of the grants process.  Some organizations think designing an award-winning proposal is the top priority. This pressure is exacerbated by the steady stream of RFPs being announced.  We think:  If we hire that great grant-writer, then we have a good chance of being selected by the donor.  A sustainable grants strategy requires a Grants Policy with clear operational procedures for making decisions and shepherding grant opportunities through your organization.  We also need an internal communications strategy, a project pipeline, clear priorities for new projects, a go/no-go process and clarity on who makes the decisions.  And there are numerous tools required in our grants toolbox, to run our procedures smoothly.

2.    Know Thyself! The Philosopher Socrates said this and it’s a profound Biblical introspection.  I’m referring to your Value-Add Proposition.  First, what are you looking for in a grant?  For example, restricted grants generally have limited co-creation; parameters of the project generally conform to pre-existing designs.  Is your internal ethos built on engagement with your stakeholders (partners and communities)?  Do you apply a transformational process to create projects?  There is also a sense of urgency in grants.  A submission can create high levels of stress across your organization. If you win, there is exuberance; if you lose, there can be disillusionment.  This is often because teams aren’t prepared for the roller-coaster grants ride.  You also want to ensure that your strengths and ‘point of difference’ is clearly articulated to a donor, and that you find the right grant fit! Considering these elements can advance your grants strategy significantly and avoid lighting a grants time-bomb in your organization.

3.     Influence for Success!  A grants strategy is enhanced by a robust influence strategy.  The two walk hand-in-hand.  Influencing around an issue or theme harnesses our strengths to bring out a change in how people perceive our organization.  As you become recognized as a ‘partner of choice’ in the sector, your grant-funded projects help build your credibility and experience and draw potential partners to you.  Influencing allows you to target your resources in specific areas and if you align these with your grant targets, they can be mutually reinforcing activities – as well as reducing your overall investment against a bigger return.

A couple of final words:  Remember that “a grant” is a set of activities, implemented in a finite timeline, with an established cost parameter (time, cost and scope).  In other words – it’s a project! – with a set of compliance requirements and prerequisites.  Are you prepared to win?  Have you prepared for your grant award by establishing the project management requirements at the outset?  If not, you could place your organization in a high risk position.  

My final advice is “Make the proposal submission your final step in preparing your Grants Strategy.”  Be prepared and you will have a rewarding and successful grants experience that prevails across the organizational culture.
 

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Leading M&E through Changing Times

By Tracey DeGraaf, Transformis Development Consultants

The forced lock-down combined with the need to continue programs that are critical for millions of people has tested our investments.  Those investments proved to be what enabled many of us to continue in service, and what is enabling us to offer the greatest service of our lifetime.  The time we took to invest in local leadership, team building, equitable capacity building, and developing programs filled with best practice has enabled us to determine our resolve; or, conversely, a lack of investment has become our Achilles heel.  

Either way, under forced pressure lies immense opportunity.  The acceleration of doing life online presents training opportunities and new knowledge of platforms that can optimize your investments or address that Achilles heel.  

In the CCRDA webinar on November 17 on Leading M&E teams remotely, we presented an M&E platform that enables real time collaboration, offers a tool for building team capacities in M.E.A.L, as well as features an invitation to organizations interested in exploring community-based monitoring.  Times like these force innovation—which is a good outcome—but forced innovation requires us to grow and learn new skill-sets in order to optimize opportunities that are emerging in front of us.  A forced pause in movement presents the opportunity to focus on the E, A, and L of M.E.A.L.  More time given to Evaluation and Learning can force us to examine and apply standards of practice that will enhance our impact.  The need to focus on Accountability in this virtual workplace can accelerate building organizations with accountability systems that empower people and enable their capacities to flourish in any environment (see Teal Organization Paradigm).  

A few tips:

  • Gaps in capacities may be emerging as this pandemic extends the time and distance that separates global teams from one another.  Building feedback loops into processes, meetings, and reports can be a valuable tool for gauging factors that contribute to performance challenges.
  • Take this time to check your investments.  Then, be aware that investment strategies need to change with changing markets.  As changing times are moving fast, we need to move equally fast in our response to it.
  • Explore new ways to gather M&E data by piloting new strategies with small scale samples.  You can get a good confidence level with a relatively small sample. Don’t scale your strategy without scaling the system required to manage it.
  • Innovation requires learning new skills sets.  Allocate time for team members to develop the new skills necessary for optimizing the tools that are emerging, and learn together when possible.

When the storm waters surround you, it is critical to focus your eyes on Jesus and not the waves.  Now is the time to focus on what’s critical and fruitful.  People deliver programs, not the other way around.  Focus on the people to enhance the delivery of programs, and your investments will be fruitful.

 

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Set a Good Stage for the Strategic Planning Process: Some Conditions for Success

By Chris Bosch, Chisel Consulting

When thinking about initiating a strategic planning process, you should consider your plan for delivering the plan. How are you going to navigate the journey from beginning to end?  Thinking about the stages from the beginning does at least two things:  it sets the organization at ease (“you’ve got this”), and it helps break up the large project into discrete and manageable tasks.  Here is a checklist of items to consider as you get started.

  1. Know the answer to the question why (and a few whats).  Why change?  Why now?  What is the ‘burning platform’ in the organization?  What will motivate the staff, board and supporters to join the planning process?  What will provide the sense of urgency?
  2. The senior leaders and the board must agree on the need for a fresh look at the organization’s situation and the necessity for re-establishing its comparative advantage.
  3. Start with the end in mind.  What will the strategy look like?  What will it include?  Knowing what the finished product looks like will help everyone imagine the end at any point along the journey.
  4. Build a team of volunteer advisors.  The senior leaders of the organization may not always be available for insights during the strategy development process.  Therefore, it is important to have a team of no more than 8 people who are naturally curious, see the big picture, and represent the whole organization and not just their department or division.  Representation from each division is not essential but a balance of gender, race, perspectives, and roles is important.
  5. Starting with the end in mind means also considering the change management that will be required when the new strategy is delivered.  Review John Kotter’s eight steps of change management and consider how you can prepare the organization as you develop the plans.
  6. Rev the mental engines by doing some reading and inviting others to join you.
  7. Consider whether you are delivering a rolling plan or a fixed-year plan.  A rolling plan does not have a fixed end date.  It constantly considers the big aspirations of the organization and recalibrates its plans as required to achieve the aspirations.
  8. Ensure the organization uses the same definitions for strategy terms.  What do you mean by themes, pillars, goals, objectives, activities, and key performance indicators?
  9. Send a message to the staff, board and other constituents that you are doing something fresh, unique, and world-changing by avoiding the simplicity of the term strategy.  Some examples of new terms are: blueprint, manifesto, new horizons, off the map, journey, discovery, voyageur, next, or rebuild.
  10. Pull together a prayer team and begin bringing the affairs of the organization to Jesus.  What encouragement and exhortations does he have for you and your team?  He’s waiting to join you.
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Conflict & Christian Organizations

Conflict and Christian Organizations
Dave Blundell, Fullwell Leadership

One of the largest challenges I've seen, in Christian organizations particularly, is how we handle conflict. It's as if we believe the presence of conflict means the absence of Christ-like leadership. As a result, conflict often takes a passive-aggressive tone and does more damage over the long-term. As Christian leaders we have an opportunity and responsibility to engage in healthy conflict that drives better decisions and performance. Handled effectively, conflict builds stronger teams and develops stronger leaders.

Leading through healthy conflict requires the development of specific skills, not simply an commitment to be nice or kind to one another. Conflict is rarely a matter of navigating right vs. wrong decisions. Those are easy. Healthy conflict is often navigating teams through right vs. right decisions or competing values. One of the first things a leader can do when they experience conflict or difficult conversations among team members is to ask the question, "What are the values behind your positions?" Most often, conflict shows up in competing positions on an issue. Team members pick a side on a behavior or position and argue the merits of their positions. It's super easy for conflict to get stuck here, and when we can't win someone over to our position, we start to attack the person.

When leaders can get people to talk about what is important to them, the values and interests behind their positions, they find their team members agreeing on much more than they disagree on. When conversations get below the surface around values, new and creative options emerge, and the team feels a sense of unity because they solved problems together.

So whenever a conversation or meeting starts to feel difficult, let that emotion trigger asking people the question, "What is important to you about this?"

On September 23rd, the CCRDA and Fullwell Leadership hosted a webinar that will help leaders improve team relationships and culture, which will include how to approach conflict. Fullwell Leadership is a non-profit coaching and consulting charity. Our passion is to help the charity sector be known for making a broken world whole.  For more information send an email to info@fulllwell.ca.

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