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.