Years ago, I thought I had it all together. I was organized, professionally and personally – at the top of my game. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Controlled Chaos? Me? Did someone really call me that? Did someone catch on that maybe I wasn’t as organized as I thought? Just because my desk was a mess, did that mean that I was too? From that day on, I knew I had to do something to turn the chaos around.
Keeping It All Straight
Today, it seems that we are multi-tasking 24/7, learning new things, adapting to new technology, and taking on more and more responsibilities every day – only to find ourselves running out of time. I hear myself saying, if there were only 26 hours in each day instead of 24, I would have enough time to fit it all in. When we are checking email and social media from our phone on the bedside table in the middle of the night, I know that our lives have truly changed forever. With thousands of media images, emails, meetings (virtual and in-person), parent-teacher conferences, kid’s club sports, and everything else in-between, how can we keep it all straight?
We all have our own ways of staying organized. Whether it’s some high-tech, state-of-the-art new technology, or a simple desk calendar, everyone has their own system of getting things done. As grant professionals, it’s just what we do – it’s what we are paid to do. We must have ourselves organized so we can meet our deadlines – on time – every time.
January is the start of a new year. Everyone gets a “do-over”. This year was no different. While everyone else was in the gym or stocking up on healthy foods, I was thinking about my CDBG deadlines. I wanted to control the chaos of having multiple CDBG deadlines in January, but didn’t quite know how to handle it. And why on earth would three separate cities have their CDBG grants all due on the same day? No one knows. Here are 4 things that can help grant professionals stay organized when completing multiple (CDBG) grants in one month.
4 Steps to Control Chaos
Many grants applications have the same, if not very similar, questions every year. If you are working for the same organization or same client as last year, review the questions and see what information you already have, and what information you will need to obtain.
Talk to the gatekeepers early.
Program staff, case managers, CFOs, and other agency staff provide critical information for grant proposals. During any other time of the year, I have them on speed dial – but they have lives too – especially around the holidays. For January deadlines, approach them early (early December), so they can provide you with the information you need without having to go to them in a state of panic right before the deadline.
Build a relationship with employees at each city in which you submit grant applications.
It’s a lot easier when you have someone to call or email when you have a question. CDBG grants can be lengthy, detailed, and time-consuming. Being able to call city staff to have them answer your questions and provide information and guidance can save you time, frustration and anxiety – not to mention they know which agency you are representing, and they will be expecting your proposal (which is typically a good thing).
Create a timeline and stick to it.
It’s a lot easier to manage multiple deadlines when you set a timeline for each project and complete work in stages. You will have wiggle room for unexpected delays and editing. Before you know it, the deadline will be here, and you will have your proposal completed and submitted early.
Get Things Done
I know all of these things are a lot easier said than done. However, as grant professionals, we must set the standard for organization and professionalism amongst the day-to-day chaos of everyday life. Our clients hire us because we have the experience and expertise to get things done. So, don’t be afraid to be the “gentle” reminder – even if you have to contact your client every day to get the information you need. Send them a meeting request, set up a standing weekly phone call, or send your client a “to do” list each week to keep them on track. Ultimately, it will keep you on track. Most likely, you will turn out a higher-quality proposal, which we all know is more likely to get funded. After all, that’s the goal, isn’t it?