By Amanda Day, GPC
How Can You Build Relationships When You Are the Lone Grant Professional?
How many times have you heard a co-worker tell you, “Well, you’re the grant professional. Can’t you just write it?” While we all have exceptional writing skills, we cannot write about that which we know not. We rely on the knowledge and information of our coworkers to explain the needs of our community, outline our program, and set our goals and objectives. We also rely on the expertise of our funders to ensure our programs are carried out successfully. The only way to write and manage grants to the best of our abilities is to build relationships with our coworkers, those our grants serve, and our funders.
When I started with the City of Alpharetta I only had two years of grant experience under my belt and knew nothing about the city except for what I learned during my interview. As quickly as possible I had to learn about the community I served, get to know my coworkers, and introduce myself to potential funders.
So how do you build relationships that make for successful grant programs?
Start with Your Co-workers
Like me, you are the loan grant writer and you’re probably writing for a variety of disciplines. One minute I am working on an application for the Police Department to purchase hazardous materials equipment and the next I am working on an extension of the Big Creek Greenway for the Recreation & Parks Department. As an expert in neither of those fields, I rely on information from my coworkers. To build those relationships as quickly as possible, I:
- Start a grant team –Invite 1-3 representatives from each department. Meet monthly to talk about grant needs, explain your role in securing funding, and simply getting to know one another. This is also a great way to encourage collaboration within your own organization.
- Stay positive – I try to make all my interactions with coworkers as friendly and positive as possible. I prefer face-to-face meetings over phone calls and emails when possible. While there are times when it is frustrating to get the information you need from another person, I do my best to work around the other person’s time constraints. I have found the easier I make it for my coworkers, the more likely they are to return the favor. As cheesy and cliche as the saying goes, it is so true: you catch more flies with honey.
- When all else fails, resort to bribery – I have been known to show up with baked goods. It is amazing how helpful coworkers can be when they know there are some chocolate chip cookies or a derby pie to savor after all the work is done.
2. Involve yourself in the community
Grant applications are more successful with community partners and letters of support. As a lone grant writer, neither are possible without knowing the groups and individuals in your community. So how do you meet these individuals?
- Most likely, your coworkers already know influential members of your community. Ask them to introduce you.
- If you cannot wrangle an invitation to community group meetings, call and offer up your knowledge. I have attended many a Kiwanis, Rotary, Women’s Club, and Historical Society group meeting as a guest speaker to share some knowledge about the grant world. It is a great way to let people know about your role in your organization and to meet the movers and shakers within your community.
- Show up to a city council meeting or school board meeting. This is a great way to meet the political leaders and key staff within your community. It is also a great way to keep up with the important issues in your community.
3. Be kind to your funders
There is much talk about the power of relationships when it comes to foundation funding, but the same is true on the federal and state government side. Successful relationships with funders have led to additional funding and assistance when programs are not going as planned. It is never a bad thing to have a solid relationship with your funder. So how do you do that?
- Anytime there is a grant workshop, attend it. Not only that, introduce yourself to the any and all funders in attendance.
- As soon as your organization receives funding, call and introduce yourself to the funder. You want your first interaction to be a positive one.
- When it makes sense, invite the funder to attend grant related activities taking place in your organization, including events such as ground breakings, grand openings, special events, and the like. If at all possible, tie in a lunch outing to the invite in order to have some one on one time with the funder.
A Question for You
These are just some simple steps to start building relationships with your coworkers, community members, and funders. What other actions do you recommend to build relationships that will improve your abilities as a grant professional?