Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Coordinating Office Colleagues' Grant Needs

My colleagues, in this office, are social workers. Their days are filled with meeting clients, checking the safety of clients' homes, filling out paper work, attending meetings, and much more.

Because we ask for our clients' feedback, annually, we receive a 'reading' from the local community about what needs exist, what needs we are meeting, which we are not meeting; and from there we make plans for new programs, changes to current programs, etc.

Our mission and the community's needs determine the new costs this agency will face. The costs could come from new programs, new staff, new capital needs, or costs to re-do something and update it, etc.

Our social workers are the 'front line'. They know our clients and they are designing the new programs and determining what is needed thus leading to new costs (or expenses).

I have developed an intra-office process so that the agency's new programs receive grant funding. Over the past two and a half years it has worked well.

My policy? It is simple.

1. My door, e-mail In Box, phone extension, and In Box are all always 'open'. I remind my co-workers of this at staff meetings and in conversation. I always say to them, "let me know what you're planning for in the future", "let me know what is going to need money", and "give me more than four months' notice before you're implementing the first of the new program/project/etc."

2. After I receive notice, I make a thirty minute meeting appointment with key staff. I ask for and note the basic details, and then hand them a form that I have used for a few years which requests all of the pertinent program info that I do not know, but they do. I agree on a due date for their completed returned form with them and then explain to them the timeline for the particular foundation that I'm approaching for their project (I'll have figured out, before the meeting, which foundation(s) I am going to approach).

3. When I sit down to begin writing I have the foundation all researched, I have my notes from my meeting with the new project key staff, and I have the completed info form from the key staff. All of this helps me populate the proposal with pertinent information.

4. After, I ask the key staff to review the proposal before I mail it, looking for any project information corrections or updates. I also let them know how likely it is that we'll receive that grant, and the anticipated timeline - how often that foundation meets to review proposals, and if the grant is awarded, when it's expected.

After a grant is received, I sit down with the key staff, again, and suggest (based on each foundation's preference) whether the staff should thank the foundation on the new project's brochures, at programs, or in the press. I might also suggest that they invite key foundation staff or Trustees if that is appropriate.

Otherwise, I always ask the key staff to follow through with their program evaluations and when I need results by, so that I can mail a final grant report to the foundation on time.

If it's difficult to work a process out with your colleagues, ask them for their suggestions as to how to work with them to gather information necessary for the grant proposal. Remind them that you're trying to get pertinent information so that their project can be funded. Keep meetings with them short, to the point, and clear. Also, make it easy for them to give you the information that you'll need. The request for information form that I use only requests one or two line answers and is clear and easy to understand.

This simple process has worked. I suggest it!

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