Rebecca Vermillion Shawver, MPA, GPC
Grant Professionals: Jump Start Your New Year with Old and New Strategies - Part 2
Last week in Part 1, I suggested that you consider implementing six “old” strategies that I have found successful in jump starting a successful grant year. Some were probably new to you. Others you’ve used throughout your careers. Now, I want to suggest three more old ideas and two new ones. So get ready to make your plans because there is an exciting year ahead of you – and it’s time for you to get started.
Additional Old Strategies
Hold a “don’t let your dreams be just pie in the sky” gathering
I’ve always found that food attracts folks to meetings – and gets them talking. So hold a potluck luncheon (or use some of your department’s funds to purchase food). Tell folks to come with their dreams. Even dreams that are far beyond today’s possibilities. There should be no limitations. This has proven a great success for me. Staff members can get wildly ridiculous about what they want, but that’s half the fun – dreaming. And from these dreams have come some great ideas that end up as realities.
Years ago, I ask our ESL program coordinator to dream with me about the possibilities that she might explore for her program. She offered me a few very low cost ideas. I asked her if she didn’t have bigger dreams for her program such as interactive language software. She shared that she most certainly would love to have such software but it was beyond her budget’s capacity. I told her to forget about her budget for a while. I wanted her to simply dream about new implementation strategies.
As she did, I learned more about her program and her hopes and dreams. I assured her that while I didn’t’ yet know where the money would come from, I would in fact find the funds needed to purchase the software. And while it took me about eighteen months to piece together several grants, today I am happy to report that every one of her language lab computers is fully equipped with the Rosetta Stone software. Her students success rate has improved and they report that the software is helping them learn English at a much faster rate.
The lesson to be learned from my story is simple. Dreams can more often than not become a reality if they are articulated to the grant writer. It may take some time, but success is only a grant application (or two) away.
Thank current funders and talk to future funders
After learning all the latest about your organization’s successes and future plans, take the time to share this information with your current and potential funders. In my opinion, it is important that you do this long before you are submitting your next grant request. Sharing your good news (and challenges) with funders is just one way of building strong relationships. Remember that no one (including funder’s program officers) wants to feel that you think of them only when you are asking for more money. They want to feel that they are part of the team that ensures your organization’s success. So don’t call or write to them only when you’re asking for the next grant award.
One good way to do this is send them a thank you note or an annual report. Attach a personal note and highlight areas that will be of most importance to them. Send them by snail mail (a term my husband, a retired postmaster, hates). It’s more personal in my opinion. I know that many of my younger colleagues believe that email communication is of equal value to an old-fashioned paper letter or publication. However, I don’t. In my opinion, there is nothing equal to the personal feelings that a paper letter with a personal hand-written note conveys.
If you’re afraid that your thank you notes, newsletter, or annual report are getting “stale,” ask your professional network of colleagues to share samples of theirs with you. Remember, there is always room for improvement. We can all learn something from others. Besides, it’s fun to do a routine job in a new way. For me, it gets my creative juices flowing.
Thank your coworkers for the roles they play on your grant development teams
This doesn’t have to be a formal gathering or even a gift. In fact, I provide a token of my appreciation throughout the year by providing chocolate or other candies in my office and at our meetings. When folks drop off a report or stop by with a question, they are offered a treat.
Note that my college budget doesn’t allow me to pay for these treats with state funds. I buy them myself because I believe that these small tokens of my appreciation are important. Besides, it’s food and as I mentioned earlier, everyone loves food.
The New Strategies
Update your grant website
Does your organization have a website? If so, does it have a page that highlights your funders, local elected officials, and volunteers that support your organization? If not, I recommend that you talk to your administrators about adding such a page. In my opinion, you need to thank everyone that make your work possible.
While it is important to acknowledge their contributions in your annual report, don’t forget to highlight, recognize, and thank them on your website. Remember that nothing says thank you better than visual images of smiling faces. So include photos depicting check presentations, luncheons, site visits, and any other event that illustrates the important partnerships that your organization shares with its supporters.
Create video presentations and photo journals
I know that these will be new ideas for many of you. But as I just mentioned, visualization can bring your programs and appreciation to life in a way that mere words cannot. The old adage is true. A picture does say a thousand words. And since you don’t have time to write a thousand words (nor do you want to), use photos.
Consider creating a video presentation that features your key programs. It doesn’t have to be a formal, expensive production piece. If you have younger staff on board, at least one of them will probably already have experience in making videos. Of course, you’ll want it a little better than the average YouTube clip, but it really doesn’t have to be flawless. Visitors to your website will be thrilled to see your staff and program participants in action. (Remember that you may need to get release forms signed by participants before posting anything to the web.)
Another option is to create photo journals. The website that I maintain for my church has an option for rotating photos on our main page. Ask your administrators to add such a feature to your organization’s website if it doesn’t currently have one. This will be a great way to present your organization’s meaningful work to visitors.
Most of the rotating photo options that I have seen allow for captions to be added. So have fun and create a few photo shots for each of your programs. Include photos of staff members hard at work, of participants enthusiastically engaged in program activities, of celebrations such as completion ceremonies, and any other event that will illustrate the importance of your program to the community.
Last but not least: don’t stress!
I would like to share that perhaps the most important thing that grant writers need to do to jump start a successful year is to relax. Stress demoralizes and limits productivity. So take a few deep breaths each morning (and afternoon if needed). Recognize that you won’t be able to accomplish everything in a day, week, or even a month. But maintaining a steady pace based on a realistic planning calendar will help you to have a very successful year.