It’s here again—income tax season. Even if we pay accountants to attend to all the details associated with completing tax forms, computing deductions, and electronic filing, we still have to hand off all the necessary information to our accountants. Of course, first we have to find the receipts, W-2s, 1099s, interest statements, etc. For some of us, therein lies the rub.
When it comes to personal filing systems, the continuum ranges from shoe boxes to electronic files that are carefully sorted and organized into digital folders that follow the nested doll principle. Bless his heart; my father was literally a shoe box kind of guy. So, a few months following his passing, I found myself digging through his shoe box files in an attempt to help my mother find the information we needed to give to her accountant.
Although that activity may have served both a functional and a cathartic purpose, it certainly was time consuming. Why?—because we weren’t tax ready. And what do I mean by that? I mean that if I had sat down to do my mother’s taxes, I wouldn’t have had the information I needed. So I would have had to fetch it—except in many cases, I didn’t even know where to look for the information I needed. That’s what I mean by not being tax ready.
The same applies to grant writing. If I don’t have the information I need to draft a grant application, it forces me to find the information I need, but in many cases, I don’t even know where to look. I also don’t know what office or department I should be working with, what approvals are required, what resources there are to help me, or whom to direct my questions. Now maybe the information, resources, and assistance I need are actually available, but–if I don’t know about them–I might decide this whole business of applying for grant funding is just more trouble than it’s worth. That’s what I mean by an organization not being grant ready.
Conversely, if my organization is grant ready, when I sit down to draft a grant application, I have the information I need or I know where to locate it, such as on a password-protected shared drive or on my organization’s website. And I know that any information I find on my organization’s website is always accurate and up-to-date. (Did you choke just a little on that last statement??)
Because of published organizational policies and procedures that are easily accessible to me, I also know what office or department I should be working with, what approvals are required, what resources there are to help me, and to whom I should direct my questions. That’s what I mean by an organization being grant ready.
Looking back at my grant-writing experiences, I always knew what office I needed to involve when it came to the budget section, but “guidance” was more difficult to come by when it came to the narrative. Yes, the money piece is important, but before we get that far, processes and policies need to first focus any grant-related discussions on alignment between the organization’s mission and the stated aims of the grant funders.
It’s equally important for an organization to have mechanisms in place to ensure that different players aren’t vying for the same piece of pie, so to speak. For example, two or more parties from the same organization may be interested in applying for the same grant. If a grant coordinator is in the loop, then this information comes to light sooner rather than later, and the parties involved can determine how to move forward. Or if the advancement office or foundation is planning to approach a key donor about a building project, it would be best if a well-intentioned student group did not beat them to the punch with a request to that same donor to underwrite an engineering career day event. Not that such a thing has ever happened…
What’s my point? With grants, as with most other aspects of an organization, it’s good to have a plan. And that plan needs to include policies and processes that are published widely and accessible to all within the organization who need to use the information. The plan or system may not be perfect, but that’s why we call it continuous process improvement.
In addition to describing the what, where, when, why, and how, that plan needs to identify the who. Although many organizations are not staffed in ways that allow for a full-time grant administrator or coordinator, if grant-funded initiatives are a desired component of the budget, then obviously there need to be individuals within the organization whose key performance indicators include outcomes directly related to grants.
- Is your organization grant ready?
- How can you determine if your organization is grant ready?
- And what do you need to do to make your organization more grant ready?
If you’d like to dive a bit deeper into these and similar questions or to conduct an informal audit of your organization’s grant readiness, I invite you to email me. I’d be happy to schedule a time to talk with you.