What’s Your Organizational Grant Strategy: Compete or Collaborate?

Did you hear the one about the college whose endowment pockets were so deep that its students were just a sideline and not the main event? Probably not. In academic circles, that story used to make the rounds with a fair amount of regularity, but in this era of budget cuts, down-sizing, and “right sizing,” I haven’t heard it in a long while.

Funding Cuts and Grant Strategy

As state and federal funding decrease, competition for the finite pool of external funding increases. In view of such dire circumstances, it may go against your survival instincts to refocus your college’s energies on nurturing partnerships and creating consortia designed to pool resources in areas of common need. However, when reviewing proposals, grant funders typically are looking for evidence of cooperation and collaboration that indicate genuine and sustainable partnerships across organizations.

Partnerships as Grant Strategy

Of course, the time for creating partnerships is not when you come to the relevant line item on the grant application outline and discover you have nothing to offer. But there you are with nothing, so you pick up the phone and place a call to a contact you have at a friendly, like-minded organization. Maybe it’s a school or college your organization has program articulation agreements with or a business with whom you place some internship students, but you haven’t really done much else with them.

Your end of the conversation goes something like this:

Hey, Marie. How ya doing? (pause)

 Good, good. Listen, I’m working on a grant proposal that I need to finish before the end    of the week, and one of the things the application is asking about is partnerships we have with other organizations. If I send you the URL for the application, do you think you could look it over and let me know if we can list your college as a project collaborator and put you down as the contact person? (longer pause)

I see. Oh, so you’re working on a proposal for the same grant. Well, maybe you could list us as a potential partner and we could list you as a potential partner? (still longer pause)

Okay, you talk it over with your folks and let me know. Great! I’ll wait to hear back from you.

Thanks, Marie.

If you’ve ever made such a call or been on the receiving end of one, then you probably also have, at least in passing, wondered what steps you could take to avoid a repeat of that awkward situation. 

What’s Your Partnership Plan?

With partnerships, as with many other aspects of grant readiness, it’s good to have a plan. Within your organization, do you know who’s responsible for developing and nurturing partnerships?

Maybe it’s you.

Or if it’s one of those action items where a group of people share the responsibility, then maybe it’s yet another example of no one individual owning the responsibility, defining the process, or at least identifying a first step.

If you’re feeling brave, perhaps you could take the first step of posing a simple question, such as: So who’s our partnership person?


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