We’re All in This Grant Proposal Together!

I recently finished a proposal that just had a two-week deadline.   Of course, it required many hours day and night and over the final weekend to complete.  And as you have guessed, it was submitted at an odd hour – 2 AM Monday.

It would be nice if I could take sole credit for this accomplishment, but that would not be accurate.  As the Proposal Manager, I was working closely with a dedicated team of consultants and employees who worked as long and hard as I did.  It was a forceful reminder that in grant proposals, as in life, the most important resource we possess are the people around us.

This is hardly a piercing insight, but it is one that Proposal Managers and organizations may forget, often with bad consequences.  There is a mountain of research demonstrating that employees are likely to stay longer at their positions, be more committed, feel more engaged, and produce good work under two circumstances:  (1) when they are matched well to their positions; and (2) when they feel respected and valued by management.

Sybil F. Stershie, president of Quality Services Marketing, tells her clients that there are three important points that organizations should learn.  “One, mission matters.  Two, the people behind the mission matter.  And three, passion for the mission can’t be taken for granted.  Once engaged doesn’t mean always engaged.”  She recommends three approaches to develop committed and satisfied employees.  I will add a fourth element and apply them to proposal development:

  • Proposal teams must feel connected to the organizations that employ them.
  • Proposal members must feel connected to fellow team members.
  • Permanent staff and consultants must feel connected to each other.
  • Proposal teams must involve young people if they want them to stay, learn, and advance in their professions.

The alternative to these four elements is a vicious cycle that begins with the inability to build successful proposal teams and ends with people leaving because they do not feel connected.  This is not a staffing problem.  It is an organizational problem.  For an interesting perspective on this issue, read “I Quit” in the latest issue of Advancing Philanthropy (Spring 2013), which inspired this blog.

Find ways to connect everybody in your grant proposal team and you are likely to produce competitive proposals.  It is that simple, and that difficult.