As a grant writer, one of the most challenging things I have encountered in my work has been obtaining relevant information about my grant applications from nonprofit employees. I found myself apologizing as with my request for the information said most either considered me with obvious contempt or ignored me completely. While in fact no daggers were thrown, if the glances could kill …
The disappointment was excessive as I tried to do my job and they did their best to ignore me. I knew they were busy, but I could not work without the information, so I could sit there, typing emails after emails asking for the statistics I needed to put that particular app to bed.
Until one day it came to me in the morning – I was not their priority because they just did not understand what I was doing. I had never bothered to explain what exactly I did and how they played a very big role in it. I only get in touch with them when I need something. I wondered, did they feel somehow taken for granted?
Everyone wants to feel its value, so I decided to change my bad habits when it came to how I handled the information holders I needed. Some of these may work for you too:
Explain what a grant writer’s job is. You may not even realize it, but many nonprofit positions are made up of people who have no idea what fundraising involves. For example, a social worker for a nonprofit I consulted was the primary source of information I needed about program numbers. She knew the numbers that passed within a day, what problems customers were facing, financial information, and so on. Where I have had roadblocks before, after I sat down with him and explained why I needed the information I was looking for life became much easier.
Involve everyone in the decision-making process. No one likes to be caught unawares, but often after a claim is funded, a nonprofit employee discovers that he or she is expected to take on a new or different task. They were not even advised and will naturally feel angry. Being hard working after this fact is one way to “equalize”. My advice is to have a meeting with all stakeholders – staff, advisors, clients – before agreeing to move forward with a grant application.
Ask how to best gather the information you need. Grant writers who go ahead with applications and only assume that somehow and somehow information will be gathered can be in for a huge disappointment. While you are writing the application, consult with everyone about the staff that will be involved in the project, and if possible, to gather the information you need.
Offer incentives. Righteousness, a small bribe never hurts. Just as I always celebrated when I got a grant I really wanted, I learned to celebrate when a particularly difficult grant application ended. Invite staff who have helped you with their information at a pizza party or some kind of party that shows that their contribution is important.