You’ve finally established a full-time grant development position and hired a professional to fill it. Expectations are high. The board assumes grant funding will skyrocket and every manager is scribbling wish lists. Why not? Before this, seeking grants was a hodge-podge of catch-as-catch-can work by everyone from program staff to administrators. This new position will change everything, right?
Not necessarily. “The promise of a robust grant acquisition program can easily be derailed by overblown expectations, poorly defined priorities, and G-force pressure,” said Barbara Floersch of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “For the best results, plan a thorough on-boarding process that stresses mission, strategy, and teamwork.”
- Allow time for learning about the mission, target population, services, and impact. Set up interviews with administrators, program staff, board members, and clients. Explain the importance of the work.
- Explain the chain of command. Who’s the immediate supervisor? Who makes go/no-go decisions on grant applications? Who signs off on program plans, budgets, and submission forms? Who can commit the organization to resource sharing or collaborative work? Who approves the proposal development calendar?
- Review the organization’s history with government and private grantmakers. Who are the long-time supporters? Are there touchy spots? What’s the protocol for interacting with funders?
- Explain funding priorities. Provide a copy of the strategic plan or other decision-making documents. What funding needs are most urgent? What are the timeframes?
- Provide a copy of the most recent audit and organizational budget. Discuss the resources and cash available for required match.
- Provide copies of past grant proposals (funded and unfunded). Include back-up material such as application guidelines, budget worksheets, letters of commitment, attachments, etc.
- Introduce the employee to staff at collaborating organizations and allow time for the relationship building.
- If needed, provide training on the Office of Management and Budget’s Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200). Set up meetings with financial staff to discuss how the Uniform Guidance relates to proposal budgets.
- Explain password procedures and protocols. Who handles the Grants.gov system and keeps passwords current?
- Provide high-quality tools of the trade: technology, internet connection, email, access to shared files, access to a funder research database, grants management software, and a comfortable place to work.
- Discuss performance expectations, the performance evaluation process, and the probation period.
Thorough onboarding can take several weeks, but the pay-off will be well worth the investment. A grants professional can’t do good work without understanding the organization, expectations, and available resources.