Are You Communicating Effectively About Your Grants?
Grant managers, ask yourselves, are we communicating effectively? This is the fourth question posed in the Grant Managers Network (GMN) report Assessing The How of Grantmaking. How does your organization convey its grantmaking goals and procedures? Are your written and verbal communications with grantseekers and grantees clear, intentional, appropriate, and courteous?
The word that jumps out for me here is clear. Clarity is the foundation of effective communication with grantees and prospective partners. In a previous post, I talked about the importance of having a laser focus on your mission and goals, but it bears repeating. Knowing what you’re trying to accomplish and where you’re going is the starting point for effective communication. The next step is your guidelines for support. That’s the entry point for many prospective grantees looking to engage with your organization. Getting this stage right makes all the difference. Prospective partners will understand where they fit – or don’t – with your focus areas. They’ll know exactly what information you need to make a decision. They’ll have reasonable expectations about what level of support they might get from your organization. They’ll understand your process from application through decision.
We spend a lot of time with clients clarifying their guidelines for support. Many come to us without guidelines in place or with existing guidelines that are totally inadequate. These clients are frustrated because they aren’t getting the right information from prospective grantees so they have to go back to the applicants to collect additional input. Or non-profits that clearly aren’t a fit with the organization’s focus areas are submitting proposals, taking up valuable time and resources on both sides.
Our experience with one client illustrates how getting clear guidelines in place can transform the grants communication process. When this organization came to Versaic, they had an overly complex approach to communicating with prospective partners. The organization has multiple regions that make grants, with different programs and program managers in each region. Each region had its own processes and guidelines. There was no single place for a prospective grantee to go to determine how they might engage with that organization. Needless to say, there were missed opportunities, dropped balls and confusion with grantees.
By implementing a centralized approach, the client got very clear on their goals and process. They were able to maintain their regional programs but with a common entry point in place, the confusion inside and outside the company evaporated. A clear, interactive set of guidelines and grant application means that information is provided at the right stage so applicants who aren’t a fit are given that feedback in a timely way and applicants that are a fit are prompted to submit the needed information. Proposals get to the right program managers for review and follow up. This level of clarity is continued throughout the process so grantees understand when decisions will be made and what they can expect from the organization. We hear from this client that putting clear guidelines in place has transformed the communication with their community partners. No more frustration and wasted time, response times are improved and engagement with grantees is more positive. Not a bad outcome for investing the reasonable amount of time required to establish clarity right up front.
Read the previous post in this series.