Monday, August 9, 2010

In the Grant Writing Business, the Customer is Always Right...Even When He's Not

We got some really good news this weekend.  I learned that one of the federal grants I wrote last spring was funded. This was not the only good news we have received or will receive from the latest grant writing season, but it was particularly satisfying because of how much this client really needs the program we wrote.

Because the client is in such need to get the program going, the program administrator hit the ground running today to get the budget in the system and get the program up and running as soon as possible.  His plan hit the skids, though, as soon as it hit the desk of the head of the fiscal department who informed him that the amounts we had budgeted for personnel and benefits were too low.  So, he set up a conference call between me, the fiscal person, and himself to try to work it out.  I gave the best advice I had for revising the budget quickly so they could get going.

Then my client (the program administrator) said something interesting.  He said,"I don't know how this happened because I know we gave you the correct numbers when we were in the grant development process." That's one of those moments when what you want to say and what you know you have to say are different. What I wanted to say was, "Are you kidding? I can prove that we used the numbers you sent.  I have the old emails...."  But no, that's not what came out of my mouth.  I knew this was a "fall on your sword for your client" moment.  I really hate those moments, but I said it anyway, "I'm really sorry.  I can't explain how we made such an error, but I can certainly help you move forward from here and I'll do my best not to put you in this position again."

Like in every other business, in grant writing, the customer is right, whether or not he really is.  Preserving the relationship is the important part, not being right.

This has been a particularly hard lesson to learn for me because I really, really like to be right.  Don't get me wrong - I have no problem standing up to my clients when they need some corrective direction in the planning or evaluation processes, but those of in business for ourselves need to be able to discern when it's appropriate to correct the client, and when it's appropriate to help them look better with their own organization so the relationship can continue smoothly.


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Scott said...

Well said.

It is always difficult being the fall guy/gal but sometimes it is the right thing to do.

Problems arise when nobody takes responsibility for an error. This scenario is typically followed by a witch hunt to find out who made the mistake. Rather than working on the project, clients are looking through old correspondence to prove their point.

However, if someone simply takes responsibility for a error, people move on and the project moves forward.

馬旖 said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................

Wilton Blake said...


I've tried to fall on my sword a couple of times in similar situations, but I always missed it.

Of course I can always document exactly what my clients sent me. So I show them I used their data. Once I even showed a client where they should have used the numbers I suggested. What was I thinking?

I completely agree with your article.

Grant Goddess said...

Thanks for the affirmation, friends.

By the way, Wilton, I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog. Good stuff. Keep sharing. :-)


About Creative Resources & Research

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Woodland, CA, United States
Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.