Monday, April 11, 2011

Grants Mean Change

It’s important to understand that grants mean change and that there is a predictable process to change within an organization. I learned when I was in a leadership position that it’s difficult to change a light bulb without stepping on someone’s toes so major changes require determined effort and planning.
There are many models for change process but the one I like best is an inverted bell curve with highs on both sides and a low in the middle.  In this model, people enter into the change process on a high with “uninformed optimism.” This is akin to the kind of the high you feel when your grant is funded.  WOOHOO! We just won a million dollar grant! But wait, as Forest Gump would say about getting a lot of money, it’s merely “One less thang.”

There are a bunch of other “thangs” still in play, like all the reasons you needed the funding. All the needs are still there, just as real and ever more pressing.  Only now you’re expected to solve them, you have to put staff and processes in place to do that.  It’s a lot of work.

Realizing that getting the grant doesn’t solve the needs is when people in the change process enter into the “informed pessimism” stage where all the difficulties involved in making the change emerge.  There are a plethora of challenges including new staff who need training, integrating new programs and staff with existing ones, etc. New staff in a new program tend to get overwhelmed and need a lot of direction for a while. Plus, they’re people so they need to be supervised, and list could go on and on…

Then as things get sorted out a little bit the bell curve usually takes an upswing. Optimism returns little by little as problems are sorted out, needs are being met, services are delivered, positive feedback and data are encouraging, the change becomes incorporated into the organization.

In planning a grant program, consider these important aspects of the change process:
  • Does the model fit your agency culture?
  • Do you have the right people for the work?
  • Do you have a plan for giving clear roles and responsibilities to everyone involved?
  • Are you prepared to give proper authority to those involved to ensure performance?
  • Prepare a plan to help existing employees adapt and grow with guidance.
  • Prepare a communication plan that encourages input and keeps people informed.

About the time you sort out all the change a grant creates, it is probably nearing the end of its funding cycle.  When a funding cycle ends, you may need to seek other funding, reduce the program scope, or phase out the program entirely.  Change is a natural cycle that grants create for an organization.  Boards and leadership need to understand how to lead a change process in order to successfully manage grants.

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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.