The Development Source
In grant proposal development, time can be either your enemy or your ally. Time will become your enemy if you start late and do not use your time efficiently and effectively. Time will become your ally if you can make it a resource to strengthen your grant proposal.
Chris Simmons, the founder and principal of Rainmakerz Consulting, has a number of sensible, practical recommendations about how to use time wisely in proposal development. Although he is addressing a business audience, his advice can be applied to nonprofit organizations submitting grant proposals. I will highlight several of Simmons’s recommendation that match my own observations and experience with nonprofit organizations.
Start as early as you can.
It is difficult and time-consuming to develop a complete, compliant, and competitive grant proposal. Try to make an informed bid/no bid decision early so that your proposal team can get started as promptly as possible.
Provide the proposal team with detailed proposal instructions, including a schedule.
The Proposal Manager’s first order of business should be to prepare a detailed set of proposal instructions for the team to review. These instructions should include, at a minimum, the following: basic information about the bid, such as when the proposal is due; a detailed outline of the proposal narrative; and a detailed schedule that goes from the kick-off meeting to delivery. This schedule should include major action steps, milestones, and deliverables.
Organize proposal development into small manageable chunks.
At the beginning, creating and delivering a proposal may seem a very daunting task. For many small organizations, it may seem impossible. Help your proposal team feel confident about producing a highly competitive grant proposal by subdividing the work into small, manageable chunks that build on each other and that show progress. Clear milestones, deliverables, and dates will help you make progress.
Communicate briefly and clearly.
Unfortunately, too many proposal team meetings are long, boring, and uninformative. Provide agendas for your meetings, hold them frequently, keep them brief, and keep attendees on task.
Communicate face-to-face as much as possible. Be concrete and very specific. As the Proposal Manager, one of your main tasks is to mentor, coach, and motivate your team. Keep your interactions brief and constructive.
Learn from your experience.
You and your team always can always learn and improve. Every grant proposal should serve as a pedagogical experience for the team. Formally meet after the proposal has been submitted to discuss what lessons you have learned, big or small, and document them for the next proposal effort.
Use time as an ally in the grant proposal development process by thoroughly organizing your process and by using effective communications to achieve your goals. The results will make you happier and more successful.