Becoming the "MacGyver" of Grants

For any grant professional, a key strength is being resourceful. We don’t necessarily need to know everything or have all of the answers, but we DO need to know how to find those answers and those pesky bits of information that are required by an application or a report! So what are some of the best ways to build your resources?

Remember that you have access to two primary types of resources – external and internal. We so often think about external organizations or groups, but don’t forget to also look inward at your own organization!

External Resources

Some of the best external resources are the Grant Professionals Association (GPA), The Foundation Center, and grants.gov. My top tips for making the most of these organizations are:

Join and get actively involved in GPA

Volunteer at the Annual Conference, write an article, attend a Chapter meeting, become a mentor and/or mentee, and participate in the online Grant Zone forums. You’ll encounter a welcoming network of grant professionals at all levels and from all industries, and everyone is always willing to share their expertise, best practices, encouragement, and support.

Take advantage of The Foundation Center

Subscribe to email newsletters and weekly RFP updates. Fully explore all of the Center’s resources, from the free webinars to the paid in-person trainings to the amazing and comprehensive Foundation Directory Online database. 

Get to know grants.gov Search Grants

If you write federal proposals, then grants.gov should be your go-to, one-stop shop to find funding announcements, training opportunities, updates on the Workspace process and structure, and detailed guidance on how to complete and submit federal applications. An often overlooked resource gem on grants.gov is the ability to search not only open opportunities but also those forecasted for the future. This is a great tool to get advance notice about upcoming announcements and to help you anticipate new funding possibilities.

 

Internal Resources

Now let’s look inward and identify some of the best internal resources either at your disposal or that you should work to develop!

Create a library of common attachments

Keep updated copies of common attachments in an easily accessible location. Documents for your attachment library should include the following, at a minimum: IRS determination letter, Board of Directors list, organizational budgets, 990 forms, audits & financial statements, bylaws, key staff bio blurbs, descriptions of programs and activities, strategic plans, and annual reports.

Make yourself into an archive of grant information

Become the go-to person and clearinghouse for anything grant related. This can include opportunity announcements, classes and workshops, prospecting and management tools, etc. Let your colleagues know they should forward you this type of information or that they can ask you to refer them to these resources if necessary.

Promote your work

Make your work visible! Share opportunities and successes with colleagues, staff, and leadership. By promoting your work, you’ll help others understand the importance of grants to the organization, which will then help you build strong relationships for future grant project teams. Cultivating internal bench strength throughout all levels of an organization will make your job easier and more rewarding, literally and figuratively.

By carefully cultivating and growing your garden of resources – both external and internal – you’ll achieve better results and greater success for your grant efforts. And perhaps you’ll one day be considered the ultimate “MacGyver” of the grants profession!

About the Author

Jodi Samuels

A devoted Red Sox fan, Jodi is the Deputy Director of Development & Training at the California Primary Care Association (CPCA). Jodi has worked with health and education non-profits since 1997, including as Director of Grants, Data, & Research at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte; as a teacher and trainer for Kaplan Test Prep; and as a Foreign Language Technologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In her current position at CPCA, she has successfully secured more than $27 million in funding over the past six years from public and private entities, including awards for core operating support, special projects and programs, and event sponsorship. Jodi holds a PhD in French Literature from the UW-Madison, an MA in French from Middlebury College, and a BA in French & Theatre from Wesleyan University.

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