“Field of Dreams” or How to Build a Winning Grants Team

Part 1: Spring Training

Baseball Player

As grant professionals, we all need the support of a team. Often, we do a majority of our work on our own, just as a batter steps up to the plate as an individual. But we also need input from and communication with others involved in any given project, just as a team out in the field works together to get those three outs each inning. 


Whether you’re a consultant providing services to multiple clients, a staff person in a non-profit within a development department, or a solo grants professional working as either a consultant or staff, you need to actively build a winning grants team to achieve your goals and win the pennant.

So how do you start? How many people do you want or need on your grants team? Who might already be on the bench for you? What tools and strategies can you use to build your team? And what are the biggest challenges you anticipate that could derail your winning team?


Let’s begin with Spring Training: “If you build it, [the grants] will come.” 

One of the first important resources during Spring Training is the scouting report on each player. You need to identify the requisite individual and complementary skills and knowledge of the players who should be part of your team and then find the right people to provide these assets. Consider that these needs might vary depending on the project or topic area that you plan to pitch in your funding proposal. 

Once you’ve put together your scouting report, you can start to fill each position in order to build or round out your ideal team. 

First of all, look around to identify who is currently on your team. Then think about their strengths and weaknesses to determine where you may have gaps in knowledge or skills. Who’s missing from the team? Do you need a utility player who can fill multiple positions? Or do you really need that specialty left-handed knuckleball pitcher to bring on as a closer in the high-stakes final inning? 

The final element in recruiting your team members is to figure out how to entice them to join the team and get them to sign on, even if they won’t commit to a multi-year contract! Show them how their participation will benefit them, through additional resources, greater visibility, or the opportunity to stretch themselves and develop new skills. At this point in the season, you need to be an enthusiastic agent for the project and the team, convincing each player that their time will be well-spent and their contributions will be justly rewarded.

Investing time upfront to scout out and recruit the right people for your team will pay off later as the season progresses and you get closer and closer to achieving that winning record of successful grant proposals!

(next up - Part 2: Regular Season)

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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