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Writing with the End in Mind

Tuesday, September 29, 2020   (4 Comments)
Posted by: Olivia Smith-Daugherty, M. Ed., GPC
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A few years ago, while working on a proposal, a project coordinator uttered the words you never want to hear as a grant professional – “Oh, we’ll figure out that part of the program later.”

Immediately, I responded, “NO! We need to take the time to figure it out now!

I was able to convince her to think through every detail of the program, including implementation, before the grant submission date rather than later. She understood my rationale and took the time to review the details of the program design and budget. As she considered each part of the program, she realized a few issues in her program design and (thankfully) made the necessary modifications. (FYI - By the time the award notification was received, she had left the district and a new person was in charge of the implementation of this grant!)

You may be thinking – “What’s the big deal? Do you really need all of the details to implement and manage the grant?” The answer is yes. Grant implementation is extremely challenging when a program is too broadly written; the management section is not clearly defined; program objectives are not realistic; or, the budget does not cover the cost of the program. To complicate matters further, if the original people involved in developing the proposal are no longer with the organization, implementation can be delayed, slowed, or never accomplished.

Prevent pitfalls by developing your proposals with “the end in mind.” Encourage your clients to think through their proposed program carefully to ensure no internal steps or budget pieces are omitted. Think about your program from an implementation standpoint as you craft your narrative.

Ask hard questions and ask a lot of them. Have you included taxes, benefits, and indirect costs in your budget? If you are preparing a multi-year grant, have you included a cost-of-living increase for the full-time positions? Are you able to secure the data to sufficiently measure your program objectives? These questions could prevent budget shortfalls, the need for major program adjustments, or sheer panic during implementation! While you may not use all of the information from your discussions in your application, the discussions are very valuable.

You are a coach! Use your skills to educate your clients. They will benefit from hearing you coach them through the grant process, including how post-award grant management will look, as they answer your questions. Don’t forget - record and file your notes from these discussions with the submitted application for reference after the award is received.

Also, work through the details of the management plan and prepare a job description, even if it is not a required part of the application. If another individual will manage the grant as a part of their current job role, make sure you notify them of the potential new job responsibilities before the grant is submitted! Recently, we pursued an opportunity that we thought would “live” partially in two departments. There were several discussions with higher administration on who would ultimately be responsible for the program BEFORE the grant development process was initiated. Now, when the grant is awarded, our department can move quickly through the grant approval and job posting process because we know who will coordinate the program activities and higher administration is on board.

The extra work put in the pre-award phase will take the chaos out of your post-award life.

Before you press the “Submit” button, do you believe you can implement your program with ease?

Author Bio: Olivia Smith-Daugherty, GPC, is a former high school science teacher with 20 years of experience in grant implementation, proposal development, and grant management for K-12 public schools. She is a past GPA chapter president and currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the Grant Professionals Foundation.

Primary Theme: Project Description & Implementation

GPC Competency: 5 – Post Award Grant Management


Michele A. Zacks Ph.D. says...
Posted Wednesday, September 30, 2020
This article delighted me, Olivia. It's great perspective that I need to reference when struggling with short timelines and resistance to being pinned down to the project plan details. Right now, I am dealing with just this - the aftereffects of unrealistic (but exciting!) program objectives that got us a grant award that is underbudgeted for the aims proposed.
Megan Hagan GPC says...
Posted Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Hi Olivia. I love this article! I was just having this discussion yesterday! I was trying to explain to the program team that it's not about what they see today , its about where they want to go in 2 years. I wish I would have had "writing with the end in my end" article yesterday! Would you mind if I shared this on my LinkedIn network?
Betty A. Farbman says...
Posted Tuesday, September 29, 2020
This is a terrific article. And it applies life planning, and project planning in general, don't you think? Coaching is a terrific word to use - it's supportive without being intrusive. Thanks for the wisdom.
Katherine F. Heart GPC M.Ed. says...
Posted Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Thank you for this excellent synopsis of the reasons why grant proposals require detailed goals, objectives, and key activities. I would add a recommended tool to this article. When I teach grant training workshops and coach proposals, I try to get people comfortable with completing a Gantt Chart which shows each key activity, responsible staff, number of hours, and timeline. It may take some brainstorming to complete, but this way, every activity can easily be accounted for in the project budget, and later managed.