“Just apply for this grant and you’ll get the money!”

If you are a development leader, you’ve most certainly heard this from a colleague or board member. However, seasoned development leaders know these words are not as simple as they sound. The process of obtaining grants can be complex, time consuming, and highly competitive.

This is where an important member of the development team comes into play-the grant professional.

The Role of Grant Professionals

Grant professionals, writers, managers, whatever the title, serve as a bridge between organizations and diverse funding sources and play a multifaceted role within development teams. Despite the pivotal role they play, grant professionals are sometimes sidelined within development teams, viewed as support staff rather than strategic partners. This mindset overlooks the potential for grant professionals to significantly contribute to an organization's fundraising success. To maximize their impact, grant professionals should be integrated into formal development planning. Here’s why:

  1. In-Depth Research: Grant professionals possess strong research skills and can identify potential opportunities that align with an organization's mission and programs. They sift through grant guidelines, eligibility criteria, and funding priorities to find the greatest prospects. By identifying grants that align with an organization's mission and goals, they ensure that time and resources are invested wisely and maximize chances of success.

  2. Expertise in Deliverables: Grant professionals are adept at navigating the intricate landscape of grant applications. They understand requirements, nuances, and expectations of various funding sources and they also know the benefits and challenges posed by the various types of grant funders and can navigate these during the pre-application and post-award processes.

  3. Strategic Communication (Internal & External): Crafting a winning grant proposal requires more than just writing skills. Grant professionals must effectively convey the organization's goals, impact, and financial needs in a compelling and concise manner that resonates with funders. To do this, they themselves must have strong internal working relations and open communication channels with finance, operations and program teams.

  4. Cultivating Relationships: Grant professionals play a pivotal role in establishing and maintaining relationships with funders. They often serve as ambassadors for the organization, effectively communicating its vision, impact, and needs, a role akin to that of a gift officer. Cultivating these connections goes beyond the transactional nature of grant-seeking; it involves building trust, understanding funders' priorities, and demonstrating accountability and transparency. Through consistent stewardship, grant professionals lay the foundation for long-term partnerships that extend far beyond the initial award.

  5. Financial Planning and Management: Grant professionals bring a strategic perspective to financial planning and management. They analyze funding trends, anticipate changes in the funding landscape, and identify and activate opportunities for diversifying revenue streams. Additionally, their insights inform budgeting decisions, enabling efficient allocation of resources.

  6. Amplifying Organizational Impact: Grant professionals track and evaluate outcomes, providing invaluable data and insights to funders and stakeholders. By effectively communicating success stories and lessons learned, they not only fulfill reporting requirements but also strengthen the organization's reputation and credibility within the philanthropic community.

  7. Advocacy for Increased Investment: Through their comprehensive understanding of the organization’s needs and potential, grant professionals are instrumental in advocating for higher financial investments. By demonstrating the organization’s impact, innovation, scalability, and/or need, grant professionals build the case for increased funding from existing funding partners.

Integrate Grant Professionals into the Strategy

To maximize their impact, focus on a holistic approach and include grant professionals in the big conversations. Make sure their input on emerging trends and potential opportunities is gathered in strategy sessions. Their knowledge of funder priorities and strategic acumen are essential for navigating the competitive landscape of grant funding.

Just like gift officers, grant professionals should be evaluated based on performance metrics that reflect their contributions to fundraising goals. These metrics might include success rates, dollars secured, number of cultivation touch points, efficiency in grant management, and the ability to cultivate long-term funder relationships.

Grant professionals play important roles within development teams, serving a multifaceted role in securing funding, nurturing relationships with funders, and maximizing organization impact. By recognizing their strategic importance and integrating them into the planning and evaluation processes, organizations can enhance their fundraising effectiveness, maximize their impact and foster a culture of collaboration.


BetterTogetherThis Month's Focus

This month, we're celebrating the power of the team with DBD Group's "Better Together" series. It's how we approach our work and how we've seen great success with nonprofits across the country. When we work together, we can accomplish so much more.


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Posted by Katrina Tamminga Crook
Katrina Tamminga Crook

Written by Katrina Tamminga Crook

Katrina has successfully completed more than $13 million in funded grant applications through government agencies, corporations and private foundations and has successfully implemented several multi-year government contracts. Her leadership experience prior to joining DBD Group includes roles with Colorado Ballet, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Denver Scholarship Foundation and YMCA of Metro Denver.

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