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Grantsmanship Through Goal Setting: Taking It Step-By-Step

by Beverly Browning on October 29, 2012
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sustainable grantsmanship requires strategy from all your teamGovernment bodies, nonprofits, and educational institutions must be able to anticipate and adapt to public needs. Grantsmanship is a continuous process that must align with the priority projects that address these needs. As a grant-active organization, it is critical to take a sustainable approach to grantsmanship to continuously improve grant performance. Are you hitting the goals you initially established? Is everyone still on board? This article highlights the key steps for maintaining the momentum and ensuring that you're headed down the right path.

Goal Setting to Drive Performance

You know that the work is not done after pulling together the baseline of information, such as the number of awards and number of applications, from which the target goals were derived. But the real work has just begun. It's time to track, evaluate, report, and determine next steps. Goal setting is not a matter of hitting a specific target once or twice, but rather hitting a target that leads to improved services and programs—or, in this case, improved grant performance year after year.

Step 1: Track

As part of your goal setting, you might determine that you have little to no information related to how your organization is performing, which would mean that it is time to implement a system to measure success. As the goals are being established, you should be thinking about the type of data to be collected, who has this information, when the information will be collected, and how the information is to be obtained. For example, if a goal of the parks department is to improve the grant win ratio, the following would need to be tracked:

  • What: How many applications were submitted versus the number awarded?
  • Who: If more than one person writes grants within the department, will each person be responsible for maintenance or will there be one central contact?
  • When: Is the information identified in "real time" or upon notification from the granting agency?
  • How: Is a tracking form used or a master document that can be easily shared and viewed?

Grants Network: Tracking and Reporting offers organizations a complete tracking approach by tying project and grants to departmental and organizational goals, allowing you to collect key data across the most important stages of the grants lifecycle: defining a project, locating funding opportunities, applying for grants, contracting on wins, and reporting on programmatic and financial execution.

Step 2: Evaluate

As you evaluate the data and information against the target goals, consider the following:

  • How have the goals been established? (Realistic baseline data should be used.)
  • What is the status of progress toward goal achievement?
  • Will the goals be achieved according to the timelines specified?
  • Do personnel have the adequate resources (technology, grants professional training, etc.) to achieve the goals?
  • How should timelines be changed, if necessary? (Be able to provide a justification for the required change.)
  • How should goals be changed? (Before making a change, determine why current efforts are not working.)
  • How should goals be established in the future?

Step 3: Report Findings

Because grants affect the entire organization, it is important to have a comprehensive approach that encourages transparency and accountability. It's not enough to track and evaluate if information is not shared. If a department is in noncompliance due to missing reports, the entire organization can be subject to increased reporting requirements. On the other hand, it may be revealed that staff is simply not adequately trained when it comes to properly managing grants, in which case it might be beneficial to request training dollars in next year's budget to provide staff with the appropriate knowledge. If a department hits its target or key milestones along the way, acknowledge the success. Having a clear reporting and measurement of what a department is doing and how they are performing allows recognition of success and best practice approaches to departmental and organizational development.

Step 4: Determine Next Steps

You've tracked, evaluated, and reported. Now determine your next steps. This is a continuous process that, if properly implemented, can be a valuable planning tool. If a goal was reached, celebrate and identify what led to the success. Should the bar be set higher next time? Or changed? If a goal wasn't reached, debrief and determine the appropriate steps for improvement. If this is the first year that goals have been set, and you weren't on track like you thought you were, don't fret. Review and revise. For many, it will take at least two years to see real results, which is why it's important to set a combination of short-, intermediate, and long-term goals.

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