I recently spoke with a grant-writing colleague who was lamenting the fact that the grants office, until its most recent initiative, was not included in the strategic planning process for her district. We talked about how we agreed this might be the case more often than not at districts of all sizes across the country.
Here are three key questions that came out of our conversation: Why would it be important to include the grant-writing staff in the strategic planning process? How would this help staff who are charged with finding and securing grant opportunities do their job successfully? And, how would including these people in the strategic planning process enable the proposals that a district submits to have an advantage over those that come from districts that do not include grant-writers as a part of their planning process?
The answer to the first question ties directly to the idea that setting strategic goals and objectives for a district likely will generate new project ideas from staff. And, unfortunately, most school district budgets will not include enough funds for these new projects (or might not include any funds for them at all). If district personnel want to implement these projects, chances are they will need to secure outside support in the form of grants from the federal government, state government, foundations, and/or corporations. Grant writers can conduct the research to identify both public and private funders for these new projects.
Including grant-writing staff in the planning process will give them a heads up about where the district plans to go in the future. Armed with this information, they can help facilitate discussions that will result in the creation of new projects designed to move the district toward meeting its goals and objectives.
Grant writers would be able to create short concept papers that explain these new projects and meet with potential funders to discuss them. Potential funders would be able to review these short project descriptions and add their suggestions to the projects’ concept if they are interested in funding them. This information also would enable grant writers to research available funders who might not have been a match before, to see if their fields of interest match the future goals of the district. In addition, savvy grant writers will be able to keep their eyes open for new funding opportunities that align with the goals of the district.
Tying a district’s proposal to its overall strategic plan often resonates well with grant reviewers. The ability to talk about a project and how it will enable the district to meet a specific goal shows that thought was put into the proposal and should help emphasize the district’s commitment to doing everything possible to make the project a success. Writing goals and objectives for a project might be easier when the project is directly tied to the district’s strategic plan. And, if it makes sense to do so, grant writers might be able to use the goals and objectives already included in the district’s strategic plan to complete the proposal, without having to develop new ones–making their jobs a lot easier.