Sunday, September 11, 2011

1, 2, 3 Action Plan: Goals that Measure Success

As a department or organization striving to initiate or enhance its grant-writing capacity, it is important to understand your baseline expertise and establish realistic targets. This article identifies a simple 1-2-3 action plan to establish goals that measure success when starting from scratch.

How to Measure Success when Starting from Scratch

If you are questioning how you are going to prove grant writing success when your department has never written a grant, then you are already on the right path. You recognize that a mechanism should be in place to assess success. The first rule is to start simple. Avoid establishing unrealistic targets for staff that may already be skeptical of and resistant to a new grant initiative. To kickstart your plan into action, consider the following 1-2-3 approach to developing your action plan:

1. Identify key personnel
One of the first things to remember when establishing goals as a first-timer is that this is not a brand-new concept; someone else has likely done it before, if not from an organizational position, at least from a programmatic standpoint. Therefore, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Identify grant professionals within other departments with whom you may be able to consult. If this option is not available, identify key personnel from within your own department who are willing participants. This will also help to establish buy-in and minimize resistance.

2. Brainstorm
When done properly, this can be a prime opportunity to create a sound grant plan that goes beyond the one-time grant win. When setting goals as a first-timer, remember to start simple. You don’t want this to be an overwhelming process. Begin with brainstorming what type of information is already available.

For the grant-active organization, the first task is typically to research the entity’s funding history, but this approach assumes you are at ground zero. Take a dual approach to help focus on the short and long term. Consider both programs that require funding on a short-term basis, as well as programs that have insufficient funding.

eCivis recommends that all programs considered for grant funding be strategically linked to the department-wide and/or organization-wide mission; therefore, a key component of establishing your goals should be selecting programs for grant consideration that are part of a larger strategic objective.

Think about programs for which data is already collected. This will influence your direction and focus in combination with funding priorities. You will likely have anywhere from three to ten priority projects, although you can certainly have more. Other questions to consider include:

• What resources are available to research grants?

• Does staff have the appropriate training to effectively pursue, develop, and manage grants?

3. Establish and monitor goals
Set ambitious, yet achievable expectations. Decide on a combination of short-term and long-term goals.

Remember, the successful grant organization is in this for the long haul. Some sample goals for the active grant department include:

• Projects: Number of grants considered for priority projects (short-term)

• Capability: Number of staff trained on grants (short-term)

• Applications: Number of grant applications submitted (intermediate-term)

• Funding Awarded: Amount of dollars awarded (long-term)

• Win ratio: Number of grants awarded to applications submitted (long-term)

A combination of short-, intermediate-, and long-term goals makes the process more manageable and allows staff and leadership to view progress more easily throughout the grant lifecycle.

Set up a grants management system for collecting and evaluating this information that is transparent and easily shared.

Ensure accountability by assigning responsibilities and deadlines. Periodically review this information with staff. When you reach a goal, announce it, celebrate it, and then consider the factors that led to the success. If you don’t succeed, be up-front. Was the goal too ambitious or the effort too weak? Debrief and ask what could have been done differently or more effectively. Then make plans for next time. Goal setting is a continuous process requiring ongoing monitoring and evaluating, with adjustments to ensure that your new effort actually reaps organizational benefits that can be quantitatively measured.

Start simply by identifying key personnel, brainstorming, and then establishing ambitious, yet realistic goals that will be monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis. Remember, establishing goals is not simply a matter of sometimes hitting a specific target, but rather achieving a target that leads to improved services and programs or, in this case, improved grant performance year after year.

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