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The Value of Money


Money is not a topic like the weather, about which you can safely make small talk. Discussions about money tend toward being very serious, and sometimes trigger emotional reactions and associations such as anxiety, freedom, depression, anger, resentment, status, happiness, power, excitement, control – what a minefield! It is ironic that money discussions are often so serious and stir up strong reactions because U.S. dollars are what economists call fiat money. Fiat money—that which holds value only by government decree—is intrinsically valueless. Ponder that for a moment.

 

That irony aside, it is little wonder why so many people find money discussions unpleasant and seek to avoid them.  Alas, grant professionals cannot avoid these discussions.  They are part of the job. 
 
We all hold conscious and subconscious beliefs about money, often learned from our parents, that we consider right and true. Parents do not teach the same money lessons; consequently, we do we all hold the same money beliefs. Herein lies the foundation for money disagreements, from disputes with your partner all the way up to trade disputes between nations. For non-profit organizations seeking grants to fulfill their missions, a dispute over a budget can derail a proposal. It becomes imperative to find a way to keep budget discussions collegial.
 
Through trial and error, we have found strategies that work for our organization. These strategies help us develop guidelines-compliant proposal budgets that members of each respective proposal team can agree on, with everyone still on speaking terms. 
 
Some people may wonder, “What is there to discuss?  The smartest thing to do is request the top of the grant maker's funding range. Everyone agrees that more is better, right?”
 
Well, no, not everyone agrees that a bigger grant budget is a better grant budget. My experience and observation have convinced me that each project has a “Goldilocks budget,” the request that is neither too big nor too small but just right to conduct the project successfully. An award that is too small hampers the project director's ability to achieve project objectives. An award that is too big often distracts the project director as they spend time and energy trying to figure out how to legitimately spend money they do not need.   
 
I have not found any shortcuts to the just-right-Goldilocks budget. Getting there seems to require holding those budget discussions with my colleagues that many of us would rather avoid.
 
Could this be one of the hidden values of money, that to productively channel its potential to do good in the world, we have to learn to work well together?
 
Diane Calabria assists and advises College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University faculty and staff as they seek and manage funding from foundations and federal agencies.
 

GPC Competencies: 
Knowledge of how to craft, construct and submit an effective grant application;
Knowledge of post-award grant management practices sufficient to inform effective grant design and development

 

Comments

 
By: Tamara
On: 06/30/2017 16:10:13
What an interesting question? Money certainly requires the cooperation of individuals and groups - the haves and have nots, the grant funders and grant seekers. The money itself is not contentious, but as you say, the beliefs we all hold (and their variety) can be contentious. If money is a currency, so too is cooperation and communication. As a grant writer and grant manager, I try always to keep my focus on the cooperation inherent in fundraising, rather than the dollars themselves.

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