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Best Site Visit Ever


Site visits come in all forms—pun intended. Often times they turn up on short notice, sometimes with little direction. They're important events, ones to showcase your agency's hard work and grant progress. How to navigate and conduct site visits is a crucial, relational part to becoming a grant professional.

 

You may be meeting a local funder whom you've chatted with over coffee and know well. A tour's on the agenda, a quick lunch with administrators and then some file reviews. But what if it's a state funder? You have the two-day agenda ready, the program materials organized into binders and your regular duties covered by coworkers. You're confident, maybe a little nervous. But wait—did you say a federal site visit? You've spoken to your contact twice before and aren't sure what to expect. They're flying in from the D.C. area in four weeks and want to know where to stay. And exactly how long is that preparation list they e-mailed you? Thirty pages—double sided? And it's due in two weeks?

Take a deep breath and exhale. Repeat without hyperventilating. You got this.

I believe there are two parts to conducting a site visit: professionalism and hospitality. Site visitors, like grant professionals, are human. When traveling, we may experience jet lag, highway construction, hotel reservation mix-ups, or even untimely illness. If we as grant professionals focus on “managing up” and over prepare, success will tilt in our favor. Tips for a successful visit include:

 
  • Provide the meeting agenda ahead of time. This will enable the visitor to organize their paperwork and confirm everything's in order.
  • Provide dining and parking sites, along with accessible public transportation options. Don't assume your visitor knows the area, particularly if it's rural.
  • If your visitor can't accept gifts, at the very least offer bottled water. Parking passes may also be a good initiative.
  • Confirm the dates and times of arrival around 24-48 hours before the scheduled visit. If documents were sent early, confirm e-mail and attachment arrival.
  • Provide annual reports and any other agency “get to know you” booklets as addendum documentation. These offer visitors another research tool, particularly when they're typing up their monitoring reports back at home base.
  • If traveling offsite, offer to carpool. This may help to stay on schedule, avoid delays and also give the visitor time to collect their thoughts and prepare.
  • Have clients or program participants ready to interview as it relates to your grant. Site visitors sometimes want to hear stories and experiences from the other side of the table. Be prepared for last minute cancellations and have back-up interviewees if possible.
  • Take notes after the site visit. How did everything go? Was a meeting room double booked? Was parking an issue for your visitor? Did you misinterpret a paperwork request? Jot it down and you'll be ready for the next visit.
  • Remain open to feedback during and after the site visit. Always follow-up promptly to any grant changes or document requests.

A successful site visit builds trust between the funder and your agency. It shows your agency is a good steward of funds and is honoring their grant proposal commitments. This can mean more funding opportunities, name recognition, and even potential growth. A balance between professionalism and hospitality are the keys to conducting a successful visit.

Are you ready for your next site visit? What are some of your own tips and lessons learned for conducting successful site visits?

Ashley Clayton is a Grant Coordinator/Planner at Montgomery County Juvenile Court in Dayton, Ohio. She has worked in juvenile justice for the past five years, helping the Court to receive millions of dollars in local, state and federal funding. Ashley remains passionate about helping community youth and families and is proud to work at one of the leading juvenile courts in the State of Ohio.

 
 
 

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