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Using the Scrum Framework to Assist In Your Prioritization of Grant Projects


How can post-it notes, sharpie markers, and a white board help transform the prioritization process for your grant applications as an organization?
 
It sounds like a bad joke leftover from April Fool's Day, and the simple answer is that of course the tools can't transform your process.

However, using those simple and inexpensive tools within the Scrum framework CAN transform the prioritization process so that you don't hear questions like “Why did we decide to apply for that?” or “Why didn't we decide to apply for that?”
 
Here are the basic and high-level steps you can follow when using Scrum framework principles to prioritize your grant projects:
 
Step 1: Schedule a 1-hour meeting with the key decision makers for your organization in a room where you have a large white board or wall space that you can put post-it notes on the wall.
 
Step 2: Assemble a pile of post-its (preferably the “super sticky kind”) so that there is a different color for each of the individuals attending and have a black sharpie for each of the individuals.
 
Step 3: At the start of the meeting, give a post-it pad and marker to each individual and ask them to write the specific project/programs that they believe are priorities for seeking grant funding based on the organization's current strategic plan. Give them 10 minutes for this exercise and have them place their individual post-its up on the whiteboard/wall after they are done.
 
Step 4: As the post-its are being placed on the wall, look for identical post-its and initially cluster those together into groups on the wall. Read out the remaining individual posts to the group and get agreement on any other clusters to be created or added to.
 
Step 5: After the clusters of priorities are gathered, share the Fibonacci sequence (using poker planning cards or the free app Xebia, if possible) as the method that you will use to estimate the business value of the priorities. Before estimating your business values, define a reference story. In this case, that reference story might be a small project or program that everyone in the room can agree has a business value of 2.
 
Step 6: For each of the program/project clusters, have everyone in the room estimate the relative business value of that project/program using the Fibonacci numbers compared to your reference story that was given a 2.
 
Step 7: After all your program/project clusters have an assigned relative business value, rank the clusters from highest to lowest. The largest business value is the HIGHEST priority project for grant funding. The smallest business value is the LOWEST priority project for grant funding.
 
Step 8: Save your post-it clusters and move them to a visible spot on the wall in your office so that at future grant team/stakeholder meetings, your team can be reminded about the priority order. This is particularly important when a funding opportunity could address more than one priority project/program.
 
It sounds incredibly simple, doesn't it? The reality is that it is. The first time you walk a leadership or executive group through it they will likely have some questions about the Fibonacci sequence. Yet with time, the group will appreciate that visual artifact as reference when tough questions about an application's focus come up. And eventually, the executives will ask you as a year is close to passing, when it is time for another post-it note session.
 
 
Looking to learn more? You can watch the recording that the Grant Professionals Association has of the webinar Being Agile in Your Grant Application Process Using Scrum which is free for members to watch. (GPA members: don't forget to login to the Membership-Benefits section on the website to obtain your discount code to register for this webinar for free)
 
Diane H. Leonard, GPC is a Grant Professional Certified (GPC) and Approved Trainer for the Grant Professionals Association. Diane and her team at DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services have secured more than $55.4 million dollars in competitive grant funds for its clients since 2006. When not working on grant applications, Diane can be found in the 1000 Islands, out for a run, or drinking a strong cup of coffee.

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