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Grant Roles & Responsibilities


My career in grants started with a “deep dive” into the middle of a grant application cycle with the charge of getting 14 Small-Cities HUD Community Development Block grant applications (CDBG) ready for submittal in 14 weeks. I worked as part of a small team charged with this task. To give you some context, these applications were created in the age of no computer, no GIS mapping software, no digital cameras, etc. We actually had to go out in the field to collect data, do surveys, take pictures, and find resources to build our case for funding.

 

The agency I worked for served 34 local governments within a 10-county region. Communities within this region varied in size from 400 people to 30,000 people. I quickly realized that there was no “one size fits all” approach to determine who would do what. Thankfully, I had my management degree courses to provide a framework for how to approach these communities.

One of my first bosses often told me to delegate tasks. I would often remind them that delegation only works when the individual assigned the task can actually perform the job. Coming into these projects in the middle, I could not change any of the players. I decided to do an assessment of each community team to see who I was working with and how the team worked together. I also completed an inventory of skills and strengths of each team member so that tasks could be assigned based on these qualities. Many of these players remained the same from year to year as we often had new projects within these communities.

I would typically call a “kick-off” meeting to start the project planning for these grants. We would discuss the project, requirements and timeline. Next, I would see who I had at the table and what roles were already filled. From there, I would go into recruitment mode to fill all the voids. First, I would look at the assets from the community to see what I had to work with. Who were the missing partners that needed to be at the table? Once those individuals were identified and brought to the table, the real project planning could begin.

I have never been one to recreate the wheel. If there was already an agency doing something we needed, we looked at ways to make them a part of the project. Once we had all the players at the table, roles were assigned based on what each was contributing to the project. Depending on the size of the project and its complexity, some people wore more than one hat. Since for the majority of my career, I was essentially a one person department, I learned to wear all the hats and perform most of the roles, with the exception of architect and engineer. This skill came in handy as I understood what it would take to keep the projects on track. This also provided me with the opportunity to teach others about these roles and help people in these communities grow their skill sets.

All of this training helped prepare me for what would be one of the biggest projects of my life. In October of 2000, I went to work for the City of Valdosta as their Grants Administrator. The city already had one CDBG project underway when I came on board, but they had great aspirations in the next two years, namely securing the Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP). We got to work on this task immediately and started gathering information for our pitch which would be for the 2003 Jimmy Carter Project. It was very exciting when the city was notified that Valdosta, Georgia along with La Grange, Georgia and Aniston, Alabama would all be project sites for 2003. A steering committee was set up and the work commenced. My contribution to the project was securing both a small cities Multi-activity Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) of $800,000 and a Community Home Investment Program (CHIP) (HOME funding) grant of $300,000 to be used in the development of a new subdivision where we would build 50 houses over the course of the grant period. For the JCWP event, we would complete 25 of those houses.

At the time we did the JCWP project our city was slightly over 33,000 in population. Everyone had told us that our goals were too high and we would never be selected for such a big project, but we refused to give up hope. Don't ever let the size of the communities you are working with keep you from trying for loftier projects. Many of these smaller entities have hidden gems within them that are valuable assets you can tap for many different projects. Don't be afraid to go out and discover them.

What are the undiscovered talents in your communities?
 
Kathy Brunot, CGMS, GPC, is currently the Grants Manager for Finance and Operations Grants at The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Prior to this position she has also worked in both the public and non-profit sectors. Contact her at kbrunot@fa.ua.edu.

GPC Competency: 05. Post-Award Grant Management