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Site Visit Requested: Selecting and Prepping the Players


As grant writers, we understand what the added promise a site visit from a potential funder represents to the success of a submitted application. That is why when a site visit is requested, we must be the brains and brawn behind preparation and execution. 
 
In other articles, we learned some helpful tools to use during site visits. Below, please find some tips I use to select and prepare the right people to be a part of a visit.
 
Know your audience
When you begin planning for a site visit, consider the funder, your long-term plans with them, and the proposed application. This will steer you towards the right colleagues to invite on the visit and to what degree you need to prepare them. 
For small (<$25K) and/or renewing donors, you might consider bringing a smaller group, in order to use your co-workers' time more efficiently. In visits at this level, I like to bring a person familiar to the funder or an engaging team member, and a program staffer who has a more intricate knowledge of the work.
 
For large (>$25K) and/or new funders, it makes the most sense to invite board, executive, and program leaders. Involving a higher-level team will display how important the visit is to your organization. It will show that an investment is in good hands, stewarded by leaders that are present and accessible. 
 
Select the right players for the visit
Once you know your audience, it is time to pick the players you want involved. On all visits, I would suggest the grant writer be present, to answer any nuanced questions about the proposal and steer conversations in the right direction. Here is a shortlist of invitees I usually work with, and what I have them focus on.
 
Organizational leaders joining larger visits are key in sharing the overall direction and long-term goals of the organization, and how larger themes connect to the proposed application. 
 
Program staff are a must on all visits, to exhibit their direct knowledge and experience doing the work of the organization. 
 
Other staff who have been reliable on past visits, give great tours, or hold great context for your work can add value to the visit. These colleagues can add comfort and easy conversation during visits, which is paramount.
 
Create + relate the plan
Now that you have the players set for your site visit, it is time to create a plan and relate it to your team. I like to utilize a simple preparation document that details:
 
1. The donor's giving characteristics
2. History with the organization
3. Timed visit itinerary
4. Key specifics about the proposal
5. Possible pain points or issues that might come up
 
Here is a template I have used to create a guiding document for this information.
 
Following the completion of this document, I like to set a 45 minute preparation meeting with the site visit team to go over the plan. This meeting is usually part me driving overall strategy, to impress the messages to get across on the day-of, and part brainstorming to understand how we might best present our case for support. 
 
How have you helped select and prepare your team for a site visit?
 
In the next article of this two-part series, I'll build on this theme to discuss execution on the day of the site visit. That is where the brawn comes in.  
 
Michael V. Paul is a Foundation Relations Director at Providence Health & Services in Portland, OR. He has written grants for the past four years, and in another life, was a Program Officer at a small foundation. Aside from work, Michael is an avid soccer-player, coffee-drinker, and reader of books.

GPCI Competency(ies): Knowledge of methods and strategies that cultivate and maintain relationships between fund-seeking and recipient organizations and funders.