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Should Grant Professionals Lead?

In a recent training session, we discussed what type of leaders encourage a grant- winning environment and what type hinder the progress of those trying to move the needle forward on agency goals and missions. As you can imagine, in both cases we heard the typical adjectives used to describe many co-workers, parents, spouses, and yes, even ourselves at times. 

The reason I do this exercise is that Grant Professionals play a unique role in setting the tone for an environment of strategic funding by using long-range planning and thinking, by encouraging diversity and building capacity, and by providing a guide for measurement and evaluation in all agencies for sustainable resources.  Do you fill these roles in your environment as a Grant Professional? If so, then you lead.

Whether you are a commanding, visionary, democratic, pacesetting, coaching, or an affiliative leader is not the only question to ask yourself. It is just as important to ask where your position sits in the agency or how you are viewed by your client if you are a consultant. Ask yourself: Do you regularly meet or talk with Program Directors to know what their needs are? Does anyone making decisions ask if you have knowledge that can influence what goes in the budget or what can be resourced from grant funds? Do you report on the outcomes of your efforts on a regular enough basis to reinforce the return on investment of your position? Do Executive Members know who you are and what you do for the agency?

If you said “no” to any of those questions, then you might want to think about why those strategies are not in place for several reasons: 1) The only way to be seen as the expert in this field, is to continually increase your knowledge on all things related to the grant profession; 2) The only way for people to know your worth as a Grant Professional is to make them aware of all you can accomplish; 3) The only way to have input at your agency or with your client, is to be of value at the right time and with those who can make decisions; and 4) the best way to lead is to be of service and to be strategic in all you do.

Such a significant part of our job is educating our clients and agencies about the trends, being “grant ready” and the right resource “fit”. This means that professional development is extremely important. Increasing our knowledge on writing styles, data analysis, collaboration, grant management, communities of practice, collective impact, and budgets certainly is important in our field, however, we must also expand our skills in board development, conflict resolution, negotiating, and leadership styles. We bring much more value to our clients and agencies when we do. 

In a survey of nonprofit chief executives and board chairs conducted in 2015 for the BoardSource report “Leading with Intent,” respondents on average gave nonprofit boards a grade of B-minus in overall performance.

What would you give some of the chief executives you have worked with? Better yet, what would they give you?
Cyndi MacKenzie, GPC has 13-years' experience and is a GPA Approved Trainer with offices in Naples, ME, and Brooksville, FL.

GPC Competency: 07. Professionalism