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The Waiting Place

Recently when attending a conference, I found myself engaging in one verb more frequently than others: waiting. Waiting for airport security, waiting for the plane, waiting to get to the hotel, waiting to check in… As you can imagine, and as you've probably encountered with travel, the list goes on. With ease, this transfers to the work of writing and managing grants. Waiting for the RFP to open, waiting for the application, waiting for finance to get numbers back, waiting for the site visit – which leads to the ultimate waiting game, waiting for the announcement regarding funding. With so much time spent waiting, have we ever really evaluated how to well, wait? Dr. Seuss talks of the ‘Waiting Place' in Oh, the Places You'll  Go.

Grant writers face a unique period of waiting. All can be quiet for months until an award notification comes, which can feel like eons. What can you do while waiting?
Take the time to ask your funder about their funding cycle, and take advantage of any technical assistance they offer. As a funder, applicants know I will not answer any questions regarding their grant from the time it is handed in until a funding recommendation is made by our citizen review panels. However, they do know that from June until December, questions are fair game. The best analogy for this is a student/professor relationship. It is realized not all funders are this way—do ask if they have suggestions or feedback on your application. When asking these questions, strategically map out deadlines and intersections with other major applications.
Provide an overview to the team working with you about what funding looks like. For individuals working at the program level, grants can be murky territory because they aren't always fully understood. Communication becomes key. This quote by Don Miguel Ruiz illustrates this so well.
If others tell us something, we make assumptions, and if they don't tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something, and we don't understand, we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don't have the courage to ask questions.
Communicate what you and your team are doing to mitigate potential funding issues while at the same time showing the track record of the program and of funding. When we don't know how something works it can be terrifying, especially so if our jobs depend on that piece. Locally, there is a nonprofit that seems to release a distress beacon every year and are fearful they'll be closing up shop. They've been around since 1978 and consistently deliver results. Transition to see if it is possible to have communication come from a place of gratitude while still expressing the need and streamline communication and answer questions in one voice.
Use the time to listen, read and recharge your skills. Periodicals seem to be a relatively modern marvel that busts the time we spend waiting. Take the time to dip into the Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Nonprofit Times, or the Stanford Social Innovation Review to gain a new perspective on issues your nonprofit is facing. Find podcasts that invigorate and offer insight. Some of our favorites are This American Life, TED Radio Hour, and Radio Lab (and we're anxious for the new season of Serial!). New connections are often found in the most unlikely places.