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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: Whose Are They Anyway?


By Cyndi MacKenzie, GPC, CPS


I was recently working with a nonprofit who had the opportunity to apply for a million-dollar grant for capital projects. As many of us know, those are hard to come by, so you can imagine the list of projects that came to mind when senior leadership met to discuss what they should request in their application. As someone who believes firmly in a strategic plan, I directed the agency to review their plan before making a decision. However, two capital improvement projects were equally important to the agency, so they asked me, “Which project are we more likely to get other funding for?”  

GREAT QUESTION! Don't you love it when you have clients like this? I certainly do and yes, I thought this was my role. With our many disciplines as grant consultants, we are responsible for following funding trends, knowing grant opportunities, and being able to find answers for our clients. When I did more research, I found varying degrees of resources for both capital improvement projects. I outlined the pros and cons of both, including return on investment considerations. This way, my client was able to make an informed decision in a strategic way based on facts instead of emotion or who in leadership was talking the loudest.
By the time I received my next phone call from the organization, I'd decided the next decision could not be mine. The COO called to explain she had received additional information about one of their two projects, so she posed a question to me, on speakerphone, with her management staff listening in: “Which way should we go, Cyndi?”
I paused. Despite my urge to answer, I again explained the pros and cons of both and let them know that it would be unethical of me to choose. Only they could decide which one would be their priority as an agency, and they should make that decision based on their strategic plans. Certainly, I could have justified one project over the other, and ultimately I believe they chose the most appropriate project for their application. But it was their decision to make—not mine. It was mine to support them and from that moment on, we've been a team preparing a proposal to which they are 100% committed.
As consultants, and even as full-time staff in grant departments, we sometimes become invested in projects and certainly find ourselves in situations like this over and over again. For those of us who are GPCs, we are held to the highest professional and ethical standards, which include values such as “choice,” “respect,” “conscience,” and “freedom”.
In the spirit of the New Year and resolutions, I pose this question to you:
What decisions do you make for your clients?