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Win Big, Fail Better: Innovation in Grants

Innovation is about finding creative, inventive, new ways to solve problems. Sometimes the best way to serve a community or fulfill a mission will be to try something that hasn't been done before. Innovation offers positive change for an organization, improved situations in a community, and self-discovery. Proposal writers, program developers, and more have roles in innovation as creative enablers, connectors, change-makers, resources, champions, and advisors. Learning about innovation from a grants perspective will provide both inspiration and best practices to guide decision-making. Harnessing seven key ingredients for innovation (risk, purpose, permission, transparency, persistence, failure, and collaboration) will build an environment and personal perspective that allows the best new ideas to thrive.

Introverts are often great innovators because we can focus intensely while working alone. Introverts also make great leaders of proactive people because we are receptive to ideas and input from our team. Both introverts and extroverts should engage in effective collaborations to innovate. 

Beware mission creep and keep responsibilities in check by striving for the grants grilled cheese sandwich. The two slices of bread represent grassroots efforts and top-down management that come together with the grants person as the melted cheese gluing everything together.

Use tips to identify partners, including funders, who are interested in innovation. Incorporating research, identifying successful practices from other fields, and building on pilots or early indicators can help make the case. Clearly communicating the innovative intent of a project signals understanding of the process and invites trust while acknowledging the risk of a new idea. While some foundations take conservative approaches, others will be excited by proposals that make a convincing case for a new idea that could change the future (and the world!). 

GPC Comptencies Addressed:
How to craft, construct, and submit an effective grant application 
Strategies for effective program and project design and development 
How to research, identify, and match funding resources to meet specific needs
Nationally recognized standards of ethical practice by grant developers

Like most grants professionals, Melinda Stoops entered the world of grants and sponsored projects through the side door and have worked in fundraising for the past decade. As a learner, information hoarder, and relational problem solver, grants and research administration offer new, interesting challenges every day. Each proposal is an opportunity to meet needs in ways that are more equitable and inclusive, and each report shares the story of what is best about our community and the work we do together.