If you listen to the Fundraising HayDay podcast or know me some other way, you will quickly learn that I am an EXTRA extrovert. People are my passion, my jam, my lifeblood. As far as I am concerned, friends and quality relationships make the world go round. Trust me, if we know each other, we are probably friends. If we aren’t yet, just give it time.
With that being said, it should come as no surprise that I am a huge believer in building relationships in the workplace. Yes, I have worked as a solo grant professional within a larger organization and as a lone grant consultant, working from home with no official colleagues to speak of. But that does not mean I work in a vacuum.
As grant professionals, we require the knowledge and insight of subject matter experts, accountants, budget experts, GIS map makers, marketing gurus, program directors, board members, community leaders, and others to create, submit, and manage successful grant programs. I could never have written a grant about flooding and tree health without hours of conversations and editing sessions with the stormwater engineer and arborist at the city’s engineering department where I once worked. (Not so shocking note: though I haven’t worked there in over seven years, those two ladies are some of my favorite lunch dates and book club friends.) If you haven’t picked up what I’m saying here, you need people to do your job well. And it’s best to have cordial relationships when leaning on others for information and assistance.
In the words of Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
So, to help with your sanity, increase job performance, and keep burnout at bay, here are my suggestions for the friends you will need to be the best grant pro you can be.
First, you really do need friends at work. According to the Gallup Organization, people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. And it doesn’t have to be a best friend: Gallup found that people who had a good friend in the workplace are more likely to be satisfied. These are people who will bring you a cup of coffee (or, in my case, a Coke or sweet tea) when you are under deadline and can’t step away from your desk. They are the ones who will step in and help edit your grant because even if they don’t know the world of grants, they are a grammar queen.
Second, fellow grant friends are worth their weight in gold. Who else can you turn to with a question about a mistake you made on a report, advice on handling a boss who does not understand grant regulations, and a board who thinks you can bring in an additional 10% in grant funding for five years in a row, no matter the state of grants or the economy? No one, and I mean no one, will understand your highs and lows like another grant professional. If you have not found your people, I highly recommend joining the Grant Professionals Association. It is where I found mine, and they are AMAZING!
Finally, funder relationships are KEY! Trust me, at some point, your grant program will have a misstep or completely go off the rails. Ask me how I know. When things don’t go to plan, I have found it is always easier to pick up the phone and talk to my program officer. And it is much better when we have a track record, and they know that mistakes are not my usual way of operating. Having funders in your corner is much more than increasing your chance for grant funding; it is having their knowledge and know-how at your disposal. And let’s be honest; we are always more likely to pick up the phone or answer that email from someone we have a relationship with – customer service improves when I have interacted with a funder beyond the application and required grant management forms.
Ultimately, having friends within your place of business and in your profession helps create a healthy workplace culture. That leads to decreased burnout, higher success, and happier/healthier grant pros. And who doesn’t want that? In the latest Fundraising HayDay episode, we spoke with Andrew Olsen about building healthy cultures in the nonprofit sector and various
other topics. You can learn more about this vital topic here: How to Create a Healthy Nonprofit Culture | Fundraising HayDay (podbean.com).
Until then, I’ll leave you with this lovely idea by educator Steven Anderson, “Alone we are smart. Together we are brilliant.” Think about that, my friend!
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