Rowing the Grant Application Boat Together

People rowing paddle board in ocean

Going it alone on a grant proposal can turn a manageable project into a nightmare during the pre-award phase, not to mention how it can affect your ability to deliver what you promised after you receive the money. Building relationships for your organization is a key step in developing a competitive grant proposal. No matter who the potential funder is or what the funding amount may be, creating an effective proposal team will make your life easier.

I spend a portion of my time developing relationships both internal and external to our college. These relationships create a network of subject matter experts who we can call upon for support. The support comes in many forms, including advice on a project/topic, a recommendation for a contracted writer, potential partners, a financial guru who can provide budget suggestions, and senior-level college leaders who can assist in making decisions at an institutional level. I find that people are receptive to helping others on grants and appreciate the opportunity to provide their input and expertise.

A few questions to ask yourself before creating a team are:

  1. Am I prepared to provide similar help to the people who I want to help me?
  2. Who do I know?
  3. What areas will my organization likely seek grants in?
  4. What resources will I need?

A good first step in developing your grant team is to decide what level of support you are willing to provide to the people you plan to approach, because there is a good chance that some of these people will ask that you provide your expertise as a grants professional in an area that they support. I have several colleagues who provide services to local community programs, animal shelters, and non-profit organizations. I often get calls from groups who have provided letters and support to return the favor. Be prepared to support others as you grow your team.

The next step in creating your team is to think about who you already know that might be interested in grants. Oftentimes people you already know get excited about supporting a good program or cause and appreciate being recognized as an expert in their field. Start with your core group of friends and colleagues and build from there.

Another key step is to determine what areas your organization might have interest in applying for a grant in. This will help you shape some strategic targets to engage for support. For example, if your organization primarily has interest manufacturing education, you may not need to engage a nursing professional to support your team.

Finally, make sure you have all of the resources identified that you might need. For example, if your organization has a grant writer on staff, you might not need to find someone to contract with. Do you know who should be helping to row your grant boat?


While I work for a community college as a grants director, the views expressed in this blog post are mine, and do not reflect the official viewpoint of my employer.

Brian M. Thomas