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Three tips for finding and working with partners on grant-funded projects

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Partners and in-kind contributors are essential for most organizations who are seeking grant money for a new initiative. If you’re a veteran to grant making or just embarking on a grant-funded project for the first time, you’ll find that most granting entities require one or more partners or in-kind contributors. Partnerships bolster a project’s viability and are more attractive to a granting entity. Partnerships also increase your credibility; reflecting on a project that will improve or address a need that is apparent in a community–that it isn’t just a lone endeavor. Here are three tips for finding and working with grant partners to successfully launch and implement a grant funded project:

  1. Don’t just find good people, find the right people
  2. From the beginning, establish the roles and responsibilities of your grant partners and contributors
  3. Leadership and communication are key to strengthening the health of your relationships with your partners for future funding possibilities

Don’t just find good people, find the right people

Once you identify a Solicitation for Grant Application (SGA) that supports your mission, familiarize yourself with the requirements of the grant. Carefully read the solicitation to find out what type and the number of grant partners you’ll need to frame your project and proposal. Also, take heed of the granting entities mission, goals, and outcomes that are outlined in the SGA. The contributors you’ll want to engage should understand what the grant entity wants to accomplish and also your project’s goals. Prepare a grant fact sheet to take with you as you meet with potential partners so that they have full insight as to what a potential partnership means for you and the project to successfully be funded and implemented. Additionally, do preliminary research on your proposed partners.

Partnerships and collaborators can come from many type of organizations and there are several ways to find them. The key is to pursue grant partners with similar interests and outreach. Start your search by looking locally. Seek out other higher education institutions (two or four year), K–12, workforce boards, businesses, and not for profits. Also, network at conferences and tradeshows. It is also important to consider if your potential partners have the capacity to supply the resources that you need.

After you find the partners for a project, request that they prepare a letter of commitment (LOC). As the lead on the grant application, you’ll want to include LOCs of all the partners that will be a part of the project. Additionally, you’ll need to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). These are working agreements that detail the scope of services you and your partners will perform to achieve your project’s goals and objectives.

Establish the roles and responsibilities of your partners and contributors

From the beginning, it is essential to establish the roles and specific responsibilities of your partners. Take an inventory of the resources (human, financial, technology, etc.) that your partners will provide. Again, the SGA (RFP) and award amount will establish specific requirements as to what types of partnerships you may have, but there will be some level of flexibility in the resources you can use in a project. Ideally, granting organizations like to see proposed projects where there are multiple partners and the longer your relationship with the partners the better! Make sure to outline the specific roles and responsibilities in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).


Strengthen the health of your relationships by strong leadership and communication

Finding and cultivating your relationships and pool of prospective partners is time consuming, but well worth the effort. It is imperative to establish and maintain relationships with partners through strong leadership and consistent communication. Create tools to collaborate and communicate regularly; set-up your core grant project monitoring tools. Establish transparency in the project implementation and roll-out; make sure the project’s outcomes are top-of-mind, and the right partners have access to the milestones and deliverables. When roadblocks appear, work together to find agreeable solutions that will comply with the grant requirements and your project goals. Always keep everyone’s eye on the prize, which should be the outcomes (deliverables) that you proposed in the grant application.

 

About Howard Drake

Howard Drake is the director for Polk State’s Corporate College. He has spent the previous five years managing Department of Labor grants designed to build curriculum and deliver training to various constituencies such as: the unemployed, veterans and incumbent workers to build talent for the manufacturing industry. He believes that talent development strategies and tactics will assist the organization’s bottom line by increasing employee skill sets and their levels of expertise. The company bi-product is continued competitive advantage by the retention of key talent and the onboarding of qualified new employees.

He is a member of the Polk Engineering Technologies Education Council, which brings industry and educators from the career academies together to discuss industry needs and ensures linkages of curriculum that lead to the right skill sets that the manufacturing industry seeks. Additionally, Howard is a member of the Board of Directors of the MSCA Regional Manufacturing Association in Polk County Florida and is Vice President of Finance for the National Council of Continuing Education and Training. He achieved the rank of Sergeant in the United States Air Force.

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