Published on 2012/09/20

Planning and Executing Grants: Some Words of Wisdom

By taking advantage of workforce grants, higher education institutions can gain the resources they need to create programs that will help unemployed and under-employed individuals learn the skills to start a new career and a new life.

Astonishing, life changing accomplishments for an entire family instead of a stagnant cycle of poverty is the difference grant funded workforce training can make for countless adults.  Many potential students are so involved in daily survival that eking out any additional money even for training can’t be a consideration much less a reality.

Grant funded workforce training provides the boost to push past unemployment or last resort, minimum-wage jobs into careers that many adults thought would never be possible. Further, workforce training grants have a broad impact by providing economic benefits for a whole community by assisting to overcome employment shortages.

Being a workforce training grant manager can be challenging but it’s also rewarding. I have been a reasonably successful Grant Writer ($10,000 to $5 million from the federal government) and Grant Manager for both public and workforce grants and for private grants for specific projects. Some of what I know is solely common sense (think about how the government actually functions) and some of it is from hard won experience.

  1. Be reasonable! Be certain that what you want to do and what you can do actually align. It’s great to dream big but reality can bite pretty hard.
  2. Be sure that you are willing to do what is required by the funder. If you aren’t willing to do everything, don’t apply. You won’t be able to change the reporting requirements or the dollar amount of the award once you have accepted the contract regardless of how onerous the reporting requirements may be or how ridiculously low or high the award may be.
  3. Be rational about the work you can accomplish in a specified period of time. This refers to your claims regarding number of people trained, number of widgets created, amount and quality of research actually completed with analysis available, et cetera. Consider how long it will take you to create a new widget (research, development, testing, alterations to design, additional testing, implementation and the collection of results) and then add at least two more quarters to the time frame (four quarters would be better).
  4. Be honest with the funder. If you realize you can’t do what you agreed to do, contact the funder immediately. If you wait, the funder may not be willing to work with you to solve the problem. That said, be sure you provide the funder with a potential plan to resolve the situation – one that would do much of what you agreed to do.
  5. Be absolutely confident your people have the correct skill set(s). Hire the right people for the job and you will save yourself all kinds of headaches in the long run.

If you don’t remember these few things, and the above are just the tip of the iceberg, remember the following: If you don’t have the time, you must have the money (to hire the experts you need to get the job done properly). If you don’t have the money, you must have the time.

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Readers Comments

Zandra Thomas 2012/09/20 at 8:15 am

It’s amazing how common-sense so many of these pieces of advice are, and yet you still have colleges applying for them thinking “money” first, rather than “what is the task at hand, and can we actually accomplish it?”

Quincy Bauer 2012/09/24 at 5:30 pm

If there is a skill mismatch between your staff and the program you want to deliver, do you typically bring in a contract instructor to deliver the programming or do you have to drop the project altogether?

    Janet Harreld 2012/09/27 at 9:49 am

    It depends on your time frame and your resources. Typically, I have had access to instructors within my institutions who had the requisite knowledge or were already known to me and willing to come in on a class by class basis. Clearly, if your time is limited, you must find a qualified and quality contract instructor immediately. If you have some time, you are likely better served to canvass the professional associations in your community to see if you can create the network that will put you in contact with someone who has the “right stuff” that you can develop into an instructor for your institution – that relationship will last well beyond the grant.

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