Grants Specialist or Martyr-in-Residence?

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Is your organization’s grants specialist constantly frazzled, working nights and weekends and juggling a schedule bulging with proposal deadlines, program development meetings, and report due dates? Do other staff members tip-toe around the specialist’s desk, forgiving occasional expletives, ignoring the candy wrappers and dirty coffee cups, and excusing missed calls and meetings. If so, that’s a big red flag.

Martyrs aren’t real grant professionals. Don’t buy into the drama. Appropriate, professional business behavior always matters.

If you supervise a grants specialist who has trouble maintaining boundaries between work and personal time and expects a heavy workload to excuse unprofessional behavior, grab the reins and pull the grants function back into line.

Review the grant specialist’s workload. It’s possible that the load is too heavy. An oversized workload easily accumulates when the grant specialist doesn’t speak up about unrealistic expectations or subconsciously relishes the role of martyr.  A supervisor’s oversight and involvement are crucial.

Review efficiency. By setting priorities, laying out project timelines, and working at a steady pace, many demanding jobs can be handled within a busy, but regular work day. Occasional overtime work comes with the territory, but constant night and weekend work is a red flag. If the specialist is not well organized, has trouble prioritizing, or works in stop-and-go spurts rather than at a steady pace, efficiency suffers.

Clearly communicate behavioral expectations. When an organization has accepted the role of grants specialist as martyr-in-residence and excused sloppy or inappropriate behavior, it can be hard to turn things around, but it’s worth the effort. All staff members carry important responsibilities, and many are frantically busy. Professional behavior by everyone is an important element of maintaining high-functioning organizations. No one is exempt.

Dropping balls within the organization hurts morale of other staff members and decreases coordination–it’s important to make scheduled calls and meetings. But consistently shirking responsibilities with partner organizations and community members is even worse. After a while, dropped balls don’t bounce and organizational credibility suffers. A strong grants professional is a wonderful organizational asset. Help your grants specialist be the best possible by setting realistic expectations, supervising well, and holding a high bar for professional behavior.


— Barbara Floersch, Chief of Training & Curriculum


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You're welcome to link to these pages and to direct people to our website.
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