GPA Annual Conference Preview: Building a winning grant team

I’m looking forward to traveling to Portland next week for the Grant Professionals Association Annual Conference on October 15-18. And I’m especially pleased to have the opportunity to lead a workshop session, Communication and Transparency: The Key to your Success, on  Saturday, October 18 at 10:30-11:45am. I wanted to provide this quick overview of my session for those of you planning to join me at the GPA conference, as well as those who can’t make it this year.

Grant managers deserve some recognition for all they do. They are storytellers, leaders, coaches, project managers, and shepherds. They have an extremely tough job because they have to constantly scan the horizon for new grant opportunities, while coordinating due dates, deadlines, and timelines associated with securing and administering grants. They also have to coordinate with the finance and program teams to make sure they are all aligned on the goals of the grant, the mission they serve, and how the funds should be appropriately allocated. That is a lot!

To be successful, grant managers have to think like team leaders even though the “team” most likely does not report directly to them on the organization chart. In my conference session I’ll be providing some tips on how grant managers can bring together team members from across the organization to successfully apply for, implement, and report on grant funding.

Here are my Top Tips to build a winning grant team:
1. Build your team first. Recruit your cross-team members from finance and programs, in addition to your grant team.
2. Get leadership buy-in. Your leadership team should be aware of the importance of the grants your team is working on and what they can do to help you be successful.
3. Bring the decision-makers together. Make sure the people on your grant team can make decisions about what needs to be done in order to complete their tasks effectively.
4. Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and goals for each team member.
5. Secure team agreement on project timelines so that everyone completely understands their part.
6. Hold short, but frequent, check-ins with your team so that they continue to keep each grant at the top of mind and can see progress on the project.
7. Be succinct and respectful of team members’ time. Keep meetings short, on-topic and productive.
8. Provide all team members with easy access to key information.
9. Celebrate your team successes and learn from your failures.

The entire Abila GPA Conference team (Bianca, Clegg, Heidi and I) is looking forward to meeting you in Oregon. Abila will be sponsoring the Welcome Reception on Wednesday in the Lloyd Center Foyer as well as a Booth (#6) in the Exhibitor Area. Be sure to stop by to hear more about how the Abila Grant Management solution can help you more efficiently collaborate as a grant management team. And of course I’d love to see you at my session on Saturday and look forward to answering any questions you may have.

The Moneyball Effect and what it means for Associations: It’s All About Learning

Everyone loves a good baseball analogy, but we took it a step further with our Moneyball Effect white paper. We examined how looking at data in new and different ways made the difference for the Oakland A’s, as portrayed in the movie and book Moneyball.

Download our whitepaper, The Moneyball Effect, now.

In parts one and two of this blog series, we introduced the concept of looking at stats (data) in new ways to achieve insights and success; shared the value of looking at the whole team collectively; and urged you to “step up to the plate” and be prepared to make changes where necessary.

In this third and final part of the blog series, we look at how to become a dynamic, data-driven, and constantly evolving and improving organization that remains relevant and valuable to your members.

LESSON #6. IT’S ALL ABOUT LEARNING
At the end of Moneyball, Billy Beane, manager of the Oakland A’s, shows the world that his new approach actually works and he is invited to Boston where the owner of the Red Sox offers him a job. Beane was offered more money than any general manager ever. But he didn’t take it. He stayed with the A’s. After all, as successful as they were, they didn’t win it all, so Beane figured he had more work to do.

The most successful associations understand the value in learning from their data to help make better decisions and execute more efficiently. There’s always more work to do and more opportunities to uncover when you become a data-driven organization.

Here are some tips on how to keep the momentum going as a data driven organization:

  • Continue to analyze your data and share the analysis with all of your staff on a monthly basis.
  • Be sure to use a variety of methods to present the data: written reports, graphs, charts, etc. Your staff will have different learning styles and may be more receptive to a different presentation style.
  • Use these monthly data update meetings as opportunities to plan future activities and programs. Don’t be afraid to change long-held beliefs (or events) if the data justifies it.
  • Seek input from front-line staff – the ones who have most contact with your members on new trends they see, such as: most frequent questions from members, interest in programs and events, and suggestions for new offerings, or even members cancelling their membership.

Please share in the comments (below) how your organization has looked at and used data differently, what key lessons they learned and applied, and what was the outcome.

And if you’d like to learn more about how you might apply the Moneyball effect to your association, simply download the complete white paper.

Grant Management Technology helps nonprofit organizations to better manage grant lifecycle and win more funding

On a daily basis grant writers and grant managers are faced with numerous challenges – including identifying potential funders, working on expense reports, meeting with program staff and preparing for site visits. Because grant funding can account for a considerable portion of your nonprofit organization’s revenue, it’s crucial that grant teams stay on track with deadlines and deliverables.

For grant-seeking organizations, it’s useful to think of grant funding as a pipeline. You’ve got to put the right amount of applications in one side of the pipeline in order to win grants that produce adequate funding on the other side. To keep your organization well-funded, you need a steady supply of grants in each stage of the grant lifecycle: application, distribution, and renewal. Fortunately, today’s grant management technology enables you to automate processes so that you can efficiently and effectively apply for, and win, more grants, better demonstrate performance to earn more grant renewals, and manage every stage of the grant lifecycle with more precision.

grant management pipeline

Win more funding by more effectively managing the Grant Pipeline

There are two key factors in winning grants: The ability to complete on-time, accurate grant applications and to demonstrate past mission performance. A good grant management solution can support both functions by enabling organizations to better manage the complete grant lifecycle.

Apply for grants more easily: Utilizing a grant management solution to keep track of deadlines and manage multiple grant applications can dramatically improve productivity and efficiency. Grant management staffs can rely on their software to set up workflow and prioritize tasks based on approaching grant milestones. It can also help you see across the entire grant pipeline to ensure that you’re applying for enough grants now to satisfy future funding needs. Grant management solutions make the application process itself much easier, by consolidating and storing all of the relevant information in one centralized database for easy access to grant information, program details, performance measurements and key contacts.

Show grantors why your organization is most deserving: Accurate forecasting and measurement can help you back up your proposal with hard data that shows grantors exactly what you can accomplish with the funds. By using technology to precisely track past budgets and results, you know exactly how much you will need in the future, and you can “outbid” other organizations that aren’t able to show effectiveness on such a detailed level. Your organization can easily demonstrate its positive impact to grantors, individual donors and the public with the help of grant management solution to collect data and report on success metrics

Grant management technology allows your organization to achieve greater collaboration and save time, so you and your team can win more funding and focus more energy on advancing your organization’s mission.

Download our complete guide: How Technology Helps Win and Manage Grants.

The Moneyball Effect and what it means for Associations – Step Up to the Plate!

Dollarphotoclub_443x295In part one of this three-part blog series, we introduced the concept of looking at stats (data) in new ways to achieve insights and success, and shared the team value lesson. Using the book and movie Moneyball as an example of how “actionable” rather than “big” data, can be more significant for associations as well as baseball teams, we created a whitepaper applying the Moneyball effect to association management.

Download our whitepaper, The Moneyball Effect, now.

The Moneyball Effect whitepaper offers six lessons to help association professionals define and achieve an actionable data plan for their organization. In this blog post, we’ll look at another one of those steps. Lesson 5 is all about being willing to try new things and shake up the tried and true. Change is not easy, but it is necessary for growth.

LESSON #5: STEP UP TO THE PLATE
The moves that Oakland A’s Manager Billy Beane made were not popular with much of the rest of his organization at first. This made his ideas difficult to implement. But getting results from your data-based experiments requires trying new things.

So, what did Beane do? He removed the barriers to the action he sought. And while many did not understand his moves, they enabled him to see his experiment through to action and results. It is not enough to analyze data and wonder if a new approach would work. You have to step up to the plate and try new things. And if your experiments go against tradition, be ready for resistance.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll have to cancel your annual conference to make room for some social media experiments. But you may have to give people permission to try new things. You might have to do some extra outreach to the department that doesn’t understand or agree with the experiment you want to try. You might need to pull some volunteer leaders aside to talk about why you are conducting these experiments and what value they will provide over the long term.

Remember, your organization has a culture, and cultures are inherently stable. The “way we do things around here” developed because those ways were successful, and even if situations dictate the need for change, the culture might need some convincing.

Stay tuned for part three of this three-part series. And please share in the comments (below) how your organization has looked at and used data differently, and what was the result.

And if you’d like to learn more about how you might apply the Moneyball effect to your association, simply download the complete whitepaper.

Abila Users and Developers Conference (AUDC15) – Early Bird Registration

Join more than 1,000 of your peers from the association and nonprofit world for the first-ever, combined Abila Users and Developers Conference (AUDC). AUDC is bringing together leaders, innovators, and technology experts, to share best practices, ideas, and know-how to help you and your organization better fulfill your goals and mission. And what better place than Austin? Being a proud Austin-based technology company, we are thrilled to welcome you to this vibrant, warm and weird city we call home.

For AUDC15 we will bring you educational tracks that focus on different industries and their different needs, as well as provide many crossover and “learning from each other” opportunities. The one-on-one tech support sessions (the very popular Purple Patch) will be available again – this year with the new name of Product Support Lab. AUDC15 will include roadmap sessions so that you can get a glimpse of the updates and improvements we’ve made so far, and what we have planned for the future to continue to meet your needs.

Product Support Lab

Purple Patch’s new name this year is Product Support Lab.

A highlight for me will be the opportunity to showcase the people of Abila at this conference. We know how valuable it is to put names, faces and expertise together in real life, so we’re hosting many networking opportunities with each other, with staff and with our wonderful sponsors. There will be two fabulous receptions for you to attend – one at the conference hotel and one at the world famous Austin City Limits Moody Theatre in downtown Austin. These events are an opportunity to relax, have fun, meet old friends and make new ones, too.

AUDC14 beach party

AUDC15 will be held February 22-24, 2015 at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin, TX. Our conference will be the inaugural event at the brand new JW Marriott, so if you’ve never experienced being the first-ever occupant of a hotel room – here’s your chance!

Register now at www.audc2015.com secure your Early Bird registration rate of $495.00. Please don’t delay, the early bird rate ends at Midnight (CT), October 20th. And I want to meet you, so book now to secure your spot.

See you in Austin!

The Moneyball Effect and what it means for Associations – It’s a Team Game!

This is part 1 of a 3-part series.

Moneyball, written by Michael Lewis (and was also turned into a film starring Brad Pitt) tells the remarkable story of the Oakland A’s professional baseball team in the early 2000s and how it managed to win enough games to make it the playoffs—despite having a team payroll that was roughly one-third of big-market teams like the New York Yankees.

What does baseball have to do with association management?
Simply put, this team, with a very limited budget, managed to achieve their surprise success by using stats (data) in an entirely new way. Not big data, but actionable data!

We recently published a whitepaper for association executives based on lessons learned from this story.

Download our whitepaper, The Moneyball Effect, now.
We hope that this story will inspire you take a fresh look at your membership, discover what you didn’t know you didn’t know, plan changes and reap the benefits. It’s not the size of your data, or budget that matters, it’s how you analyze and use it to grow your association.

The Moneyball Effect whitepaper offers six lessons to help association professionals define and achieve an actionable data plan for their organization. In this blog post, we’ll look at one of those steps:

LESSON #4: IT’S A TEAM GAME
It’s important to note that the A’s Manager, intentionally drew attention away from individual statistics (which highlighted star players) and focused more on the team impact of the statistics combined. For associations, this means learning how to better appreciate the collective impact of small actions, rather than focusing on the more visible and focused measures of success.

We often have a vision of the ideal member: the superstar volunteer who gives so much of her time and is so passionate about the field. She goes the extra mile, attends all the events, is an ambassador to member prospects, and one day will accept the Lifetime Achievement award. We should value and nurture these members, but we shouldn’t push everyone to be like them.

What about our content curators? What about the introverts? What about the people who always fill in their digital profiles? We tend to take smaller, less noticeable actions like this for granted, as if they are secondary in importance, but that’s precisely what baseball thought about on-base percentage. Don’t let our cultural obsession with superstars skew how you uncover the secrets to success in your association.

Is your association finding new ways to analyze and use data? If so please share in the comments below your findings, challenges, wins, etc. And don’t forget to download a free copy of the full whitepaper, which includes the all six lessons from Moneyball.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this 3 part series.

3 Key Takeaways from NTEN Leading Change Summit 2014

The inaugural Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN) Leading Change Summit (LCS) ended last Saturday, finishing up a conference like no other. NTEN CEO Amy Sample Ward kicked things off with the promise that this experiment required a leap of faith by the participants. If we took that leap, we would be rewarded with extreme collaboration opportunities. She, and the entire NTEN staff and volunteer team, stood by that promise.

Unlike most conferences where participants listen to keynotes, breakout sessions, and the occasional round table discussion, the LCS facilitated an interactive approach to leading change. Participants worked together to activate individual talents collaboratively rather than each reinventing the wheel on challenges many nonprofits face.

future of technology

I participated in the Future of Technology track and several themes prevailed through the three days of discussion.

1. Who says the nonprofit sector isn’t innovative? Innovation is often bred out of necessity. When resources are limited, it’s the scrappiest technologists that bring the most innovative approaches to the table. Unfortunately nonprofit funders often don’t reward scrappy, they reward complex project plans and promises of a risk free, conservative approach. We must help reshape the funders’ approach to reward innovation over “safe”.

2. End users want more with less. Many projects fail because end users are scared of the complexities of new technology. Software interfaces and usability standards need to evolve to be intuitive. As one of the LCS facilitators, Peter Campbell, wrote in his blog post on the Future of Technology, “In a world where staff are more independent in their software use, with less standardization, usability will trump sophistication. We’ll expect less of our software, but we’ll expect to use it without any training.”

3. Technology should enhance connections not replace them. In our breakout sessions we were asked to think about our dream projects, problems we would love to solve but don’t have resources, experience, or time. The result was a wall of ideas to create social change, using technology as the backdrop. Technology should be used to help make those connections and collaborations possible, not replace them. And sometimes, good old fashion analog index cards can do the trick!

Dream Projects

We thank the NTEN team for making this a truly unique conference experience, and special thanks to the Future of Technology track leaders: Peter Campbell, Tracy Kronzak, and Tanya Tarr.