Is Your Grant Committee Useful?

Last time I talked about the possibilities that appear when you form a committee to pursue a grant. Such an arrangement can be useful. However, designing a good committee can be difficult. There is the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.

Committee members can help:

  • provide data analysis,
  • focus on major problems,
  • perform in-depth searches to find appropriate grants, and
  • find grant writers who will work hard to produce quality grant applications.

Here is a website devoted to forming successful committees.

Bad eggs can infiltrate your happy little group.

  • The whiner,
  • The saboteur
  • The fair weather friend
  • The coattail rider.
  • The person with an agenda not aligned with yours.

The whiner makes your life miserable by complaining all day every day and challenging your authority each step of the way. The saboteur “forgets” to do things she’s been assigned derailing the application from the start. Motivation is often obscure but it’s usually personal. The fair weather friend misses meetings (so much to do…). The coattail rider allows everyone else do the work. Then – surprise –  she is front and center when the photographer arrives to document the moment of success. The last one is like the saboteur but her agenda is more transparent. She is passive aggressive, somewhere you stepped on her toes and she’s getting back at you now.

If spotted early you can pull out the weeds. Listen carefully to trusted committee members. If they tip you off, they’re probably right and you need to act. Your principal can help you pull this member out for other duties. Good riddance.

One way to gain mastery over these annoyances is to work with your principal and provide stipends for committee members who work on grant related activities. This gives you leverage, and if someone misbehaves, they’re out the door.

Most people join grant committees for noble reasons and they want to learn a new skill. You’ll know early who the most productive members will be. Don’t let this article scare you away from trying to put together a dedicated team of helpers. Once you create the right chemistry, a committee can mark the difference between success and failure.

You might find yourself making a trade-off, your real skill is in committee building and management, the other members are skilled at doing the day-to-day work of putting out a product (grant application). Try to gauge early where your talent is; it will help you manage your time.

A committee comes in handy when you are applying for a large very competitive award.  Let’s say you want to compete for a federal NSF ITEST grant (National Science Foundation Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers) Hundreds (thousands) of school districts compete for these awards each year. Many just apply once, and then give up. Collect a dedicated committee of people who will stay together over several years. It may take that long to develop a successful appeal. Each rejection teaches you a new approach and you may be successful eventually. A committee can devote itself to this one project. This will allow you to pursue the other grants you want to receive this year.

Here’s a checklist that describes how to form a successful committee; it’s worth a read.

More committee resources:

So don’t let the potholes knock you off course, a good committee is a good investment for your project.

Do you have committees that work in your school? Can you identify the factors that make the committee work well within the larger school community? I’d love to hear your stories.


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About Neva Fenno

Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager for several urban school districts in New York and Massachusetts for 30 years. As grants manager for 7 years, she managed up to $28,000,000 a year in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants from application through fiscal administration. She has hundreds of stories to tell, not all successes, but from each story there is a lesson to be learned.

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