What Red Sox Fans Can Teach Grantseekers

October 17, 2011 | By Adrianne Fielding | Post a Comment

As a born-and-raised New Englander, it’s in my genetics for October to be one of my favorite months.  The mornings are darker and crisper, toasty layers are retrieved from boxes and placed by the front door, and the errant ruby roadside branch gives way to a spreading, deepening canvas. October also brings the end of the regular professional baseball season and the playoffs that lead to the World Series.  For most New Englanders, it’s the high holidays at the altar of the Red Sox.  But this year, as in many others, the Red Sox crashed and burned in a magnificent disintegration during the homestretch of the regular season.

Disappointing?  Of course.  Surprising?  Not entirely.  In fact, it’s probably similar to what a lot of grantseekers are feeling about federal funding these days, with more competition and fewer dollars to go around.

I’d like to suggest some insights from long-suffering – excuse me, long-time – Red Sox fans that might reassure frustrated grantseekers:

There’s Always Next Year

In my experience, people either love or hate baseball. I can understand why some people just don’t dig it. It’s a haul. The games are long. The season is long. It takes months to find out whether it’s ultimately going to be successful. It’s a protracted slog, with a bunch of position players who bring their specialties together the best way they can and hope that it’s enough for them to come out on top.

That sounds a lot like grantseeking. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a long process that requires the focus, commitment and coordinated effort of a number of people – specialists who have to work together as a team to outperform their competitors. There are also significant external factors that are beyond the control of a grantseeker – such as the strengths and performance of fellow applicants, and the current climate for federal funding.

But you gotta stay in the game. The needs are just too great for your communities, citizens and clients. There’s not really an “offseason” for grants, but it certainly is a slower season for federal grants. Take advantage of the downtime to make adjustments and start looking and preparing for the next funding opportunities NOW.

Recoup and Regroup

Throughout the season, and especially when it doesn’t make the playoffs, a baseball team conducts an extensive self-assessment. In the areas within their control, where did they underperform as individuals and as a group? Did the team’s go-to approach and plays work, or are new ones needed? Does it need different processes, leadership or staff to adjust to the things that it can’t control, such as its competitors’ strengths?

Your organization can consider similar questions about its grantseeking efforts.  Are your grantseeking strategy and processes clear, organized and focused?  Did you go after enough of the right grants for your projects?  Have you stuck to the same funding sources, or should you explore some new options? Could your project design or measurable outcomes use some strengthening or refining? Could your team members use retraining or professional development for their grant-related skills?  Would your projects be stronger with new partners or collaborators?

If possible, get some feedback from funders about why any recent applications weren’t funded.  Work on the things that you can control, and adapt as possible to the things that you can’t.

So … how many days until spring training?

How else do you think grantseeking is like baseball (or another professional sport)? Any Yankees fans out there who want to comment on what they can teach grantseekers that Red Sox fans can’t?

(Photo credit: Adrianne Fielding)

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