Monday, June 27, 2011

The (Anxiety Causing) Panel Review

The room is dark except for a projection screen that displays a slide outlining your proposal. Fourteen people sit at a conference table: eleven panel members and three staff. The name of your organization is called. You stand and move forward. At the podium, you introduce yourself. An icon on the screen flashes, “Questions. Questions. Questions.” The panel members shoot. And, you field a dozen questions (seems like more!) about your 63-page application, your reports from last year and literally anything that pops into the minds of the panelists or staff and strikes them as relevant.

It’s the grant panel review. You want to help you organization to receive the funds. You want to help the panel and staff to understand the importance of your work. How can you excel in this setting? Here, are three of more than a dozen guidelines we offer to nonprofits with whom we consult, to help them shine in this potentially anxiety-causing situation.

1. Prepare. Review your materials—an obvious suggestion. Here is a new twist. As your review, note areas where you want to provide updates. Where has the situation changed since your wrote the grant, e.g., a staff member was added with outstanding credentials? In your materials, do you find any vague answers you can clarify? Finally, what questions would you have if you were a panel member? Prepare how to respond. Prioritize points to make.

2. The Messages. Identify up to three key messages. What do panel members need to know—and remember after you leave the room? While “#1 Prepare” is about supplying critical details, messages are main ideas that carry emotional content. How will you change lives? How does your proposal meet the donor’s goals? Why is it urgent to fund this proposal this cycle? During the panel review in as many answers as possible include key messages.

3. Use We. During your presentation think and use “we.” This embraces the audience (and those they represent) in your work. It helps you to remember that they truly are potential partners and not, despite their numbers and the room’s darkness, inquisitors. However, using “we” is more than just tossing it into the conversation. Use a “we” that views the meeting as an opportunity to engage the panel members and staff in a deeper relationship with your organization.

Karen Eber Davis Consulting helps nonprofit organizations and businesses that work with them create sustainable income and innovative to get them there. With her help, nonprofits have earned more than ten million dollars in strategic grants—resulting in new funds and more resilient nonprofits. Sign up for Added Value today for more articles about nonprofit funding and innovation.

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