Federal Agency Representatives are Your Friends
Early in my career in the nonprofit sector, I had the opportunity to apply for a federal grant. I had successfully applied for foundation grants and so used the same approach for the federal grant: follow all the rules, be honest, submit on time, and make sure to talk to my contact at the funding source. When I received that federal grant, my colleagues in other housing nonprofits expressed surprise that my first public grant proposal was fully funded.
They were even more surprised when I told them that I believed part of the reason for the funding was that my representative at the federal agency had been so helpful. Not only did he answer my numerous technical questions, he also gave me insight into the specific approach that his office was looking for in that year’s proposals. I didn’t find this surprising at all. Isn’t this the way program officers, whether private or public sector, usually worked?
It turned out that many of my colleagues had never chosen to contact their federal representatives believing that these public servants wouldn’t be really useful. In my naiveté, I assumed that program officers, both public and private, would be helpful. I had treated the federal rep just the way I treated private sector program officers, with respect, honesty, and appreciation. And he had been just as helpful in guiding me towards writing a successful grant proposal as had his private sector colleagues whom I had contacted in the past.
This experience confirmed my belief that when you treat other people as you want to be treated, good things generally happen. Learning this early on in my nonprofit career has helped me and the nonprofits I have served in ways too numerous to count.
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