Effective Collaborating for Impact
Clean hydrogen is coming to the Mid-Atlantic! You may have seen this monumental announcement from the Biden Administration, which will transform our region’s use of hydrogen fuel over the next decade and positively impact disadvantaged communities through new jobs and improved public health. Fairmount’s team is thrilled to have helped make this work possible.
Some context: The City of Philadelphia retained Fairmount in late 2022 to provide project management, writing and synthesis, and submission support as the newly established Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2) pursued this funding opportunity from the US Department of Energy. With its potential to bring unprecedented resources to Southeastern PA, Southern NJ and Delaware for the production, storage, transport, and usage of clean hydrogen, we knew how significant it would be to win this grant for so many communities. Over seven months, our team earned the trust of three dozen active partners representing government, labor, academia, corporate, and civic sectors. We organized the partnership’s expertise to respond to a highly technical submission, navigated everyone through the process, and encouraged perseverance, all while keeping sharp focus on the application’s complex requirements. The result? A successful $750 Million award, one of only seven in the nation.
To say we’re proud of our role on such a game-changing project is an understatement. Equally important, how we worked on this project offers significant learning in this moment of extraordinary public sector funding opportunities. For collaboration to succeed in such a uniquely competitive and high-stakes environment, our team offers the following guidance:
1. Cast the Right People in the Right Roles.
A complex application requires core and sub-working groups meeting regularly to get the job done. With so many people involved, maintaining a disciplined agenda is crucial, and a little cheerleading and coaching doesn’t hurt, either. Successful working meetings benefit from a designated Wrangler, who can gently (but assertively) steer conversations towards important group decisions. We also recommend finding at least one Champion – ideally, a member of the core team – who can motivate fellow partners, help follow up on deadlines, and provide friendly accountability from the inside.
2. Follow Up Every Meeting with Immediate Action Steps.
Once an opportunity is released, every week’s activities matter. After every meeting, send out a quick message to the group recapping every action step and its designated lead – and maintain a master list of action items and milestones via a Gantt chart, Monday, or similar project management and workplan tool. That way, when the next meeting pops up, you’ve got a ready-made list of items to advance.
3. Avoid Triangulation at All Costs.
Remember that you’re not just working with a group of individuals – collaborators are a group of organizations, each with their own teams and priorities. With a short amount of time to complete a large amount of work, it can be easy to fall into sidebar conversations to move things along. Keeping everyone in the loop and invested via group updates and assigned report-outs might take more coordination, but it truly saves time in the end.
4. It’s Never Too Early to Work on the Budget.
Budgets for federal grants are their own unique animal, with highly specific requirements and the occasional backwards logic. Often for a brand-new project or a brand-new collaboration, the cost of the program being designed doesn’t come into focus until very late in the game. We recommend flipping that script. Use the budget as a guide to program design, scheduling high-level cost estimate conversations early in the process to inform planning, assure continuity across application components, and minimize any late scramble.
The biggest takeaway? Pursuing transformational funding requires transformational thinking about your scale and impact. With infrastructure dollars continuing to flow into 2024, now is the time to assure your organization’s mission, infrastructure, and teams are ready not only to compete for funds, but also to sustainably manage them, through and beyond a grant period.
Outsourcing grant project management and development helps your team of busy content experts focus their unique strengths and roles, establish smart tools and processes from the get-go, and set clear expectations with partners, for greatest impact. If you’re wondering how your organization can take advantage of big funding to realize big dreams, give us a call.
Fairmount recently matched talent to mission for two nonprofit clients seeking leadership team placements:
- Caitlin H. Lewis, MS, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Mission at Living Beyond Breast Cancer
- Mia Kang, Executive Director at Philadelphia Folklore Project
Reach out if we can advance your next successful search!
We’re thrilled to have added these clients to our roster over the second half of 2023:
Matilda Ostow shared panel insights on her work transcribing a Johns Hopkins University bioethics project at the Oral History Association annual conference in Baltimore this October.
Rae Pagliarulo facilitated a November workshop for the American Red Cross of Virginia based on her “Storying Your Case Statement” toolkit, also featured on a DonorPerfect podcast, and hosted a Coffee Conversation on year-end giving for the Greater Philly chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
We’re grateful to the many clients and partners who made this year memorable. 2024 is gearing up as our team plans new convenings and workshops, a new website, and new tricks for established practices (AI, anyone?). Watch this space in the new year as we share more!