If you think conducting business through government grants is confusing to you, you should hear your customers talk. They’re often just as befuddled. I had a chance to listen last week to discussions among local administrators around the country who handle one of the Department of Homeland Security grants. Their single biggest complaint was that the time requirements are sometimes confusing, generally too short, and often change unexpectedly. It’s quite a chore to keep up with the deadlines, much less other elements of a grant program. The job has become tougher with a new administration changing existing programs and introducing new ones. Then, Congress has said spending must be done faster, but oversight must be tougher under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
What’s a vendor to do? Well, first of all, pay close attention. Know the programs, and know them well. Develop contacts who administer the grants who will keep you informed. Listen to your customers. Listen carefully. Put yourself in their position. Most importantly, make sure at every turn that your value proposition is strong and reflective of the grant at hand.
Grants can drive business, but it’s not easy and it’s certainly not quick. Know your stuff, provide good service throughout the process, and reap the rewards.