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The Perfect Grant Writing Team Roster

Grant-writing is a team sport from the start and recruiting colleagues with specific skill sets will build the overall morale of the team, make the writing of the grant itself easier, and may make it possible to find even more $$. You’ll see below that some roles are front and center, i.e. editing and writing the paper, and some roles are more ‘back of the house’, i.e. cheering and supporting the team, ensuring deadlines are met, or preparing your budget for example. It’s this mix of individual and supporting roles that makes for a seamless writing project. Colleagues on smaller teams will wear a few hats but here is your dream team roster:

1. The Hot Seat – This is someone who can shake the bushes to find money. Ideally, they are extraverted enough to doggedly track down leads and recruit the rest of the team to the project. This person should be hungry for success. You’ll know one when you see one thanks to their charisma and their ability to command attention (read: their willingness to boss their colleagues around). This person has to have the ability to zoom out and see the big picture and can lose the forest for the trees. The position is called the ‘Hot Seat’ because that’s where the team leader will be if any single thing goes sideways on their watch. 

2. The Detail-Obsessed – This person is vital to the team because of their superpower, being meticulous. This person thrives in the minutiae, they can scan through a paper and find every grammatical error and often see where the picture you’ve painted on paper fails to make sense. This is the colleague who enjoys reading the proposal instructions so the entire team can rest assured that they didn’t miss something important. You can spot the Detail-Lovers in a crowd with their to-do lists and the smile on their face when they turn on tracked changes. 

3. Style *and* Substance – This is someone who, like the detail-obsessed, will contribute a lot to the actual writing of the grant. They know the field, the funder, the language and the ‘hooks’ and they also know how to get those things onto paper.  You’ll know one when you see one when you stop in your tracks to listen to them talk. 

4. The Conflict Manager – This is a person capable of boosting the morale of your team. When things are tense or someone is sniping at a team member, this is the colleague who cracks a joke to diffuse the tension, suggests a break for coffee, or simply makes eye contact when everyone else is dodging it.  You can spot a conflict manager because they are the heart of every team.  

5. The Crafty Colleague – This person is the driver of creativity on the team. They can come up with creative ideas to make the ideas and writing stronger and can also think outside the box to find money. This person is easily identified by their signature creative endeavors outside of the workplace and their own creative ideas in the meeting room. 

6. The Frontal Lobe – This is the team member who makes sure the proposal flows cohesively. They are hunters of inconsistencies and logical fallacies. You can spot this person by seeing their brain in action in every setting. 

7. Money Manager– This is your colleague with budget savvy who can translate your lofty aims into a budget that fits neatly into the grant parameters. Relating to the other article in this series, the proper care and handling of awarded grant money is crucial if you hope to go back to that funder for more. You’ll know a money handler when you see one because they are undaunted by mathematical software programs and spreadsheets. They are also usually masters-of-diplomacy and assertiveness. 

8. The Free Agent– This is an outsider (friend, family, gullible colleague) who agrees to take a final look through to ensure your work is polished and complete. They should be an excellent copywriter and editor but you’ll value their fresh eyes more than anything. 

9. Student members—there’s nothing like watching sausage being made to plant seeds of lifelong competence…seriously, it’s good for everyone (mentors and mentees alike)

From the outside, grant-writing looks like the most daunting task and it is but, like a lot of things, it is easier with a little help from your friends. Intellectual bridges between the granular and big picture thinkers build the kind of foundation that ideas flow easily from and support from budget-minded and detail-obsessed colleagues gets your grant noticed by funders. The end game of grant-writing is obviously money but there’s something so special about the harmony of a functional grant-writing team that the experience is sometimes its own reward (until the millions come piling in and that is pretty great too). 

Dr. Kim Gorgens is a Professor of Psychophysiology, Clinical Neuropsychology and Psychology of Criminal Behavior at the University of Denver. She manages a large portfolio of brain and brain injury-related research and has lectured extensively on those issues (including her 2010 TED talk on youth sports concussion, a 2018 TED talk on brain injuries in criminal justice, several NPR spots and an interview on CNN with Anderson Cooper). Her work has been featured in USNews, Newsweek, Salon.com and more. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Clinical Neuropsychology and is board certified in Rehabilitation Psychology. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association's Division 22, Rehabilitation Psychology and Vice President of the American Board of Rehabilitation Psychology.

Cite This Article

Gorgens, K., Barnes, S. (2020, March). The perfect grant writing team roster. [Web article]. Retrieved from https://societyforpsychotherapy.org/perfect-grant-writing-team/



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