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Coleman Entrepreneurial College in Action

Posted By Jim Elias, Monday, December 30, 2013

 Are You Pitch Perfect?

This past October, at the NACCE Annual Conference, I was awarded funding through the Entrepreneurial College in Action grant competition, powered by The Coleman Foundation. As we look forward to 2014, I'd like to share a few insights into preparing a solid grant proposal and winning live presentation. This is by no means a step-by-step process, but a few ideas to help you build a highly fundable package that underscores the innovative nature of your college and its programs.

1. Don’t plan it alone

When the announcement first comes out, you declare to yourself, "I’ve an awesome idea that surely will win this grant competition?” Stop right there and ask someone else. The ECIA grant competition requires an interdisciplinary proposal for good reason. As brilliant as your ideas are, they’ll be even better when you brainstorm with others in your college and entrepreneurial community. Confer with other faculty members, your college recruiters, administration, students and local entrepreneurs.

2. Give it time to gel

Once you’ve outlined your brilliant brainstorm and it looks like a solid program to pitch, put it down and walk away. Sometimes the most effective step to planning is to forget about it for a bit. Set your ideas aside for a day, a week or two. Let the ideas brew. When you come back to it, approach it with a fresh perspective to see if the ideas really do gel. Ask yourself, not do you like it, but does it work?

3. Make the metrics work
First of all, how will you know if it works? Do your ideas meet the criteria specifically spelled out in the grant application? These are your metrics. As you write your grant proposal make sure you address each item as spelled out in the application. If you have an element to your plan you really like, but it doesn’t meet a particular criterion does it really work? Being a tough editor and critic on your own work is often pretty tough, so go back to your original community of brainstormers and planners for feedback. Be open to your own and their criticism … solid feedback is necessary. Remember, does it work?

4. Get administration’s buy-in early
Having your Chancellor, President and/or Dean on board with your idea early is a must. What it takes to accomplish this is certainly unique for every college and for the individuals involved. Yet if we boil it down to the essence of what it takes, it’s simple: it just takes good communication. To do that, put your selling hat on and remember it’s not about what’s in it for you and your department or program, it’s what’s in it for your Administration. Help your campus leadership see how winning this grant will help fulfill the mission of your college and accomplish specific goals.

5. Ask your students

When it comes right down to it, isn’t all of this about our ‘students’ (customers if you will)? Your ideas look great, the budget is right on the money, Administration loves it, and the community can’t wait for you to get started; but what do the end users really think about it? Once you believe you’re pitch is ready, present it to a group of students or other end users of the program to find out if it really does work. Remember, feedback is key to making your grant proposal a winner. Don’t be afraid of your students’ feedback … they expect it from you right? … it will be spot-on and give you input that helps you wrap up you pitch into a complete, powerful package!

BONUS TIP
Prepare for the worst
Weather, travel snafus, technology glitches … you all know Murphy’s Law? Make sure backups of your presentation are in the hands of co-presenters and available in multiple formats so the show can go on even if you arrive with only seconds to spare! (True story)

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