Building Your Disaster Relief Grant Management Team
Today, we will learn to avoid the grant trolls: 6 players you don’t want on your team. Building your disaster relief grant management team requires that you identify the trolls you do not want nearby. The bad-buys muddle the definitions of FEMA grant dos and don’ts. At their best, trolls bring distraction and confusion. At their worst, they put you in jail.
The Babble of Bad Guys
Every Quest involves difficult terrain, shifting environments, a strong team of allies, and the babble of bad guys who toss obstacles and hazards on your path. They are part of every landscape and every society. We’ve created identification cards for these guys to help you rapidly spot them. This cast of characters includes the following:
No-timer, Spinner, Badger – the bad-one, Fobbit, Jafo, and the Felon. We have pictures and definitions for each that you can download from the links below or show notes.
Avoiding the No-Timer
No-timer is so easy to identify. No-Timer informs all that there is no time. Doing something now is better than doing something right. This troll says: Right-now is the only way forward. No-Timer insists that the standard rules don’t apply. This situation is so different than any prior situation that we can just do what is needed, now.
No-Timers have a special power – they turn process into chaos. A team working through steps 1, 2, 3 are instructed to skip that, ignore process, and just do this now!
The worst No-Timer is one who is in charge. A loud and authoritative No-Timer is so difficult to deal with. No-Timer’s ears are so filled with the sound of alarm and urgency, that they just can’t hear the importance of triage, prioritization, and the value of logical steps. A No-Timer can accidently run a team out of cash, run people into jail cells, and not see the self-harm.
How do you combat No-Timer? It is tough. You’ve got facts on your side. In upcoming episodes, we’ll show you the reports from the Office of Inspector General. A printed report, a calm voice, and a blue-and-white document shows how FEMA claws back millions every year for mistakes made of haste and ignorance.
Avoiding the Spinner
Who is Spinner? Every cop, firefighter, and EMT/paramedic knows Spinner. This is that person you see at an emergency scene. They walk in tight circle repeating the same words over and over and over and over. It is a very common human reaction to stress, oddly it is also a common symptom of head trauma in little kids too. Too often their recitation is of the minutes or seconds before the event paying in a loop in their head.
This Spinner appears in meetings and throughout the disaster recovery process. They are not evil-doers on purpose, forgive me for putting them next to No-Timer and Felon. On the bad-side, they pull resources and focus away from the mission. Stress is very real. People’s behavior regress into younger, even child-like actions. These people need care and feeding and management. They are wounded humans.
You’ll need to develop skills to identify then either help or isolate these people from your mission-focused grant management team. If you fail to recognize the Spinner, you’ll find that your progress and process will crumble gradually.
Go to jail, do not collect $200. No, this isn’t Monopoly. It’s the part of grant management most people ignore—procurement and reporting of expenses. However, this is where the most risk lives. In the next episode, we show you how to mitigate the risks simply.
Avoiding the Jafo
Jafo came in from the cold, or the heat, or the rain, or the sun, or the snow. They’ll tell you that they are doing something super important. Or maybe that they are super important. They talk about their adventures and their missions and trials going on elsewhere. We know this critter from his name: Just Another … Observer. But Jafo sits on the desk or spreads out on a table nearby.
Grant management work involves detailed work, precise follow through, and focus. Here’s Jafo suggesting that indoor work ain’t real work. People sitting at desks with monitors are not performing magic that keeps the cash flowing.
How to you handle a Jafo? I have seen it done in operations centers that house thousands of people in open spaces. People build barriers. There is nothing like a cactus plant to prevent a human being from plopping their dirty-butt on a desk. Wizards and Millers who work in such conditions know to starve the spaces nearby. There is no visitor chair and a noise-cancelling headset are fine deterrents.
Avoiding the "Bad" Badger
Here comes the Badger again. This one looks just like the last one. Same polo shirt and same plastic badge around the neck or hanging at the waist. This badger does not know policy. This badger fails at being an advocate for people like us. Grant policy and federal administrative law includes some flexibility because situations and organizations vary.
Grants are provided to organizations and communities to help. Balancing intent with gentle coaching is the mark of a good Badger. The bad Badger is obstructive and at the worst abusive. If you haven’t met this critter yet, you will. That little plastic badge ennobles this troll with presumed authority. The bloody Badger is often wrong too. That’s the horrible part.
Wrong, loud and with an official badge, ugh. What to do? You have a team. Use your team. Ask Wonk to find a pathway. Ask Scribner to write some email and briefs. Bring the knowledge of policy and law to your team. They are your laws too. The rules are the leveler in this game of FEMA Quest.
We are providing you a Bad Guy identification guide. This serves as reminder of who to avoid and give you hints on solving problems. Click the links below to download this guide
Avoiding the Felon
The Felon is just another critter on the path. You must identify them quickly. Oh, the best Felons, swindlers, con-artists can be so disguised. The 11-steps of the competitive procurement process exist to prevent Felon from winning. Why is the sole-source procurement so distrusted? Because it has been so abused. You can’t take federal grant funds and channel them to your family’s bank accounts or your own. That’s a direct route to jail.
In 2012, I had 2 federal agents knock at my front door in Southern Vermont. Our house is miles from pavement and deep on a 100-acre place. They flashed their credentials and presented with stiff formality. I recognized them instantly whilst greeting them with a breezy familiarity. Come on in, I said. I offered refreshment and invited them right into my home office. I assumed it was another friend going through an in-depth background check. I lived, worked, and played in that world a long time. My jaw dropped when they told me that were investigating felony fraud of a FEMA staffer who was known to me. This Felon redirected funds from his government issued credit card directly into his bank accounts with some slight of hand. Oh, and he was my FEMA liaison. And he’d work in my house at my desk with me.
The lesson, I missed the identification. His felony did not impact our recovery process. We stayed on the straight and narrow. That fellow went to jail. My community got all of their money.
In short, Felons are bad. Missteps with federal funds will land you in jail. Done.
Be Wary of Fobbit
Let’s close our Troll identification process with a look at the Fobbit.
The Fobbit is a wanna-be warrior who never left the forward operating base or FOB. They want you to think they have the requisite experience and skills. Maybe they do? Maybe they don’t. Who knows? A few too many war-stories that start with the same line: When I worked Katrina dot dot dot.
The Old Warrior may say something similar, then the next time through, mentions Sandy or some odd experience in Iowa managing the bizarre process of disposal of farm animals resulting from a wide-spread animal disease. An Old Warrior will have experience in a few FEMA regions, and a few FEMA administrators. The Old Warrior has perspective, scars, failures, and a sense of humility.
The Fobbit is a bit too sure. Trust but verify.
Avoiding the Grant Trolls
We’ve got six trolls to avoid and manage during our Quest. Some will distract and drive a team to failure and possible jail by not listening to anything but alarm bells, that’s No-Timer. Some just pull resources and focus by regressing into behavior that resembles a top. Hello Spinner. The Jafo annoys the productive team and too often undervalues the efforts of the back-office.
The bad Badger uses authority of a plastic badge to obstruct and obfuscate. The Felon can be the hardest to recognize and the most dangerous. They sell bad as good and make it sound great. The last critter is the Fobbit, with a touch of borrowed valor and exaggerated background, this critter may not be worth listening too, but might be.
Your defense against the bad guys is your team, your increasing knowledge of the policy, and your steady progress on working the problems carefully and deliberately. You are as protected by the laws and rules as you are threatened by them.