Tips for Working Remotely

03/16/2020 11:13 AM | Kelli Moore (Administrator)

by David Steven Rappoport 

I’m as horrified as everyone else about the COVID-19 situation, but I’m not worried about how it’s going to impact my ability to work with clients. This is because I primarily work remotely as a matter of choice. I don’t like the wear and tear of travel, and my clients don’t like the increased cost that travel adds to a project. I completed a project in Los Angeles last week and am working on one in New York state this week, without visiting either place.

My practice primarily focuses on researching and writing complex, high-dollar grant proposals. This work requires organization, clear communication, and a capacity for research and analysis, but it usually does not necessitate in-person interaction. I used to think it did, but years of working with clients on the phone and internet has changed my mind.

  • Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned working remotely:• Organize the project for virtual work. I have a launch call for all projects which I ask key participants to attend. I present and review an outline of the project requirements, create a GANTT chart detailing the project timeline, and detail all roles and responsibilities. Clear expectations are key.
  • Remember that, whether virtual or real-time, consulting is still a trust business. The work I do is fairly wonky. Client trust is built on a perception of experience and competence, not on personal charm – or lack of it. I find that projecting an organized and knowledgeable persona from a distance builds that trust as effectively as being in the room.
  • Establish a primary contact person. I find it is best to talk to one key person on-site as much as possible and let them talk to everyone else. This reduces confusion. Be careful about side conversations.
  • Be comfortable with your technology. I’m an old-fashioned nerd. Simplicity is sometimes better than complexity. I use MS Office products and have the full version of PDF so I can manipulate PDF documents. I don't use Google Docs because for some, its structure may add to confusion on projects, with many participants making changes. Different systems work well for different consultants and organizations. Find the technology that works well for you and your clients.
  • Hand-holding can be done virtually. Sometimes clients require extra personal attention for one reason or another, and for that, a phone call works just as well as being there.

Ultimately, some projects still benefit from in-person interaction. For example, a few years ago, I was hired by a philanthropic organization to help a group of stakeholders create a proposal to the state government to address a major restructuring. I arrived on site with an organizational development professional, and we spent several days with the participants, creating a system redesign. The work was complicated and layered with anger and anxiety. Could the process have been done online? Possibly, but it would have been more difficult. Very large and complex projects with many elements and participants also benefit from being in person, which helps to who does what and who knows what.

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David Steven Rappoport Consulting, LLC works nationally with non-profits; city, county, state, and tribal government agencies; philanthropies; and businesses. The practice primarily focuses on: (1) the development of proposals to public and private funders – often complex and high-dollar; (2) related opportunity research; and (3) related facilitation, research, planning and analysis.


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