APA Center for Organizational Excellence: National Winner

The Awards

Small For-Profit Category

Grants Plus

The Write Stuff

Ohio – Cleveland-based Grants Plus handles every part of the grant-seeking process from strategy to research, writing, training and follow-up. Founder and president Lauren Steiner was a successful attorney who entered the nonprofit sector for two reasons: to do more meaningful work and achieve work-life balance. To this end, she founded Grants Plus, today a thriving firm of happy and healthy professionals whom Steiner regards as her company’s strongest asset.

Employee Involvement

The company’s internal social media app, Yammer, hosts popular features such as a virtual suggestion box and staff-wide opportunity invitations. Grants Plus has structured its employees into small teams of two to five members, led by an executive consultant, which meet regularly to discuss best practices, identify and problem-solve around client issues and stay current on what is happening in the company at large. Even when mistakes are aired, support is in force with the emphasis on caring and sharing rather than blaming and shaming.

Health and Safety

Health insurance is available to all employees, no easy feat for a company of this size. Grants Plus also makes available and subsidizes — or picks up the tab for — an array of programs in and around the local community. Offerings include yoga classes, CPR and AED training, mindfulness seminars, YMCA memberships, run/walks for charity or in-house fitness programs, art therapy and participation in the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s safety escort program for those employees who are working late and would like an escort to their car, bus stop or train from the office or a client site.

Employee Growth and Development

Education is ongoing. Sending staff members to the best-known professional training centers — The Grantsmanship Center in California and Lilly School of Philanthropy in Indiana — is only the beginning. Grants Plus also employs experts in related areas, such as law, marketing and psychology, to teach how to incorporate established best practices from other fields into its own work. This makes Grants Plus the only grant-writing organization to integrate persuasive concepts from legal writing and psychological research into grant and fundraising writing.

Work-Life Balance

Grants Plus’ nontraditional company structure is built on a foundation of flexibility, as the work is often completed by employees in their homes and on their own schedules. The firm does not have a traditional office; instead, it maintains a small office with unassigned work and meeting space that can be reserved by employees as needed. Staff create their own schedules and are responsible for varying levels of hours each week, including client time and “Grants Plus” time. All employees, regardless of their working arrangements, even those who work as few as 20 hours per week, receive paid time off.

Employee Recognition

Grants Plus uses Yammer to post staff shout-outs and recognition, and everyone is encouraged to celebrate one another’s successes. Supervisors award quarterly prizes for employees who exhibit exceptional performance. At social events with clients, the company publicly acknowledges individual staff members and also invites them to attend community events at which Grants Plus is being recognized, such as the Inside Business NEO Success Award luncheon or Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead 100 award dinner.

The Bottom Line

Grants Plus is a fast-growing company with a blossoming reputation for its forward-thinking, employee-centered practices. And the model is working: strong financial performance, 20 percent to 30 percent growth each year, low voluntary turnover rates and high customer satisfaction are all part of the picture. In fact, in a recent customer satisfaction survey, 100 percent of respondents rated the quality of Grants Plus services excellent or very good, and 100 percent said they would recommend Grants Plus to a colleague. Successes like these are proof positive that meaningful work need not come at the expense of a well-lived and balanced life.

"This is not pie in the sky; this is about the bottom line. Building psychologically healthy workplaces isn't just the right thing to do, it's also the smart thing to do."

The Honorable Alexis M. Herman
Former U.S. Secretary of Labor