No matter how large or small, no funder has unlimited finances. All funders have specific aims that they want to target to the best of their ability using their limited funds. This is true for large government funding bodies but especially true for small charities. You need to be fully aware of those aims and be constantly reviewing your work to ensure that it’s aligned. That’s how you, and by association, the funders gain the maximum “bang for your buck”. So, how do you ensure you both get what you want from the relationship? In short, it’s all about building a successful partnership between funders and you, the researcher.
Keep in touch
Right off the bat you need to keep in mind that all funded research is a partnership. Your research is targeted at furthering the aims of the funder. These aims, particularly for medical charities, are invariably geared towards improving treatments for patients. Each charity will have its own specific target group and those are typically patients. That means that your research will have three beneficiaries. Therefore, your partnership has three stakeholders and communication between all the involved parties is key.
Keeping in touch with your funders helps to maximise their confidence in your progress and efficacy. It also helps them to motivate their staff and their targeted patients. Plus, it also helps with their marketing and fundraising. Success breeds success.
And the benefits of that communication impacts you as well. High confidence that you’re working towards the correct goals maximises the chance of follow-on funding. Hopefully increasing the chance of that all important breakthrough. All this could result in associated white papers and kudos and, crucially, better treatments for patients.
With all this in mind you need to agree a communication plan early in the funding relationship. This will help to set everyone’s expectations and ensure confidence remains high. It will show funders that you’re working in the right direction, that you’re following best practice and recognise the benefits of the collaboration.
The need to monitor progress
As a lab you need to monitor the research and lab processes you are carrying out. In addition, you need to keep an eye on the resources being used. Those resources include staff time, the precious samples you’re using and your lab’s technical resources.
You also need to keep an eye on interim findings to ensure that you’re still on track in terms of strategic direction. And importantly that you’re working within budget. Return on Investment is key.
You can best achieve this using a good Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). The system may also include graphical oversight dashboards to monitor these metrics. It can also help you collate evidence for periodic reports that you can give to your funders to support that all-important communication plan.
It’s an inescapable fact of life for researchers that all lines of research won’t prove successful. So, as your research progresses you’ll need to respond and adapt. It’s inevitable and something you do almost without thinking. However, don’t forget to include these results in your feedback to your funders. Negative results aren’t a waste of time. They’re valuable and important as feedback allowing others to avoid those same dead-ends and save money. It also maintains transparency that builds confidence with your funders, who are your partners.
Also, very importantly, when you need to change tack in your research you should do so in dialogue with your funder. This means they can be involved and ensure that their goals are being considered properly. As a result you’ll maximise confidence on both sides that the ultimate aims of the research are best protected.
Research is a partnership with each partner contributing essential resources. Together you strive to progress scientific knowledge and patient care.
A well-managed relationship is of benefit to you, the funders and the patients. If successful it’s a win-win-win!