Yesterday I had lunch with one of the most intelligent and creative people I know,who just happens to be a grantwriter. Over an hour and a half, we talked many things grantwriting.
He is the epitome of excellence for nonprofits.
While the conversation was free-ranging, and included many nuggets of wisdom,I think the most important thing that was emphasized for me was the need for grantwriters to be curious.
When you talk to Bob, you’re talking with someone who asks questions–not just about how to write a grant, or what a program should look like, but about things that seem far removed from day-to-day “important” stuff.
For instance, at his church he has started an interfaith speaker series just because he was interested in the topic. It draws 100s of attendees a year and may help the community be more immune from divisions caused by intolerance.
I did ask him some questions about how to be an effective grantwriter in these tough times. He generously shared some of his thoughts.
Even though he’s not, by his own admission, able to use relationships with foundation directors and officers to get money for clients, he knows just about everything about every foundation in the area. He knows what they’ll fund, what they’re not interested in, and how to frame ideas in ways that relate to their interests. He learns this by studying what they actually give funds for.
When he’s with foundation representatives, he’s not like the stereotypical insurance agent who only asks about you to find out what insurance he can sell you. Bob has so many things he’s interested in and can speak knowledgeably about that he just has conversations.
Sometimes these conversations get around to what the program officer might or might not fund, but often they don’t. (I guess this is a relief to program officers when they can have a normal conversation!)
Bob has had considerable success with federal grants as well, having written in recent years grants that have brought millions of dollars to one agency. One of his recent grant proposals to HRSA was scored without any areas of deficiency! Having reviewed grants for the federal government, I know that this is a VERY rare achievement.
The other key takeaway for me in this conversation was that grantwriting has always been tough, but it is tougher now than ever.
If you are just starting out, you’ll need to get some solid training. If you’re not sure if this is for you or not, you’ll want to get my new book, “How Do I Get Started as a Grantwriter?”
If you’ve been around a while, you may want to get additional training.
I’m working to develop training for grantwriters who are beyond the starting phase and will be posting more about that in the near future.