Lunch with a Top-Notch Grantwriter

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.

Another Grantwriting Myth

As I continue the series of posts about the myths of grantwriting, I’ve got to include this one:  Getting a grant is just about filling in the blanks.

I’m not sure why this one is so prevalent among naive grantwriters (I guess because they’re naive) but let’s address it head on.

Myth 2:  A successful grant is just about filling in the boxes correctly.

A substantial part of the success for any grant proposal is following directions.  But the “boxes” that need to be filled in need to be filled in with well-researched problem statements and creative ideas regarding how to solve those problems.

On top of that, the proposal needs to include clear plans how to get the program off the ground and this implementation of the solution needs to be monitored and the outcomes evaluated.

In addition, a great deal of infrastructure needs to be in place and documented before the funder will believe you are capable of handling the administration of the grant.  As you can see, a lot goes into a grant proposal.

And that’s just on the part of the organization.  The grantwriter needs to have a great deal of preparation and lead time.  While it’s neither impossible nor easy to get a grant, it requires someone with a considerable amount of knowledge and expertise to put together all the details that go into a successful grant.

Excellence (and success) in grantwriting is based upon general excellence in staffing, organization and leadership.  It’s not JUST about filling in boxes or blanks on an application form.

If you’d like more information on how to get started as a grantwriter, click here.