The opportunity inherent in being a grantwriter includes envisioning a better world, one that includes services that uplift people and programs that provide for urgent needs.
But there’s that word-“needs”. That’s where the horror comes in. Children with their innocence stolen. The vacant eyes of a drug addict. The hunched body of a person suffering from depression.
Maybe in your grantwriting job you don’t have to see the horror. Some organizations, and they are good nonprofits, bring music, theater, science, and sports to underserved populations. They don’t grapple with bringing an end to horror quite so directly.
Some grantwriters are able to find “need” in numbers written in black and white in government documents or other places where horror is less obvious. They don’t have to look at broken limbs, starved bodies, and hopeless eyes but they can give you the number of times they occur, within a standard deviation of the truth, a couple of years later.
Needs are not always so obvious. Horror is not always so plain. Water laced with lead looks safe enough. Food filled with carcinogens seems nutritious. Air poisoned by industrial waste doesn’t always look brown and smell bad. But these are horrific situations, nonetheless.
Grantwriting is a tough enough white collar profession when it comes to the responsibility of keeping programs open and services flowing. Research, writing, budgeting, and more are combined in a document meant to persuade funders to part with precious funds.
What would happen if grantwriters could approach their proposals in a different way, where opportunities must be connected to… maybe only to realistic promise? An approach where who can “move the needle more” matters more than “who has the deepist pit in hell to fill?”
Are funding agencies and donors only willing to open their purses if the need is painted as horror? Can “better than now” not be a sufficient destination to journey towards, regardless of where the “now” is?
We live in a world where the deep problems of so many, in so many places, have existed for so much long, that it would be a pleasant change to write of opportunities for “better” rather than amelioration of “horror”.
How would funders react?
Must grantwriters be able to look at horror directly to grasp opportunities? Does understanding the “dark side” help one write more persuasive proposals? Or can grantwriters who “keep on the sunny side” be as effective?
What do you believe?
Dr. Richard Hoefer works with nonprofits and their staff to improve services and improve organizational efficacy and efficiency. He is author of “Funded! Successful Grantwriting for Your Nonprofit” and “Developing Nonprofit and Human Service Leaders: Essential Knowledge and Skills”.