Grantwriters’ #1 Problem and What to Do About It

My mother's advice just doesn't work!


Why don't you work ahead__ (

When I was in college, I once told my mother how busy I was and what the work demands were.  Like mothers everywhere, she wanted to help, so she gave me the following advice:

“Why don’t you just work ahead a little bit every day?”

“Thanks, what a great idea!  Why didn’t I think of that?” was my unspoken thought.

When grantwriters tell me what their #1 challenge is, there’s sort of a similar dynamic—I’m told over and over again, that the most difficult challenge is that there’s never enough time in the day to research the grant opportunities from government and foundations, develop relationships with potential funders, research needs in the community, find evidence-based solutions to propose, work with program staff to ensure the plans made are realistic, coordinate budgets with the financial people in the agency, write the actual proposal, submit it on time, and do this on top of their other work.

I’m curious why this happens, but I definitely don’t ask them “Why don’t you work ahead?”

What I do ask, though, is what they do when the work can be crushing and the tendency to abandon “self-care” is strong.

Here are some of the actual responses I’ve received:

  • “I schedule my work in blocks of time.”
  • “Better time management.”
  • “Working a lot.”
  • “I carve out time weekend days to write grants.”
  • “Better communication as to why it is in their interest to give me the information I need.”
  • “Spending more personal time on grantwriting.”

These are short-term solutions, at best, as are many more that I hear.  But so often, it sounds like they’re just telling themselves to “work ahead”.

When this doesn’t work, it may lead to another case of grantwriter burnout, like the grantwriter who said “I’ve basically given up.” Or the one who admitted “I’m looking for another job.”

Other grantwriters tell me a different story, one that sounds more hopeful, and one that pulls in resources beyond just themselves.

  • “I work more closely with my CEO/mentor.”
  • “To talk with the different people to generate ideas.”

Sometimes, grantwriters have no one else in their organization to turn to for mentorship, or they feel that they don’t want to be vulnerable in asking for help from within their organization.

I’ve been in that spot, and I know how valuable it can be to have someone to talk ideas over with, or seek counsel from, or just get a fresh perspective from.  Even this can be hard to do, if you don’t have anyone you trust to be objective and knowledgeable.

You may not have ever thought to hire someone to be that person who coaches and mentors you, who can give you a clear critique of a current draft of a proposal, or just help you with information you might not know.

I could be that person for you, just as I have with many others.

Not forever, not for the long term, not even for very many hours.  But just enough to let you relax and talk over a few ideas, and to help you get over a particular stumbling block.

You don’t need a lot of help, or very often.  But you may need it now as grant season heats up again (as it always does in the Spring).

Aren’t you tired of facing the grind and the #1 challenge of grantwriters all on your own?

The fee is affordable and well-worth the hope and help you’ll receive.

If this is something you’d like to consider, email me at .  We’ll set up a time to see if what I can do is what you need doing.  If not, no harm done.

Write to set up a time to chat—there’s nothing to lose and possibly lots to gain:  your peace of mind, a burden shared, burnout avoided, and, possibly, thousands or even millions of dollars for your organization.

What’s YOUR #1 challenge as a grantwriter or nonprofit executive?  Write and share!

What Keeps Nonprofit Leaders Up at Night?

Job Issues are the Culprit!




It’s a simple question, really.  What keeps nonprofit leaders and workers up at night?  Is there anything that can be done to help them sleep better?

I recently asked this question in an anonymous 3-question survey.  I received an interesting set of responses.

Job Issues

Half of respondents said that what kept them up at night were things that I categorized as “job issues“–things that are just part and parcel of what their work in the nonprofit world is.

Here are some actual quotes so you know what I mean:

One Director of Development stated:  “not having enough time and resources to do what needs doing”.

A freelance grantwriter responded:  “Not having enough work to ensure a steady income.”  This person also added “not hitting the target in terms of what the funder wants to see”.

Others indicated similar answers:  “Deadlines.” “Stress of completing work on time when they are all a priority.”

Financial Issues

The second set of responses relate directly to organizational finances. This topic was voiced by one-fourth of the respondents.  Here are quotes from them:

“Finances,  in a word.” (Program Director)

“Being able to raise enough money for our organization” (Grantwriter)

“Developing stable money for operations” (Executive Director)

“Crazy a** government leaders who find it easier to be mean…and not fund programs that in the long term save millions in taxpayer funds…” (Program Director). (OK, so this is slightly paraphrased!  This respondent had some STRONG insights.)

Quality of Administrators and Other Workers

The final theme that comes out of the survey answers is that some of the respondents (25%) were concerned about the quality of their co-workers.  Here’s what they said:

“Administration unqualified to lead.” (Consultant)

“Top-heavy management and their not understanding what the front line staff is doing; They ask for near impossible tasks to be performed.” (Program Manager)

“The unprofessionalism of many of today’s workers.” (Support Staff)

“Poor management/professionalism of the management.” (Community Outreach Specialist)

So What Now?

These three themes don’t come from a statistically significant or randomly selected sample of nonprofit workers, but they do echo earlier work I’ve done on the topic.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about how to help people such as these respondents be able to sleep better.

One way is to help people understand how to write better proposals to more appropriate funders.

I’ve developed training materials to help grantwriters become better at their work, so that’s a start.

Using the principles that I teach in my online training materials, a colleague and I were just awarded a $200,000 grant from a foundation!  And the application was only 3 pages long!

These materials are not quite ready to release, but if you’re interested in being informed as soon as they are ready, please sign up on a special mailing list at