How Grantwriting is Like Baking Bread

I like, no, love, fresh, home-baked from scratch bread.  In a pinch bread-machine-baked bread is good, but there’s nothing like the satisfaction of starting with good flour, active yeast, fresh water, a  pinch of salt and a little sugar and investing the time to create a wonderful loaf from my own oven.

Pair warm bread with premium butter and the rest of the meal is almost irrelevant.

King Cake loaf

Today I remembered a lesson about baking bread that has a clear relevance to writing grants.

When you write a grant, you start with some ingredients–a problem that needs fixing, an evidence-based solution, an innovative angle, a new population, capable staff and a potential funder.

You also take a lot of time to put the ideas together, draft the proposal, talk with others, re-draft the proposal, and finally come up with the final version.

So here’s what happened with my bread today.

I sifted together the dry ingredients, I added liquid and kneaded until dough was just the right stiffness.

I warmed the oven (barely) and put the dough in my big metal rising bowl.  After some time, it had doubled.  I took it out and punched it down.  I shaped it and put it back in the oven to rise a second time.

After all this time, I could smell the yeast’s aroma.  I could imagine the tasty reward of the bread in my mouth.

The loaf doubled in size and was ready for the baking.

The oven was the correct temperature and in went the raw dough.  I carefully set the timer.  Who wants to waste all that time and effort by not being careful at the end of the process?

After some amount of time, I came back to the kitchen to check how long the baking had left to go.  Imagine my dismay to see the time already off–with no clear way of knowing how long ago the ding had donged.

I threw open the oven door to see an “overly dark” loaf.

This was one loaf that wasn’t going to be eaten.  For one reason:  I didn’t pay attention at the end.

Grants are like this too.  You can do everything right all the way up to the last second, but if you mess up the electronic submission–it doesn’t matter.  There are a lot of ways to mangle the page order, leave some material out, or just not press the “submit” button.

And all your work is wasted.

Moral of the story:  If you don’t finish the details all the way to the end, it isn’t going to be a successful process.

Excellence for nonprofits means excellence in all the parts and all the steps.


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