How to “Get Lucky” as a Grantwriter, Part 2

Are some grantwriters “lucky”?  Can other grantwriters do anything about their luck or lack of it?

In part 1, I argued that luck can be altered by choosing tasks you’re good at and like, while trying to outsource other elements of the process.  In this posting, I discuss how being prepared is an essential aspect of “getting lucky”.

Be Prepared.

Two quotes to support the connection between luck and preparation:

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca

“Luck is not chance-

It’s Toil-

Fortune’s expensive smile

Is earned-”

– Emily Dickinson

It’s not just Boy Scouts who need to be prepared.  Grantwriters need to prepare as well.

What are the things that grantwriters do to prepare themselves? (Note:  this list can’t be exhaustive, but it’s a start—feel free to add to it).

Vigorously Train

Training for grantwriters encompasses all the elements of the job.

The most important element is being able to write well.  Skilled writing is the ability to put thoughts together, one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one section, at a time, and to have them relate to one another in a logical, understandable, and compelling way.

Training includes understanding the vocabulary of grants.  Grants are technical documents with their own lingo that only partially overlaps with daily vernacular English.  You can’t just “wing it” without spending time learning what the terms mean.

Beyond knowing vocabulary, each term usually has an associated skill or task to accomplish.  Grantwriters must train how to do these competently, at the least.

Knowing what a “logic model” is, for example, is just about learning vocabulary.  Being able to create one is a skill or task that is the application of additional knowledge and preparation.

Being adequately trained also includes adequately knowing subject area content for the grant proposal.  This can be a challenge, of course, particularly if you are a free-lance writer.  Truthfully, however, this is easier than it may seem.  There are plenty of content area experts to pick up the knowledge from.  Many grantwriters try to specialize in one area so this becomes less of a concern over time.

Habitually Keep Up

Once training takes place (as through a course at a college, or attendance at a face-to-face event, or learning through online or other study at home sorts of approaches), the temptation is to say “I’ve arrived!  Now I’m a grantwriter!”

In reality, though, this just means you’ve reached the starting line.

Everything changes and this is also true in the world of grants.  From what things are called (Request for Proposals? Notice of Funding Availability? Request for Applications?) to new approaches to describing what your program will accomplish (are they goals? Objectives? Outputs? Outcomes?) things change.

Agency and foundation priorities change—grantwriters have to keep up!

People in positions of authority change—grantwriters have to learn about the new hires at foundations and government offices and develop positive relationships with them.

Mindfully Practice

The difference between training and practicing is subtle.  I see them as different points on a continuum where training is gaining competency and mindful practicing is honing basic levels of achievement to emerge at a higher level.

If you don’t practice mindfully you just do the same things, make the same mistakes, and end up with the same results.

Mindful practice includes trying to do better at what you do now at a basic level and to learn to excel at what you already do well.

Mindful practice means you accept feedback and then acknowledge where your areas of weakness are so you can choose to focus there until improvements are achieved.


What other ways do you prepare yourself to “get lucky” as a grantwriter?

Add a comment below and send the link to your colleagues and friends in the nonprofit grantwriting world.

To get regular updates on grantwriting and other issues of nonprofit life, subscribe to the Excellence for Nonprofits email list by going to  and entering your email address.  This will give you FREE access to the report “Get Money for your Nonprofit:  10 Million-Dollar Lessons from Master Grantwriters”.  If just one of these ideas helps you get your next grant, why wouldn’t you sign up?

While you’re there, be sure to leave a comment about how YOU prepare and increase your “luck”.  And get ready to see Part 3 of this “getting lucky as a grantwriter” series.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *