Some thoughts on grant writing
Though you can get a certificate in grant writing, I don’t recommend it. Two things count in grant writing: Experience and success. Proposals I’ve developed have brought in over $120 million. But some of those early ones were real clunkers. There’s nothing like the feedback of failure to signpost the road to improvement.
Some of the proposals I’ve written have garnered multi-million dollar awards, but many have been for small grants between $2,500 and $50,000, probably the range you’re targeting, if you’re just beginning to write grants. That’s how I started out 20 years ago. For the first several years of my career, I worked as a grant writer and project developer within organizations. For the past dozen years, I’ve managed my own company, choosing clients who are a good fit with my experience and interests.
In these pages I’ll refer to a grant writer’s client, since I’m typically in a contractual relationship. Even if you work as an employee, it’s still useful to think of other parts of the organization (the board of directors, your direct supervisor, or even yourself wearing a different hat) as your clients. Why do I think this is helpful? I want repeat customers; therefore, I want happy customers. I want to build long-term relationships. Over the years, I’ve learned to resist the impulse to include elements in a proposal that I know will score points with reviewers, but will be impossible for my client to implement. Creating fantasy proposals may get money in the short run, but will corrode your relationships in the long run.
An admission: I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I know, I know. The books on interviewing technique tell you to mention this as a shortcoming when you’re asked to list your strengths and weaknesses. A bit precious. And some bosses and clients may actually believe obsessive perfectionism to be a good thing. My experience: It undermines effectiveness. Profoundly. With Voltaire, I’ve come to believe The perfect is the enemy of the good. There’s more on this topic in my preface to the Breast Cancer Awareness sample grant proposal.
The flip side of perfectionism is procrastination. Those of you who suffer the malady will likely understand that comment.