Vulnerability Can Be a Game Changer

Jun 27, 2024 | Grant Writing

Image of a yellow post-it note with the phrase "It's ok to be human" written on it

Whether you’re a nonprofit grant writer, a city clerk “voluntold” to write grants, a newly minted development director, or a harried consultant, grant writing is intense.  The pressure to meet deadlines, navigate complex requirements, and craft perfectly written proposals can feel overwhelming.

Even admitting that grant writing can be stressful early on in my career felt like saying I was a failure. In the latest episode of the Fundraising HayDay podcast (listen HERE), workplace vulnerability champions Melanie Palmer and Leilani Ocasio reveal that embracing imperfection may be the key to surviving and truly thriving in grants work. Building on some incredible sessions Amanda and I attended at recent GrantSummits (Grant Professionals Association annual conferences), they share how creating a “safe space” for openness at their consulting firm (M. Palmer Consulting) allows clients to voice fears, knowledge gaps, and struggles without judgment.

No one is perfect at every aspect of grants and fundraising. By modeling vulnerability themselves and encouraging clients to get real, Melanie and Leilani help relieve the burden of feigning perfection.

In our candid discussion, they offered up inspiring examples of how a culture of vulnerability can lead to better solutions:

  • A client admitted struggling with budgets, so they added budget training to the contract.
  • A staffing gap put a multi-million-dollar federal grant at risk until the client felt safe admitting they lacked the expertise to proceed.
  • Venting about board tensions helped one Executive Director cope when a consultant played the role of “cuss bucket translator.” (Y’all, that is my specialty!)

If those ring true, you’re not alone! Leilani and Melanie remind us that bottling up failures, mistakes, and weaknesses only handicaps our grant-getting abilities in the long run.

If you’re looking for ways to improve the philanthropic world, they also share how the Arkansas GPA chapter’s innovative pilot program (Catalysts for Community) is promoting diversity and fostering the next generation of grant professionals from underrepresented communities. The program drives equity in grant-seeking by providing hands-on experience, mentorship, and capacity-building resources to students and minority-led nonprofits.

Finding your “tribe” of grant peers who allow vulnerability can be a game-changer. Whether through a local GPA or Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter, an online community, or maybe with a certain bi-weekly podcast with two grant pros 😊, [latest episode always found HERE] surrounding yourself with that safe space to be human allows you to tackle grant challenges more effectively.

So, if you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or isolated on the grant grind, prioritize finding and nurturing vulnerability. Your success and well-being could depend on it.

Kimberly Hays de Muga
Fundraising HayDay

A podcast about grants & such.

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