Way too often, grant writing can feel like an afterthought. Really, though, how many of us as children dreamed of being a veterinarian and an astronaut AND a grant writer. (If you actually did dream of being a grant writer, who hurt you?)
Grant writing is a truly skilled profession, even if you may have started out churning through grants under the dreaded “other duties as assigned” portion of your job description. I’ve heard many people refer to grant writing, and fundraising in general, as “begging for money,” a term I can’t stand.
Please don’t use it.
It demeans your skills and accomplishments and the profession as a whole. Agencies such as the Grant Professionals Association and the Grant Professionals Certification Institute are working hard behind the scenes to get grant writing assigned an official Standard Occupational Classification with the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fundraising Manager and Fundraiser are already official classifications, meaning the government gathers salary and other data specifically for those occupations. Classification is a long and winding road, not surprisingly.
So, what can grant professionals do in the meantime to help directors, board members, mayors, managers and everyone in between understand that what we do isn’t just filling in the blanks and/or making stuff up?
Reader, I thought you’d never ask. Here are four ways to secure the information you need while also ensuring that your hard work and experience gets the respect you deserve.
1. Insist on a collaborative approach to grant writing that involves bringing program, finance, marketing, and other key players to the table. A slack or discord channel, group email or video call, or face to face check-ins along the road of pre-award planning and writing can unite an organization around the common cause of sustainability through grant writing.
2. Step into your superpower as a grants subject matter expert. For large scale federal, state, and foundation proposals, the instructions guide (AKA: NOFO, OFA, RFP) teems with detailed information and document requests. Make sure you read it as many times as it takes to understand not just deadlines and maximum award amounts, but match/cost share guidelines, allowable and allocable costs, MOUs, MOIs, LOIs and the whole alphabet soup of attachments. I’ve cut and pasted hundreds of paragraphs from grant guidelines to educate and support the grant development process.
3. Consider using the grant process itself as an organizational development tool for program directors with big dreams and staff accountants with their eyes on the prize of a balanced budget. In a perfect world, we would all peacefully co-exist and work together toward the common goal of netting enough funding to do what needs to be done. News flash, we are not living in that perfect world.
4. Take a tip from the wonderful and witty Amanda Day, and share a typical grant application with your supervisor, board member, executive director, etc. A lunch and learn, weekly team meeting, or other professional development activity could be your time to shine.
Don’t wait for someone to recognize your hard work. Instead, take charge of your due diligence, skills, and experience and share the grant writing and management love.
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