My Friday morning seminar had just cancelled when the phone rang, “ Help!” One of my clients had a grant due and was struggling with some writing as part of a grant. Erin is a most fantastic woman, teaching special needs kids to swim and coaching a master’s program. She is universally adored by her students and team, but she can’t write her way out of a wet paper bag. This was a specialized grant opportunity that must have been tailored for her program, but creating the narrative from words was turning out to be painful and impossible for her.
Okay, I say, 100 words is no problem- I know the program and once I read the grant instructions, I knew what we needed to say. We all know that creating a less-is-more feeling with words can be tough, what do you leave out? I discovered a funny thing , though. Once I did read the grant instructions, there were about 1500 MORE words that were due. By when, you ask? 5 pm, that day.
Me: How long have you had this grant?
Client: Well, a while, but I wanted to try it myself. Man, it’s hard to do all this.
Me: It can be, especially in one day, why did you wait?
Client: I didn’t want to pay you to write it and I thought I could do it myself. But I guess not. Can you help me with some of the other questions as well?
Me: Sure, how much more is there?
Client: There are 8 more questions and the budget.
So, What is the Moral of the Story?
Grants are tough, that is why there are professional grant writers. Doing it yourself may seem easy and the questions obvious when you read them, they get a little tougher to handle when you have to answer them, and answer them within the guidelines of the grant. If you want to tackle this, then don’t hurt yourself in the process:
- Don’t delay, plan. Set aside the time to read the grant at least twice. Read the instructions
- Break the questions into smaller sections and begin to write down words that need to be part of the answer
- Get your numbers. Know your numbers. Organize your numbers
The truth is that writing is hard, and writing grants is harder. It is worth the attempt, but the sooner you determine that you are stuck and need help, wave the white flag. That allows people like me or other help you may be able to call upon to have time to do the best job possible for the proposal and your organization. There is no dishonor in knowing you can’t do a good job; don’t be afraid to ask for help, and accept it.
If you need some guidance, get in touch here or call us on 310 828 6979.
Cindy Lauren is the Principal of Lauren Associates – non profit consulting
As well as advising Executives and Boards on all aspects of nonprofit management, the firm specializes in developing fundraising solutions for all sizes of organizations.
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