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13 Oct 2017

Celebrating Grant Success

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Note from Diane: Briana’s post today, “Celebrating Grant Success” is the first in a four-part series where different colleagues share their perspectives on celebrating grant success and also on handling and learning from grant rejections. 


There is no instant gratification in grant writing. Celebrating success is as much about a successful process as it is a successful funding outcome, the latter of which often does not occur for 3-8 months after submission.

Hitting submit myself, or being notified by my client that the grant has been submitted, ushers in the first moment to celebrate (and to breathe!). After spending tens of hours on a project, sometimes 70 or more for the large government grants, the final submission of a grant feels like a euphoric sense of freedom from the pressure of a deadline and a feeling of accomplishment for having produced a quality narrative and other application materials. My celebration of this tends to focus on getting some quality quiet time away from the office to reenergize.

The next celebratory moment is notification of award! Not only did the application pass the technical review (relief for all of us who spend way too much time checking and re-checking that all required documents and signatures in blue ink are there), but it was funded! I have loved the times in which I could celebrate this moment with my clients by being the first to tell them of their awards, such as for New York’s Consolidated Funding Application where the awards are published online after a large ceremony, prior to actual award letters being sent out.

The third, and by far my favorite, celebratory moment is seeing the funding in action when it has been possible to do so. I don’t think anyone becomes a grant professional simply because they like to write. The real impetus for this work, at least for me, is being able to contribute to social change and build better communities. Visiting the funded programs or projects is a very meaningful and exciting experience that makes me feel more strongly connected to the grant and the organization, which is especially important as a consultant. It is the successful summer program, or the public mural, or the historic building that has been saved, that is the greatest outcome of the grant writing work and is cause for the most celebration.


What do you do to celebrate grant success when the award letter arrives? We’d love to hear! Share in the comments section below.

Your nonprofit is grant ready. You have a list of grantmakers to approach. And now it is time to put the grant application together. It can be overwhelming. So how do you know what to include in the grant application?

Here is a hint. Most grantmakers have guidelines and regulations you must follow. Use their guidelines as a guide for the grant application. And avoid these 7 common grant writing mistakes. They could cost you funding.


7 Common Grant Writing Mistakes

1. Excessive budget items/cost – Grantmakers don’t like applications with excessive budgets. They want to do the most good with their money.

2. Padded budget – Do not ask for more money than the nonprofit needs for the proposed project/program. Grantmakers require you to spend all the money or give the extra funds back. Nonprofits cannot use the extra money on other projects/program.

3. Budget and narrative not consistent – Consistency throughout the entire grant application is vital for a successful application.

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29 Sep 2017

Grant Writing Writer’s Block

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What do you do when you’ve been writing the same line for 20 minutes? When you’ve used the same adjective to describe an organization 17 times in one paragraph? When that nagging feeling creeps up on you and you begin to wonder if you’ll ever be able to finish a grant. Yup, it’s writer’s block and it happens to the best of us and probably always at the worst time possible. Here are a couple of tried a true ways to help get you out of the rut and closer to finishing the grant in advance of the deadline.


Ten Ways to Get Through Writer’s Block

1. Read a good writer. I think all grant writers should have a copy of their favorite book in their office right next to their Synonym Finder. Grab a book that represents good writing to you, read a few pages and see if it jolts you out of the doldrums.

2. Take a couple of minutes to change your screen saver picture (that has probably popped up a few too many times during your writer’s block episode). Find a picture of you doing something you love and that you are good at to remind yourself of your past successes.

3. Write something else for a bit. Take a break and write a poem, write a thank you note, update website, maybe even write a blog about writer’s block.

4. Take a walk/run/swim/yoga break and see if getting some endorphins flowing will help break the writer’s log jam.

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Regardless of how long you have been in the grant writing field, as a grant professional, there are always huge benefits for serving as a grant reviewer.

I started my career as a grantmaker, I was a Program Officer at the Michigan Women’s Foundation, something I have written about here before. (Check it out here if you missed that earlier post: Five Lessons I Learned When I Was a Program Officer)

In the years since I left grantmaking as my full-time work and started working exclusively with nonprofits and other grant seeking groups about building their capacity for grant seeking, I have served on numerous grant review committees. Despite having a background in grantmaking, each and every time I have the opportunity to serve as a grant reviewer I walk away with a new idea or a new perspective on something that struck or irked a reviewer.

This year, as Community Review Panel time came around again for the United Way of Northern New York, a volunteer commitment I hold near and dear to my heart since it is grantmaking happening in my very own Northern New York, I got to thinking again of the value for grant professionals to serve as grant reviewers.

What was I thinking while I was on the road for a nonprofit site visit? Well, check out this video below to see!


What do you think? How has serving as a grant reviewer helped your work as a grant professional?

Trying to figure out how or where to become a grant reviewer?

Check out this great post from Judy Rifle, Ph.D. about How to Find Federal Grant Review Opportunities!

18 Sep 2017

Should We Apply for Small Grants

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We get questions like, “Should your grant seeking organization or nonprofit take time to apply for small grants?” and the follow-up questions including “Are they worth it?” or  “Do they actually *cost* your organization money?” frequently.

These are all great questions for an organization to be asking themselves before they dig in on a new application. Grants are never “free” money – whether large or small, there is some cost to an organization to securing and implementing the grant beyond what is funded by the grant itself.

While there are large grants that organizations should really pause to ask themselves about before digging in on an application, most organizations pause to ask themselves about small grants.

Small grants may be defined differently by different organizations. For some, it is grants less than $1,000. For others, it is grants less than $5,000. For others still, it is grants less than $25,000.

The key is not what the level is that your organization defines as “small grants,” but rather the process by which your organization decides if the grant has a potential strong benefit for your organization.

Here are a few reasons that an organization might consider applying for small grants:

  • They are a new organization, so successfully receiving and implementing small grants helps build their capacity for managing grants and also builds credibility with grantmakers.
  • The organization may have a specific project where a small grant will make a significant impact with starting the idea/program.
  • The organization needs to make a distinct or one-time purchase.

Check out more in this new YouTube video we put together about this question.


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