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05 Feb 2019

Embracing What Motivates Your Work

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Grant professionals choose this career for a variety of reasons, and as with any other career that involves writing, have unique routines to motivate them to dig in on their writing work.

What is your go to routine or activity for motivation? Running? Reading? Working in a coffee shop?

As we started the new year, I had the opportunity to create some new routines and thought about what was the routine that I wanted to use to start off each business week as well our team’s 2-week sprints. I’ve written before about how having a treadmill desk in my office is a great way to move during the day, but also to motivate me and find inspiration when working on a big project. (Interested in learning more about my treadmill desk setup? You can read more here.) The treadmill desk is still a central fixture in my office, but as our team has grown, so has my perspective and creativity about how we can measure our motivation and happiness in our work.

One of the recent exercises we went through as a team during a recent planning meeting was to all take an Enneagram quiz online. I had been introduced to the idea of using the Enneagram to think about team composition during a closing plenary that Marc Pitman gave this past fall at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference. Marc walked the participants through how understanding your team members and colleagues’ Enneagram number could help you think about how you work together and approach decision making together. As we went through our team’s Enneagram results it was fascinating to see the different Enneagram types in the team also grouped toward specific types of motivation in their work.

All that being said…what is it that you find motivates you to dig in on your big projects?

Is it…

  • Physical activity
  • Collaborative interaction with colleagues
  • Music
  • Quiet and mindfulness exercises
  • Noisy coffee shop settings
  • Scheduled work
  • Recognition of your achievements

Regardless of your answer, your understanding of what helps motivate your work, and embracing that answer is what helps define your #lifeasagrantpro.


and we’d love to hear about it! Share what motivates you in the comments below or by sharing images of what motivates you in your work on social media using the hashtag #lifeasagrantpro.

Learning, understanding, and feeling confident, not just informed about federal grants is a significant undertaking for a grant seeking organization. Mix in the occasional federal government shut down or the shifts in policy goals and funding priorities when there are changes in leadership in the government, and the federal grant funding landscape can feel stressful and uncertain.

As a result, I thought I would pull together some resources that will help you feel more confident in understanding federal grant funding and more competitive when you go to click submit in on your next application.

Here are a few broad resources to help you feel more comfortable with federal grants:

What are some of the current conversations that are happening about how the government shutdown is impacting the grant field:

Here are also a few recent articles about nonprofits/philanthropy and the current government shutdown:

What questions do you have about how to feel more confident about seeking federal grants? Let us know in the questions box or by contacting us so that we can help you feel more confident.

2018 was quite the year in the field of grant writing as well as for the DH Leonard Consulting team. As it winds down and we ensure that all of our clients have their grant calendars and grant teams in great shape for the year ahead, we paused to look at which blog posts YOU enjoyed the most this year.

I’ve turned them into a Top 10 Highlights list reminiscent of Dave Letterman’s Top 10 lists. Enjoy catching up on these popular posts in case you missed them when they were originally published.

Top 10 Grant Writing Tips & Lessons Learned of the Year

10. Storytelling is a critical element in grant applications – it isn’t just about client stories as a method of storytelling.

Answers to the Most Common Questions about Storytelling in Grants

by Diane H. Leonard, GPC


9. While a rejection letter/email always stings, sometimes there is a silver lining for the organization.

The Value of the Grant Process…Regardless of the Outcome

by Briana Popek


8. Grant professionals *are* superheroes, but like any professional, we have boundaries for how and when our best work is performed and 2am is rarely the answer.

Setting Boundaries as a Grant Professional

by Diane H. Leonard, GPC


7. Sharing knowledge and lessons learned with those new to the field is an important part of what we can do as seasoned professionals to help grow our field.

Dear New Grant Professional…a Letter from an Experienced Grant Professional

by Diane H. Leonard, GPC


6. Grant professionals find inspiration for our writing in many elements of our daily life, including what movies we watch.

Movies for Grant Writers

by Amy Bonn, GPC


5. An answer to one of the most common questions answered by those new to grant writing that helps them judge how much time grant writing is going to take in their role.

How Much Time Does it Take to Write a Grant?

by Diane H. Leonard, GPC


4. What does your #lifeasagrantwriter or #lifeasagrantpro look like? These items might help you realize that you truly ARE a grant writer now, not just dabbling in it as part of “other duties as assigned” in your job description.

You Know You Are a Grant Writer When…

by Bethany Turner, GPC


3. Unfortunately, grant writing scams are real, and the news real in 2018 highlighted that for the public again.

How to Avoid a Grant Writing Scam

by Diane H. Leonard, GPC


2. Not all foundations are going to love your organization, whether Gates, Kellogg, or a local family foundation as their mission may not be a strong fit with yours.

The Gates Foundation Is Just Not That Into You…

by Nicole Sibilski, GPC



1. The safety of our communities, and in particular our schools, is a hot topic throughout the country so it makes sense that tips about the funding available for school safety grants would be a top post this year.

School Safety Grants

by Judy Riffle, Ed.D.


What other blog posts did you read and find to be bookmark worthy or shareable this year? Whether from our team or another source, we’d love to hear what you would add to the top 10 list!

I was talking on the phone with another grant professional recently that I had just met. In the course of the conversation, she shared with pride that the Executive Director of her organization knew she could count on her to do whatever it takes to submit a grant application, whether it is working until 3am or working on the weekend. 

I was quiet about it at the time, as we each have our own boundaries as professionals, and I don’t want to judge another’s boundaries, especially someone who had been a successful grant professional longer than me.

Yet, the more I processed the conversation later in the day, the stronger the feeling that I needed to speak up and acknowledge that while grant writing can be stressful, I believe we need to set thoughtful boundaries that enable us to uphold best practices and also care for ourselves. For some, their personal night owl tendencies might make working until the wee hours of the morning in exchange for a morning off later in the week, worth it. For others, the flexibility to have a day off midweek while everyone else is at the office in exchange for working on a weekend is a scheduling treat. But what if that extra mile of effort isn’t directly compensated for or exchanged as comp time? Those situations quickly create a stressful environment that can lead to unhealthy expectations and burnout.

And then if she was hearing my thoughts rattle around after the phone conversation, serendipitously, an article popped into my inbox yesterday from a trusted friend and colleague, Jana Hexter published via CharityChannel. Jana’s piece, Grant Writing Doesn’t Have to be Stressful to be Successful! was completely on point. Jana posed eleven guiding questions to help you as a grant professional consider your work in a different way that might help reduce your stress in the grant writing setting.

Jana’s guiding questions can help you assess your work and the framework that you may want to set boundaries within. I wanted to add to the conversation my own five tips on setting boundaries with employers and clients about our work as grant professionals. There is no one set of tips that will meet all scenarios, I acknowledge that, but my hope is that these tips and Jana’s questions will help provide you options if you find yourself in a situation where you need to set new or more realistic expectations in the workplace.

4 Tips for Setting Boundaries

1. Grant Calendar

Set a grant calendar up for each fiscal year. The calendar needs to be reviewed and approved by your grant team. The calendar sets the expectation for the year ahead. New grant opportunities can only be added to the calendar if the grant team agrees (and makes a commitment to what changes if something new is added).

2. Working Hours

If an employee, and you are not already working under a set agreement for your office, set working hours. Ask for clarity from Human Resources in your office about working outside of standard working hours and if you are exempt or non-exempt. If a consultant, be clear with clients about what your working hours are.

3. Optimal Writing Environment

Share with your colleagues the conditions in which you write best. Is it with your headphones on blocking out cubicle noise? Is it with your door shut without interruption? Is it with a fresh non-fat latte in hand? Let your grant team know what you put in place for an optimal writing environment when working on a big grant narrative so they can help support that environment and respect the signals you put in place.

4. Handling the Unexpected

The first three boundaries are all your optimal situation. But life happens. Items come in late from stakeholders in the process despite our timelines and follow-up. A last-minute FAQ document from a grantmaker significantly changes your approach to a response. How is your team set up to support you when the unexpected happens? What arrangements do you put in place so you don’t need to shoulder that burden alone? Does the grant team all stay late together and order in pizza? The mistakes made in the last minute unexpected hours when we are all of a sudden alone in our work can cost you the grant funding that as a team you worked so hard on together…up until the unexpected happened.


And most importantly….remember that YOU control your own boundaries as a grant professional, and so it is okay for you to choose to make an exception to your boundaries.


How do you set boundaries in your work as a grant professional, whether in an employee or consultant role?

Dear New Grant Writer,


Welcome to the field of grant seeking!

You may be wondering what you got yourself into as you accepted this new job, or perhaps this new assignment as part of your expanded duties for your current employer.

When I was new in the field back in 2002, I wasn’t sure where to go for resources or to ask for assistance from. Googling grant writing resources was and still is nothing short of overwhelming.

I’ve been busy teaching a Beginner Grant Writing class in New York City this week for a group of employees in a large agency that are all charged with writing their own grants. As I talked with these eager professionals who want to understand grant writing so that they can contribute to their teams and find funding for their big goals, I thought that you, those that are new (or newish) to the field, might also like to know about some of the resources I shared with this group.

The Grant Professionals Association offers a number of excellent resources for those new to grants as well as for those experienced in the field. It is where I say that “I found my grant people” – you know…those that get why we like, in fact love grants and are happy to engage in conversations about best practices in our field.
I would also encourage you to access the Knowledge Base at GrantSpace (a program of the Foundation Center) to see what FAQs they answer and what free resources they point to.


And whether a new grant writer or experienced professional, there are a number of resources my team and I provide to help get you in your work at no charge.
We have free recorded webinars which you can access here.
We offer our free GRASP Tool to help you measure your grant readiness available here.
We offer a weekly free blog (aptly named the Grant Writer’s Blog) which you can access here.


Is there a resource you are looking for that you can’t find? Please ask! We’d be happy to help you find it.


Warmest regards,

Diane H. Leonard, GPC

A seasoned grant professional that is *SO* happy you have joined us in this work of grant seeking.

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