Become a Stronger Grant Writer Simply by Addressing DEI

Maybe it’s human nature. Maybe it’s cultural. Maybe it’s Maybelline. But seriously, why have I wasted so much time thinking in strict dichotomies? Either/or thinking has stopped or slowed some major career choices such as employee vs. consultant, grants vs. fundraising, grant writing vs. coaching or training.

The best experiences in my personal and professional life have come from navigating the gray spaces that often drive profound positive change—when I’ve stepped back to listen and learn and open to possibilities and broken things down into incremental steps to try new ways, new concepts, new actions at the same time.

For example, the most satisfying grant development that has helped my employer or my client better serve their communities happens when I can understand the big picture of needs, assets, resources, program goals, and outcomes and how they change while I am drilling down into the grant application multiverse of plans, descriptions, logic models, budget-paloozas, and other delights.

However, my own most satisfying development as a grant professional has come from examining standard systemic practices and questioning them while taking action to advocate for change. That’s not quite the whole picture, though. The satisfaction usually comes after I take action.

It’s one of the reasons that I said yes to the brilliant and talented Amanda Day when she asked me if I wanted to co-host the Fundraising HayDay podcast back in 2017. We both wanted to advocate for change in the philanthropic community as one of our founding goals—the big vision. That included interviewing thought leaders, advocates, and activists such as Vu Le, Edgar Villanueva, and so many more around the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), particularly regarding grants and fundraising.

Continual learning, whether it’s about people, places, issues, outcomes, solutions, or possibilities, is part and parcel of becoming a strong grant writer and addressing DEI where you work, live, and play. But learning without action rarely changes things. That’s why Amanda and I gathered examples of positive steps, big and small, that people in the grants profession have taken to address DEI. Take a listen here to Building More Inclusive Relationships with Stakeholders ( for the details about how members of the Georgia Grant Professionals Association came together to begin working with area foundations on creating more equitable grants processes or how the actions stemming from the frustrations of two other nonprofit employees started a free online review bank for grant writers about grantmakers.

Whether you’re facing a daunting Federal application for the first time or struggling to identify meaningful actions you can take right now to improve DEI in the grants and fundraising community, remember that it’s not an either/or proposition. Learn what you can. Start where you are. It’s the only reasonable way to conquer that logic model or have a difficult but necessary conversation with a program officer or board member.


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 5 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on seasons 1 – 4 and stay up to date on the new season here.

Don’t let grants stress you out, check out the helpful grant writing services our team has to offer here.

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