Educating Up to Streamline the Grant Writing Process

Most people fall into grant writing almost by chance. Maybe someone recognized your writing skills and voila! You were “voluntold.” Perhaps you were coordinating a community program or project for a nonprofit or local government and needed a way to sustain those important efforts.

Either way, those writing skills drew you in. It makes sense, given the most common way to describe the process is “grant writing” – which only tells part of the story.  After more than 28 years in grants and fundraising, I have found that about 20% of grant writing is actual writing. Much of the remaining 80% goes toward wrangling attachments of required documents, hashing out budgets, and designing meaningful goals and objectives.

But another facet to successful grant writing is even more important!

Grant Guru and all-around Georgia Peach DeaRonda Harrison said it best in the latest episode of the Fundraising HayDay podcast:  When asked what she wished someone had told her before beginning her illustrious grant-writing career, her answer was succinct and powerful.

“I wish I had known how much educating I’d have to do.”

My co-host Amanda Day and I call it “Educating Up.” That’s when the grant professional, who is the true subject matter expert on grants in general and in the specific content of each grant instruction guide, AKA:  RFP, NOFO, or OFA, often must explain how grants work. These discussions could include the difference between baseline eligibility and competitive fit for a grant opportunity. Or maybe you need to dispel the myth that grant money is “free money” with no strings attached. How about navigating the restrictions regarding match or in-kind with a board member, police chief, executive director, or mayor?

These conversations can feel overwhelming, so here are three ways to take the pressure off when educating up on grants.

  1. Use a current or recent grant application as an example. Sharing the actual questions, attachments, and format with those you report to can go a long way to illustrate the breadth and depth of information needed to create a competitive grant proposal.
  2. Offer to present a lunch and learn, a section of board member orientation, or other brief informal talk about how grants work. You can polish your presentation skills and educate up at the same time.
  3. Present the results of an online, external grant readiness assessment—especially if your organization is new to or returning to grant seeking. There are many good grant readiness checklists, including the 10-minute Grant Readiness Assessment (GRASP) tool from DH Leonard Consulting: GRASP Tool (Grant Readiness Assessment) – DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services.

The term “grant-writing” doesn’t begin to cover all the roles and responsibilities involved, so I prefer “grant professional.” Embracing the educational aspect of grant development can lead to deeper working partnerships that get you the information you need when you need it—with the ultimate result of winning more grants to do more good things in the community you serve. And isn’t that what it’s all about?


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 6 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on seasons 1 – 5 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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