Grant Writing is a Lot Like Zip Lining

When you are out and about on life adventures or even day to day excursions, there are often relatable lessons to our professional work – in the case of zip lining with friends, I walked away with fun analogies about grant writing best practices.

I’ve had some thoughtful moments about grants when out digging for clams along the coast of Maine and some deep personal lessons when swimming with sharks along the reefs of Belize. If you’ve ever been to one of my conference presentations for the Grant Professionals Association or been on one of my webinars for CharityHowTo, my propensity to use analogies to help make grant writing best practices seem more relatable and memorable won’t surprise you.

Going zip lining sounds like an activity I would have signed up for as a result of my two daughters wanting to participate. However, it was a group of great friends, away for a weekend, who decided it would be fun for all of us to go zip through the trees in the hills outside of Nashville. They were 100% right – it was a blast! It isn’t that I had passed up the opportunity to zip line before, but I had never sought it out. Now, I can’t wait to have the opportunity to take my daughters zip lining and show them how “cool” I am to hop right in line and clip onto the line. But in the midst of this fun new adventure, as with any dedicated grant professional…my mind wandered toward grants, and the similarities between grants and zip lining were too good not to share.

Lessons Learned About Grants From Zip Lining

1. Know the rules.

Take time before you get started to know the rules (safety rules in the case of zip lining). What are the allowable expenses for the grantmaker, what attachments do they require, will they allow communication prior to applying, etc.

2. Start small.

Just as you start on the smaller zip lines and build to the tall and long zip lines, you need to start your grant seeking strategy or your work as a grant professional with smaller grants. Build your experience, your confidence, and ultimately your success. You shouldn’t jump right onto the largest zip line if it is your first time out. You shouldn’t jump right into a federal grant application if you have never written a grant before (unless you have a support team that has someone with federal grant experience).

3. Celebrate each success.

Each successful run on a zip line is worth celebrating in its own way. It isn’t only the largest of the zip line runs that should be celebrated and cheered about. Each grant application successfully submitted,  each meeting with collaborative partners about grant applications, and each grant award received should be celebrated by your organization.

4. Cheer on your team.

Yes, it is just you out on the zip line squealing with joy (well, at least that is what I do!), but it takes the full team – those helping with safety at the beginning and end of the line and your friends cheering you on from the ground, to make the experience as wonderful as possible. It takes your whole grant team – those colleagues with a stake in seeing your organization’s grant applications be successful – to make the grant seeking experience as successful (and wonderful) as possible.


And to show how much fun I had….here is a video from one of the zip lines we did. Yup, that’s me, with a goofy grin plastered on as I was having a blast!

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