Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: Grant Professionals are the Quarterback

Note from Diane: The third post in our series about how grant writing is not a solo sport, but rather a team endeavor when looking for the greatest level of success, it’s time to look at more analogies for grant teams. Did you miss the previous posts? Check out Nicole Sibilski, GPC’s post, Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: When Life and Deadlines Compete and Bethany Turner, GPC’s post, Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: It’s a Lot Like Volleyball.


“We’ll give you all the written materials and attachments, we just need you to quarterback the project.”

These words were spoken by a project director who brought me in to help her organization apply for state funding for a capital project last year. Written materials from a previous funded grant application were available, extensive attachments would be provided by architects and environmental firms, and another consultant experienced with this grant program offered to walk us through the application.

What does collaboration with a grant professional look like when there isn’t much to write? What exactly does it mean to “quarterback” an application? Can a “grant writer” not write?

“Grant writing” is a misnomer. Preparing a grant application is not *just* writing – it often includes research, program/project design, budget development, and project management. These elements are also essential parts of an organization’s grant readiness and grant seeking strategy before there is an application on the table. Given the variety of activities necessary to identify and prepare competitive applications, it is understandable that sometimes the collaboration between an organization and a grant professional, including internal grant professionals, will focus on project elements other than writing the project narrative.

Quarterbacking a grant application means serving as the project manager, a role which may include:

  • Overseeing progress towards completing the many parts of the application, including facilitating meetings, keeping the grant team on track, and motivating and supporting the grant team during what can be a stressful process;
  • Reviewing application and project components as they are developed to ensure that they meet the funder’s criteria;
  • Adapting existing written materials to fit the requirements of the application – recycling narrative responses from previous grant applications or other written materials often still requires editing or rewriting to address the funder’s specific criteria or questions
  • Monitoring the status of attachments that must be created, completed, or located;
  • Helping the grant team understand grant requirements and processes;
  • Ensuring consistency between the project narrative, budget, and attachments; and
  • Communicating with the funder.

Grant development is a collaborative process, and “writing” is just one of many skills in grant professionals’ toolboxes. Having a grant professional manage the grant application, or “quarterback” it, can save busy organizational staff time and energy, share the responsibility of putting together the application, and bring knowledge and experience specific to the grant development process to the table.


What are some of the tools you use as a grant professional to help in quarterbacking a proposal?

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