Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: It’s a Lot Like Volleyball

Note from Diane: The second 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 some analogies for grant teams. Did you miss the first post? Don’t forget to check out Nicole Sibilski’s post, Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: When Life and Deadlines Compete.


What do grant writing and volleyball have in common?

During upper elementary and middle school, I enjoyed playing volleyball. If you aren’t familiar with volleyball, here is a quick tutorial. A volleyball team has six members on the court at all times. The volleyball positions include serving specialist, setter, defense specialist, outside hitter, libero, middle blocker, right side, and even the coach. Each of these positions has specific roles and responsibilities to contribute to the overall goal of the team – winning. The volleyball players each have a specialty, but they rotate through the six positions on the court throughout each game and share the roles and responsibilities.


And now that you have had a quick tutorial about a volleyball, you are probably wondering how this applies to grant development. Grant writing isn’t a solo sport. It is most successful when completed as a team. At DH Leonard Consulting, we talk about grant teams on a very consistent basis because it is so important.


Like a volleyball team, a grant team has many positions –  writer, organizational guru, researcher, numbers person, details person, ideas/creative thinker, and specialties. Each of these positions has specific responsibilities to the grant writing process and contribute to the overall goal of the grant team – being awarded the grant.


If a volleyball team only has five players out on the court, there is a good chance some of the responsibilities will not be covered and the ball will drop giving the other team the point. What happens if that one person becomes ill, is on vacation, or *gasp* leaves the organization?

Six actions to take to help with staff absence or transition:

  1. Create a general email address like for all information related to grants. Use it for the email login for online grant applications and to submit pdf applications. Allow for at least a couple of grant team members to have access to it.
  2. Document online grant application login information in a spreadsheet or use a password manager like LastPass and share with a couple of grant team members.
  3. Create and share a grant calendar that all of the grant team members have access to.
  4. Use a shared drive for all grant application information.
  5. Schedule regular grant team meetings.
  6. When assigning responsibilities for a grant application, also assign a substitute for the major components.


For more information on some of these actions, read 5 Capacity Tips, Tricks, and Tools for Managing Multiple Deadlines.


How has having a grant team helped your organization achieve the overall goal of being awarded the grant?

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