Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: When Life and Deadlines Compete

Note from Diane: Our team is a constantly evolving team, focusing on gaining new skills to best support our clients. Our client teams are constantly evolving as well as we work to build their grant team capacity and grant readiness. As we talk about grant teams so frequently, we thought as a team, it would be fun to write a series of blog posts about how grant writing isn’t a solo sport.


Grant Professionals sometimes joke that they are on a “Team of One”. In many organizations, the grant activity falls upon the shoulders of one person. This includes writing, reporting, and keeping up with deadlines-the dozens of detail-oriented activities that require precise execution in order to achieve grant success. Many times, I have been that person, that Team of One juggling all of those moving parts. I reveled in it. There is a certain pride one has in taking on such responsibility. However, as I have grown in my role as a grant professional and, as I have experienced the gut-punching realities of adulthood, I realize that grant success mustn’t lie in the hands of one person.

Sometimes, deadlines and life just don’t mix. Aging parents, sick children, and your own health can overtake all of your time and mental energy in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, one can’t just call up the National Science Foundation and say, “Hey, both my kids have the flu, can I submit this $750,000 ask next Monday?” While your personal needs merit just as much importance as your organization’s funding needs, both must be addressed. After dealing with the unwanted collision of personal emergencies and professional deadlines, I have realized a few essentials to avoiding any professional disasters:

  1. Communication – Realizing you need help and asking for it are unbelievably difficult, especially for some people (like myself) who pride themselves on being able to handle it all. However, that self-awareness and honesty is the most vital thing you can do to ensure your grant program continues to run during times of personal crisis.


  1. Organization – Make sure that all required documentation, log-ins, passwords, notes, etc. are in a place where any relevant team member can access them. Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft Online are three great tools that will allow a user to save their work in a shared system and grant access to one or more users.


  1. Delegation and Teamwork – At DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, we work on a Scrum framework, where the team works individually and collaboratively on prioritized goals during a defined period of time. This allows the team the agility to provide support to other team members if needed. Having a team that works in concert to achieve a defined goal is essential to grant success.

Productivity expert David Allen once said, “You can do anything, but not everything.” Having the self-awareness to realize the limits of your professional and personal capacity is daunting and scary, but it is vital. Couple that wisdom with the practical components of teamwork, and your organization can enjoy grant success.


What tips do you have about how you think big picture about grant writing as a team sport, not a siloed activity? We’d love to hear! Share your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. ML Quinn April 25, 2018at8:41 am

    How right you are! Your suggestions are very helpful. I have been the sole writer after everyone else gives up and the demands on my time were staggering. Looking back, it would have been better to bring the reluctant team back together, get their time commitments, and assist them in getting it done as a team.

    1. Diane H. Leonard, GPC May 3, 2018at9:20 am

      So glad that you found Nicole’s suggestions helpful! Sorry to hear about the experience you had, but hopeful that your idea for how to address a similar situation in the future should it arise works well.

  2. Diane Calabria April 25, 2018at4:19 pm

    Very good points! I will add that a grant professional relies on everyone in their organization to a greater or lesser degree, because the fundability of proposals is greatly influenced by the reputation of the organization. When the organization does great work, the grant professional’s job is easier. When an organization is little known or has a less than positive reputation, even the most seasoned grant professional will have a more difficult job.

  3. Awal Ahmed Kariama April 25, 2018at6:17 pm

    Great article, enough motivation to adopt team mindset and up results

  4. Nicole Sibilski May 3, 2018at10:22 am

    ML Quinn, you’re absolutely right. It’s a tough position to be in and requires a huge cultural shift in thinking. My experience has taught me that clearly defined goals, deadlines, and transparency can definitely help.

  5. Nicole Sibilski May 3, 2018at10:24 am

    Awal, thank you! Good luck in adopting a new mindset for your organization! Please let us know how it goes!


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