How to Win More Grants: Get a Good Mentor

Growing up, my sister and I LOVED hearing stories from our parents’ childhoods. One story involved friendless siblings Scott and Laura. Dad said they would roam the neighborhood streets, holding hands, skipping, and chanting, “We ain’t got nobody to play with.” I can still repeat the chant today in the same sing-song voice, despite not hearing that story in decades.


What made me think about it today is the loneliness it evokes. It’s a loneliness most grant professionals have felt at one point or another. When I was first voluntold I would be a grant professional, I did not know a single person in the career. Heck, I did not even know this was a career. I had never heard of the Grant Professionals Association, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, or any other resource that brings our community together. My days were equal parts frustrating, isolating, rewarding, and glorious. The biggest complaint was not having a peer to share the experience of my highs or lows.


Without someone to talk to, share your burdens, learn from, and relate with, you will burn out fast. I always liked the world of grants, but I did not come to love it until I met other grant professionals like me. And while I would not say I had an official mentor in my life, looking back now I realize that I had so many informal mentors. No one ever stepped up and offered to be my mentor, nor did I ask if anyone would be willing to do so, but folks mentored me anyway. And I do not think I would be where I am today without those incredible people.


It started with Danny Blitch who called and introduced himself to me when I started a new job at a neighboring city. He became my go to call for all things related to local government grant needs. Paula Swartzberg, then President of the Georgia Grant Professionals Association encouraged me to run for President when her term ended, and she followed through by assisting me whenever needed that next year. Marcia Ford nominated me to the Grant Professionals Certification Institute, then helped me understand the importance of credentialing to legitimize our field. My podcast cohost Kimberly is an incredible mentor, teaching me so many things about private funding and fundraising – she probably does not even realize all she has informally taught me during our many lunches and planning sessions, but it’s more than any conference or training session could impart to me.


These are my favorite mentorships, the ones that start as a colleague relationship, but turn into so much more. That’s what happened when I met Allison Boyd. Through her quiet ways, she has taught me what it means to be a servant leader in every sense of the word. When I first started consulting, I put her on speed dial, because I had so many questions about contracts, what to charge, and how to tell if a client is worth hanging on to or not. Just the other day I needed research sites for a specific area of childhood education, and I sent her a quick email asking if she could point me in the right direction. Within 10 minutes I had a dozen links to useful websites. Everyone needs an Allison in their lives.


If you don’t a helpful mentor (whether in a formal or informal capacity), do not fret. My Fundraising HayDay cohost, Kimberly, and I are bringing Allison to you. We interview her in Season 5, Episode 4 of the podcast and you can listen here: Grant Productivity: Managing Your Workload ( Allison is a straight up manager of systems that get the job done. She shares many of her tips and tricks with us all in our latest episode. Whether you’ve been at the grant game for decades or a few weeks, she has wisdom to impart.


At the end of the day, mentorship is simply someone with knowledge and experience giving it willingly to the next person. Fundraising HayDay is basically a mentoring podcast, sharing all that we can with our listeners. And if you want something more personal, find a grant mentor. If you do not know where to begin, we highly recommend getting involved with the Grant Professionals Association. They have a formal mentoring program for mentors, as well as so many folks who do it informally. Either way, go get yourself somebody to talk grants with so you don’t find yourself aimlessly wandering the streets like Scott and Laura.


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 5 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on seasons 1 – 4 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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