Never Too Many (Grant) Cooks in the Kitchen

What would be your recipe to create the perfect grant? How about a list of ingredients that include:

  • a clean, well-lit quiet office free of distractions
  • immediate access to the most comprehensive databases with all the latest data
  • strong Wi-Fi and a reliable laptop
  • a well-defined program fully realized months before the grant deadline
  • current impeccable data describing the needs and assets of the community you serve
  • clear and concise objectives
  • a well-rounded evaluation strategy.

By now you may be snorting in disbelief, or maybe rolling your eyes at the very thought of having all the tools you need to “bake” the perfect grant right at your fingertips. I know I was, even while writing this.  But the reality is that I built a successful career in grant development and fundraising for medium-sized and large nonprofits where I had the privilege of taking many of those ingredients for granted—equipment that worked (okay mostly), people I could turn to and perhaps gently nudge (okay, badger) for needed information.

My employers nearly always had decent professional development budgets that allowed me to attend conferences, join the Grant Professionals Association and even paid for my credential through the Grant Professional Certification Institute.

Undergirding this crucial leg up to becoming a grant/fundraising professional was one of the most important support that I took for granted—a steady, reliable paycheck, health insurance, and a safe workplace.

For many small nonprofits led by people of color, even the basics of supporting an in-house grant writer may be financially beyond reach.  And individual fundraising, major donor work and/or annual big-ticket galas—the traditional mainstays for well-established non-profits—may not work for grassroots organizations doing vital work in underserved communities.

Noted nonprofit iconoclast (and kombucha fiend) Vu Le has humorously and eloquently made this point through his blog posts on Nonprofit AF and in front of a “live studio audience” that became the two-episode kick-off to Season Two of the Fundraising HayDay Podcast.  He calmly and comically makes the argument that competing for grants has created a Hunger Games-style feeling of scarcity in the nonprofit field—leaving the smaller nonprofits at an unfair disadvantage in the competitive world of grant seeking.

My co-host Amanda Day and I have spent a lot of time discussing this inside and outside the podcast studio.  We’ve both been grant reviewers and have seen firsthand how the under-resourced schools and smaller agencies that may have some of least competitive proposals have the greatest need for funding as demonstrated through their demographic and other data.

But what can we do?  This.

We can continue to hold up people through our podcasts and blog posts that not only identify the issues but shed a light on possible solutions.   Some, like Vu Le, have even suggested doing away with grant proposals altogether.  At the very least, those of us who have the skills to create successful grants should share this valuable experience however we can.  Mentoring, networking, presenting, and blogging are just some of the ways we can invite more and more people into the kitchen and help them add more ingredients needed to create that perfect grant.


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 2 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on season 1 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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