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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.

Recently while working on a large foundation grant application, my client remarked that she was so glad to be going through the grant writing process, because she realized that additional fundraising was needed for her organization’s project. Not similar or quite so happy, but important, is the Executive Director who, a few years ago, was speechless after hearing “If this doesn’t get funded, you’ll still get something out of it.”

We all want our projects to be funded, and it’s not easy to look on the bright side of the potential of not getting funded. However, there is still a lot of value in the grant writing process and in the product, regardless of the outcome – especially if your organization is committed to the project, no matter how much fundraising you have to do, how many politicians’ doors you have to knock on, or how many grants you have to apply for until you are successful.

A grant application is a project plan. Going through the process of preparing an application requires you to think about project details that you may not have considered when developing your project idea, which provides insights that help to develop, refine, and improve the project. In preparing a grant application, your idea is transformed from a basic framework to a detailed plan of action. Details that you may think about for the first time include:

  • How much will this *really* cost? Developing a grant budget often uncovers hidden costs. Have you considered all the personnel who will be needed to implement or oversee this project or program? How much time will the Executive Director spend on this project? Have you accounted for expenses such as fringe benefits (this is not just health insurance!), supplies and materials, and new technology needed to support new staff? Do you need to hire outside vendors or service providers? Do you have vendor quotes to justify your budget?

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06 Apr 2018

Improving Your Research Strategy

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*Note from Diane: DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC does NOT endorse any specific research tools. We subscribe to and use numerous databases ourselves in our work for our clients. The decision about which tool is the best fit for a specific grant seeking organization is based on numerous factors. 


The Foundation Directory Online (FDO) Professional is considered by many grant professionals to be the gold standard for grant research although, not the only tool that should be used. Funders are indexed by facets such as Subject, Geographic Focus, and Support Strategy. There are thousands of specific search terms that can be used to identify funders. For example, I can search for funders who are located in Buffalo, NY (or I can expand it to Erie County, or expand it more to Buffalo-Niagara-Cheektowaga), make cash grants, fund capital projects, and support children and youth. Results can be broadened or narrowed by removing or adding search terms.

If you are learning how to use the FDO, here are two tips that may be very helpful in quickly finding exactly what you need:

Use the Visual Navigator

The Foundation Center provides an explanation of how information is indexed in the FDO, here. This is well worth the time it takes to read, especially to learn the definitions of the various facets and how they are applied to grantmaker profiles, recipient profiles, and grant details.

However, the part of this page that I return to every time I do grant research is the Visual Navigator, found near the bottom of the page under the heading EXPLORE. The Visual Navigator allows you to drill down into five facets – Transaction Types, Support Strategies, Subjects, Population Groups, and Organization Types – to find specific search terms and definitions. For example, in Subjects, you can select Human Services, and see narrower terms such as Basic and Emergency Aid, Shelter and Residential Care, and Family Services. Each term is defined, allowing you to ensure that your research strategy uses search terms that match exactly what you need. You may find that sometimes searching by a broader term is more fruitful than searching by a narrower term, and some facets are more important than others.

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30 Mar 2018

#LifeasaGrantWriter: The Curated List

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I had so much fun putting together the list of 15 statements in the post You Know You are a Grant Writer When that I am sharing a curated list of Your #LifeasaGrantWriter and #LifeasaGrantPro social media posts today. Enjoy.


You  Know You are a Grant Writer When . . .

Geeky grant moment! When you use their [Bureau of Labor Statistics] data in grant apps, of course you need a pic when you’re in town for a Grant Writing USA  workshop. – Amanda Day, GPC





At the Tampa Airport getting ready for #GrantChat and then off to SC to lead Grant Management Boot Camp. – Lucy Morgan, CPA








High fives to all of you who identify with these statements. You are an awesome grant professional doing great work.


Let us know when you know you are a grant professional below in the comments or on social media using the hashtags #LifeasaGrantWriter and #LifeasaGrantPro.

23 Mar 2018

Don’t Yuck Someone Else’s Yum

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Note from Diane: Amy’s analogies and metaphors related to our work in grant seeking and nonprofit work as a whole always make me smile. Today’s post is no different!


My family recently went out for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, it’s a favorite because, miraculously, everyone in our family can find something they really like on the menu. So when the waiter arrived with our meals I was somewhat dismayed when a favorite dish of mine was placed before me and everyone at the table groaned. It doesn’t have an unpleasant smell or look, it doesn’t take up a lot of room on the table, it’s just something that no one else in my family likes to eat… with brussels sprouts on it. It reminded me of a situation I was in with a client recently where I was in a staff meeting facilitating a conversation about grant writing and one person in particular countered any brainstorming idea with a “we can’t do that” or “it won’t work because…” statement. A naysayer at a brainstorming meeting can have a lasting, negative effect on the health of an organization. I’ve heard this called “yucking someone else’s yum” and it applies to the dinner table as well as  to the conference table. So, how do you counter this type of attitude, here are 7 ways to deal with a naysayer in your midst.


7 Ways to Deal with a Naysayer

1. Here’s a great website from Global Giving with a number of useful activities to help frame a productive brainstorming session.

2. Facilitator Tool Kit: A Guide for Helping Groups Get ResultsThis comprehensive guide provides staff with a variety of activities and ideas to get groups from brainstorming to a completed project. It also has a section on how to work with difficult attitudes.

3. Sometimes it’s helpful to do an asset building activity like this one shared on Nonprofit Pro to help offset negativity. Take some time to find out what each staff member brings to a project, highlight their talents and make everyone feel secure that they bring something important to the project.

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