Stop Chasing Grant Money

If I had a dollar for every time I heard one of these phrases, I’d be a millionaire.


“You won’t get the grant if you don’t apply.”


“We’re eligible, so we should apply.”


“Just write the grant.”


“I know someone who got the grant for this exact equipment, so we should go for it.”


As a grant professional, it can be tempting to write every grant that comes across your desk, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. But that plan is about as effective as throwing a plate of spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Sure, some of it will, but is that really the décor you want on your wall?


Over the years, I have learned that our number one job as grant professionals is educating up. And by that, I mean teaching your boss, board members, and colleagues what grants can and cannot do. Part of that education is teaching them about a carefully crafted grant calendar that only includes grants you are (1) eligible to apply for and (2) competitive enough to be considered for selection.


Starting with research on your potential funders and their grant programs increases your chance of a successful grant portfolio and a higher award ratio. It does not mean you will win every grant you apply for, but it does lessen the time spent on grants that are a long shot, at best. Once you have crafted your plan for the year, as best as possible, stick to it. Yes, surprising grant applications will fall from the sky (hello, so many new funding opportunities in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic). Yes, you should always consider adding new grants if they fit your organization’s mission, need, and focus. But both those “yes” responses only work if you have the time to fit them into your calendar, and maybe that means you say “no” to other grants you had on the calendar.


There are only so many hours in the workday, and to keep burnout at bay, no one should work until midnight regularly to get all the grants submitted. This is how a curated calendar helps – you have a game plan for the year. And the next time someone shows up with a grant, you “just have to write” ask a few questions before moving forward. Here are my favorites:

  • Are we eligible? If yes, then…
  • Are we competitive, meaning do we check all the boxes in the Request for Proposal? If yes, then…
  • Do we have a need that meets the grant? If yes, then…
  • Do we already have a program developed, along with an accompanying budget? If not, how much time can you dedicate to making that happen? Then…
  • Who is the funder, and how long will this take? Based on that…
  • What grant on the current calendar are we removing from my to-do list or can we bring in assistance (hire a consultant or call on a colleague with some writing skills) to help with the extra work?


If we cannot get through that short list of questions with mostly “yes” responses, I typically recommend we stick to the current plan. But if we do, let’s go for it!


I know that implementing a grant calendar and such a system may take months, if not years, of explanations to members of your organization. But education typically pays off in the long run to make a quality grant program. When trying new systems and ideas, I always ask my boss to give me a year to implement them. Then if we do not see results, we can talk about alternatives. That has always worked for me. To learn more about the art of not chasing the grant money, listen to our latest episode of the Fundraising HayDay podcast. In Season 6, you can find us on YouTube:


Chasing grant money only results in burned-out grant professionals and an abysmal track record. No one wants that, so start educating and get a new grant calendar for your health and peace of mind.


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 6 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on seasons 1 – 5 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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