The Right Time to Apply for a Grant

The check-in meeting had already run an hour over. Together, we navigated the choppy seas of registration through,, and for the executive director (ED) and the chief development officer.  I was discussing a complex program packaging for a client’s first foray into larger-scale federal funding. After extensive prospect research, we had identified this opportunity and added it to the grants calendar.

It was an ambitious project and a tight deadline, but I felt confident about their chances until a series of questions from the ED about how long they could delay some key decisions gave me pause. This multi-year grant would hit during an extensive construction project which could delay the delivery of a cornerstone program that would be featured in grant funding.

While video meetings can be exhausting in different ways from in-person meetings, they do offer an unflinching view of faces, as long as the cameras are on. Concern, uncertainty, and then a kind of grim resolution flickered across the ED’s face as our discussion continued around how much we could push out critical program decisions and still make the deadline.

I took a deep breath and asked if the timing was wrong to move ahead, adding that it was okay if it was. And I meant every word. The ED nodded and said the agency shouldn’t proceed with such an important ask if they weren’t ready. And then apologized for wasting my time. I quickly explained that the right decision at the right time saved everyone time. Besides, I’m there not just as a one-and-done grant writer but as a consulting partner in their overall grant strategy.

This ED was unafraid to make tough calls that were in the organization’s long-term best interest. It wasn’t the right time for that particular grant, but we agreed to prepare for next year’s cycle and focus on other smaller-scale proposals with shorter grant cycles as they ironed out details on the huge facility project.

Unfortunately, EDs, development directors, consultants, and entrepreneurs can feel enormous pressure to go for the next big thing and the next and the next. Pushing for the next big potential payout or lucrative client is one response to this pressure. But taking a clear-headed look at each grant opportunity or revisiting a plan of action established months or years ago and making sure it’s still the right one can lead to even greater achievements.

Don’t believe me? Just check out grant expert and business builder extraordinaire Shavonn Richardson in the latest episode of the Fundraising HayDay podcast:…grant-consultant/. She actually tore up her well-developed business plan mid-year for a fresher approach—saying she was going with her gut.

Granted, the ED and Shavonn were going with their gut reactions based on years of experience and some cold, hard facts. But learning to question and review on the fly is the mark of a true leader. As grant professionals, we have multiple opportunities to evaluate opportunities and sometimes advocate for tough calls based on our knowledge and experience. But I have this gut feeling that we’re up to the challenge!


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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