For years, I kept my head down and did the work. I cranked out the grant applications. I followed the rules. I submitted reports on time. I sought permission, in writing, when changes were necessary for programs and budgets. I explained that grant money is not our money to my colleagues, bosses, and board members. I attended workshops. I built relationships with funders. Rinse and repeat, over and over again.
And while I still do all of those things 20 years later, I know there is more to grant work than grant work. It was not something I realized overnight. It took years of reading blog posts of those who call out the inequities in funding (thanks @nonprofitaf), listening to my fellow grant pros challenge my belief that those with the greatest need get the actual funding (spoiler alert: it’s often the organizations with the most money who know how to play the grant game that gets the funding), and asking why but not getting a satisfactory answer (because “that’s how we have always done it” does not cut it anymore; it never did). And while I’d love to share that I had the noble calling of starting a podcast to call out the inequities in our profession, that is not true. I wanted to reignite my passion for my career while having a bit of fun with my fellow cohost. But the more we interviewed leaders in our field, talked to our peers, and read a few books, the more I realized that I had more to say.
Thanks to Fundraising HayDay and my cohost Kimberly Hays de Muga, I realized that the grant funder is not always right. And as a grant professional, it is my job to work with them to nudge towards change for the better. A few weeks ago, a peer posted in an online social media forum that a funder with whom she had a good relationship wanted to conduct a site visit and get feedback on their grant process. She confessed that it was a lot of work for the small grant award and wondered if it was smart to say something to the funder. The consensus of the responses was a resounding YES! Here you have a funder asking for feedback, and if she was constructive in it her response, she should give her honest opinion. Because really, if we don’t start telling funders that their 30-page proposal, monthly reports, tracking of every penny, and 12 other hoops we must jump through are a bit much for that $5,000 check, we are all going to be stuck with that work year after year – a terrible return on our investment.
So here is my call for my fellow grant professionals to use whatever platform you have to raise our collective voices, no matter how long and loud you can raise it. Talk to funders when you have the chance. Support the causes who are working to make change for the better. Share your concerns with your organization’s board members so they can talk to funders. Heck, talk to your elected officials (from local council members on up to your Senators) because they have the power to improve government grant processes for the better.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, you know your favorite podcasting duo won’t let you down. Two weeks ago, we launched The Why in Grants is Silent – Part 1, where we talked about the issues with grant funding today. This week we followed up with Part 2, where we spoke about the groups and causes fighting the good fight. If you don’t know where to begin, we did the leg work for you. All you have to do is listen to get a few ideas: The Why in Grants is Silent – Part 2 (podbean.com).
And before you tell me that you’re too busy writing grants to help effect change, let me point out two things. First, nothing will ever change if we don’t make it happen. Second, think how much better you’ll love your job when the process is more equitable for all involved.
Looking for an easy start for affecting change? Here are a couple of ideas:
- Leave a review of a foundation at Grant Advisor: GrantAdvisor: Write Reviews, Transform Philanthropy.
- Read about the good works of Community Centric Fundraising: Home – CCF (communitycentricfundraising.org).
- Share our latest Fundraising HayDay podcast episode with a colleague, The Why in Grants is Silent – Part 2 (podbean.com).
- Support the Decolonizing Wealth movement: https://decolonizingwealth.com.
- Join your fellow grant professionals to lend an amplified voice to good works: Grant Professionals Association.
What would you add to this list? Reach out to Kimberly and me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re happy to learn about programs, organizations, and causes making our profession better. And we’ll shout about it all between grant proposals, zoom meetings, educating up, and talking to funders because all the work must be done.
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.