Winning Grants and Beyond: The Power of Words

Traveling remains one of the most formative experiences of my life. The privilege of seeing how others live, eat and communicate—experiencing another point of view, another culture has a priceless value. It was worth every second (and third) job and living in a series of microscopic apartments in my 20s to fund plane tickets, gas money, youth hostel stays, and street food. While those days are gone for many reasons,  the memories and lessons learned live within me.

These days, my most recent “travel” was virtual, like so many things. My co-host Amanda Day and I connected across the pond to interview arts and culture fundraising expert David Burgess, director of Apollo Consulting. He shared thought-provoking insights with remarkable aplomb, mainly when we learned that he was talking with us during Storm/Cyclone Eunice, what we here in Fundraising HayDay would call a hurricane. Listen here: Fundraising Across the Pond (

While the storm naming nomenclature varies from country to country and hemisphere to hemisphere, what he was experiencing was an enormous, powerful, destructive storm–call it what you will. And it got me thinking about how getting hung up on assumptions about meaning and classification can get in the way of raising more money to help transform communities worldwide.

For example, David referred to one of his training courses as “grant fundraising.” As an American non-profit professional, I have long been accustomed to the gaping divide between grant writing and fundraising as functions and career paths.

In some ways, I get it. If a grant writer specializing in massive proposals to the Federal Department of Transportation met a development director for a food bank at a cocktail party, they would discover more differences than similarities on the surface. But really, they both use persuasive writing to connect people. Each one also researches their respective agencies and donors to find the best fit for a particular need in the communities they serve. And whether it’s a daunting list of required attachments or a complicated seating chart at a gala fundraising dinner, they both need to pay attention to the details to succeed.

If you feel stymied in your career choices as a grant writer, don’t forget to look outside the labels and see how your skills could transfer into other aspects of fundraising and development. Speaking from personal experience, I parlayed more than 15 years of success as a grant writer specializing in foundation and corporate fundraising into a job as a development director. The same writing and cultivation skills I honed with program officers and family foundation trustees worked with individual donors across multiple email and direct mail campaigns.

To revisit the English consultant’s turn of phrase, “grant fundraising” isn’t a misnomer. It’s another way of looking at the skills and experience needed to connect people who want to make a change with communities ready to transform in positive ways. Whether you call it a biscuit or a cookie, we can all enjoy what happens when chocolate and dough meet a well-heated oven—it’s delicious by any name.


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.


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