Winning More Grants: Asking for a Friend

We all get the joke by now. “Asking for a Friend” is now a much easier way of saying, “I am afraid or a little ashamed by what I don’t know or don’t want to know, so I am phrasing my inquiry in a pseudo-joking format to deflect attention from my genuine dilemma.” The very definition of a catchphrase, right?

Grant writers and fundraising should be or should strive to become the experts in the proposal they’re tackling, the appeal letter they’re crafting, the gala they’re organizing, the progress report they’re drafting…you get the picture. Becoming a true expert at winning more grants or raising more money doesn’t mean that you either automatically know everything (impossible), feel compelled to pretend to know everything (a recipe for disaster), or can do everything perfectly, all the time. (Seriously?)

A healthier, more efficient approach is asking for help, advice, or encouragement by first identifying the gaps and determining how best to bridge them. Here are some general categories to get you started.

  1. Technical Application Questions: If the RFP/OFA/NOFA reads like alphabet soup and you can’t figure out critical issues like eligibility, portal access, mysteriously worded attachments, or other tricky but essential items, ASK the funder—early and often. I’ve worked with several clients who are afraid to ask questions about the grant process, even when there’s plenty of time and clearly identified contacts at the funding agency. A quick email or call is usually all it takes—especially if you’re early in the funding cycle. Even better? Asking during the technical assistance webinars in the chat and then saving the chat to ensure there’s a record. Been there, done that—even twice, when the first answer was still unclear.
  2. New to You: Moving from health and human services to arts and culture funding with questions about major donors? Or maybe a private family foundation you’ve never approached before? Or is it that daunting multimillion-dollar, multi-year Federal grant? The great news is that there are so many options. Suppose you’re a member of the Grant Professionals Association or the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In that case, you can access online forums and webinars included in the membership. Members of both organizations are often quick to respond to questions. Establishing and nurturing your informal professional networks creates a conduit for Q&A that can benefit everyone involved.
  3. Peer-to-Peer Consulting: Sometimes, a great project or client comes along at a not-so-great time. Peer-to-Peer Consulting is an excellent way for grant writers to formally connect and assist on large-scale projects. Whether you’re the only grant writer in your organization, a solopreneur grant contractor, or the head of a bustling consulting firm stretched to the limits, bringing in another grant pro for temporary help can solve your time crunch and keep you and your team on track for grant success. I share details of a recent experience assisting a seasoned grant pro for a tight grant deadline that garnered a $25 million grant for a very underserved region in the latest episode of the Fundraising HayDay podcast. Partnering on
    Large Scale Proposals | Fundraising HayDay (

Another jokey catchphrase, “Be careful what you ask for,” is often used as a cautionary tale about overextending—like those sad tales of lottery winnings gone wrong. Not as helpful if you’re seeking clarity and expert advice after you’ve done your research. Maybe a better catchphrase for success in grant writing, fundraising, and beyond would be: Be careful whom you ask for what? I dunno; just asking for a friend…


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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