Writing More Grants by Finding Your Joy

Where were you when you lost it?

Were you reading your least favorite uncle’s latest Facebook rant? Trying to ignore your cat and dog fighting like, well, cats and dogs in the background as you wrangled five family members onto a Wi-Fi system meant for reading email…slowly. Or you were facing another day as an essential worker with nowhere to turn? Or was the final straw when you met another deadline for COVID relief funding that asked you to answer 12 in-depth questions within 1,000 characters—with spaces, of course. And required ten attachments. And was due in 2 hours?

At some point in the last two years, you lost your joy. I know I did. Every deadline felt like a crisis—every new assignment stacked on top of the others like brittle kindling soaked in gasoline. And there you were with a barbeque lighter hanging on a thread more delicate than your unraveling yoga pants.

Okay, maybe that was just me on the last one.

Losing my joy in grant writing, in fundraising, in making those vital connections that brought people together to build better communities, deeper partnerships washed over me about six months in—when training gigs had dried up.

But then, some beautiful things happened. I grew to love walking through my neighborhood every morning. The traffic noise from the busy four-lane two blocks away couldn’t entirely drown out the birds. And a fig tree in a community space fruited out enough to feed an army of wasps, bees, birds, and morning walkers who remembered to stuff a plastic grocery bag into their fluorescent orange fanny packs. (DO NOT JUDGE.)

And even better, I asked for help from colleagues in terms of referrals for clients. It turns out a lot of agencies need experienced consultants to navigate these turbulent times. Plenty of agencies were struggling to make those COVID relief deadlines, which were vital to their survival. But other projects, core missions kept going. Afterschool programs offered safe spaces for kids without stable housing or access to Wi-Fi to attend online classes. Primary care clinics turned to telehealth to help patients with multiple chronic conditions stay on top of medications and out of overcrowded emergency rooms. Virtual conferences made presenting internationally a reality.

In the latest episode of the Fundraising HayDay podcast, co-host Amanda Day and I interviewed renowned executive coach Margaret Katz Cann, who has shared that vital message of connection with the nonprofit leaders, boards, and nonprofit teams. She reminded us that no matter what is happening, there are people who want to help, and our job is to connect them with other people who are looking for support to strengthen their communities. Margaret also played a pivotal role in growing a community foundation that focused on collaborating with community members. Give it a listen here: Fundraising Leadership: Giving with Joy, Caring, and So Much More (podbean.com).

I am NOT stating that the pandemic existed to teach me how to find joy. It’s cost hundreds of thousands of lives and untold emotional, spiritual, and financial suffering in this country alone. But what I AM saying is that returning to the reason I began writing grants in the first place, regardless of current circumstances, helped me find that joy that comes with moving forward for positive change.

For more help in finding your joy, I recommend growling along with Lucinda Williams’s “Joy,” or screeching along with Ren & Stimpy’s “Happy Happy Joy Joy,” or dancing along to the Bhangra beat of Gurdeep Pandher of the Yukon. Trust me; joy will be had.


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 4 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on seasons 1 – 3 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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