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  • Writer's pictureRachel Niemczyk

My Journey Into Grant Writing

Highway heading off into the distance with the word "start" written on it.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The more I network in the nonprofit field, the more I learn that asking people how they became part of the nonprofit sector is a great way to find unknown connections and begin developing relationships. It also leads to some really fascinating stories! So in today’s blog I wanted to give you a chance to learn more about me by sharing my journey into grant writing with all of you!


My grant writing story starts with a car accident. Before this car accident I was content working in an office job that wasn’t the most exciting or fulfilling, but paid the bills and had wonderful coworkers. To this day I still have positive memories of everyone I worked with there and how supportive they were before and after the recovery process.

After the car accident though everything changed . . . or more accurately, I did. Even though the job and coworkers were still the same, I realized that if I died the next day - which at the time was on my mind a lot since that is what almost happened - I wanted to be happy and proud of the work I did. I wanted to know that what I did on a daily basis made a positive difference in the world, however big or small it may be.

I had no clue how I was going to do that, but I knew it wasn’t by staying at my office job. So I created a financial safety net, left my job, and decided to search for my dream job: the passion filled career I would be happy to do for the rest of my life.

Now, as someone who loves learning, reading, and writing and became an English Lit major (almost an English Lit/History double major) because of it, you would think I would have immediately gone towards a writing job. Nope. Instead I decided to go with another hobby I enjoyed: gardening.

With that in mind, I volunteered at a private garden open to the local community with the hopes of learning A) if gardening/horticulture was really my passion, B) what I would need to learn and do in this field, and C) if I could actually physically/mentally do the work.

Through this experience I learned that I loved gardening, was interested in learning more, and would have happily spent all day playing in dirt if I could . . . but I literally could not take the heat.

Gardening in the fall, winter, and spring? No problem.

Gardening in the summer? I would come home sick from severe heat exhaustion every time, no matter what I tried (and I tried everything I could from taking regular breaks in air conditioning and drinking plenty of water to wearing spf protected clothes and working in the shade). None of it worked for me, and I eventually had to face the heartbreaking fact that this career path just wasn’t sustainable for me.

Around this time I also learned of a children’s environmental education program offered at the garden that needed volunteers. I thought if I couldn’t work on gardening, maybe I could still work in gardens as an environmental educator of some sort. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out as planned either.

Teaching the kids one on one was a joy. Teaching them as a group? More like a nightmare. I could work as an environmental educator in short doses, but didn’t have the patience to continually corral a group of young children into some semblance of order to learn. So it seemed like I was back at square one not knowing what direction to take my career.

Except one fateful day while I was volunteering for the education program I overheard the program manager talking about how she was having trouble writing a grant application for it.

This was the first time I had ever really heard of grants in this context. And because curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back is a mantra of mine, I asked the program manager about the grant and grant writing process. When I realized it may be a way to use my love of words to benefit public spaces and programs I cared about, I offered up my writing services. Even though I had never written a grant before I was willing to learn and the program manager - thankfully - took me up on my offer.

The rest, as they say, was history. All the steps involved in the grants writing process from researching grants and collaborating with program managers to telling stories and word puzzling my way around word/character limits was just fun in a really nerdy way. So much so that I eventually started my own freelance grant writing / freelance writing business because of it. It’s not something I ever imagined myself doing as a child, but it’s something I enjoy and am grateful I get to do every day.


Now that you know my journey into grant writing I would love to hear yours! What interested you in the nonprofit field in the first place? Are you also a grant writer, or do you hold another position in the nonprofit field? I’d love to learn more and get to know you all a little better.

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next week with another article!

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