Want To Be A Grant Writer? Here's What You Need To Do.
Over the past few months I’ve received a few questions from people that are all some variation of: “How do you become a grant writer?” So in today’s blog I’m going to share with you the advice I shared with them. Just remember that everyone is at different stages of their life and career, so all of these suggestions may not apply to you. Pick and choose the ones that do, and move on from there!
Before you commit to becoming a grant writer, learn about grant writing through free resources. I was surprised to learn grant writing involves a lot of tasks that aren’t related to writing, so make sure you are fully aware of what you’ll be expected to do and are comfortable doing it. One of my favorite free resources to recommend for this purpose are Granthub’s Grantseeker Educational Webinars.These are led by experts in the field and cover topics related to grant writing, fundraising, and development. Another fantastic resource is #grantchat, a weekly Twitter chat most Tuesdays at noon EST. Throughout the chat grant writers respond to predetermined questions, sharing their knowledge and experiences in a supportive environment that gives you an insiders look at what being a grant professional is like.
Now that you know grant writing is something you really want to do, sign up for grant classes. A structured class will guide you through the grants process and give you feedback on your writing. Just check to see what is offered in the grant class before you sign up. Not all grant classes are created equal; the time investment and knowledge received in one can drastically differ from the time investment and knowledge received in another. Whatever your options are though, any class that gives feedback is well worth the investment. Feedback is invaluable in this business.
When you’re ready to put your knowledge into practice you’ll want to volunteer at a local nonprofit. When you first start and lack the technical writing experience, knowing the program you’ll be writing about from an insiders perspective will help bridge that experience gap. Oftentimes because you have an outside perspective you'll ask questions or have ideas that can change the program (and consequently the grant application) for the better. So be willing to volunteer not only as a grant writer, but as an assistant to the program manager, or as general support for a program. The knowledge you gain will pay off in the long run, even if it doesn’t pay off immediately.
Around this time you should also start brainstorming ways your background outside of grant writing can be applied to the grant writing process. Instead of viewing your background in a different field as a disadvantage, view it as an asset! Do you have experience in the financial sector? Maybe you can help a nonprofit improve their program and organizational budgets for maximum impact. Did your job require establishing and maintaining business connections? Connect your clients to people who can help them as partners or donors. Have a degree in a completely unrelated field to your current job? Consider volunteering or working at nonprofits focusing on that degree area because you can speak their language and appreciate what they offer.
As you gain experience with grant writing you’ll notice grant writing involves a lot of details, so get organized. If you already excel at organization that’s great - be prepared to use those skills with digital and paper documents so you can keep track of program details, grant deadlines, team member tasks, and status updates for several projects at once. If you’re not organized and this sounds like a mini-nightmare? Start researching tools to help you get organized. You may just need a combination of Google calendar, an excel sheet, and a white board to keep track, but if those aren’t enough consider looking at programs/apps specifically designed to help with organization. For example, Granthub (the one that offers educational webinars) has a product designed specifically for keeping track of grants and Doodle allows you to easily schedule meetings with team members.
Also, it’s important to note that not all funders live in the 21st century. You need to be prepared for the reality that - despite the modern times we live in - all the info you need can’t be found online. Some funders don’t have an online application process, and others don’t even have a website. To apply you have to learn about them (usually from a friend of a friend), call up, find out if they’re currently accepting applicants, what the deadline is, and time your writing process to leave enough time to mail it in. (I know this sounds crazy, believe me as a millennial I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true.)
Last but not least, be willing to change your definition of success. To be a grant writer you really need resilience to keep going when you hear no (and this is a business where no is a lot more common than yes.) It’s better to base success off of what you’ve learned to improve your chances of funding in the future than to base it off of receiving full funding, even if that is always the goal. Remember, one “failure” can lead to several future successes!
Hope these suggestions any aspiring or new grant writers out there! If you’re just entering the world of grant writing or have been in it for a while, are there any suggestions you would add to this? Share them in the comments below so we can all learn from each other.
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Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next week with another article!