I am trying to break into the grant writing field. It is something I have done in the past, with much success and like so many people, I really could use the income. I currently piece together two or three jobs to get by and having one truly successful gig would be amazing, as any freelancer knows.
So, how does one break into the world of grant writing? I’ve done some research and have some tips and insights, for myself and others seeking to earn money by helping organizations in need.
First of all you have to spend time with and know the organization you are writing a grant for. If you do not work there full time already, if you are like me, a consultant, you have to spend time with the folks on the inside. I would say a month’s worth of time at least to really get to know the organization, their programs and staff, and the reasons they need the grant and deserve the grant. Having that inside information and writing from a place of knowing the organization truly helps in achieving grant success. Also, it helps you to know the unspoken norms and needs of the organization. Sometimes, I have experienced in many a job, people say things that they do not mean to say, or know they are even saying, or ask for things they do not really want once you do them - it is knowing the ins and outs, the quirks and idiosyncrasies, the unique-ness of the people working at the nonprofit, that will really help ensure the grant matches the group.
Second, know the grant. What is the funder looking to fund? What are their specific questions, what do they want to see - read over that proposal so many times, take notes, and get every single aspect of the proposal answered. Sounds easy right? Well sometimes it is, and sometimes it is not. Add in word and page limits and constraints and you have the makings of a very tricky process. It is good to have notes, to have drafts, and to work with the organization early on in the process to make sure your notes and drafts line up with what they want and what they can do.
Third, and last, be patient and persistent. It won’t always work out. It is hard to start a business, it is hard to get clients, it is hard to keep going when your bank account is low and no one is asking for your services. Just keep going. It will happen. And advice to myself, and to you all, is to value you. Don’t sell yourself short, don’t let one bad experience make you doubt your ability, and don’t do things on a volunteer or free basis unless you are making bank in other ways and can truly afford to be altruistic. That is a tension, I know for those of us seeking to do things for the good of society and who at the same time, need to pay the bills. Volunteering is amazing but it does not put food on the table. Try to set your rates, understand why you have these rates, and stick to them. The right clients will come and will value you as you value yourself.
I hope this little article has been helpful for anyone seeking to break into this field, and I wish us all the best!