My career has never defined me. I call myself “mother, wife, friend, daughter” before identifying myself as “teacher” or “editor.” However, two and a bit years ago, when I added “grant writer” to the mix, I realized that I was going from being a working professional to working in the nonprofit sector, and the new role came with some adjustments. Working from home, meeting clients and colleagues online, and most of all, learning about and looking out for the interests of worthy charities was all new.
I was grateful for the opportunity, as I suddenly found myself out of work due to Covid. When my brother-in-law, Markku, approached me with the grant writing job offer, he hoped my background in English and teaching would set me up for success. I hoped so, too!
I can honestly say that, despite the huge learning curve, and many requests for yet another edit, I found that the rewards of working in the nonprofit sector became real and felt good right out of the gates. It was so meaningful to know that each Letter of Inquiry I wrote or sent, or every time I learned a new way to research foundations or even how to file and organize efficiently, I could be helping a deserving charity raise money towards an excellent cause.
Still, there was a learning curve, and I had patient coaches who guided me, often through trial and error, draft after draft, about how to think like a grant writer. Populating and updating a grant writing pipeline, learning the difference between objectives and outcomes, purpose and impact, writing smart goals and developing budgets—all of these terms and tasks slowly took hold until I could write a pretty mean grant application. Over the months and years, I learned how to communicate with my clients and how to treat foundations as real people, not just wealth. I have even had the privilege of training three other grant writers.
Receiving that email or letter that says a generous foundation has awarded funding to one of my clients, because of a grant I submitted, gives me a thrill every time. That will never get old! I’ve learned to work faster and smarter, figured out the lingo, enjoyed flexible working hours and locations, sometimes even working in my PJ bottoms; but the truth is, the BEST part of the job is the people I get to work with (I have the most amazing team at Kaci, and absolutely stellar clients!), the heartbreaking and inspirational stories I get to hear about people who charities are helping, and the beautiful projects I get to help raise money for. This is what keeps me going back to research another foundation or copy and paste something for the hundredth time. This is why I am proud to be a grant writer.
Grant Writing Tips
Give yourself plenty of time!
Follow the instructions in the grant application carefully, step by step.
Read through all the instructions and requirements before you begin, and make your outline accordingly.
Make your non-profit organization stand out from the crowd, and show the reader why your need is compelling.
Write clearly and concisely, and keep things interesting.
Tell a good story. Facts and budgets are imperative, but it is the story that pulls in your audience.
Whenever possible, build relationship. Foundations are people, not just wealth.
Match your request to the foundation’s focus as much as possible, researching the niche that will create the best fit.
Create and maintain internal systems so you remember all you can about which foundations you have reached out to, their responses, dates, and project notes.
Once a grant does come in, make sure to thank the people behind the funding; then set up reminders to report on how their money is being used in the following months.