What would you like me to fund? No not what needs to be funded, but if money wasn’t the concern what program or services would you provide?
Most people who know anything about grants cannot understand how anyone can like this work, let alone love it. The usual response is grant writing takes a special person with a special set of skills. Which is very true but is also a very polite way of saying--Gurl you crazy.
Why would anyone want to sift through thousands of funders seeking the right potential fit? Then put in hours upon hours to craft a persuasive narrative only to send it off and wait months to hear yes or no? That is if you even hear anything back at all. Today I was reminded of why I love this work, because in those hours upon hours of research, writing, and character counting I can change the world, in real tangible ways.
The most coveted grant of all for nonprofits is the General Operating grant, because that means unrestricted money that can be put to the best use. In short this can be directed and managed by the people who are actually doing the work versus the funder who may know little to nothing about what it takes to serve the clients. But for me, for the Grant Writer, I love that grant that makes program staff dance with joy. The type of grant that funds a dream project that can really make a sizable and impactful difference for the clients we serve.
When I take on a long term contract, my number one goal in the first month is to meet with program staff. Sit down face to face with them and ask: What would you like me to fund? No not what needs to be funded, but if money wasn’t the concern what program or services would you provide?
Program staff may be hesitant because in nonprofits we use up all of our energy on our clients hopes and dreams. We shut away our in a perfect world plans in that bottom desk drawer, right under the hodge-podge stash of holiday candy. We usually take them out together, eating chocolate while looking forlornly towards a far off future that is never funded. I ask program staff to dump that drawer out and I make sure to keep that dream list where I can see it.
Every once in a while, I will find that funder who might just want to fund this big, hopeful, world changing project. Even rarer than that, I will find an organization that is in the right place to keep the lights on –dimming during the pre-gala slump month aside—and who is brave enough to go after that funding. Then if I am really lucky, the rarest of things happens; months go by and I hear back. I hear back, Yes. That moment is when we all dance. We get to bring out that hope from the drawer and put in on the shelf as reality.
While I write this, I can hear every grant writer groaning, because we honestly don’t need more new funding as much as we need more general operating funding. I get it. I really do. The exception though is in that rare case where you aren’t creating a project when you are struggling to find existing money, but recognizing a service gap that has existed for years and finally getting to fill it.
So while tomorrow, or maybe the next day, I will go back to groaning about the hours we spend just to find something that will fund existing projects; for now I will dance and celebrate the win.
Lace has 10 years of fundraising experience for large and small organizations. She has a depth of knowledge learned in the fundraising trenches, through good and bad trainings, from numerous mentors, and by creating all the excel sheets!