Monthly Archives: January 2013

50 Shades of Grant Writing

50shadesImagination is sexy. Grant writers have huge imaginations, sometimes we’re accused of having implants.

Grant writers need to have large imaginations because so many of their clients don’t know what the hell they want to do. Writing a grant can be pure fiction like, “50 Shades of Grey” Book 1 by E.L. James.

“In a daze, I place my hand in his and we shake. As our fingers touch, I feel an odd exhilarating shiver run through me. I withdraw my hand hastily, embarrassed. Must be static. I blink rapidly, my eyelids matching my heart rate.

Translated into 50 Shades of Grant language:

“Bedazzled by the agency’s large endowment, our Executive Director consummated the partnership  in an MOU (appended). Everyone is vibrating about what’s coming next. Must be low blood sugar. Our ED expects the partnership to rise rapidly and extend into fertile areas for expansion.”

A sexy grant writer can turn on their imagination and write a grant that makes the funding agency salivate.

The best imagination combined with experience grounded in grant implementation brings zest to the narrative that a lesser writer can’t produce. Careful writing won’t spark a reader’s imagination, there’s no tingle in that Grant spot.

Giving It Away for Free

womand with giftIt’s really hard for those who earn a living at it that there are so many others who are giving it away for free. I’m speaking of grant writing, of course.

It happened to me again a few weeks ago.  A client was choosing between me and another writer.  I quoted my fee, and the other writer said she would write the grant for free, as long as she got the contract for the evaluation. It’s hard to compete against that, in spite of the fact that what she proposed is an unethical practice.

It’s easy to understand why grant writers/evaluators would want that deal.  The evaluation contract is much more lucrative that the grant writing piece, and it usually continues for several years. However, grant writing and program evaluation are separate skills sets.  In many cases, qualified program evaluators also write grants, but there are many grant writers who try to fit into the evaluation world because of the money.

The problem is that it’s almost always not allowed by a funding source to make an agreement for a service provider to be funded through the grant before the grant has even been funded and without going through a funder-approved selection process.  For government grants, that means following your organizations established procurement process. For private funding sources, it could mean including the funder in the selection process or giving them a chance to review the process and approve the selection.

The ethical issue is that a grant writer proposing such an arrangement is a) giving the client the idea that such a thing is acceptable to the funding source when it almost always is not, and b) taking advantage of an organization’s desire to save money, even if it pushes them to do something that is illegal, at worst, or unallowable, at best – all so the writer can get his hands on a bigger pot of cash.

I am asked by potential clients to step into agreements like that more and more often these days because it is being offered to them by other grant writers.  I always say no.

Unless it’s someone I really love (an organization I personally support and have decided to make a personal donation to), I never give it away for free.

Have We Met?

woman modelYou spot her across the room and slowly swagger over to say hello. You’ve got your intro line all prepared and you’re ready to make your pitch.

You smile.  She smiles. Then you take a deep breath and say, “After a year of therapy, I am so ready for a new relationship.  How about you?” She stares at you in disbelief for a second or two and then walks away.

In retrospect you realize that, since you had never met before, you probably would have been better off starting off with some basic facts like your name.

It’s the same with grant writing.  When you’re writing a proposal for a potential funder, you need to remember that the funder has never met you before. They don’t know who you are, your hopes and dreams, who you serve, or how long you’ve been serving the community. They don’t know anything about you. So start off with the basics.

Tell them who you are and what you do and what you propose to do. Build your case strongly, making no assumptions. Make sure that your proposal really gives them a good understanding of who you are.

Then you might have a chance of getting a date to the dance – a funder who wants to support your cause.

Charge an Ethical Fee

Grant writing fees can be contentious. Some people think all consultants are overpaid, others think we’re sexy and worth our weight in gold. But being paid well is not the same as charging unethical fees.girl with boat on head

Here are some points to consider in setting fees:

  • Does it make you feel good?
  • Do you communicate what you will do for your fee?
  • Do you deliver a satisfying experience?
  • Is there a happy ending for your client?
  • Are your talents on display throughout performance of the service?
  • Are you ashamed to talk about how much you make?
  • Will there be bad publicity if your fees are talked about?
  • Did you do anything the client did not expect?
  • Does your contract protect both of you?
  • Is your client using someone else’s money to pay you?
  • Does your client leave your office out the side door?

Some grant writers charge a percentage of the grant and others write the grant in exchange for the evaluation: neither practice is considered ethical

Ethical grant writers are sexy.