Category Archives: Freelance Grant Writing

Saying No to a Bad Grant Writing Contract

Freelance grant writers are either really busy or wishing they were.  Of course when you are you long not to be but that’s another story.  Running your own business can be a little scary financially because you’re always “betting on the come”, that is you’re always anticipating there will be another contract coming along.A man's hand held out for a handshake

Success brings contracts to you.  You won’t need to advertise beyond having lots of business cards handy.  People talk about grants in the grant world and agencies often know who is getting people funded, and those that aren’t become invisible and find other work quickly.

The hard part in being a grant writing business owner is turning away a contract.  It can be even harder to do when the chips are down and the economy is bad; in those times, even a bad contract can look good.  Here are a few signs of a bad contract.

  1. The client wants you to write it solely on a contingency basis.  I always hesitate if the client isn’t willing to invest some money, put some skin in the game.  I mean come on people, do you as a grant writer really want to assume all the risk involved?  A client who does not want to invest money, won’t invest time either and you’re going to have a tough time writing the proposal at all.
  2. The client hems and haws for a long time before giving you a contract.  You may be dealing with someone who doesn’t trust you, or who doesn’t know what they want to do.  In either case, go slowly and make sure you’ve talked to them enough to be confident and to give confidence.
  3. The client is impossible to contact.  Potential clients who are too busy to return my call before a contract is signed are unlikely to be any better afterward.  I find that these kinds of clients are better off going with someone else.  I need the client to be committed to producing a fundable proposal, my reputation is on the line.
  4. The client wants to write a grant that is clearly not aligned to their mission or programs.  Go slow here.  This is hard to turn down, especially when a client with cash to pay for your services and you may be strapped for money.  Remember, that you’re in this for the long haul and unfunded grants hurt your business.  If in your opinion, the client as no hope of reciving the funding, don’t take their money.  They may be angry at first, but help them understand why and they will respect you for not gouging them.
  5. Time considerations are also primary.  Be sure that you don’t get greedy and take on too much work.  This is also a temptation in the grant business because if you’re good, lots of agencies will be knocking on your door.  If you take on too many grants to do a good job on any of them, you’ll be searching for clients instead of them searching for you.

A good grant writing contract is one for a grant that you have a reasonable expectation of success in writing and/or for which you have adequate time to develop a successful application.  A bad contract can mean a bad client, a bad opportunity, or the straw that broke the grant writer’s back.  Say NO to bad contracts to ensure the long term success of your grant writing business.

Now that’s sexy!

Postmarked by the Universe

Red eyed and bleary after a late night and early morning before a 5PM deadline, I rushed out the door of my office about 4:53 PM to the post office with both grants completed. I didn’t even stop to put the stack of envelopes down to lock the office door somewhere secretly hoping that I’d be burglarized and have to start a new career outside grant writing – tomorrow – after a good night’s sleep. These grants had to be postmarked by 5PM and the post office was about two blocks from my office but I still jumped in the car tossing the envelopes into the front seat.

Cross traffic at the end of my block was heavy of course, it was rush hour. So I sat there cursing my luck, cursing my greed at taking on two grants instead of one, cursing my copy machine that jammed over and over again as I was printing the final copies, cursing the pagination error in one grant which I found as I did a final perusal that forced me to re-print the entire correct document. There was a lot of cursing going on, I was in a state of panic.

A gap appeared in traffic and I drove my foot to the floor lurching my car into the gap to the bewilderment of the now equally distressed driver; oh well, they couldn’t possibly match my dire straits: it was now 4:56 and the post office is prompt about one thing and that’s locking their doors at 5PM.

Traffic crawled the block to the post office and I scraped my front end zipping into the parking lot through the deep gutter. I parked, I grabbed my envelopes, and I raced to the door where a worker was posted with keys in hand admitting the final patrons of the day before locking us in and the tardy public out.

Standing there in line sweating with my bundles of envelopes I knew I’d made it to the finish line and my clients’ grants would be submitted as contracted for. I’d narrowly escaped the Sword of Damocles and the universe had given me the smallest crack to squeeze through and I’d gotten through!

Post Script – Both grants were successfully funded and all was right with the world, my application to a trade school for window washers was rejected for lack of prerequisites and I was forced to continue my career in grant writing. I did sell that photo copy machine to an attorney who dropped in while loading it into his pickup truck, the universe is so good to me.

Now that’s sexy!

Grant Writers are Sexy Beasts: Why Can’t Everyone See It?

I know you’re finding this a hard title to swallow if you’re a freelance grant writer; but it’s true, not everyone is going to see you for the smokin’, free-wheelin’ pan of hot-rib-lickin’ fun that you are.

Some of your clients are just going to see you as an unnecessary expense; you know, they will put on a par with federal income taxes or Iowa earthquake insurance. Some clients will regard you as a kind of pick-pocket. Some of these clients are actually philanthropists, and others just think they are, even the ones who draw large salaries; because after all, they could be making SO MUCH MORE if they were just CEO of Chase, Disney, MGM or something. Of course they’re not, but they COULD be.

Some clients will hold the opinion that a volunteer should be doing their grant writing because it’s such a simple task.  Shamelessly, some of them will hold the opinon that YOU should be volunteering your services; they do, after all, have such a super-sized, scrumptious, volunteer-worthy cause. Besides, they won’t get a bonus at the end of the year by spending it on you.

So while you may feel all Ralph Lauren sleek, others may not see it. They might even talk behind your back about it, yet they smile when you arrive. They may think you’re hiding your wealth when you drive your up in Honda Civic. They may think you left the Lambo with Jeeves in the Carriage House and you’re putting on airs in your Dockers and Nunn Bushes. You may be cutting your own hair and they’ll think it’s an expensive avant gaarde cut from a salon in Soho that you fly to each weekend in your Leer with Chi-Chi and Bubbles (your French poodles).

It’s a hard thing to be misunderstood but we freelance grant writers need to hold fast to our inner sexiness, to our wah-wah-licious, thigh-burning, hotness. ‘Cause some clients will simply want to throw a bucketful of cold snarkyness on you and you’ll feel less than whistle-worthy; but trust me, you are, you’re all that and a bucket full of “philanthropists”.

Now that’s sexy!

Pulling an All-Nighter

It’s 1 AM and I’m halfway through my second draft. I drank two pots of coffee since 10 PM, scarfed down some junk food, and now I walk out to the porch and cold air just trying to keep my eyes open. My five o’clock shadow is rapidly turning into a 2 AM shadow and it’s so rough that it’s starting to pull out fibers on my collar.A grant writer asleep on a bench.

The neighborhood is peaceful. An owl hoots from a tree and an airplane blinks past overhead with a distant drone but there’s no traffic on the street. The porch light draws some moths the flutter about and my breath is visible in the early morning air.

I have a lot of editing to do on this narrative before I can move on to the budget, budget narrative, forms, and final formatting, all waiting to be finished before the 5 PM deadline I’m facing. I remember a time when I could give some of this work to someone else so I didn’t have to shoulder the whole load myself.  But these days I work alone out of my house.

Once I had a fantasy of the romantic life of a writer. But shivering here in my shorts and T-shirt, flip-flops on my feet, in the wee hours of the night, the reality of working alone for yourself is not nearly as glamorous as I had once imagined.

Fully awake I turn my back on the peaceful neighbors slumbering and head back to my office.  The house is in need of cleaning, it’s cluttered with discarded drafts and post-its lay crumpled around the waste basket.

Now that’s sexy.