Grant Writing Doesn't Have to Be Stressful
If you’re thinking about working with me, it might be helpful to understand a bit about how I approach it. Here are some of the core premises on which I base my work:
Put first things first
When you’re new to grant writing you definitely need to understand the basic structures of how to construct a proposal - just as you need to understand the fundamentals when you are building a house. For a moment, imagine that you are a master builder. You know that to build a house you need an architect, electrician, plumber, and roofer. You need to make sure that you choose a sound piece of land, plan carefully, and build a solid foundation before you start construction. You’d also need to finish the space and decorate it so that it felt like home.
Miss any one of these essential steps and your home would either be uninhabitable or uncomfortable. Grant development is the same. If you don’t attend to the essential elements your grant won’t be funded, or if it is, you’ll live to regret it.
Fear-based paradigms stress us out
There are ways of seeing the world that create stress - separation, competition, and scarcity. They are stressful because when we believe that we are separate and need to fight for scarce resources to survive we feel small and alone and we either shrink and hide or waste energy puffing ourselves up.
When we undertake grant writing from these places it constricts our breathing and puts us in fight or flight mode. Data shows the negative impact of this way of being on our physical bodies not to to mention our emotional bodies.
That can be fine for a short while but over time it simply depletes our vitality and stresses you out.
The truth is that we are not alone, nor separate, nor live in a world of scarce resources. And our souls know this deep within even when our outer being is freaking out. But, in any moment, we can reconnect with that inner wisdom that rests in wholeness, grace and love. Much of my work is helping my clients to ground themselves in this place so that they feel comfortable standing in the rightness of their being without a need to hide or grandstand - to be someone who, through their work, stands rooted and free for a world that values justice and love.
Being more stressed about it will not make you more successful.
Stress isn’t a sign you care. It’s a sign you are scared.
When you are stressed you are less creative, more apt to make mistakes and let things slide, make less thoughtful decisions, and are more judgmental and less open to collaboration - all things that decrease your capacity to win grants.
Our culture constantly gives us reasons to be scared and I just don’t want you to live that way. I’m tired of seeing good people get burned out by stress because I need you to stay vital and presence grace, love, and generosity in the world that my children are growing up in.
Potential donors can read the energy with which you write your words as clearly as the words
- just like it does when you write an email when you’re upset. Being constantly stressed about grant writing hurts us but it also hurts your grant writing success. What is going on internally will shine through in your writing whether you intend it or not and reviewers will see it. If you’ve lost your passion for your cause, they’ll know it. If you’re glossing over that your organization is in financial crisis, they’ll know it. If you aren’t getting on with your collaborators, they’ll know it.
You want to set a tone that you have the passion, vision, skills and connections to make a difference with their investment.
No funder wants to give you your last grant.
From a place of fullness, you want to connect with the reviewer’s hearts about what you both hold dear. And when you’re feeling depleted its really hard to pull that off for any length of time.
and beautiful writing comes from inspired moments. Beautiful writing wins more money. The inspiration and ideas for the most beautifully written grants almost always arises and bubbles to the surface when we’re taking time off from the task at hand.
Work too hard and writing will feel like a slog and beauty won’t have time to unfurl from within you.
I know this first-hand. It’s a lesson that has been hard for me to learn - and practice. Even when I am working on a multi-million dollar grant I will meditate for an hour each day and take time to walk my dog in nature. And it’s in those moments that I often see something more clearly that ties a whole grant together or I have an idea about who to collaborate with to make the project really sing. I have found myself to be 3x more effective after a meditation break.
It’s hard to believe because we’ve been taught that if we work harder we’ll produce better results. Yes, to an extent. You have to put in enough work to get the grant written but in my experience it is vital to give it enough space for it to be beautiful.
And that means treating yourself beautifully during the process.
Grant writing can be sustainable and effective.
When we root ourselves in love, generosity, sufficiency, collaboration and wholeness as we do grant writing, the proposals are more beautiful, we are left nourished by the process and the proposals are often more successful.
So, why is grant writing so stressful?
Grant writing is almost a perfect storm of our culture's biggest stressors such as:
time crunches and hard deadlines
money - and often in quantities that result in possibly laying off your team or not providing services if you
don’t get it
It’s a win-lose competition - it doesn’t help at all to ‘almost win’ a grant
having your work scored/graded by the review panel
facing possible rejection of your cherished ideas and defeat that may lead to closing your program
most often it’s done on top of full-time jobs and so you’re writing in your ‘spare’ time
no certainty that your hardwork will pay off
...the only thing worse would be if funders asked you to declare your weight and submit a photo of you in a swimsuit with your application :)
What the Grant Process is REALLY About
The grants process looks like it’s just moving money from one place to another.
But, I think it’s really about more than that.
I see it as a divine transaction.
Let’s start from the premise that there is something beautiful that wants to be born into the world - the creative muse that all artists express. The funder feels it as a deep yearning in their hearts that their resources be used to create a more beautiful, just, and sustainable planet. There is also a pull for something beautiful to be manifested in a community, through organizations, and by grant writers.
When a grant writer does an excellent job of articulating what is possible and couples that with a solid plan for its accomplishment, then something that only existed in the ethereal realm can be manifested in the physical world. Money exchanges bank accounts but it is really a the birthing of a more beautiful world through the collaboration between grantor and grantee with the community they serve that would not happen otherwise.