Top 10 Grant Lessons Learned By This N00b

Sorry I’ve been absent in my writings. I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer now. I’m acclimating myself to this new place. I started driving on the island (I won’t even go into all of my times getting lost. One night I did an “island tour” on the way home, because I thought the Kamehameha highway would stop at some point. It circles Oahu. #Losing.) I’ve been concentrating on a different writing: Writing grants.

Neither my cohort nor I knew of the storm of fecal matter about the fecal matter about to rain on our parade when we started this “easy” grant. We are working to find funding for a new program for the nonprofit. Last year’s VISAT’s wrote it up, but didn’t quite leave us privy to everything we needed–like budget info, previous grants they’d worked on, etc. Our Director is the keeper of the scroll and he had to leave the island during this ordeal for a personal matter. (Serious business for him and I send good thoughts his way.)

In any case the photo shows that we finished. Barely. It was down to me (the extremely directionally-challenged n00b, mind you) to get the grant to the foundation’s office before it closed.  Drive down the island to a new place through rush hour traffic to deliver a manila envelope containing a sum of our work from the past month? Sure…no problem. I got it there in Hawaii time (which is similar to CPT.) The lady there must have felt sorry for me and gave me a hug before I left. I must have looked like a sweaty, nervous wreck.

Dude, that's not rain. I blame global warming.


Here’s some things I’ve learned from this first grant writing experience that I thought I’d pass onto you.

1. Know everything you need to know about the grant. Read the FAQ page, read every single thing on the grantees web site, get to know that proposal packet like its your new best friend. By learning about the foundation/organization that you’re applying to, you’ll be better able to shape your proposal to fit their likes. And if you don’t know, or if you’re confused on a point, contact them. And definitely attend any informational sessions that they’re holding.

2. Have a plan. Now that you know exactly what they want, start gathering the info. If you’re working on a team, decide who is writing what. Dude, even Cylons had a plan, and they weren’t even human. Don’t know Cylons, huh? Netflix Battlestar. On Portlandia they watched the show in its entirety at the cost of everything-including housing. It’s steeped in awesome.

(Moving right along.)

3. Have templates of past grants. Then they can be tweaked to fit the current grant. And general information will be available to you, just ready to be updated.

4. Be concise. This ain’t fiction writing. They are not interested in all of the little details that makes this program near and dear to your heart. But do show enthusiasm and that you care.

5. Have more than one person proofread. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a badass editor in your midst, still have one other person’s eyes scan it. Hey this is for money. Dividends. Everybody is trying to dip their spoon in that tasty grant soup. Stupid mistakes (grammatical errors, spelling someone’s name wrong, listing a defunct organization as a support *ahem*) can leave you hungry. No soup for you!

Mmm...delicious grant soup. Now I need a little fundraising bread on the side...


(Metaphor effectively killed.)

6. If you’re working with a partner or a team, keep your lines of communication open. And if there’s different people writing different aspects of it, make sure you’re all using the same font, and type size–even if it’s not specified. And make sure one person goes through an edits it to make it sound uniform and complete.

7. If you have grant writing guru, definitely ask him/her review your work. Get some advice. And if you have them help you late at night, be sure to thank them profusely and give them some cookies.

8. Play to win, but don’t be crushed if you don’t get it. This is an extreme tough financial climate. Grantees are tightening up, some orgs/foundations aren’t giving as they have in the past. And you really can’t win them all. You can only do your best, and see what happens. If you don’t receive feedback, inquire about your proposal so you can learn from your mistakes. Perhaps you can take your proposal, tweak it and resubmit to that grantee.

9. Do not let yourself get so stressed out that you are yelling at your boyfriend because he asked if you had checked your work before you closed that document, which somehow morphed into a soul-eating alien baby, but really you just don’t have the updated version of Word, so it looks crazy until you use that upgrade pack thingy and then everything goes back to the way it should be. *Ahem*. Don’t freak out man. It’ll all be over soon.

10. Do allow yourself a celebratory something: Bubble bath, walk in the sand, a sipple tipple, an afternoon delight *wink wink* Acknowledge that you made it across the finish line; you survived. Tomorrow you can start getting ready for the next one. But tonight you can rest and delight in your accomplishment.

With these tips, you should be able to get through your first grant writing experience like a boss.

Aloha ya’ll!


Filed under grants, writing

7 Responses to Top 10 Grant Lessons Learned By This N00b

  1. Quickly after reading through your entry ” penpaperpad » Blog Archive » Top 10 Grant Lessons Learned By This N00b “, I once and for all chose to bookmark it on Digg. This is definitely one superb material to show to some classmates and friends

  2. Reading this reminded me of the time that I had to complete and submit a tender for a government contract for the small business I was working for. I was fortunate that we got it because I did not have any good advise such as above.

    When I first moved to the city I live in now I did not have a car when I got my first car I drove the bus routes. I used to get lost on a weekly basis.

  3. Super information, and if I ever have to write a grant or another person, this is a great step by step process to getting the work on time : ) Will be back to read more! Great Blog : D

    • A.Woods

      Thanks for reading Martha! It’s definitely a different process than anything that I’ve written before in one sense. On the other hand, there’s that research factor, and with my journalism background, I’m definitely well-acquainted with research.

  4. I’m impressed! I’ve never tried writing a grant proposal, but I’ve heard that they can be really tough because of all the very specific requirements you have to meet. Congratulations on getting it done on time! Being as “directionally-challenged” as I am, I can readily relate to your driving experiences. Great blog!

    • A.Woods

      Thanks for reading Sandra! This is the first of many grants that my partner and I will be tackling this year. I’m excited that we made it to the deadline, and the foundation was nice enough to wait for me to get there. 🙂

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