Practice Makes Perfect!

The Key to Becoming a Great Grant Writer

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

Based on studies in elite performance, Gladwell contended that it’s “an extraordinarily consistent answer in an incredible number of fields … you need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours before you get good.”

This theory has been debated and often refuted. Gladwell admits there are some fields that this theory doesn’t apply to, sports, for example. In a response to the misinterpretation of his rule, Gladwell said the point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest.

To become good at something you must practice. For the average person, it doesn’t just automatically happen.

If that’s the case, then why do many people assume you can become a good grant writer by taking one class?

That’s an unrealistic expectation.

I frequently tell students in my grant writing courses that the only way to learn to write grants is to actually write them.

You get better over time. Even in the failures you learn something. Actually, when it comes to writing grants, you learn more from your failures.

So, don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself after taking a course. Accept that you won’t know everything all at once.

The worst thing you can do is take a course and do nothing. Instead, here are some concrete things you can do. 

  1. Volunteer your services. There’s a nonprofit organization that would appreciate anything you can offer to assist them in raising funds. Even if you can’t command a fee for your skills, you will be rewarded with experience, which ultimately builds your confidence and your resume.
  2. Connect with professional organizations in the nonprofit and grant writing industry. The more people you can network with, the more you can learn about what’s happening in your community. This will also give you the opportunity to let people know that you’re a new grant writer and you’re looking to get involved in a project.
  3. Invest in an online subscription to stay abreast of grant opportunities and relevant industry news and events. A few examples include, Foundation Center, Grant Professionals Association, and Grant Station.
  4. Enroll in more courses. Select courses that build on the skills you’ve already gained, not just rehash the same things you’ve already learned.

If you’re looking for a new grant writing course, I have one that begins Monday, April 30th. It’s called Strategic Storytelling: The Secret to Being a Successful Grant Writer.  It will provide you with the practice you need to get better. Registration is open now.


Lessons Learned from Grant Writing 101

What the Students Taught ME!

I just wrapped up my online grant writing course – “Grant Writing 101: The ART of the Skill.” No matter how many times I teach my basic grant writing course I enjoy it. Most of all, I always learn something new.

The greatest revelation I’ve had recently is you have to teach true “beginners” from a different perspective. It’s one thing to know how to do something. It’s quite another thing to try to relay that knowledge as a new concept to someone who has no exposure to it.

The past few weeks I’ve been exposed to people who not only don’t have any grant writing or writing experience, but they haven’t even worked in the nonprofit field.

There are so many things I’ve taken for granted because I’ve worked in this field for so long. New students remind me of that.

Now, I must think differently about how I approach my lessons. This is another reason I’ve found the writing assignments to be so crucial. It shows me where people are in their writing, so I can build from that.

The best thing it shows me is how I need to modify my teaching style and adjust my format. That allows me to meet them where they are and help elevate them to where I need them to be.

Upon completion of every course I teach, I take the lessons I’ve learned and incorporate them into my next course. So, my next course is ALWAYS my best course. I keep improving every step of the way.

I’m constantly inspired to elevate my teaching game. Best of all you get the benefit of those lessons learned.

Here are a few things I’m changing for my next course:

1. I’m adding an additional week so I can leave room to build a foundation with an exercise that primes the students for writing. 

2. I’m dropping the recorded modules and making the course ALL live. The students in this last course really benefited from the live coaching. It was their favorite part. It helped them more than anything else.

3. I’m assigning a real grant instead of a mock grant. The mock grant omits too many crucial elements. It makes it harder for the students to engage in the full writing experience. By giving them an actual Request for Proposals (RFP) to guide them, it makes it easier for them to produce valuable content.

4. I will keep the class size small. If I enroll more than 10 students, it negates from the personal attention I desire to give. It’s difficult to effectively coach a large group.

These are just a few things I’m changing. I won’t give away everything. You’ll have to sign up to learn more.

My next course will begin on Monday, April 30, 2018.

Let me forewarn you – this course is NOT for someone who is not committed and who doesn’t want to write. Participating in the writing assignments is mandatory. The only way to learn to write grants is to actually practice writing them.

Click here to register!

Mastering the Art of Storytelling

I often say that writing grants isn’t rocket science. It’s a skill. Therefore, it’s something that most people can learn.

In my opinion, and in my experience, it all boils down to your ability to tell a story.

So often people get caught up in the logistics and the semantics of the grant announcement that they forget what the process is all about. You’re trying to win the heart of the funder by mesmerizing them with your story. You need to give them a compelling reason to invest in your program and your organization.

When I was in high school there was a defining moment that made me a great writer.  My English literature teacher assigned us to write a report on Macbeth. When I got my paper back I was disappointed with my grade. When I asked her to explain to me what I did wrong she mentioned several key things I left out of the story. To which my response was, “you know that already. You read the story.”

Her response was my aha moment and forever changed me as a writer.  She said, “you have to write as though I don’t know the story.”

That’s the exact same thing you have to remember when you’re writing a grant.  The reviewer of your grant doesn’t know your story. They can’t look it up on Google. So, if you want them to know the great things about your program you have to tell them.

Here are 3 key things you can do to master the art of storytelling.

1. Identify the story you want to tell. There maybe a lot your organization is doing, but what is that one story you want to tell and have the ability to tell effectively. Even in the midst of everything you’re doing there should be a central storyline at the core.

For example, Habitat for Humanity (HFH) is a nonprofit organization that builds homes for low-income families. The story isn’t that it builds houses, it’s the impact it’s having on families and communities around the world.

2. Pick three key points you want to make about that story. Provide supporting statements that make the point. These should be concrete examples.

Using the same example of HFH, an option is to highlight the before and after of a family that was the beneficiary of a new home. What was their life like before and how is it different now? Beyond the obvious of now they have a house whereas they didn’t before. You have to go deeper  by revealing something less obvious, but extremely impactful.

3. Demonstrate why your story matters to the donor. Why should they give to your organization? Ideally, your story and your work should align with the priorities and values of the donor you’re soliciting for help.  Also, be sure to demonstrate the direct impact of their donation by identifying the actual problem it will resolve.

If you can incorporate these three strategies you will significantly improve your ability to tell your story and to write successful grant proposals.

If you want to learn more ways to tell your story, I’m offering a course on this subject in October. I’d love to have you join us.

Until next time…

Peace & Blessings!