You're Not a Grant Writer

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Really, you’re not. It’s an old notion that was never right in the first place. To continue to move the field forward, let’s make sure our professional language evolves along with our skills and understanding. A grant is the funding awarded to an organization by a grantmaker. Grantmakers award (write) grants. Organizations seeking grant funding don’t write grants, they write grant proposals, funding applications, requests for funding, and the like.

This is not dueling semantics. It’s more important than that. Consistently and conscientiously referring to funding requests as proposals begins changing how you view the whole process. If you’re one of the thousands of people addicted to the terms “grantwriting” and “grantwriter”, just give this a try. Enforce a self-imposed moratorium on those terms for a couple of months and then reflect on the work you’ve been doing. I think you’ll find that neither term is a good fit.

A grant proposal is. . .

  • a request for partnership. At its best, it’s a logical, compelling invitation offering the funder an opportunity to participate in meaningful work that’s expected to result in positive change.
  • a specific type of advocacy. The organization developing the grant proposal is taking a high-profile stand on an issue and waving a flag to rally the energy and assistance needed to do the right thing.
  • a blueprint for change. It describes the problem that needs attention or the opportunity to be seized, explains the urgency, and lays out an effective plan of action.

People who “write grants” stare at computer screens and click-clack away to produce documents meant to bring in the money. People who develop proposals do the research, get the facts, line up the players, make a plan, then produce funding proposals to fuel the activities required to make change happen.

So “grantwriting” is not only an inaccurate term, it doesn’t capture the depth and breadth of your work. But since “grantwriter” isn’t the right title, what is? Community development specialist? Community organizer? Chief of proposal development? You decide. I bet you can come up with lots of titles that are more accurate than “grantwriter.”

Sure, you’ve got to be a competent writer to articulate the situation and the plan. But the writing part of proposal development is the tip of a very large iceberg. It’s time to move on from grant writing. Your work is much bigger than that and you don’t write grants anyway.

- Barbara Floersch, Chief of Training & Curriculum

 

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