Grassroots Grants: An Activist's Guide to Grantseeking

Grassroots Grants: An Activist's Guide to Grantseeking

Grassroots Grants: An Activist's Guide to Grantseeking

Grassroots Grants: An Activist's Guide to Grantseeking

Excerpt

Several years ago, I was hired by a well-known national nonprofit to visit their regional offices and teach their staff to be better grantseekers. The organization was decentralizing its fundraising and wanted to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to develop appropriate skills.

At the first office, the staff gave me a proposal to review. It was miserable—overly long, technical, boring, and almost unreadable. When I say “unreadable,” I mean literally. The font was tiny, the margins minimal, and too many words were crammed onto the page. I spent an hour with this mess of a document, wrote all over it, made suggestions, and handed it back.

“Did you submit this?” I asked, a bit dubious.

“Yes,” they replied. “We got $75,000.”

Well, I led the workshop, got on a plane, and went to the next town. I was given another application to critique. This one was worse: longer, denser, filled with jargon and lots of extraneous details. I was tempted to carve it up with a razor, but I took out my pen, edited the proposal, and returned it.

“What happened with this one?”

“They gave us $150,000.”

By the time I got to the third city, one thing was abundantly clear: these folks sure knew how to build good relationships with their funders. In talking with them, I learned that they made their phone calls, met with foundation officers, and in many cases worked collaboratively with them to develop their proposals. By the time the paper was formally submitted, the deal had already been done.

The first edition of Grassroots Grants was subtitled An Activist’s Guide to Proposal Writing. With this edition, I’ve taken the words “proposal writing” out of the title because, in the end, grantseeking encompasses a broad range of strategies and techniques, and writing is perhaps the least important of these.

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