Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Top 10 Lessons I Learned from My Grant Writing Mentor

I have had several mentors in my life.  They have all taught me many valuable lessons. My grant writing mentor taught me some great lessons about grant writing.  While he didn't teach me everything I know about the work, he helped me understand the importance of many things that I might have overlooked or not taken as seriously as I should have.  To be honest, some of the things I learned from him were things NOT to do, but that's ok. A lesson is a lesson, right? Here are the top 10 lessons I learned from him (in no particular order):

1- Whenever possible, add detail. For example, describing a plan for parenting classes is not complete unless you have provided as much detail as possible - the curriculum to be used, how often it will be offered, when it will be offered (days and times), how many will be served, how success will be assessed, etc.

2- Don't write for free. People will often ask if we'll write the grant for the right to the evaluation contract.  Not only is that unethical, but it doesn't make sense.  Grant writing and evaluation, while related, are completely different disciplines. Also, the evaluation is a job in itself, so writing the grant for the evaluation contract is essentially writing the grant for free.  If I want to donate the service, that's one thing, but doing it because a client has given me no choice is another.  Besides, what other professional works for free on a regular basis?

3-  It's ok to turn away work.  If you're good, there will always be a demand for your services. Never take on a project out of desperation. If the project doesn't have a good chance of success, it's ok to walk away.

4- Don't be afraid of competition. If you're good, you have nothing to be afraid of.  The only way to get better is to stretch yourself, challenge yourself, jump into the deep end of the pool with the big boys and swim. My mother expressed it by saying, "No guts, no glory!"

5- Listen.  The first thing to do when talking with a client about a new project is to listen.  Listen carefully.  Listen for what they are really saying.  Listen for their real motivation. Listen to what they really need.

6- Don't let failure slow you down. If you don't succeed with a project, reflect on the failure only long enough to figure out what went wrong and what you can learn from it.  That's all.  Don't let failure steal a moment of time from a current project.

7- Work better than everyone else.  For some, that may mean working longer hours (showing up early, staying late).  For others it means following a particular successful procedure or organizational structure.  Whatever it is, just remember that you can't be better than everyone else in your field by doing things exactly like everyone else.  You have to set yourself apart, and once you do, don't stop doing it.

8-Tell the truth.  The temptation to exaggerate in grant writing is strong.  Resist it. You will regret dishonesty. It always seems to come back to bite you.

9- Respect the people who help you do what you do. The very best grant writers are not loners. Whether you have a support staff that helps you or a support system of colleagues and friends who help, respect them and realize how important they are to your success. You need them, probably as much (or more!) as they need you.

10- Walk away from the work to keep your writing sharp. Don't work all the time.  Take time for family, friends, reading, hobbies, and faith. Contrary to what you may think, more time at work doesn't necessarily make your work better.  This is particularly true for writing. You have to keep your mind fresh by walking away from the work sometimes.  And never forget what really matters - faith, family, friends. Balance in your life not only makes you a better person, but it also makes you a better writer.

No comments:

About Creative Resources & Research

My photo
Woodland, CA, United States
Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.