I had one of those awesome grant writer payoff moments yesterday. I was sitting in an end-of-year evaluation meeting with a group of collaborative partners that has been implementing a grant funded, school-based violence prevention program for the last four years. The group was discussing the outcomes for the past year and plans for the next year.
It was an unusually lighthearted and joyful meeting. Of course, there were many educators around the table and school is out for the summer, but even in that situation grant evaluation meetings are typically not that celebratory, at least not in my experience. However, this group had good reason to be proud. There was good improvement in our targeted outcomes in spite of the fact that the sites involved had been hit hard by budget cuts and had suffered several dramatic challenges late in the year (the death of a teacher at one school; the arrest of a teacher at the other).
As we were discussing the outcomes and fine tuning the plans for next year, the real magic happened. A student walked in the room bringing some copies to the meeting facilitator. After the student left, one of the principals said, "Now she's a real success story!" and he proceeded to tell us how troubled that young woman had been and how many thought that she might be in real trouble and lost beyond the ability of anyone at the school to help.
Then he talked about the services provided to the young woman through the project - not just through the grant, but through the entire collaborative effort. We learned that she had been assisted in various ways by at least 8 of the project partners in that room, and that the grant had helped coordinate those services so the community could actually wrap its arms around that young woman and walk her through the difficult time in her life. Then he told us how well she is doing now (including earning a 3.5 GPA!). The principal finished his remarks with the words, "Seriously, we saved a life."
I sat there listening quietly, but the truth is that it was a moment that took my breath away. I couldn't speak because there was a lump in my throat. There is no question that moments like that are the real payoff in grant writing, and they are the reason I do it.
Most of the time, I work in isolation as I write. I communicate with people as much as I need to to gather the information I need to put together a high quality proposal, but hours and hours are spent alone with my notes and my computer. The process is so separate from the ultimate result (changing lives) that it's very hard to see sometimes, especially when I'm backed up against multiple deadlines, and I'm tired, and my client is being difficult (yes, it happens at times).
Because I also serve as a program evaluator, I have the incredible honor of being able to see the result of my writing efforts. I get to see programs in place that weren't there before, services that weren't offered before, and yes, I get to meet people whose lives are forever changed for the better because of those hours I spent in isolation doing what I do best.
So, the experience yesterday will provide some good motivating fuel for my writing for a while. When I'm tired of writing and I want to quit or I want to take a shortcut or two instead of giving it my best effort, I'll remind myself that I'm not writing, I'm changing the world.
Related Post: The Real Payoff
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