Non-profit consultant and expert grant writer, Derek Link, shares his ideas about how grant writing is like World Cup soccer. His opinions about soccer are not shared by everyone here at Creative Resources & Research, but his grant writing thoughts are pretty much spot on.
I never played organized soccer; which assumes that it is organized, which I cannot attest to by watching. I just don’t get it most of the time. I don’t understand why there isn’t more scoring, and why most shots aren’t even close to going in the net. I don’t understand heading or why they aren’t forced to wear helmets to do that. It gives me a headache just watching a header.
And then there are the guys lolling on the ground after getting tripped, which I must say that to anyone who put on a football uniform (American Football), or who played competitive basketball, or who ran through the catcher at home plate, grimacing like death is approaching on the ground while clutching body parts really looks a tad wimpy. I’d much rather see an Inspector Clouseau rebound after a good tumble onto the soft grass with a crisply delivered, “Of course I am all right”.
But, since I never played soccer, I can only compare it to what I know, grant writing.
The Warm-Up – I see the players jogging around, bouncing on their toes, swinging their legs from side-to-side. I do similar things to prepare for grant writing, I begin by making coffee, organizing my materials, reading a grant sample, booting the computer up, putting out the cat, etc.
First Half – It starts a little slowly with the sides testing each other - a little rough sometimes as the defenders try to establish themselves as tough guys (they usually aren’t the ones rolling around the lawn, they’re the ones who cause other guys to).
It’s the same with grant writing. I read the rfp, make a grant outline, organize my data, skirmish with my client about getting me more data, find some research - sort of testing the boundaries of what I know and what I need to learn fast.
Half Time – Now I haven’t seen a locker room scene with the soccer coach making great “Knute Rockne” speeches to the soccer players. My guess is that it doesn’t happen like it does in American Football with the coach exhorting the players to greater levels of courage and violence. It’s probably more like an English Tea, with round café-style tables and cups with saucers and a gentle discussion about strategy and stiff upper lips while white-gloved masseuses give nice shoulder rubs.
So I treat grant writing half time the same way. I make more coffee, maybe have a snack, read about massage chairs in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, or eat lunch if the time of day is right. Sometimes, I will do a small household chore like take out the trash, or pick vegetables in the garden.
Second Half – Now the guys on both teams are getting tired and they’ve already had their high tea so there’s really nothing to look forward to. They tend to complain more to the referees in the second half. They also tend to lay down on the turf more curled and grasping shins hoping to get a penalty or a rest.
Grant writing is the same. By the second half, you’re tired and cranky and you’d rather lay down on the floor of the study than continue but there’s no referee to stop time so there’s nothing left to do but slog it out and finish. There are times when I’d really like to see a red card and get kicked right out of a grant, but there’s little hope of that happening.
Now that I’ve written this, I can see that the World Cup isn’t really that much like grant writing at all. But you do kick the narrative around until you’re exhausted with it, and the game is over. When the deadline finally comes, the referee blows the whistle and the game is over then there’s nothing more you can do about the result of all your work; you just hope it was good enough to put the ball in the net.
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