Friday, August 27, 2010

How Did I Learn Grant Writing? - Derek Link

Non-Profit Consultant and Expert Grant Writer, Derek Link, provides the first contribution to our How Did I Learn Grant Writing?" series:

Often people ask, "How on earth did you learn grant writing?"  Obviously it isn’t one of the careers that a high school counselor suggested and I’d wager it’s not one of the careers indicated by any career assessments.

My entry into the world of grant writing started when I took a job in which I was expected to write “Continuation Applications” for federal grants the agency secured before my tenure in the position. Fortunately, the consultant who wrote the grants originally was under contract to assist with evaluation and I was soon under his grant-writing tutelage.

My new mentor liked my writing style which tends to be direct and to the point.  After his contracts with our agency ended, he asked me if I was available to moonlight with his company as a freelance grant writer, so I asked my boss if he’d object to me doing that.  My boss gave me the green light and before long my nights and weekends were spent at the computer pecking away at grant narratives.

Now I don’t want to give you the impression that I was some grant-writing prodigy, some technical-writing-Mozart sitting blindfolded at the computer whipping out successful narratives: I most certainly wasn’t!  My mentor was a brutal and brilliant grant editor and he wielded a micro-cassette recorder as he read my narratives providing biting, insightful commentary which I often swore at (I’m not proud of it but it’s true) as I listened to the comments revising my writing again and again.

Another key thing I did to learn grant writing was take a grant writing class.  The class I took was rather basic, especially after my recent experience in writing grants but it did reinforce some important concepts and practices vital to becoming successful.  The grant writing course taught things like organization, writing style, voice, use of data, integration of the RFP outline, etc.

So in summary, my process to learn grant writing involved a number of things including:

  1. I had a job that required me to write grants.
  2. I had a great mentor.
  3. I had the motivation to persevere in the learning process.
  4. I took a grant writing course.

The intellectual exercise of writing a grant is still a great challenge.  Being able to hold the whole program in your mind as you write ensures continuity and clarity and requires you to be fully mentally present throughout the process.  I find grant writing to be a strenuous mental exercise. Learning to write grants will kind of make your brain sweat.


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Jacob said...

As an aspiring (freelance) grant writer, I do hope not all four of those are absolutely imperative. It seems like grant writing is not the most simple field to break into.

sandra charles said...

Grant writing is an excellent fundraising method, once a program is put into place at any nonprofit who has invested in its grant writing program Grant letter of Inquiry

About Creative Resources & Research

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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.