Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Accidental Grant Writer

I wasn't going to be a grant writer.  No, I was going to be an attorney.  That was definitely my plan as I was growing up.  It was still my plan in college.  That's what I thought the smart girls were supposed to do.

Then the twists and turns of life led me to the classroom at the age of 22 and I became a teacher.  I loved it.  It wasn't necessarily the kids I loved (but yes, I do love children), but it was that moment of epiphany when a child finally learned something new. I loved learning so much that it shouldn't have surprised me that I would enjoy helping others learn, too.

It was as a teacher that I wrote my first grant proposal. It was a $5,000 grant for some technology equipment.  Specifically, I wanted a videodisc player (remember those?) and a large screen TV (back before they were in anyone's home) to help my ELD students have more multimedia experiences (there were no computers in classrooms in those days - only small labs with Apple IIe machines) so they could understand the curriculum better. It required a 5-page narrative and it was very challenging for me, but I did it, and I was successful. The grant was awarded to my classroom!

Still, even though I had written a successful grant, I didn't think of myself as a grant writer.

After years as a teacher, I became a school administrator.  That's what I thought the smart girls were supposed to do. As a school administrator, I was responsible for overseeing several grants. It was interesting.  I enjoyed starting new programs from scratch, and it was in that capacity that a met a grant writer and program evaluator who became my mentor (Read about the Top 10 Lessons I Learned from my Grant Writing Mentor).

After several years, he asked me to do some grant writing for him on the side.  I discovered that I was pretty good at it, but I was still an educator who also did grant writing.  I still didn't think of myself as a grant writer.

A few years later, he asked me to leave public education and to come work for him as a full time grant writer and program evaluator. It was a big step for me, but he told me that's what the smart girls were supposed to do, so I did it.

A few years after that, I left his firm and started my own. By then, there was no question in my mind that I was a grant writer; however, there was no point in my life in which I said to myself, "I want to learn how to be a grant writer."  It just happened.  I stepped from opportunity to opportunity and learned what I could as I went along. There were no classes on grant writing offered in graduate school at that time. No one had even even mentioned it to me as a potential career path.

It was almost as if it happened by accident.  I was the accidental grant writer.

(Of course, I know there are really no accidents, but that's the subject of an entirely different post.)

Things are different today for folks who have some writing talent who want to make a difference in their corner of the world.  There are online courses in grant writing to teach you how to become an excellent grant writer, and there are even courses in how to become a freelance grant writer so you can learn the business side of the business. There are courses in colleges and universities, and even certification programs (although a certificate does not guarantee any success; the most successful grant writers I have ever known hold no special certificate). There are blogs, like this one, and websites to read to learn about the industry.

There is so much more support available now than when I started. Tapping into this support, well, that's just what the smart girls (and boys!) do.


Related Posts:

Grant Writing: A Romantic Misconception

Think Positively and Make It Happen

So You Want to Become a Freelance Grant Writer: Are you Barking Mad?

Would you like the digital version of 101 Tips for Aspiring Grant Writers to download right now?  Download it now!

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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.