What’s Really Important in Grant Writing?

One of my favorite bloggers, Seth Godin, had a great riff recently about getting good at the important things in our work.  Seth suggests that sometimes we “quickly jump ahead to the new thing, failing to get good enough at the important thing.”  Good point – and I would add a bit to it.  In addition to wanting to jump to the newest, latest, before mastering the foundational in development work . . .

sometimes, we want to believe there is a short-cut approach, failing to accept the fact that relationships can’t be fast-forwarded.

Sure, we know there are no short-cuts in individual major gift work, but it is easy to forget this truism in corporate and foundation grant writing.

Enter a great article by the Philanthropy Journal about writing effective grant proposals.  Todd Cohen writes that effective grants require all the normal “stuff,” a clearly written case,  a compelling need,  strong evidence, and a program that works.

In addition, though, the article emphasizes the relationship with the corporation or foundation.  “Instead of a ‘beggar relationship,’ a nonprofit through a grant application should be developing a ‘partnership’.”  Effective grants begin when institutions “understand and develop relationships with their funders.”

Corporate and foundation relations should never be a ‘numbers game.’  We should not approach this important part of our development program in the same fashion as we do our phonathons.  Instead, corporate and foundation relations should be viewed similarly to major gift work.  Identify those corporations and foundations with both capacity and interest in our work and then develop relationships with them.  Our corporate and foundation relations officers should be out of the office with partners and prospects as much as our major gift officers.

But we typically define the work of the corporate and foundations relations position differently.  For instance, what is the aptitude most often identified as being vital to successful corporate and foundation relations?  Answer:  Grant-writing.

Perhaps we aren’t focused enough on “the  important thing.”


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