Take a moment to imagine, does this sound like you?
It’s another night and you are still at the office. The clock reads 5:30 p.m., which means traffic is now backed up, the after-school program will be calling about your child any minute. You grudgingly decide on take-out for the third night in a row (ugh next week you will start that weight loss plan filled with all home-cooked meals that you will prep on Sunday).
You love your job at Nonprofit-Meets-Needs, but you just seem stuck, putting out virtual fires every day. The annual fundraiser is coming up, but you know it will barely cover all costs this year, which means another year working at the same pay scale.
Grabbing your jacket, you vow that next year will be different. That you will get ahead of the curve and plan out the year, so you can focus on getting funding. You know there are better ways to operate this nonprofit. Plus, there are grants out there! Yes, grants! You think and feel a wave of energy wash over you. Grants could be the magic answer!
With renewed energy you throw your jacket on the table and fire up your computer. The screen flashes on and you stare at it, not sure where to start. Grants… you type in the word “grants” into Google and are hit with tons of pages that do not seem connected. Nothing really resonates with what your nonprofit does.
Honestly you can’t make heads or tails with any of the language, plus there are pictures of many people named “Grant”. This is totally not what you want.
Your phone rings and you know that it is the after school program. You grab your jacket and rush out of the room and right into gridlock. “Yep, I’m on my way,” you say as you answer your phone, but inwardly you sigh thinking, on my way to where?
Perpetual Hamster Wheel
Does this sound like you? That your nonprofit is on the perpetual hamster wheel cycle and it just keeps getting squeakier every day? Or maybe you want to become a freelance grant writer but face the same “grant writer’s block” every time you sit down at your computer.
There is so much information out there, but it is all fragmented and disconnected and takes hours to sift through. Ugh.
How to Focus on Grant Writing
Here is the thing. It takes focus to write a grant. But the real thing that it takes is a project. If you do not have a specific project that you know you need funding for, then it’s like trying to paint a picture with rocks. It will be sloppy, awkward, and unprofessional. The grant reviewers will know that you are just trying to make something work and are trying to fit a square into a circle.
So where do you start? Before you go ‘chasing the money,’ you must first figure out why your nonprofit needs money.
So, let’s start on Monday morning - after you have actually cooked at least one dinner on Sunday night so have some leftovers for dinner later.
Overcoming Grant Writer’s Block
Your nonprofit is in a city and you would like to start urban rooftop gardens on the buildings that you are leasing. First - before you go on a random Googling binge - you write down the following:
- Why are these gardens important?
- Simply put, how will this project make positive change for your target demographic?
- How does this project align with your mission statement and vision?
- Make sure that the project aligns. If it is way off base, it may just not make sense. On the other hand, maybe your mission and vision statements are outdated.
- How much do you need?
- List the costs of compost, plants, personnel salary or hourly costs, marketing, etc.
- This way you are clear on how much money you need to find.
- You might also realize you could ask for sponsorship funds, too. For example, maybe a hardware store would sponsor your gardens.
- How long will the project take?
- Is this a one-month project or will it take a year or more?
- Maybe think in phases and jot out a time line (bonus point - many grants ask for a time line)
- When do you need to start?
- Do you need to start next month? Is three months out okay?
- Your project may be based around the school year or during certain seasons.
- What is the objective? (Be clear on this and use the S.M.A.R.T. system)
- Specific: Create urban gardens in the city of Pow for 100 adults with disabilities
- Measurable: Create four rooftop gardens
- Achievable: Yes, if we get the budget we can do this (based on answering the above questions
- Relevant: Yes, it meets our mission, “to serve adults with disabilities and make their lives better.”
- Time-bound: By the end of 12 months.
Objective: By the end of 12 months, we will create four rooftop gardens in the inner city of Pow for 100 adults with disabilities.
Once you have these basic factors done, then get into your grant research (Click here for more about Grant Research). In this way you are NOT chasing the money or trying to create an entire project from a blank page, but you are creating a strategic grant plan.
It also is way easier, less overwhelming, and chances are your project will meet a real need and get you out of daily virtual fires. Grants are basically plans that are implemented with funding.
Good luck and let me know what else you do to break the ‘grant writer’s block.’
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