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Six Lessons Your Mother Taught You That Also Apply to Grant Writing

Mind Your Manners

Relationships are valuable. Always observe the highest standards of politeness and respectful communication when engaging with funders. When I was a grantmaker with Bank of America, I can't recall a time when a potential grantee was impolite, however I can recall a time when communications could have been better. I remember how I felt when I would receive mass communications like being added to a monthly newsletter or distribution list - it wasn't a nice feeling. It just added to the flurry of emails in my inbox. Many went unread. Instead, consider sending a potential funder a short personalized email from an inbox preferably with your name. Include a quick bullet pointed blurb highlighting some of your organization's activities, not a long detailed narrative.

Eat Your Dinner (and leave room for desert)

Strategize how you would like to engage with your potential funding by building a relationship with a funder not just for the current RFP or funding cycle but future ones as well.

Know that if a funder has historically had multiple RFP's and there are no limitations regarding applying or being recipients of more than one RFP at one time, there may be an opportunity to get funding for your current need, and future needs as well.

Clean Your Room

Reporting, lack of reporting, or mismanaging a grant is one of the fastest ways to lose funding. This is why my firm, Think and Ink Grant Consulting ® is one of the few firms to offer grant management as a service.

Always make sure your reporting is submitted correctly and on time, and that you are managing the funding exactly as outlined in the grant agreement. If things change and you need to deviate from the grant agreement, always contact the funder and get permission in writing. Lastly, avoid being in the position of your nonprofit being ineligible to apply for additional funding simply because of a missed reporting deadline.

Make Your Bed

Mom always said to make your bed in the morning. It's your first accomplishment of the day and sets you up for success. Set yourself up for success by reviewing every detail of a grant announcement, especially in the eligibility section. Review all geographical limitations, match requirements (if any), fit, reporting requirements and any other details important to note.

There is nothing worse than being three or four weeks into writing a proposal and you realize you have less than six weeks to fundraise new money to meet a match requirement.

Make New Friends

If you are a nonprofit leader, you should be talking to everyone, everywhere - corporate leaders, politicians, beneficiaries, potential partners, community stakeholders, and even your competitors. I know making friends with a competitor may seem strange, however the real world context is that your perceived competitor today can be your potential partner tomorrow.

Your goal is to try to get a seat at the table (many tables) and be the name that everyone thinks of when a potential project comes along.

Don’t Hit Your Brother/Sister

Consider always operating in the spirit of collaboration and maintain good relationships with nonprofit leaders and other organizations around you.

Get to know other organizations in your area doing complementary work. Complementary work is different from competing work as mentioned in the earlier point regarding competitors. Complementary work are opportunities to work together (and apply for grant funding) to work together on projects. For example, if your organization helps people experiencing homelessness find housing, a complementary organization would be one that finds jobs for people experiencing homelessness. A competing organization would do the same or similar work that your organization does of finding housing for those experiencing homelessness. There can be some value in partnering with a competing organization to increase the capacity in an ecosystem. However, funders love funding collaborative applications, and it is especially easy to demonstrate value within a proposal when complementary collaborations work together to bring something new to the community.

Eat Your Vegetables

Invest in what’s good for you and your organization. Opportunities to invest in your nonprofit can include strategy, marketing, organizational effectiveness, grant writing and fundraising. My most successful clients realized this early, invested in these areas early, and are reaping the benefits of their investment. Doing this work yourself can seem like a good idea to save money, however the journey can sometimes be painful, and can result in lost of time, energy, and resources. Investing in these areas can catapult your organization and position your nonprofit to take advantage of new opportunities.

If you'd ever like to learn more about how Think and Ink Grants(R) can help your organization, contact us for a complimentary consultation.


About Shavonn Richardson, MBA, GPC

Shavonn Richardson, MBA, GPC is Founder and CEO of Think and Ink Grant Consulting™. She is a Grant Professional Association Approved Trainer, presenter, and speaker. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Grant Professionals Association.

Shavonn earned a BBA from Howard University and an MBA from Emory University. She earned the GPC (Grant Professional Certified) credential from the Grant Professionals Certification Institute in 2020.

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