Grant Writing: 4 Answers to Common Questions

The average person is uncertain about the grant writer’s role.  Case in point…”What exactly do you do?” a kind soul wonders. “I write grant proposals to help fund philanthropic programs, government agencies and community projects,” I respond. After pondering for a moment, the kind soul asks, “Can you write me a grant for paying my bills? I heard there are grants for anything.”

ANSWER #1. There are very few, if any, grants that help pay personal expenses. The exceptions are grants that pay a monthly stipend to perform a research project, to get a degree (fellowship grants) or to fulfill a temporary contract assignment.  Here’s the scoop: funders desire to create the largest impact possible with their money – more bang for the buck. We can all relate to that, correct? So, how will funding your credit card debt create maximum impact, changing the lives of many people?

(My point exactly…)

Another commonly asked question is, “How about a grant for my son’s freshman year in college? Can you help with that?”

ANSWER #2. My response on this one is always twofold – yes, I can help. No, you cannot skip the proper channels. To receive grant funding from a foundation, corporation or other non-federal agency will require that you first apply through the Federal resources. The first step is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, affectionately known as FAFSA®.  Many funders will not consider an education grant request without first assessing your qualifications for government funding.  If the student qualifies for Federal grants, it’s very difficult, though not impossible, to get private or corporate grants. If the student does not qualify, there is a chance for additional grants based upon grade point average and the areas of study being pursued.  My advice? Apply for FAFSA®  and go from there. Also, avail yourself the opportunities afforded by scholarships – they are numerous. Check every corporate website you can find. Here’s a good starting place.

A third frequently asked question (my very favorite!) is: “Can you write a grant for our organization and accept payment when we get it?”

ANSWER #3. Yes, I actually get this question! Okay, let’s get real. Suppose you have a serious leak in your house. You call the plumber, who replaces the pipe and gets everything running smoothly. Would you have the courage to say, “Hey, by the way! I’ll pay you if I get a tax refund this year!” I dare you to say it, but make sure I’m the fly on the wall watching.  I get a kick out of people and organizations who think it’s acceptable to say this to a grant writer! You are paying for a service, usually an hourly rate. If you’re not happy with the service, leave a bad review and find another grant writer. But you still must pay your bill.  Additionally, it is illegal for a grant writer to accept a percentage of a grant award. As a grant writer, I strictly uphold the Ethical Standards of the American Grant Writers Association, of which I am a proud member. When shopping for a grant writer, make sure these ethics are part of their profile.

Here’s a final question I hear from the curious minds that need to know.  “Can you proofread my grant application?”

4. Absolutely! I will be glad to help anyone, and often proofread and provide suggestions. Here’s the key. Will you actually follow them? Can you take criticism? Are you willing to make the appropriate changes? Grant writers with any experience are in possession of  amazing resources, including a plethora of mistakes and applicable knowledge. If you are working with a seasoned professional, then trust their instincts. One thing I often see in grant applications is the writer is “begging” for money. Wrong! Don’t do that. Your proposal is supposed to convince the funder that your project is wise use of their funds. You’re actually selling the funding agency a great idea to maximize its impact. Never beg, it’s not becoming of you.

Want to know more? You should consider pre-ordering “Fund Your Philanthropy”.  This book will guide you toward developing your own grant writing style. Remember, always be a lifelong learner. You’re worth it.