Grant Writing Feels Like Begging (And Four Other Myths)

By | October 27, 2015


I am always intrigued by the different concerns or myths that individuals will share for why they either don’t like grant writing or do not have their organization engage in grant writing. I have heard many variations of the concerns during my fifteen years in the field, and so was caught slightly off guard when I heard a new objection recently. The objection to grant writing was that “grant writing feels like begging.”

Quite frankly, this stopped me right in my tracks. I have responses and examples to use as success stories for most other concerns, objections, or myths when it comes to grant writing. As I stopped to consider why grant writing might feel like begging I went through a number of the other myths related to grant writing.

Here are some of my favorites:

MYTH #1: “Grants are free, easy money.” Megan Hill of Professional Grant Writer was spot on. There are always strings attached and it is never easy money. It is carefully earned and managed revenue.

MYTH #2: “The grant well is dry. There is  no money out there.”  Timothy Tiernan of eCivis was correct when he wrote that as the economy has changed, competition for grants has become stiffer.

MYTH #3: “We don’t know anyone at any foundations.” Possibly true. Likely not true as you have a wide range of supporters including your Board of Directors and other committed volunteers and donors. “We” as staff might not have connections, but “we” as committed supporters and volunteers of your organization likely do. Ask for an introduction, not a formal request for funding by the connection, but an introduction so you can do the relationship building work before submitting a full proposal. Pamela Grow was right in her interview with Joanne Fritz, “Even if you start out with no contacts, you can still get funding, and as you gain experience your contact universe will grow.”

MYTH #4: “Grants are awarded to organizations that have the greatest need.”  The Grant Training Center debunked this myth accurately by saying that “grants are awarded to those who have the ability to deliver on the donor’s interests.”

MYTH #5: Grant writing is like begging. Nope! Grant writing is the act of creating a thoughtfully composed and compelling case about what need your organization is looking to address, what your plan to address that need is (using SMART objectives), and how you will define and measure your success and outcomes/impact. Think of it like a business plan that you would put forward to a venture capitalist. A grant application is like a business plan for grant makers. How will you spend their funds if awarded? What social ROI will you provide in return?

I ended my thoughtful pause to hearing “grant writing feels like begging” by referring back to something a trusted colleague always says, something that connects the traditional fundraising world to the grant seeking world. Everyone nods and agrees when we say “people give to people.” Heather Stombaugh, GPC of Just Write Solutions shows how this concept is not limited to individual donors, but how “people give to people” is also a critical aspect of grant seeking. While not everyone is comfortable as a fundraiser, for those that are engaged in aspects of fundraising outside of grants, I think that Heather’s connection between people giving to people helps ease the feeling for fundraisers that grant writing is like begging and further dispels the myth.

But now I’m curious:

What are your objections or concerns about grant writing for yourself personally as a fundraiser?

What myths do you work to overcome in your organization or with your clients related to grant writing?

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About Diane H. Leonard, GPC

Diane H. Leonard, GPC is President/Owner of DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services which is focused on increasing nonprofit capacity related to grants and has secured over $32 million in grant awards for clients. An approved trainer for the Grant Professionals Association, Diane loves talking about all things #grants, #1000Islands, #Running, and #Coffee!

2 thoughts on “Grant Writing Feels Like Begging (And Four Other Myths)

  1. LC

    I would hazard a guess that the statement “grant writing seems like begging” might have been uttered by a fundraiser in a moment of frustration and discouragement. It can be disheartening to put your heart, soul and many hours into a proposal and not have it funded.

    Here are a couple of myths about grant writing I encounter, usually from people who do not write grants.
    1. that it is easy and doesn’t take much time at all.

    2. If you submit a grant, you will get the funding.

  2. Diane H. Leonard, GPC Post author

    LC –

    I would agree with your analysis of what may be one cause for someone to make a statement like “grant writing feels like begging.” The other that came to mind when I first heard it was that the individual had never tried to write a grant for any purpose and was passing judgement before getting started.

    Your two additional myths are great additions to those I initially listed – thanks for adding to the discussion of grant writing myths!

    – Diane

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