Start with Why: Grant Writers are Great Storytellers

This post originally appeared on Grant Professionals Association's blog

Let's be honest, grant writing can be time consuming, draining, and (sometimes) boring work, especially when we repeat language over and over again. I get it, we can't always write the next Pulitzer Prize winning piece of work, but how can we reframe our thinking so that we can stay motivated? I say, start with why!


I am sure you are all too familiar with the famous work by Simon Sinek. Based on his work, we could all wake up more motivated, engaged, and ready to do our best writing if we get back to the basics. What are these basics? Going back to the beginning and thinking through the writing process versus one application at a time.
 
Now, let's figure out what this means and how this thinking can help us become even better storytellers
 

  1. Finding a focus – The way online grant applications request info from applicants can lead to a very disjointed narrative. The questions are all separate and a flowing narrative just isn't possible in many instances. However, if you were to list out 3-5 key themes, what would they be? More importantly, why are you asking for funding and also from this particular funder? If you can weave in the responses to these questions in different ways throughout each section, that can help show a connection between each response. 
  2. Reframing the narrative – If we can create a more poignant and focused narrative, this allows us to bring in other stories that help illustrate our “why” and the point of writing the narrative. If these questions have not been answered, it might be a good opportunity to connect with organizational leadership to identify those strategic priorities and have a mission moment to regroup. We often become so consumed with deadlines and responsiveness that we lose sight of the reasoning for these actions and the drivers for the writing activities in the first place.
  3. Lose the dead weight – How much information in an application can be constituted as filler? Although we hate character and word count limits, they do force us to be brief and concise with our language. If we keep that focus identified in #1, how much would that change some of the unnecessary language we use in proposals? Be honest, I bet you include language in proposals as fillers on occasion, but what if we didn't do that at all and instead focused on language that was purposeful and meaningful?

This approach takes some time as we may need to readjust our existing writing. It may not work for each writing task that you undertake, but can add some energy to what you do each day. It is easy to burnout in this field, so we should think of ourselves as passionate storytellers who are committed to important nonprofit and public sector missions.
 
What will you do when you write to start with why?

GPCI Competency(ies):
02: Knowledge of organizational development as it pertains to grant seeking
03. Knowledge of strategies for effective program and project design and development
04: Knowledge of how to craft, construct and submit an effective grant application
07. Knowledge of practices and services that raise the level of professionalism of grant developers
09. Ability to write a convincing case for funding

About the Author

Rachel Werner

Rachel Werner is the Owner and CEO of RBW Strategy, LLC and provides grants and project management consulting support to nonprofits, government and business entities.

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