Language Matters When Seeking Funding

September 26, 2016       The NonProfit Times      

People who submit funding requests to grantmakers don’t “write grants.” That’s the common language in the field. But, it’s wrong.

According to Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, for the sake of accuracy, start with the fact that a grant is funding awarded to an organization by a grantmaker. Grantmakers award (write) grants. So organizations seeking grant funding don’t submit grants for the funders’ consideration. They submit funding proposals, grant proposals, requests for funding, grant applications, and the like, said Floersch, author of “Grantsmanship: Program Planning & Proposal Writing.”

In addition to being inaccurate, the term “grant writing” promotes the faulty notion that winning grant awards is about writing. Yes, it’s important to clearly articulate the argument for financial support, but let’s be clear: writing is the least difficult part of the work. A solid grant proposal is not about hocus-pocus language that pushes the hidden buttons and releases the money. It is much more than that.

People who develop funding proposals collaborate with other staff members and with partner organizations to design responses to important community needs. They research the situation, get the facts, line up the players, facilitate the planning process, and hammer out the budget. They broker change and make things happen, according to Floersch.

This is not about semantics. It’s about the way we view our work. A good, honest grant proposal is actually a request for partnership. A grant proposal is a specific type of advocacy in which the applicant organization takes a stand on an issue and sounds the trumpet to rally the energy and assistance needed to get a job done.

A funding proposal is not, at its heart, a request for money. Money is involved in the transaction but that money is only a tool. It’s a means to an end.

High-quality grants professionals are social activists, according to Floersch. Writing is the tool they use to package up and explain the final game plan for change. Writing is the tool they use at the end, once the heavy lifting has been done.

What’s the best job title for this work? According to Floersch, a grants professional, proposal development specialist, social entrepreneur, social activist, partnership specialist, or community advocate? You decide. But please, don’t sell your work short or misplace the focus. You’re not a “grant writer.” © Copyright 2016 The Grantsmanship Center. All rights reserved.