You’re Not a “Grant Writer”

“The terms grantwriter and grantwriting are ubiquitous,” according to Barbara Floersch of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “But they’re not right.”

On the most basic level, the terms are incorrect. A grant is actually the funding awarded to an organization by a grantmaker. Grantmakers award (write) grants. Organizations seeking grants write funding proposals, grant proposals, requests for funding, and the like. They don’t write grants.

The notion of a funding request being a proposal is more than semantics. It goes to the core of the process requesting funders to support our work. A proposal is a document that makes a case. It articulates and substantiates a concern, points a way forward, and specifies the expected results of the proposed effort. At best, it’s a logical, compelling invitation for the funder to join your organization in meaningful work that’s expected to result in positive change.

A grant proposal is both a call to action and an invitation into a partnership. It’s a specific type of advocacy. It’s a blueprint for action, and an agreement between participating organizations.

“Consistently referring to funding requests as proposals begins changing how you and others view the process,” said Floersch. “Most grant professionals bring a host of skills to the job and do much more than write.”

Grant professionals do research, communicate with the community, build alliances with other organizations, work with experts to develop program plans, ensure that expected outcomes are specific and measurable, build budgets, and manage the entire application process.

Writing is only a small part of developing a grant proposal, and it’s only important as a vehicle for clearly articulating the problem, the plan, and the intended results. Clear writing can’t disguise a muddled understanding of the problem or an illogical plan of action. Dramatic writing might initially catch the reader’s attention, but it can’t prop up an argument that doesn’t hang together.

So, if you develop grant proposals, what should you call yourself? A change-maker, partnership specialist, community organizer, or community development specialist? “You decide,” said Floersch. “But odds are you’re doing much more than writing. And even if you’re only doing the writing, you’re not writing grants unless you’re a grant maker.” © Copyright 2017 The Grantsmanship Center.