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Grants Course

Whether you’re an executive director who also does fundraising, a dedicated grant proposal writer, a volunteer who’s “done some writing in the past” ... Show more
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Whether you’re

  • an executive director who also does fundraising,
  • a dedicated grant proposal writer,
  • a volunteer who’s “done some writing in the past” and wants to help your organization succeed,

chances are that we all have one thing in common: we’re accidental fundraisers! 

My own story is as unique to me as yours is to you. When I fell into fundraising, I was working at a nonprofit that helped people in Jakarta, Indonesia’s poorest slums with mobile health clinics.

Our work was to go to these slums in the early morning, set up our tent, and start parceling out medicine into little plastic bags while the doctor started seeing a long line of people. Even a group of three children came to get a checkup.

Some of the patients needed more help than we could give them. There was a man with an undiagnosed heart problem who had to be sent immediately to the hospital. I saw a man trying to cover up the fact that all of his skin was flaking off. Then there were the people with syphilis, with just one or two toes, with a stump for a hand or just two fingers. Their mottled flesh was just falling off their bodies. The people I saw, I will never forget.

I sat there, putting medicine into bags, thinking, “There’s got to be something more I can do.” 

How did Indonesia get in your grant problems? Let me explain.

I wrote my first grant there, for a $2,000 autoclave, a machine that helps sterilize instruments. It was easy. I thought, “Oh, so fundraising is grants then.”

How wrong I was! (But that’s another story.) When I got back to the states, I decided I would start fundraising. I took a couple of courses on grantwriting at the foundation center and started to research and write grants for a couple of tiny nonprofits. Did we get any of those grants? Nope. Why not? Read on.

I didn’t know the secrets to getting grants. I didn’t know how to really research grants, the different combinations of words to use, which databases to use, how to use annual reports to research grants, and how to create relationships with foundation staff. I didn’t know about approaching corporations, getting corporate volunteers, and then getting corporate grants.

Over the years since then, I’ve worked at nonprofits and been able to research, write, and receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in foundation and corporate grants for causes like domestic violence, social justice, arts nonprofits, and more

Just what makes for a compelling grant proposal? The secrets to foundation grant proposal writing are myriad and depends upon who is telling the story. Grant proposal writers who are also authors and teachers will tell you that it’s all in the proposal. Yet, if you talk to foundation insiders, you’ll often find that it’s the human element that lands the grant.

My own experience has been that, if you approach foundation funding from what I refer to as a “donor-centered” perspective, you’ll have the greatest longterm success. 

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Course details
Lectures 6