The lessons that can be gained from writing a grant

Here is a suggestion we hear a lot at Our Lady of the Wayside. “You should write a grant.” It’s an idea that has tremendous merit. Certainly, grant writing is a birthright for nonprofits and we make it our business to write a lot of them. But what my for-profit brethren might not know is the exercise of grant writing gives an organization a tremendous advantage as an object lesson in resource management.

Essentially, grant writing begins with examining your organization’s resource management system to determine where you’re most vulnerable. Humbling on a good day, this exercise pinpoints areas that are most resource-needy.

For Our Lady of the Wayside, that means looking at vital programs and services where state and federal funding don’t exist: nursing services, building maintenance, administrative infrastructure … the list goes on and it’s extensive. We focus on what we want and what we need to get there. Then we start looking for a champion.

Yes, a champion
The Wayside family includes hundreds of children and adults with developmental disabilities who can be incredibly fragile. Their care demands nothing less than the kind of support that goes beyond traditional donor profiles. They deserve champions. Doesn’t your organization deserve champions as well? As luck would have it, no one understands the anatomy of a champion better than folks from in-and-around The 216.

Champions are developed through sweat, skill and savvy, and they permanently raise the bar for everyone involved.

Which is exactly why you should write a grant. To write a grant is to craft a miniature strategic plan that focuses resources where they’re most needed. Theoretically, anyone can write a grant. However, to get it funded, you need to be a champion:

Champions are students of the game
No one knows your business better than you. Share the experience that has led to your expertise with the people you’re asking to buy in. Then, take it a step further and be a student of your prospect’s organization. The power that comes from knowledge is only revealed when both sides of the equation are well served.

Champions know what they want
Not only do they know what they want, they can tell you why it’s in your best interest to give it to them: also known as a win-win. When do you know you’re an all-star? When something other than what you wanted shows up and you have the resiliency and creativity to turn it to your advantage.

Champions invest
You already know you can’t be successful without being fully invested — and that understanding puts you halfway there. Being recognized as fully invested is an admirable, intoxicating and contagious status. The confidence to invest is rooted in outcome-based strategies that have proven track records. Clearly communicate those strategies and you’re on your way.

You really should write a grant. Because at the end of the day, champions hang out with champions.

Terry Davis is president and CEO at Our Lady of the Wayside