Sometimes grant writers feel embarrassed. I know because I’ve been there myself. It might be as simple as feeling ashamed that you don’t know as much about the grant writing process as you think you should and you’re tentative to ask any questions. It could also be that you don’t know where to look to find funding opportunities and it feels like you are the only one who “doesn’t have a clue.”
In life, when one feels embarrassed about something, it can translate into a feeling of loneliness, or thinking that no one else could possibly understand what they are going though. It’s not much fun, and it certainly isn’t a feeling we want anyone to experience, but it is a reality for some of us.
Over the years, GrantsEdge has spoken to many grant writers, and in doing so, we have listened to the frustrations, pain-points, and challenges, and know that far too many have areas of their grant writing life that they are embarrassed to admit.
You Don’t Have To Feel Alone In Your Grant Writing Embarrassment
Our hope is that by sharing a few of the general ways grant writers have expressed embarrassment, you will realize that the things you are afraid to admit are normal and you won’t have to feel alone. It may even give you the freedom to ask the questions you need to ask or seek the support you need to be a great grant writer.
3 Main Themes
As we have spoken to and built relationships with grant writers, there have been three main themes that have surfaced when it comes to what grant writers are embarrassed to admit. You’ll notice we’ve kept this all anonymous to protect the embarrassed.
Embarrassment Theme #1 – “I Just Can’t Find The Time”
On the surface, this idea of time doesn’t seem like it should be embarrassing at all. Why would someone be embarrassed because they are busy? The reality is that many grant writers do have full-time roles within their organization, and the writing of proposals happens off the side of their desk. This can be incredibly difficult when the tyranny of the urgent is constantly staring you in the face. The grant writing often gets left until the last minute, which is an issue.
What grant writers have also told us, and have struggled to admit, is that too often they just leave the grant writing until the last minute, even when they don’t have to, and the effectiveness of their proposal suffers because of it.
We have heard grant writers tell us they have abandoned half-written grant requests because they ran out of time. And many have admitted the whole grant writing process takes much longer than they ever thought it would and they are frustrated they can’t complete a final draft of a proposal in a shorter time frame.
How To Get Over This Embarrassment:
It is certainly not our place to tell anyone how they should feel, but we do have some solutions to the time concern.
1. Build a plan – We talk and write a lot about building a work plan, and setting up a schedule at the front end of writing your proposal so you can stay focused and on track for completing your proposal on time. We can’t stress enough the value and importance of planning. We live by that, and can only run our business with planning as a core value and expectation.
2. Gather your documents – In a previous blog post, we also wrote about the idea of keeping a number of documents prepared and ready to go in one central place. Most grant applications ask for similar pieces of information, so by having documentation and information organized and easily accessible, grant writers can save an incredible amount of time. Read more about “Effortless Ways To Save Time In The Grant Writing Process.” At the end, you’ll be able to download a checklist of the documents you’ll need for almost every grant application.
Don’t be embarrassed about your lack of time. Do everything you can to put a plan in place so it’s no longer a concern.
Embarrassment Theme #2 – “I Lack Experience And Knowledge”
There are employees throughout the non-profit sector who are being asked to write grants, but who just don’t have the experience. In a recent training session we facilitated, there were 40 grant writers. Of those 40 grant writers, approximately 85% would have identified themselves as new or inexperienced in grant writing. Many organizations struggle to find the right staff or volunteers to write proposals, and if the main grant writer leaves or is not available to provide support, the task can fall on new and very inexperienced grant writers.
Here are just a few of the comments we hear from grant writers all the time:
“I have not yet completed a grant proposal on my own and the whole idea seems a bit overwhelming.”
“I lack experience and feel like there are so many things I just don’t know.”
“I’ve just never felt comfortable writing grants. I think it is because I don’t do it often enough and have never had any real training.”
“I know some of my colleagues have experience, which means they would be a great resource, but I’m embarrassed to ask them for help.”
These can be really hard things to say out loud if you are the one in the midst of it.
How To Get Over This Embarrassment:
The simple answer for how one might move past the embarrassment of the lack of experience in grant writing is to get some experience. Obviously, that is easier said than done.
1. Access free resources – We are here to help grant writers gain confidence and knowledge in the area of grant writing. Leverage the many other blog posts, tools, and resources we offer. Follow us on Facebook (@GrantsEdge) and Twitter (@GrantsEdge) to find even more information. The internet is full of opportunities to gather information. Plan to regularly schedule time to read, listen to podcasts, or engage in online conversations that will help teach you new ideas all the time.
2. Ask for help – People generally love to share their knowledge and will be open and willing to answer your questions and provide guidance. Go to people you respect and trust with very specific questions. Ask them how they learned and find out what other resources you should access. If you don’t have anyone in your own agency to provide support, look to others in the industry. Seek out some organizations that have demonstrated the ability to obtain grant funding and see if they might be willing to share some secrets and advice.
3. Get some training – Watch for opportunities in your community to attend workshops, seminars, and webinars. We offer an in-depth training course called GrantsEdge Live that will walk you through the formula for writing successful grants.
4. Seek feedback – As you do begin to write more and more, be sure to ask for insight from others. Ask funders to give you feedback, as they have years of experience in reviewing grant proposals. Connect with successful grant writers and ask if they would edit or review a proposal. We also invite you to connect with a GrantsEdge Coach, a service we offer that provides you with access to a former funder who will review your proposal before you submit it and connect with you one-on-one to provide feedback.
It may take some time to get past this embarrassment, but by being proactive in your pursuit of information and knowledge, and with a few grant proposals under your belt, you’ll be feeling more and more confident.
Embarrassment Theme #3 – “I’m Afraid Of Rejection”
I remember very vividly a conversation with an Executive Director. He described the embarrassment and shame he felt going into a Board meeting knowing he would have to tell them the large grant proposal they were counting on had been declined. That would not be a fun Board meeting to attend. It is pretty deflating, and can feel like a very personal hit to the ego when our proposals are rejected. It’s especially difficult because so much time and energy has gone into the process, and we know our team, our organization, and our clients are depending on us to be successful.
You are not alone in feeling this way, and the reality is you won’t be alone in having a grant proposal rejected either. It is a competitive market, and even the best-written proposals and most innovative, important programs don’t get a “yes” every time.
How To Get Over This Embarrassment:
A great way to start getting past this hurdle is to understand that very few, if any, grant writers will ever be 100% successful. So what can you do?
1. Make sure your program is a fit – One of the biggest reasons grant proposals get rejected is because they don’t fit with the objectives of the funder. Make sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the program or project you are going to propose is a match with the goals and purpose of the funding organization. This will save you a lot of grief.
2. Connect with funders regularly – We are a huge proponent of building long-term connections with funders. While this is no guarantee, having a relationship with a funding organization can certainly increase your odds of being successful. The more a funder understands your organization, how it works, what it has accomplished, and how the community will benefit, the more likely they will be to have confidence in your ability to be effective stewards of their investment. You can begin the relationship building part of grant writing right away.
3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – While this might not take the sting of rejection away completely, it should alleviate some of the angst that can emerge when funding becomes scarce. While diversifying funding streams is a challenge for even the most successfully run organization, having alternative plans and other funding options available is a must.
4. Find out if you can re-submit – In some cases, an initial “no” from a funder does not mean “no” forever. Although rejection may change your plans in the short-term, many funders are open to having an organization re-submit a proposal. Find out more about what you need to consider when re-submitting an application by reading, “3 Vital Steps You Must Take Before Resubmitting A Grant Proposal.”
Do You Have Anything You’d Like To Admit?
Can you resonate with any of the embarrassments of others? Hopefully this was somewhat therapeutic for you to begin to understand that other grant writers struggle with time, a lack of confidence, a lack of experience and knowledge, and fight a fear of rejection. It’s normal, but it doesn’t have to remain a point of embarrassment.
Join us in the journey to make grant writing suck a whole lot less. Read and use our resources, message us on Facebook to Twitter and ask us your questions, or join us in training opportunities. Let us play a role in supporting you as you become a confident and successful grant writer.