Today I want to talk about a common issue I hear about grant writing. It has to do with grant writer success rates.
There are two perspectives to this conversation, but both can be addressed with the same answer. On the one hand, nonprofits often ask grant writers, “What’s your success rate of grants you’ve written?” That can be a rather intimidating question if you’re not prepared.
And on the other hand, grant writers want to know, “Does it mean I’m a bad grant writer if I didn’t win the grant?”
I’m throwing down the gauntlet to say that both of those are the wrong question.
Why Aren’t Grant Writer Success Rates a Good Measurement?
There are WAY too many variables to say a grant writer is good or bad based on the number of grants they’ve won.
I’ve seen brilliant applications not be awarded because of things way outside the grant writer’s control. These have happened to me and to other writers I’ve worked with, like:
- The funder pulled the plug on the entire program, so no grants were awarded.
- In another case, only a couple of nonprofits were awarded – who just so happened to have connections with the funding decision makers.
- In other situations, the nonprofit director was pushing the grant writer to apply even though they knew it wasn’t a great fit. That’s not a fair reflection on the grant writer’s ability.
- Many times I’ve seen that the nonprofit was too new and hadn’t even started serving clients yet, but they were convinced that grant writing was the way to go. (Hint: It’s not. Go back and listen to Episode 6 for the reasons why.)
- Unfortunately, in some cases the market crashed and the funder didn’t have as much money to give out that year.
- Sometimes the grant writer knows a particular application is a risk, but they agree with the nonprofit that it’s worth a shot. Sometimes you may lose the first year, so you take the reviewers’ feedback, and then revise and reapply in the next round.
Don’t We Need to Measure Something?
Yes, numbers and data are important, but it’s also important to track the right numbers. Because of these reasons above, a grant writer’s success rate isn’t a very accurate metric of how good the grant writer is.
Instead, let’s look at some reasonable metrics that give us better information, such as:
- How many applications were completed over the year?
- How were programs impacted?
- How much did funding increase?
- On a more subjective note, were relationships with funders and donors nurtured?
Perhaps the first question we should ask, though, before anything else, is, “Are we ready to apply for grants?” (refer to Episode 6 for more on that topic) and the second is, “Should we apply for THIS grant?”
Just because a grant is available doesn’t mean it’s the right opportunity for your nonprofit. Or maybe it is a good fit, but not right NOW.
Consider these things before you’re too hard on a grant writer success rate. Look for metrics that actually tell you valuable information.
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How Do I Start?
The #1 question I hear from new grant writers is, “But how do I start?” Funny thing is, they’re still asking this even after they’ve learned some of the basics of grant writing.
They aren’t sure if they have what it takes. They don’t know how to approach prospective clients. They don’t know what services to offer.
I’ve even had grant writers say to me, “Nonprofits want a grant writer with experience, but how are you supposed to get experience when you’re new?” It’s kind of a catch-22.
It always comes back down to, “How do I start?”
My friends, I’ve got the answer to that question. It’s called Fast Track to Grant Writer. This is a live small group VIP Program. The next cohort starts soon, and it’s full of stuff the books won’t tell you. You’ll get all kinds of pro grant writing advice, 1:1 attention, and feedback to be sure you know exactly how to start your grant writing career by the end of the 8 weeks.
We’ll cover the mindset and strategy behind successful grant writing, advanced grant writing skills, and how to set up your consulting business or job search. It’s going to be an intense 8 weeks that will transform your career.
I’m looking for grant writers who are ready to go all in and invest in themselves and their future…those of you who are ready to be a part of a ripple effect to change the world through grant writing.
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