I received, what is becoming a regular request, this week from a contact online. “I wanted to see if you had any advice on how I can start writing grants and getting practice outside of my job?

It’s been a while since I was in that position, but I’ve been there. Where DOES a person go for experience with a skill that most folks gets paid to execute?

What I usually tell folks is to find a nonprofit that has a mission that is near and dear to your heart. It is always easier to write compelling narratives for an organization that ignites your passion.

Talk with the powers that be at said organization about their needs for grant dollars. Sometimes, just because a fit is there with your passion, a need is not readily available. Some organizations don’t need grants right now and some don’t write grants at all. Keep this in mind. An organization that does not have a current needs list, a timeline for those needs, estimates for each needs, AND a sustainability plan for each need after it is acquired may not be ready for grants.

The organizations who do need grants may need them for a capital campaign or other specific need.  They may not want to let someone use their organization as practice if they are needing specific dollars for specific pressing needs. In other words, you may have to find an organization that would ‘like’ grant dollars, and ‘could’ use them, but isn’t relying on them.

A few questions you will want to consider before presenting yourself to write grants ‘for practice.’

  • Why are you interested in writing grants?
  • Are you anticipating compensation for your time and energy?
  • What are your terms and who will you be working with?
  • How much do you know about the grant writing and research process and are you ready to be responsible for the pre and post work involved with grant management?
  • Will the grants be submitted by you, or a staff person from the organization?
  • Who will be building the relationships with the foundations?
  • If funding is awarded, do you have an agreement with the nonprofit that allows you to claim credit for helping secure that grant so you can share your ‘success’ with other organizations or potential future clients?
  • Are you going to conduct the prospect research for the organization?
  • Does the organization have the capacity to support your work? Answer your questions regarding the applications, etc.?

Finding a way to practice your skill, while benefiting a specific group is the best way to get started. You could do this as a volunteer or possibly a board member if those are roles you already serve for an organization. It is easier to find ‘an in’ once you have connections. Cold calling will probably not be highly successful because lots of sensitive information needs to be shared to successfully craft and submit proposals.

Best of luck as you continue to grow for good!