I fancy myself a smart lady. I have a master’s degree in education and I’m a small business owner. I’m also teaching myself the art of grant writing, which, turns out, is quite humbling. You’d think it’s easy and straightforward – just putting in time. I’m afraid it’s none of those things and it’s hard. I haven’t turned in a paper for a grade since college and I forgot how difficult it is to make something meaningful from nothing.

I find myself checking social media, which wasn’t even an option in the early 2000s; I get annoyed that I have to do my writing around my real job (first world probs); and stepping into your own Zone of Proximal Development and scaffolding for yourself is, in one word, irritating.

But I’m doing it all because I want to use my writing skills to make the world a better place, and honestly, I want to make a career out of it. (Did you hear that, Universe and everyone at Best Friends Animal Society?)

I’ve already experienced some success with it.  I scored a $15,000 grant for Soul Dog Rescue back in December 2016, which was freaking awesome because I learned, once again, that I am capable. My mama always told me I can do anything I set my mind to; sometimes I forget she was right. I imagine you do, too.

In the spirit of sharing (see point #2 below), here area few of my takeaways:

Engage your network – I was staring down the barrel of a question about Community Impact…with a 5000 character limit. Shoot me. I shared a post on the Soul Dog Rescue Facebook page asking our network how SDR has impacted them. I mean, it takes a village to carry out an organization’s mission, so why not consult the village, right?

The responses I got were pure magic. They were filled with grammatical and spelling errors and more heart and soul than I could have put into that response on the grant app. And the breadth of responses I received was wider than I would have been able to come up with.  I got lots of replies expressing gratitude for medical services for people’s pets, which I expected, but I also learned that SDR has:

  • given hope to a community who was once hopeless
  • provided opportunities for people to volunteer and give back in meaningful ways, right in their own back yards
  • provided professional development for countless vet tech students and a even woman who went on to become the Executive Director of Blackhat Humane Society! Whoa!

I copied and pasted these responses and quickly filled up that 5000 character limit with a response I was incapable of providing. Use your resources, people.

The post also generated a lot of goodwill within the network. I see organizations who constantly post desperate pleas for money, in-kind donations and volunteers and that’s it. They never acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between the organization and its supporters. Quite honestly, it’s annoying. Engaging your supporters and learning about them demonstrates that you value them for more than just what they can do for you.

Share Everything – Share it all. It’s counterintuitive, but we are all in this together. There’s a lot of money up for grabs. A grant that may not be a good for your organization may be a good fit for another’s. Share information on upcoming grant cycles, ideas for grant proposals, techniques for writing a better proposal, tips for avoiding roadblocks and failure, contacts. And last but not least, share what you’re up to.

After I submitted my grant proposal Tuesday night, I shared a post about it on my personal Facebook page and it got a whole lotta mileage. So much so, that I quite literally felt an adrenaline rush as people interacted on the thread.

  • Professional credibility. Shamelessly selling yourself can feel gross, but the truth is, you probably take yourself way more seriously than anyone else, so it’s not actually as bad as it feels. I’m connected with several people whose radar I want to be on. Even if it’s just my name and a quick post that scrolls across their newsfeed, I’m building an awareness for what I do.
  • Momentum. The interaction gave me material for this here blog post and I’ve gotten more gigs.
  • Altruism. You can be a connector for other people. A friend who recently found a lost dog commented and I had a chance to connect her with the people who can point her in the right direction.
  • Lots of people sent well wishes, which is always welcomed.

For anyone else going through the growing pains of acquiring a new skill, what are you learning as you go?