Today’s article is part of our series on grant writing, one area in which Tiny Frog Strategies works with organizations to get from where they are to where they want to be.

When people find out that one of the things I do is grant writing, their face lights up and they grin broadly – and I know exactly what they are thinking and that I am going to disappoint them right away.

There seems to be this widespread belief that grant writing is like withdrawing money at an ATM, and that the grant writer knows the PIN. If I just answer a few questions and punch in the correct password, wads of cash will be theirs for the taking.

Here comes the disappointment – it doesn’t work like that.

Even with formulaic application forms, grants are a process that involve humans, and therefore relationship building, not just punching the right keys.

I think that a better way to understand what applying for a grant is like is to compare grant writing with dating. Here are a few similarities:

It’s awkward.

It feels like a lot of work. (it is!) As an organization, you have to try and frame what you do for someone on the outside, and see what you do from their perspective. Like on the first date, you’ve got to fit in a lot of stuff into a small space – the first conversation over coffee, the draft letter of interest with a maximum length of 3 pages. How will you get it all in?

There will be some awkward I-don’t-know-what-this-means moments. Did he actually think that joke was funny? What on earth does this question about Theory of Change mean? It will probably require asking questions for clarification, all while trying not to appear too out of the loop.

It’s risky.

How do you know if it’s going to be successful? Is it worth investing all this time and energy?

Short answer, you don’t. But it’s hard to meet the partner of your dreams if you spend all your time watching Netflix in your pajamas with a drink in hand.

As an organization, you’ll have to put yourself out there – you’ll need to spend time up front on figuring out how a project will fit with what the funder is trying to do AND stay true to your organization’s mission and goals.

The bottom line is that you definitely won’t get the grant if you don’t bother to apply!

You need to look your best.

Just as you would aim to show up on time to the date and you’d take some effort with your clothes and hair, when applying for a grant, you need to follow their requirements of the funders. Take the time to express yourself clearly, make the effort to proofread your application, and double check you’ve answered all the questions. Put your best foot forward.

Finally, the payoff when it works – it’s so so sweet for both sides.

The chemistry is real! Grantors accomplish their mission to make change with their dollars, and funding recipients are able to leverage that money into real-world impact, improving our communities.

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