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Evaluator, Program Designer, Duck Master, Oh My!: the Grant Writer's True Resume

“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job ...” - Neil Gaiman
As I sat in front of the panelists, I knew that the likelihood of getting the job was slim. Grant writing? I barely knew what it meant. LOIs, periods of performance, 990s, and the other terms of our profession were strangers to me. So when I had to answer their question about my lack of experience, I let my analytical mind take over. I tore apart the definition of a grant writer, and gave them my true resume. 

Written, it would look something like this:
Identifies and gathers key data points. Develops a system to record and retrieve relevant data for various purposes. Creates new processes for tracking data that tells the story better.
Investigative reporter
Investigates topics of interest, knows key personnel and subject matter experts to identify discrepancies. Develops relationships that will allow the story (a.k.a., the project design description) to show the truth while still pushing toward the intended outcomes. Sees trends and brings issues to the surface.
Program designer
Develops a strategy to meet a need in the community. Creates a framework for each step, while understanding how best practices and new models impact the program design.
Having been in the field for a while now, my resume could be updated with the following lesser-known titles:
Duck master
Hotels hire people to take care of the ducks on their property, and to show them off to guests. The grant writer finds the unique aspects of their organization, and ensures that they are shown off to the funder.
Paint drying watcher
A period of performance can be a long time. Just like paint drying watchers are paid to make sure the paint is durable throughout the drying time, by watching the programs over time, the grant writer can more clearly articulate their ins and outs, as well as give input into the programs before they are implemented.
Golf ball diver
Just as it sounds, the golf ball diver retrieves balls from the lakes on golf courses. Not a fan of golf? Maybe become a bike fisher in Amsterdam. Either way, you will immerse yourself in the muck of the lake, search relatively blindly, and hopefully come up with something valuable. Grant writers are always on the hunt for information that will strengthen their request, such as by providing evidence for a program's effectiveness, establishing a precedent for the program design, or creating alignment with the strategic plan.
Prospect research isn't just for identifying potential funders. It is also a key step to understanding the industry, background, and language of your readers. When they say “people with disabilities,” do they include physical and developmental disabilities? Is a “goal” the same thing as an outcome, or an output? Though we have resources that define these words for us, you can't assume that the funder uses the term in the same way.
The program description becomes the blueprint for it's later implementation. Let's face it, not everyone can be in the room during the design phase. You need to be aware of the implications your writing might have on peoples' daily lives. Before you put your pen to paper, you might need to mediate between different people so that you can come to an agreement on the direction of the program.
Do these titles resonate with your experience? What other job titles would you add to this list?
Jen Hurst, M.A. has developed programs and strategies for nonprofit organizations her entire career, all the way back to middle school when she and a few friends started their philanthropic work by raising $150 for the local animal shelter



By: Tamara
On: 05/09/2017 15:30:07
As someone who has recently jumped back into the nonprofit sector as a grantwriter/ grants manager, all of this resonates with me. I am always on the hunt for new information that will add context to our program descriptions, evaluation process and outcomes, and how it all fits together. Critical to all of that is understanding the funders' perspectives and ensuring that we are doing the work in deciphering our programs, not the funder.
By: Dr. Beverly Browning
On: 05/12/2017 12:14:53
Jen, this article is so reflective of what grant professionals have either been tasked with or taken on over the past decades. The title "grant writer" does not do us sufficient justice. We are grant magicians+!

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