Get information on every U.S. Foundation with one search in FDO Quick Start. It’s free to register!  
Featured Jobs



Can't You Just Write It?

Have you ever encountered a situation where a colleague asked if you could “just write the grant?” with a tone of exasperation? Where they thought that you should have the ability to take some back-of-theenvelope notes from a meeting, or a quick verbal download, and turn it into a wonderful complete proposal? Or where they thought you should not have to ask so many follow-up questions about the work plan and budget details?

There are many other ways that this question might be asked of you as a grant professional; such as:
  • Are you able to elaborate the information into a proposal based on what we've given you?
  • Can you fill in the gaps in the budget with what you have?
  • Can you find some needs assessment data to support our proposed intervention?

The good news is that, based on my discussions with colleagues, this doesn't seem to happen too often. But it is likely happen to each of us at least once in our career. When it does, it should be a signal to you, as the grant professional, to stand up for your work, your ethics, and the profession as a whole, and clarify that you can't “just write the grant.” And then, help them understand why.

This is consistent with three of the competencies tested for those seeking to become a Grant Professional Certified (GPC) are:
  • Knowledge of how to craft, construct and submit an effective grant application
  • Knowledge of strategies for effective program and project design and development 
  • Knowledge of nationally recognized standards of ethical practice by grant developers

It is not news to you that knowing how to craft an application, and having a strong understanding of program and project design, does not mean that you are able to craft either of these on behalf of an employer or client without their direct input or without significant background information. However, your colleague (employer or client) who has posed the question to you has a different concept of what this knowledge and understanding means in the grant development and submission process. 
When the question arises, your job as the grant professional is to politely educate your colleague about why you can't “just write the grant.” Help them understand why their specific knowledge and understanding enables you to craft a stronger and more competitive proposal than if you “just” filled in the blanks based on limited information, or were put in a position of trying to guess or make assumptions about what they want to achieve with the grant.
Your work as a grant professional is also to help prevent the question from even arising, and proactively educate your colleagues by creating a grant writing process that is not supportive of a “just write the grant” culture.
For example, one way to avoid the “just write the grant” situation is to provide your colleagues (whether employee or consultant) with a program development template that you require they complete before you begin writing a new grant application. Having a basic framework that includes goals, objectives, timelines, collaborative players, etc. and that is completed in basic bullet form gives you a structure to work from as you craft a proposal. Without a framework for your colleagues to work from when designing projects for new grant funding, they may be unclear about the level of detail you need in order to effectively do your work in writing the grant application.
The program development outline document is one way to avoid the “just write the grant” conversation. What are some methods or tricks you have developed to stop the question before it ever has time to form on the lips of a colleague?
Diane H. Leonard, GPC is the President/Owner of DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC. She can be reached at or


By: Nathan Medina
On: 05/16/2017 14:10:27
Thanks Diane. Yes, I do encounter this to some degree. Essentially they want the money without having to do the work. Thanks for your insight.
By: Yvonne DeBellotte
On: 05/16/2017 16:38:06
This should be part of your dialogue when deciding to work with any client.
By: Maura Harrington
On: 05/17/2017 17:06:26
I have to say, unfortunately, with smaller, less experienced non-profits, there is a lot of education a grant professional must provide to senior staff so they are grant ready! This is a great article. Thanks Diane!
By: Mary Hubl
On: 05/18/2017 09:54:49
Nice article! Are you willing to share an example of your new grant template?
By: Jerri Kamicker
On: 05/30/2017 08:41:15
I have encountered this and, in fact, I had a client for a short time who seemed to think this is the way grants consultants work. Amazingly, it was a government agency. After several different times of trying to get them to expand on loosely conceived program ideas, I just let the consulting agreement quietly expire.

Leave a comment

Please complete the form below to submit a comment on this article. A valid email address is required to submit a comment though it will not be displayed on the site.

HTML has been disabled but if you wish to add any hyperlinks or text formatting you can use any of the following codes: [B]bold text[/B], [I]italic text[/I], [U]underlined text[/U], [S]strike through text[/S], [URL][/URL], [URL=http//]your text[/URL]