Andrew Schwartzberg

Grant writer as chief collaborative officer

posted by
Andrew Schwartzberg,
Director of Grants
Valley of the Sun United Way

Your grant proposal is due in a mere six hours and you are very confident that you have all your ducks in a row. Just to make sure, you unearth the official grant application checklist that was buried in a folder from day one, only to discover to your horror that you were so focused on writing the proposal narrative you completely forgot about the budget. What do you do? Do you: a) grovel in front of your agency’s accountant and plead with them to make time to do it; b) simply do the budget yourself; c) submit the application without the budget and hope nobody notices; or d) start scrolling through the ASU Lodestar Center Nonprofit News looking for new job opportunities?

Ultimately, the answer is: you never should have gotten into this predicament in the first place, because preparing a grant application should be an inter-departmental endeavor. All too often, nonprofits that have a staff grant writer make the assumption that they will be 100% responsible for every aspect of the grant application process. And all too often the staff grant writer will take this on because that was the initial expectation.

The truth is that if ever there was a nonprofit activity that needs to be collaborative across departments, it is the preparation of a grant application package. It is not the grant writer’s job to create programs, or decide how money is to be spent, or determine if a grantor should get media exposure for their gift. These tasks should be driven by program staff, finance staff, and marketing staff respectively. It is the grant writer’s job to communicate with all of the appropriate staff, gather the necessary information from them to address all of the requirements set forth by the funding entity, and use the information to create a grant application so compelling that the grantor will take one look at it and shout out, “Goodness gracious, where has this organization been all my life? Let’s fund their request and tack on an additional $3 million!” (this never happens, of course, but you get the point.)

From this perspective, the role of a grant writer is really that of facilitator of internal collaboration. It is their job to be the person most familiar with the funding opportunity and determine what it is the grantor is looking for from the grantee. What forms need to be completed? What attachments need to be included? What specific information is being requested about the program? The grant writer must know the answer to all of these questions to determine who from their organization needs to be assembled to create the best possible application package.