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The Grant Writer as Missionary

Grant writing is not so much about raising money as it is about implementing a compelling mission. It is not about getting money for a particular program or your agency. Your program or agency is just the vehicle that will be used to implement the mission, not the end result. Fulfillment of your mission is the fundable end result.

Institutional funders exist to solve societal problems. They are guided by their own missions that define which community needs they will support. The difference between your agency and a funding agency is that your agency does the hands-on work, while a funding agency provides the money for organizations like yours to expand or continue program services.

A good mission statement tells the world exactly what need your agency serves. Institutional funders want to a meet the defined need as listed in their mission statements. Therefore, as the grant writer, you will need to match your agency’s mission to that of potential funders—focusing on which community needs they are interested in supporting.

This perspective is crucial. Be cautious that your organization is not the main focus of your proposal. The main focus of a good proposal is squarely on meeting community needs. Your organization should not be at the front and center of your grant writing efforts. Your organization’s achievements are only relative to the need you meet. The crux of a good proposal is the needs statement.

Your job as a grants writer is to first describe the community need and then to describe how your organization plans to meet it. Yes, your ‘ask’ is important. Yes, the program you implement is important. Yes, your budget is important. And yes, how well you function as an organization is important. But these things are only important in how they relate to the need you are trying to meet.

A good proposal focuses on meeting whatever community need a foundation is interested in supporting. A good proposal describes the applying agency as one who is knowledgeable and has the experience and capability to meet that need. A good proposal makes sure that the goal of alleviating the described need matches the goal of the foundation to which it was submitted. A good proposal, focuses squarely on mission and mission fulfillment.

Institutional funders don’t give to organizations as much as through organizations. Our job as grant writers is two-fold: (1) to let funders know that our organizations know what needs exist in our community; and, (2) to let funders know that we know how to address and alleviate these needs. Remember, the focus of a grant proposal is not about your organization needing money—it is about your organization meeting a clearly defined community need in partnership with a funder.

As a grant writer, you should never forget that you are the “missionary” that makes the matches that allow both your own organization and your funding agencies to meet mutual missions. Grant writing is not so much about raising money as it is about implementing a compelling mission. It is not about getting money for a particular program or your agency. Your program or agency is just the vehicle that will be used to implement the mission, not the end result. Fulfillment of your mission is the fundable end result.

Institutional funders exist to solve societal problems. They are guided by their own missions that define which community needs they will support. The difference between your agency and a funding agency is that your agency does the hands-on work, while a funding agency provides the money for organizations like yours to expand or continue program services.

A good mission statement tells the world exactly what need your agency serves. Institutional funders want to a meet the defined need as listed in their mission statements. Therefore, as the grant writer, you will need to match your agency’s mission to that of potential funders—focusing on which community needs they are interested in supporting.

This perspective is crucial. Be cautious that your organization is not the main focus of your proposal. The main focus of a good proposal is squarely on meeting community needs. Your organization should not be at the front and center of your grant writing efforts. Your organization’s achievements are only relative to the need you meet. The crux of a good proposal is the needs statement.

Your job as a grants writer is to first describe the community need and then to describe how your organization plans to meet it. Yes, your ‘ask’ is important. Yes, the program you implement is important. Yes, your budget is important. And yes, how well you function as an organization is important. But these things are only important in how they relate to the need you are trying to meet.

A good proposal focuses on meeting whatever community need a foundation is interested in supporting. A good proposal describes the applying agency as one who is knowledgeable and has the experience and capability to meet that need. A good proposal makes sure that the goal of alleviating the described need matches the goal of the foundation to which it was submitted. A good proposal, focuses squarely on mission and mission fulfillment.

Institutional funders don’t give to organizations as much as through organizations. Our job as grant writers is two-fold: (1) to let funders know that our organizations know what needs exist in our community; and, (2) to let funders know that we know how to address and alleviate these needs. Remember, the focus of a grant proposal is not about your organization needing money—it is about your organization meeting a clearly defined community need in partnership with a funder.

As a grant writer, you should never forget that you are the “missionary” that makes the matches that allow both your own organization and your funding agencies to meet mutual missions—all focused on facilitating positive changes and impacts.

Joanne Oppelt

About the Contributor: Joanne Oppelt

In resource development since 1993, I am currently Executive Director at CONTACT We Care in NJ. I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of the agency, strategic planning, budget management, marketing and community relations, and revenue expansion. I am also an adjunct professor at Kean University where I teach courses in nonprofit management and fund development.
I have written four books:
Moving Up to Executive Director: Lessons Learned from My First 365 Days helps the reader:

Understand the complex nature of nonprofit executive leadership
Identify the skills and characteristics of successful executive directors
Gain insight into the unique obligations nonprofit executive directors face
Manage multiple priorities
Prepare for the transition to your role as executive leader
Anticipate challenges inherent in your first year as executive director

Power Your Organization’s Fundraising: How the Partnership Paradigm Will Change Everything helps the reader find new donors, improve donor loyalty, influence funders, and build enduring funding partnerships. I introduce a new paradigm for finding sustainable funding that will empower:

Fundraising Professionals
Development Directors
Grant Professionals
Executive Directors

In Succeed in Your Nonprofit Funding Partnerships: Analyzing Their Costs and Benefits, I tell you how to think clearly about your organization’s finances. I show you:

How to create budgets that keep you in the black
How to know if a program is carrying its weight
What kind of fundraising activities to focus on, getting the most bang for your buck
How to make sure you can pay your bills from month to month

Confessions of a Successful Grants Writer: A Complete Guide to Discovering and Obtaining Funding is a down-to-earth guide to understanding funders and submitting successful proposals. It will help you:

Better position your proposals among the many that funders receive
Find out where to find what they tell you they want to know and then what they don’t tell you about what you should know
Understand the concept of organizational branding and its importance in getting your proposal funded.
Learn the questions they ask, the answers they’re looking for and how to speak language they’ll understand
Develop success, both at the organizational and interpersonal levels

I hold a bachelors degree in education and a masters degree in health administration. I am a Certified Grants Professional, a member of the Grant Professionals Association and a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
I love writing, listening to music, and quiet dinners with friends. I live in New Jersey, USA with my husband Rick.

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