By Meghan Camp
Over the holiday season, I met a lot of new people, and when they asked me the inevitable question: “What is it that you do, Meghan?” and I told them I was a grant writer, I got a lot of blank stares.
I’ve been working in the social change field for several years, so it still startles me a little when I have to explain what grant writing is. I realize I’ve become too comfortable in my sector—most of my interactions are with people who have either worked or volunteered for a nonprofit, and oftentimes people I meet will even say—with audible chagrin—that they’ve written a grant or two themselves.
But meeting new folks who are less familiar with this work has gotten me thinking about how I can change my “elevator pitch” and really wow my new acquaintances with what I do—and perhaps encourage those people who do know what grant writing is but sort of wished they didn’t.
Because I really do love what I do! I had an English teacher in high school who told me that whatever I did in my life, I needed to keep on writing. I dabbled in journalism and publishing in my undergraduate career, and those fields suited me fine, but when I took a grant writing course in my last semester, I fell in love.
I love meeting with clients and seeing their passion for what they do. I love bringing all the little pieces that make up a grant proposal together—from the budget (yes, I used to be a nonprofit finance manager) to the objectives and outcomes (also a bit of an evaluation nerd).
Most of all, I am excited to be doing something I’m passionate about—namely writing—to help others accomplish something they are passionate about. Grant writing isn’t just about writing, although many people I come in contact with say they loathe this part the most.
It’s also about diversifying an organization’s resources, evaluating community need, mapping out strategies and defining impacts. In a way, grant writing forces us to do these things. If we let it, this process can help us in ways we never imagined.
The obvious part of grant writing is about bringing in cash. But grant writing also has the potential to help an organization clarify its long-term vision and leverage its financial sustainability.
I get why people find the grant writing process frustrating. I’ve been an operations manager, finance manager and grant writer in a past role and know just how overwhelming the task is when you’re already working two full-time jobs. I also know how difficult and disheartening it can be when you’re so close to your mission. It’s hard asking for money!
So what is grant writing to me? What is my elevator pitch? Well, it’s simple: I get to do what I love, so others can continue to do what they love. (Okay, maybe I’ll keep working on that!)