Grant writing is like growing vegetables

Grant writing is like growing vegetables

professional grant writer

By Megan Hill

This time of year, in the Pacific Northwest, my vegetable garden is in full swing. I’m harvesting strawberries, beets, carrots, chard, kale, lettuce, and herbs every day, and my tomatoes are just getting started.

Gardening is a lot of work. I’ve learned the hard way you can’t just put a plant in the ground, ignore it, and come back three months later expecting it to be huge and productive. It needs the right amount of sunshine, soil, water, temperature, and nutrients. It also needs to be free of competition from other plants and from pests like slugs and aphids.

I do a lot of gardening, and I do a lot of grant writing, and the two have a lot in common. With grant writing, you also have to be persistent. You have to hone your skills over time–with a bit of trial and error, sometimes–and work hard to develop a successful grant that will produce a high yield. You must nurture the grant continuously, even if you receive rejections.

Even once your grant application becomes productive and starts bringing in money, you must continue cultivating the relationship with the funder to bring long-term success, year after year.

Just as with gardening, there are also factors outside of your control. Competition from other nonprofits, a bad economy, a funder’s changing priorities. Recognizing these elements is important; don’t beat yourself up if one season isn’t as successful as others have been.

Whether you’re a gardener or not, this is the take home message: Grant writing is not easy. It is not free money. It is not a gimme. Grant writing takes time, effort, careful planning and cultivation. These factors–and a little bit of good fortune–will make your grant writing program successful.

(photo by Skånska Matupplevelser on Flickr)

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1 Comment

  • John Paterna

    13.07.2012 at 05:09 Reply

    Love your analogy Megan! The challenge of grant writing, I have found, is misunderstood by many.

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