Chop This Year’s Wood for Next Year’s Fire

One of the inescapable truths about proposal writing and grants funding is the time it sometimes takes for a funder to make up its mind. Weeks, months – many months – can go by without a word. Funders work on a variety of timetables: some wait for a regular board meeting; some review proposals as they are submitted; some put requests through a series of screens and determinations, each one setting the stage for the next one.

Put Your Mouth Where Your Money Is

Across the country, thousands of nonprofits have been hard at work for many years, delivering life-saving social and human services to millions of people. Your organization is one such. In addition to doing the work, your nonprofit has learned some things about the causes of the problems you’re trying to address. You’ve begun to reflect on the words of Desmond Tutu: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they are falling in.”


Hardly anybody remembers John Venn, a British mathematician from the late 1800s. But everybody has heard of Venn diagrams, maybe used them in charts to explain how one group of characteristics “overlaps” another, and to name and define the stuff in the place where the groups overlap. Circle A represents tall people, circle B represents athletes. When we overlap the circles we’ve got tall people who aren’t athletes, and athletes who aren’t tall—but in the overlap, we’ve got tall athletes.

Proposal Writing Skills: Transferable?

Let’s say you’re an experienced development staffer, or a consultant, and you’ve been submitting grant proposals to support the organization’s mission. Let’s also say you’ve gotten good at it and have helped your organization win funding. But you’ve lately gotten very interested in a different field (arts, environment, housing, e.g.) and you think maybe you can take your skills to a nonprofit in that new field that will be glad to have you. Can you? Will they?