Lessons learned

At this time of year, we celebrate four-year journeys — through high school, or through college, to graduation. Now I’m celebrating four years in a continuing journey of education: employment as a grant-writer. So it’s a good time to look back.
I help prepare and submit our programs’ reports to funders, which frequently ask us to reflect on “lessons learned.” As for the lessons I’ve learned, these stand out:

• Just as it’s harder to defend a championship than to win it, when it comes to grants, managing and keeping the grant are harder than winning it the first time. That’s among the first things my boss told me, and I saw soon how right she was.
• Grant-writing is about story-telling (as is so much of life generally, even if we don’t always appreciate it). Yes, it’s a specialized form of writing. But at its heart, it’s about research, editing and writing to tell stories about your programs and the people they help — stories that your funders should understand easily and find compelling.
• Although much of the job involves pecking away at the computer keyboard in your office, grant-writing is about more than just solitary researching, editing and writing. It’s also about building and maintaining good relationships — with your funders; with your colleagues; with the staff members in your organization’s programs, on whom you rely for information when writing grants and reports.
• And being a grant-writer is about being a resource. Colleagues will look to you to answer questions about grammar and style, or to help with various writing, editing, and proofreading projects. Or they’ll need to look up applications or reports about a program, which you have in your files, for conversations with donors. Be ready — and be helpful.
• The most important lesson of all: There are always lessons to be learned. Make sure that you continue your education.

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