I was in a similar situation back in 1996 when I took a job at an anti-child abuse agency called Family Solutions in Santa Ana, CA. I took my second grant writing class from Carol Gueisbauer at the Volunteer Center of Orange County. When I took her class, I followed one of the tricks I learned as a graduate student at Cornell University. I followed her directions exactly, even the directions that seemed silly and pointless. I did not argue or quarrel with her philosophy or methods, I gave her the benefit of a doubt and followed them exactly. Eventually, I taught along side her at a seminar at University of California - Irvine and by then I had evolved my own unique approach, my Lightning Fast method. But I never forgot how much I learned from her by doing everything she said including going after local foundations first. I had ended up making $100,000+ for my employer by following her techniques.
In addition to compliance with a noted authority, I also found it extremely useful to obtain and review copies of successful winning grants. In this regard, I remember being startled at the extent to which the winning grants in my possession made extensive use of charts. This is a technique that I still use today with great impact. I don't think I would have figured that trick out or employed it so effectively early on in my career if I had not gone out of my way to check out winning grant proposals from similar agencies.
Another one of my secrets of success was simply to dive in and start writing grants. In the process, I picked up many of the skills that still work for me today and that I enjoy teaching others, including my never rewriting a draft the same day I write it, infusing my writing with a sense up urgency and economy, and being careful to answer each element of the funder's questions. To be sure, I cannot share everything I know about training new grant writers in this space, but I think I have given you the most important basics as they work for me:
- Identify a great teacher.
- Rely on multiple sources of information.
- Pay attention and follow the resource's instructions even if they strike you as silly.
- Take action and make as many attempts as you can quickly to build your skill level.
Finally, please do not hesitate to call me or e-mail me if you are stuck. I enjoy helping out anyone with an interest in grant writing. You are never alone in this business.