Fear may be too strong a word to use, but every grant writer has a level of angst, concern, or doubt when it comes to grant writing… even if it’s buried deep down in their sub-conscious. It’s not fun to feel afraid.
In life, we deal with fears all the time. It may be snakes, heights, speaking in front of crowds, dying, or your spouse’s driving (so I’ve heard from a friend). Some of our fears may be somewhat irrational and we have no idea how to explain them. Other fears can be very healthy. According to a blog post by Refuge Recovery, “whereas healthy fear is temporary and situational, unhealthy fear is enduring beyond its necessity.”
I’ll let you decide whether you think your grant writing fear is healthy or unhealthy, but the reality is, many grant writers have expressed to us feelings of concern, worry, and sometimes panic when thinking about the process of preparing and submitting an application to funders.
What’s Your Grant Writing Fear?
What’s your fear when it comes to grant writing? By admitting that some fear exists for grant writers, our hope is that you will understand how normal it is, while also realizing you are not alone in having some anxiety around the whole grant writing process.
So let’s see if we can’t get some of this out in the open and find a few ways to get past our grant writing fears.
The 3 Greatest Fears Of Grant Writers
We’ve interacted with many grant writers over the years, and they have been very open about their struggles with grant writing. In, “Confessions of Embarrassed Grant Writers,” we heard from grant writers who shared some of their secret shames.
Many of these same grant writers also talked to us about their fears.
Grant Writing Fear #1 – I’m Afraid I Won’t Get The Funding
The fear of not getting the funding is probably the fear that haunts grant writers the most. Even experienced and regularly successful grant writers worry they won’t get funded. There are so many important organizational aspirations tied up in funding, it makes it difficult when you begin to think about the fall-out and trouble that might come if a rejection letter is all you get for your proposal. One grant proposal could be so interconnected to the success of your organization that a “no” to your funding request could mean program closures, staff lay-offs, or a significantly depleted operational budget. None of those options are good.
So How Do You Manage This Fear?
Have A Plan B – Probably the best way to manage the stress behind a potential “no” from funders is to have an alternate plan in place should your proposal not be successful. Researching other funding opportunities and attempting to diversify funding streams can be the most effective way to not have one funding failure completely de-rail your organizational plans.
Know That Rejection Is Inevitable – It sounds pretty pessimistic, but it’s the reality of the grant writing world. Almost every grant writer will hear “no” from funders along the journey. Don’t let it stop you from getting back on the keyboard and working just as hard the next time. As the famous Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Take a shot… and keep shooting. Write your proposal… and keep writing. You might not score (i.e. be successful) every time, but you have a much greater chance of scoring and winning if you keep shooting. Don’t let a few misses stop you from writing. Get some feedback, learn from mistakes, talk to the funders and do everything you can to become a stronger grant writer.
Grant Writing Fear #2 – I’m Afraid Of Doing Something Wrong
Inexperienced grant writers are likely to have fear around making mistakes in their proposal writing. In talking to grant writers, many expressed the idea that they were afraid they might do something incorrectly in completing the application that would disqualify them or completely miss something on the application altogether. Boiled down, it was a fear of lacking the attention to detail that might be needed to successfully move through the grant writing process.
Grant writers also expressed fear over doing something wrong in the physical submission of the proposal. One grant writer expressed that he always seemed to have difficulty with the technology related to attaching documents and complained about having an issue every time he gets ready to hit them submit button.
So How Do You Manage This Fear?
Give Yourself More Time – If you are like many grant writers, at some point along the way, you have found yourself scrambling at the last minute as you feverishly put all the final pieces together to submit your proposal. Of course, that’s always when something fails with the technology. Funders have actually told us their systems can get overloaded in the final hour leading up to the deadline because so many proposals are being submitted simultaneously. Don’t do that to yourself!
Imagine the freedom and lack of stress you could experience if you submitted the application a day or two in advance of the final deadline. If you did happen to experience technical difficulty, it would be no problem. When you build your work plan, provide yourself with the time and room you might need to fix anything that could go wrong.
Read The Guidelines More Than Once – If missing something within the application is a fear for you, print a hard copy of the proposal guidelines before you even start writing. With a highlighter in hand, read through it a few times. Circle, underline, and note any deadlines, attachments, or important pieces of information the funder asks for in the application. Know their guidelines and procedures inside and out. It will bring you confidence and relieve any fear you may have about missing something important.
Don’t Try To Do Everything Yourself – Having someone else to support the application process will provide the checks and balances you may need to ensure you don’t miss anything. Another person and perspective may also help you troubleshoot those technology issues. Bring someone along for the journey so, together, you can tackle the hard stuff that can come with completing a grant proposal.
Grant Writing Fear #3 – I’m Afraid I Won’t Meet The Funder’s Expectations
The fear that a grant writer won’t meet the funder’s expectations is an interesting one and one we hear often from grant writers. There seems to be a feeling within the grant writing community that funders keep their priorities somewhat disguised or that they don’t provide the full story behind what they need or want from grant writers.
Grant writers have also explained that they continue to observe a shift in funder priorities. From one year to the next, a funder may make some adjustments to their mandate and change the funding criteria. This can cause grant writers to feel confused, frustrated, and even afraid that they don’t know what to do to ensure a successful proposal.
In speaking to funders, the majority are quick to say they work hard to make sure their objectives are clear and transparent, but the reality is, they may make some changes and strategize new objectives. The purpose is not to confuse you, but to create greater impact.
So How Do You Manage This Fear?
Connect With The Funder – If you are afraid you might not meet the funder’s needs, or that your application may not fit their expectations, connect with the funder immediately. Before you even begin writing, you should be looking for and developing opportunities to hear from the funder directly. By asking the right questions, a funder will very quickly be able to tell you if your idea is on the right track.
Find Out What They Funded Before – Many funders provide information about programs they’ve funded in previous years. Reading this should provide you with insight into what is important to the funder. You may also wish to reach out to a few funding recipients to ask them questions about what they may have done to get a “yes” from the funder.
Unless a funder has changed their priorities dramatically and are looking to fund new kinds of programs, reading through what they have funded before can give you helpful insight for what you might need to do with your program to catch their attention.
Get Some Advice – One of the ways GrantsEdge can support you in your grant writing is to provide you with coaching. Through GrantsEdge Coaching, we can read through a funder’s guidelines and review your proposal to see if there seems to be a fit. Book an appointment with us and we’ll provide feedback and ask questions to help bring you greater confidence that your proposal has what it takes to get funded.
Thanks For Sharing
We want to say thank you to the many grant writers we’ve talked to who were kind enough to be vulnerable with us. It’s helpful to talk about our fears and helpful for other grant writers to feel like they are not alone in facing the challenges of grant writing.
Through it all, we don’t want your fears to keep you from writing great proposals that get funded. Don’t let being afraid slow you down from the great work you are looking to accomplish.
Reach out to us, connect with funders, talk to other grant writers, and find some helpful and tangible ways to overcome your fears.
Together, grant writers and funders are doing incredible work to impact and change communities throughout Canada, and we are excited about seeing more and more grant writers have the confidence needed to really make a difference.