Fund Your Writing Projects: Step Into the Funder’s Shoes

Gigi RosenbergBy Gigi Rosenberg

Sometimes in my grant-writing workshops we play a game where I give participants an imaginary $5,000 to give away to a writer. We listen to a writer describe the project she wants to get funded, and then I ask the pretend donors, “What do you need to know about this project to convince you to fund it?”

With the roles reversed, the would-be applicants transform into donors full of questions: How will the money be spent? How will the project be carried out? Who is on your team? What is the timeline? Where is the venue? How is this project meeting a need? Why are you the best person to carry this out?

Consider playing this game with your project as you prepare your grant application. Step into the funder’s shoes. By now in the process, you will know what matters to the granting organization. If you still don’t feel like you know them well, continue your research; talk to others who’ve been funded by them.

This game will force you to scrutinize your project from every angle. How could this project better fit the mission of the granting organization? What is still unresolved? If this was your own money, would you fund this project? Why? Why not? You may even identify some strengths of your proposal that you hadn’t noticed yet.

This game will help you ask the toughest questions of your project. Don’t be afraid of such a rigorous process, for it is the process the funder will use. And it will let you know if your project is ready. Funders want clarity, specifics, and accountability. If it doesn’t pass your own scrutiny, find a different project to propose that is more fully realized.

A question that many funders want answered, even if they don’t ask it on the application, concerns timing. You can think about timing in at least two ways: Why does the world need your project right now? How is this project perfectly timed for where you are in your career? The projects that are the most urgent or best timed will be the ones that get funded.

Funders want to sense urgency, not panic. So, tell them somewhere on the application why this project needs to happen now. If this is a professional development grant, they will want to know how this helps your career right now. Tell them why you need this opportunity at this time and not next year or in five years. If this is a grant to support a big writing project, answer the question: Why can’t this wait?

Your assignment for this month: Put on the funder’s hat and ask yourself, “Would I fund this project? Why or why not? How is this project perfectly timed?

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Gigi Rosenberg is a writer, teacher and occasional performer of edgy, comic monologues on motherhood, relationships and the existential nature of being. Her essays and how-to articles have been published in Writer’s Digest, The Oregonian, The Jewish Review, Cycle California! Magazine and Parenting (forthcoming).  “The Hanukkah Bush,” her radio commentary, was featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting. She coaches writers on how to read in public and teaches regional and national workshops on “Grant Writing for Success.”
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