A 40-agers thoughts… pet peeve on career

Some of my work involves draft contracts, this doesn’t make me an attorney.

Some projects require me to design flyers, brochures, etc., this doesn’t make me a marketing professional.

I am a writer and a grants professional.

I have legitimately worked in this capacity since my employment in a biological oceanography professor’s research laboratory at Texas A&M University back when I was a student there in 1990. After that introduction, all of my future full-time employment positions have been centered in the grants world.

Grants professionals (legitimate ones) hold themselves to a high ethical standard. As professionals, most follow the guidelines outlined by the Grant Professionals Association (GPA), http://www.grantprofessionals.org/ethics;  and the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) http://www.afpnet.org/Ethics.

My pet peeve is… all of the people I run across out there that are marketing themselves as “award-winning grant writers”, peddling their “trade secrets” and “grant award winning strategies” to unsuspecting, desperate people and organizations — no matter their actual field of professional experience, or in what area their educational degrees were attained.

Having a Masters or Doctorate degree in ‘whatever’ does not qualify a person to serve as a professional in any ol’ field or industry that they see fit.

Having a minor/supportive hand in the overall compilation of a grant proposal does not give one the right to claim ownership of its success.

Why do these people think that grants work is a field that’s ‘fair game’?

It’s disrespectful to those of us that have put our blood, sweat and tears into assisting organizations to secure grant funding in support of reputable, society-serving projects and programs.

It’s a disservice to those unsuspecting non-profits and individuals that are simply seeking out some legitimate help in learning how to navigate the federal, state, foundation and/or corporate grant-giving world.

Let’s be professional about all respective careers.

Give credit where credit is due and stop over-inflating our own PR in the interests of prestige and the pursuit of the almighty dollar.



What to do when faced with… “no unsolicited applications”

In the event you locate a potential funder that states it does not accept unsolicited applications, it may not be the final word. First, make sure your organization/project is a good fit with the foundation’s funding interests. If it’s not, don’t apply. You will only be wasting their time and yours. However, if your organization/project appears to be a good fit, it may behoove you to find another approach.

It seems that the majority of grant professionals will say that approaching a funder that publically states, “no unsolicited proposals”, will only hurt your reputation in the giving community. Others say that it’s ok to pursue them for funding, but very carefully. The bottom line is that these funders are still obligated to dispense a portion of their wealth to the community. Often they do not accept unsolicited proposals because they already have specific pre-selected non-profits that they support, year after year; or they do their own pursuing based on their mission or areas of interest.

If you are interested in a foundation that doesn’t accept applications, first do a little research.
 If they have accepted applications in the past but have put giving operations on temporary hold, then you probably will be wasting your time. Keep tabs on the organization, or sign-up for their email news feed so you can apply when giving operations resumes.
 If they have traditionally given to pre-selected groups or made grants via “invitation-only” competitions, you may have a better chance. First, make sure your organization/project is a good fit within the foundation’s funding interests. Secondly, develop a list of the people ‘in charge’ (board members and executives). (Usually this information can be found on their website.) Share this list with members of your organization — board members, staff, and/or major supporters — to see if any of ‘your people’ knows any of ‘their people’. If yes, they may be willing to speak to that person on your organization’s behalf. This is often the most effective way to get on the radar of a foundation that ‘doesn’t accept applications’.

If no contacts pan out, you can always write a letter of introduction that describes your organization’s mission and projects/activities — stressing how you would help them further their own mission. Ask if you can share more information about your organization/project, and how they select grantees. However, do not ask for funding in this initial letter.

It may be that the organizations they have been supporting have gone out of business, or in some cases they are restructuring and looking to expand from their typical areas of funding and may be covertly seeking new ideas. Good luck and keep it classy and professional!  🙂