Blogpost: Reflections on My First Year by Kelly Finzer

20120806-211038In my year of serving on the Finance and Stewardship team of the National Forum, I have learned much about the strategy and collaboration that goes into each letter of intent or proposal prepared by our project teams. While I am certainly not an expert in grant writing now, I think that many of the lessons I have learned may be valuable for project teams working on creating an application.


The Mundane – As unexciting as it may sound, one of the most important parts of applying for a grant is knowing when the deadlines are and creating a work schedule that will allow your team to complete an application on time. Having more eyes review a proposal is only helpful if you have enough time to allow multiple reviewers. Therefore, it is important to schedule backward from a deadline to make sure everyone has enough time to review an application before it needs to be submitted.


The Team – A creative team is key to success. While one person might have the first idea for a proposal, running the idea past a team will make it stronger in the long run. When the team has come into agreement around an idea, having one person write a first draft to be reviewed by the rest of the team can set up a terrific proposal.


The Secrets – Who you know and what information you find matter. Every time a member of your team goes to an event or conference, he or she should be “friend raising,” connecting with others at the event that have the potential to be project funders or partners in the future. These people may be able to share secrets about the funding process or provide insight into the direction a funder might take in the future.


Speaking of insight about a funder’s priorities…Where you get your information about a funding opportunity matters. A funder’s website is always a good place to start, but making connections with a program officer at a foundation proves to be even more helpful. If you cannot personally connect with a program officer, checking in the news to see where they have been speaking lately and what they have been speaking about can help you further your understanding of a funder’s priorities. Sometimes you can find Youtube videos of these speeches, which will allow you to hear where the program officer envisions the foundations future work going.


Bringing all of these strategies together has allowed me to provide support for our project teams this past year. As I move into my second year working with the Finance and Stewardship team, I look forward to seeing what new strategies I will learn.