Posted by: Don Linnen | 20 May 2008

Hugs for Nerds

Have you hugged your grant writer lately? Okay. Not all grant proposal writers are nerds.

But lets face it. Who comes to mind when you’re thinking of someone who not only writes, but really understands numbers, enjoys spread sheets, gets into research, actually uses good grammar, and thrills at finding just the right word?

Hint: it’s not someone on the Yahoo! Buzz Log. You might try looking up “nerd” at Dictionary.com – “an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit.”

A Director of Development of a ~$2M nonprofit just told me that she’s covered her budget with over four months left in the fiscal year. More significantly, the organization’s foundation revenue for the year has doubled from about $300K last year to over $600K this year.

Not too shabby for fund raising during these “interesting” economic times. What did she do differently in the last year?

For one thing, she got more help. A year ago she had one full time person who helped her coordinate volunteers, run special events, manage the data base, do the research, and write newsletters, thank you notes, appeals, progress reports, and grant proposals. That’s a lot of spinning plates for two people trying to grow a 1.5M dollar operation.

That other full time person was replaced twelve months ago with three part time people with focus. The database person knows fundraising databases inside out. The volunteer coordinator energetically keeps finding new hearts and minds to involve in the organization. And the grant geek just researches and writes proposals.

Now to be sure, all four are working together to help each other. There is some overlap. And the three part timers are generating a few more hours each week than the single full timer did a year ago. But the small, additional investment of focused labor is paying some big dividends.

More significantly, the Director of Development can work on the big picture of “growing the business.” When it comes to grants, she does the final review of all the proposals without spending time in the tedious business of matching numbers to words or ensuring that all six copies of the nine attachments are printed on three hole paper and attached to this week’s proposal.

Do you have a good grant proposal writer? Do you have a forecast? a pipeline? a coverage model? These are things your favorite nerd can handle while you’re building relationships with the donors.

None of this works without those donor relationships, but the paperwork has to be exactly right (and on time) if you want to see that big check in the mail. Don’t forget to hug your grant proposal writer. They’re suckers for just a little appreciation.

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