Live it to write it

Last week I had the opportunity to meet two sisters, trustees of a regional family foundation.  I had applied for a grant from the foundation on behalf of a local client and a site visit was scheduled.  It was an excellent visit, relaxed, friendly, plenty of great questions, and an unplanned – and totally providential – visit from one of the organization’s best volunteers to truly paint a picture of the depth of this agency’s marvelous work in the community.

Early on, though, during introductions, one of the sisters remarked, half-jokingly to me that “we hate development people.  We like to talk to the program staff.”  I responded that, yes, I did too – it was the only way for me to learn what was going on to be able to write about it.

Then I got to thinking about the whole divide between program staff and fundraisers.

I wondered if foundation funders, as a rule, shared the opinions of the sisters I had just met and asked a friend of mine, a senior program officer at a large grantmaking foundation.

Her response?  “Yes. development directors are viewed as “sales people”. They know just enough about the program they are selling whereas the program people live it.”

Is that you?  Do you know “just enough” to write about your agency’s programs?

Maybe it’s time to start living it.

Heck, one of the first things that I did when I landed my first fundraising job, working for a regional ambulance corp was to run with the ambulances for a few hours.

Talk about eye-opening!

Later on I became certified at CPR.  And, while I never became an EMT or saved anyone’s life I did gain a first-hand perspective of the challenges and the phenomenal work of rescue workers.

You must remember that your job is not to go, hat in hand, begging for dollars.  Your job is to inspire donors.

What steps do you take to fully acquaint yourself with your organization’s programs?  Is there something that you could be doing that would give you a broader picture of your agency?  Remember, you might be surprised – something as simple as answering the phones for an afternoon, monitoring your agency’s after-school program, or spending two hours calling donors can put an entirely new perspective on your work.

How are you living your agency’s programs?




4 Responses to “Live it to write it”

  1. Jackie Smith says:

    Great point! I was a volunteer long before I started writing grants (also as a volunteer), so I am a passionate advocate for my organization. We tried hiring a grantwriter, and although the writing was excellent, it lacked the enthusiasm and passion that only a true-believer can inject!

  2. Pamela Grow says:

    That is SO TRUE Jackie. It takes some time and a lot of questions to get to the heart of an organization. When I was working as a DD I would always schedule at minimum two hours a week in “the field.”

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  4. Betsy Baker says:

    Pam, you have definitely set the bar higher for development folks. I loved this! How can you write passionately for your cause when you don’t even fully understand it? Great post!