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From Journalist to Grant Writer - A 50% Pay Increase

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by Alexis Swenson
August 10, 2021
 From Journalist to Grant Writer - A 50% Pay Increase
Julia-Grace knew she needed a career change. She fell in love with grant writing and how it could help her achieve the lifestyle she wanted. Less than a year later, Julia-Grace landed an incredible full-time grant writing position nearly double the salary of her previous position. Only two months into her new job, she learned she won a $4 million grant for a health equity program.

Funding Areas
Environment, Agriculture, Outdoor Recreation

Seattle, Washington

Scout Grant Consulting

Becoming a Grant Writer

Julia-Grace Sanders worked as a science and environment journalist before writing grants. She first heard about grant writing when a friend told her she’d be really good at it. Although Julia-Grace initially thought grant writing was a bit too technical, she connected with a professional grant writer to learn more.

“When I spoke with her, she was saying a lot of things that she liked about her job, that I liked about my job as a journalist. She got to get to know people's stories. She got to talk with a lot of new people. She got to learn new things every day. That was all stuff that I really liked about my current job,” said Julia-Grace.

After this conversation, Julia-Grace's interest was piqued. She decided to try freelance grant writing to help her figure out what she wanted and if she liked it enough to keep pursuing it. The timing could not have been better. Due to the pandemic, her full-time hours as a journalist were reduced allowing her extra free time to dedicate to grant writing training.

Making Money and Gaining Experience as a Freelance Grant Writer

Julia-Grace’s first exposure to a grant application was editing a grant for a fellow Unicorn. This helped her see what a grant looked like and increased her comfort level with the process. After completing her grant writing certificate with Learn Grant Writing, she landed her first nonprofit client in an informational interview. She ended up completing a funding strategy for the organization as her first paid gig.

“It really was like feeling my way through the dark. I think every step of the way it was like going to Meredith and the LGW community asking am I doing this right? Am I doing this right? Am I doing this right? I think we did it right when we got there,” said Julia-Grace.

Julia-Grace produced a fantastic funding strategy deliverable for her second client as well which helped land her a giant contract. While still working her journalism job, she developed a funding strategy for an out of state nonprofit. At the close of the project, the organization decided to hire her on to do all the work outlined in the funding strategy. Julia-Grace was offered a year-long, $22,000 contract!

Throughout the process, Julia-Grace battled imposter syndrome. The number one thing that helped her was knowing that the unicorns in the Global Grant Writers Collective were supporting her. She knew that if she couldn’t figure something out on her own, she could find the answer within the community.

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Landing a Full-Time Grant Writing Job

Right around the time Julia-Grace entered into negotiations for the $22,000 contract, she was offered a full-time job as a grant writer at her local county community health district, doubling her salary. She liked the idea of earning her chops on a salary and had been applying for multiple full-time positions. Once she landed that full-time job, she knew she wanted to focus on her new job due to the position’s steep learning curve.

“I ended up just being really upfront with the client that offered the $22,000 contract. I just said I had to take other work and I will work with you to find a replacement for me. And, they were really understanding,” said Julia-Grace.

Julia-Grace handed the baton off to another Unicorn to take over the grant writing contract. The beauty of community!

Proudest Moment as a Grant Writer

Julia-Grace has a new proudest moment nearly every step of her grant writing journey. Her most recent win came only two months into her new job, when she learned that she had won a $4 million grant for a health equity program.

The biggest impact of finishing the grant writing course within the Collective was the encouragement to step back and thoughtfully consider what she wanted, what she wanted her life to look like, and what was going to get her there.

“I think taking that step back really allowed me to decide what path was going to feel the best for my life,” said Julia-Grace.

Beyond that, Julia-Grace has benefited greatly from having an environment that promotes building a career that works with your life versus building your life around a career. Celebrating major milestones in this journey has been crucial for Julia-Grace too. When she was offered her full-time grant writing position, she celebrated with her husband who knew how hard she’d been working for this, going out for celebratory drinks, and celebrating with friends on a Zoom party.

In less than a year and in the middle of the pandemic, Julia-Grace pivoted her career. We are so excited for the impact she is having on her community!

How to Make a Career Change and Become a Grant Writer

If you are wondering about how to make a career change or how to become a grant writer, check out our free training on how to build a career in grant writing.

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About the author...

Alexis Swenson serves as Unicorn Coach and Content Director for Learn Grant Writing. The product of small-town northwestern Minnesota, she is a self-declared “old soul” and grounded free spirit. She has secured over $2.7 million in grant funding in her career. Alexis writes to help people learn, laugh, and not be so hard on themselves.

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