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Reinventing Oneself As a Grant Writer

 Reinventing Oneself As a Grant Writer
Katie struggled with substance use and had even been incarcerated. She decided to pay it forward by learning to write grants for her local Reentry Coalition. It turns out, that was only the beginning!

Funding Areas
Public Services

Kenai Peninsula, Alaska


You know when you watch a sad movie and don’t want anyone to see you tear up? Well, this story is like that. Grab a tissue and get ready to fist pump the air in excitement for Katie by the end.

Becoming A Grant Writing Unicorn

Virtually no one is unaffected by the opioid epidemic. At times it can make families feel helpless, not knowing how to help someone you love.

We thanked Katie for sharing her story so openly, so that she might inspire others to give grant writing a try. She said:

"I’m used to sharing it, and if it helps other people that’s really exciting. I struggled with substance use disorder, addiction, and incarceration... I was a train wreck. I got some help. I started volunteering with the Reentry Coalition, and I am now their Board Vice President! I had a couple people in my life that really supported me and thought I could do it. ...I feel like I can do a lot because I've been there, and I know what really truly doesn’t work and what people really truly need. That life experience aspect is helpful. It’s exciting. I really want reentry coalitions to be successful, and I want reentrants to be successful. I’m working pretty hard to try to make it happen."

To get started giving back to the Kenai Peninsula Reentry Coalition, Katie took a workshop with us and decided to join Grant Writing: From Start to Funded to pursue a $5,000 project idea.

Her First Grant Application

Only four weeks later, Katie was asked by the Coalition to write a $100,000 grant from the State of Alaska. Reasonable request, right? Yes, but the grant was due in just six days!

While we rarely recommend pursuing a grant at the last minute, we looked over the proposal requirements with Katie and encouraged her to go for it. At first glance it didn’t look like that tough of an application. It turns out, it was actually quite complex!

Katie said, “I honestly didn’t feel like I could do the grant I just dove into it... I had no real expectation I could do it myself, but I figured I would try.”

To get started, Katie said, “When I looked at the evaluation criteria, it was much easier to develop a (grant narrative) outline." Heck yeah! We teach preparing a grant narrative skeleton before all else in the course, and we're so happy she put that knowledge to use. (As an aside, you can learn the basics of this process in our free grant writing class here).

Letters of Support Miracle

While Katie put her head down to write the application, she forgot to coordinate collecting letters of support. An easy mistake to make when you’re doing all the work yourself on your first grant application ever! However, she couldn’t apply without them and still be competitive.

We have a unique way of teaching students how to gather quality letters of support. Katie followed this formula and despite being a last-minute request, it worked! Within 24 hours, she received a stack of quality, heart-felt letters of support that propelled the grant application to new heights.

Now, you don’t want to make a habit of requesting letters of support last minute! Katie was lucky that it worked out, but it was also because of the strong working relationships she had established prior to the grant deadline.

We recommend you get started developing a list of potential supporters now. Gather their contact information and aggregate it in one place. You can download our letter of support contact sheet template at this link as a starting point.

After getting the grant application submitted and catching up on sleep, she emailed saying:

“Your course has honestly changed my life, and I don't say that lightly. Before I started, I really didn't have any goals or plans for the future, but now I have this focus and drive to get where I want.”

Hired to Pursue Large Federal Grant Application

Thereafter, we were asked by the Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes to pursue a Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP) grant application. The COSSAP program is through the Department of Justice.

This project was out of our area of expertise, but we knew Katie could write a compelling, informed grant proposal. Our company, SenecaWorks, ended up hiring Katie to be the lead grant writer! It was her first, extremely complex federal grant application, and she absolutely nailed it.

We are still waiting to hear back on if the grant was successful or not, but we feel very good about the proposal.

From Aspiring Grant Writer to Professional

That means, Katie went from an aspirational grant writer, thinking her idea for a $5,000 grant was ambitious, to a professional grant writer in just four months. In that same time, she also took on her first consulting grant writing job.

She helped a local non-profit get backpacks funded for homeless youth with a $10,000 grant. Funny enough, a volunteer from that non-profit, also took our grant writing class, Grant Writing: From Start to Funded. She discovered that she didn’t want to become a grant writer, but she was now knowledgeable enough about grant writing to hire a grant writer intelligently.

That story is a demonstration of the power of the virtual community we have within the course. Powerful connections are made, whether that’s answering a quick question or finding someone to collaborate with.

Four months from zero to hundred is inspiring and possible for anyone. We hope Katie’s story inspires you to see the possibilities in your own career and life.

Grant Writing Unicorn Award 🦄

Continuously impressed by Katie’s work, we took her to dinner to give her a grant writing unicorn award! We found a porcelain unicorn at a thrift store and decorated her in stickers. (Watch the fantastic video of Katie unwrapping her gift at the top of this page.)

If you are curious about becoming a grant writing unicorn like Katie, check out our free grant writing class on the 7-steps to write winning grants.

Free Grant Writing Class

Learn the 7-steps to write a winning grant application and amplify the impact you have on your community.

Access Free Class
student taking free online grant writing course

When asked what Katie is most proud of, she said:

"Honestly, that I did it. My life a year ago, two years ago, I would have never thought that I would be here or that anyone would trust me to do it. It felt really good that the people who work with me, in fact the woman that did the prior applications, was my probation officer for a short period in time. It’s very awesome that these people show trust in me."

When asked what advice Katie would offer other grant writers, she said, "There are a lot of organizations that have resources, but they are not necessarily connecting well to those that need it... I encourage people to form a coalition or team that can work seamlessly and make those connections."

And to wrap it up, she says, “I actually have decided that I just want to be a grant writer. You get to learn all kinds of stuff!”

Katie, you are definitely a grant writer! Feel free to share any shout outs to Katie in the comments section below and we will share them with her.

Watch video to see if grant writing is a career for you
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Want To Learn More?

We made this video to answer your questions about how to build a career in grant writing without the fear of where you will find clients or the fear of failure. We cover the top three mistakes that keep people from making the leap from a soul-sucking job to something more meaningful.

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