For Jess Stack, the transition from teaching to grant writing was extremely intuitive. A mere six months into her grant writing journey, Jess has built a grant writing business, has five clients, and won a $300,000 grant! Best of all, Jess’s schedule is no longer regimented out, but more fully integrated with her passions.
Environment, Education, Arts
A Natural Career Change For a Teacher
As an elementary school teacher and mom, Jess was more than familiar with the need for grant funding to be able to
carry out important programs. She was often on the backend side of receiving grants and managing the funding
appropriately. While Jess was excited about the creativity of the grants and being part of the process, she wasn’t
in the role of grant writer.
While at home during the height of the pandemic, Jess did some serious soul searching. “I wondered if I should come back to the classroom or figure out a way to homeschool my kids. I fell into this wonderful community after I saw one of your great videos on YouTube. And I said, ‘Hey, I can do that’,” Jess said.
Making the transition from teaching to grant writing was very logical for Jess. She was able to take her educator-like pragmatic, solutions-oriented approach to her grant writing work. “As grant writers, we're trying to find the perfect match for the need. It's a wonderful way of matchmaking and educators are very used to that,” Jess said.
Perks of Becoming a Grant Writing Consultant
Working as a grant writing freelancer allows Jess the freedom to carry out her days as she pleases. From the
flexibility of choosing who to work for, what projects to work on, and when to work on them, Jess is able to
cohesively integrate her entire schedule. Instead of clocking in to work everyday and engaging in a regimented
schedule, Jess is thriving with her newfound adaptability.
“It really has transformed my life because it enables me to take my different interests, put them all together, and make these passions come to life. My daily work has become so organic and natural. I don’t need to push myself or motivate myself to get up anymore,” Jess said. “I’m excited to wake up in the morning!”
In addition to writing grants, Jess has also had the opportunity to serve on a grant review panel for a local arts organization. The experience helped clarify her writing and prompted her to be more assessment and rubric driven to ensure she’s clearly answering the grant application questions.
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Developing a Program & Winning a $300,000 Grant
Jess has had many small and big successes warranting celebration along the way, including winning a highly
competitive $300,000 federal grant only months after becoming a grant writing unicorn.
The client needed a kitchen renovation, but Jess went a step further to leverage more ideas and obstacles to create an innovative solution - a solution that would attract more funding opportunities and serve the community more robustly. As a self-proclaimed foodie, Jess pitched a farm to table concept with a culinary weekend where local chefs are invited to look, eat, drink, and enjoy the land. This new take on the client’s needs would fund a kitchen, garden, and necessary staff.
“It wasn't just that we were going to renovate this kitchen, but that we are going to make this a program that brings our community together in a time when togetherness is really needed. Food really matters,” said Jess. “The participant gets to take home not only the program, ideas, and knowledge, but also an actual seed that they can plant in their own home gardens. It's really evolved and I’m so proud of this whole program.”
Learn Grant Writing Review
Jess is proud of the accomplishment of founding and growing a legitimate business within six months of joining the
Grant Writing Unicorn Collective.
“Meredith said you can just hit the ground running and you really can,” Jess said. “I totally binge-watched all of
the content and started informational interviews right away with schools that I was connected with. Through the
interview process you teach, I was able to transform those relationships into paying clients.”
Jess has also greatly appreciated how being part of the Collective has helped her to reframe limiting beliefs. She now sees obstacles as creative opportunities to seek new collaborators and ways of thinking.
“When we think outside of the box we can create so much value in relationships and in actual dollar amounts. The Collective hits the nail in so many different ways with this opening up of possibilities to capture what is needed for these organizations,” Jess said.
With her background in education, Jess was accustomed to being told how much her work is worth and not setting her own value. Completing the program has helped Jess immensely with recognizing the value of her work (more than she thought initially!).
“You can read all these books about the technical skills of grant writing and do all these different professional development courses, but truly that inner growth of personal development is so key. It helps you to feel good, make things happen, get the ball rolling. The Collective is so holistic in that sense where you are developing this grant writing unicorn from the inside out,” Jess said.
“The community is really awesome and solid. It's been a great way to have the sense of coworkers: people who have very similar interests and who want to do good in the world. We can do it together. It's just very inspiring,” Jess said.
Thank you, Jess, for bringing so much magic and light into this world—we can’t wait to see it spread in your grant writing journey!
If you’d like to become a grant writing unicorn, 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.
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.