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Excerpt from "Grant Writing Revealed: 25 Experts Share Their Art, Science & Secrets"

The Art of Grant Writing

by Jana Jane Hexter

The art is in the attention to which his or her audience reads her grants — like how an audience watches a play.

Jonathan Bank

Grant development is both an art and a skill. The skill lies in learning, practicing, and eventually internalizing the elements described in this book. But there is also artistry.

Just like love flourishes more easily when there are strong boundaries in place, grant artistry emerges when the fundamental skills structure is in place. In love, the stronger the bonds of trust the more secure the boundaries containing the relationship become, the more our loving, vulnerable, compassionate self can show up without threat.

And likewise, when you have mastered the 23 elements of grant development already covered in this book, the basic structure is intact, and there is space for synchronicity and the magical 24th element to emerge.

What do I mean by artistry? Every top grant developer knows the sheer joy of being in flow when you look at the clock and realize that you’ve been writing for five hours when it feels like five minutes. Or, the meeting where you just know that you’ve hit on the right idea or just recruited the right person to complete the team.

It is a space imbibed with ease, power, and clarity in which words effortlessly flow through you onto the page or into the meeting. Of course, those times are precious, but they are the moments that we live for.

The incredibly frustrating thing about being a writer is that it’s nigh impossible to force the flow state into existence. We all know that it strikes when it strikes and not until it’s ready. For me, it often happens when I’m dis-tracted and taking a break such as walking my dog or taking a shower.

I think that grant developers have an advantage over others who have less intense deadlines. Since grant development is by necessity, intensely focused work, it forces a level of absorption that often triggers these moments of inspiration.

But, as I found when writing this book, when there is no pressure of a deadline it is tempting to sit around, muse and wait for inspiration to strike and then cry in frustration when it does not. So, grant deadlines, like almost everything else, are a mixed blessing.

But I think there is another level of artistry that we don’t talk about.

But since this book is intended to expand the conversation about gifts in our field, I will share that my two strongest gifts are that of writer and medium. So, I will take another leap and talk about the role that my psychic gifts play in my work to good effect.

We have long been told that there is the physical world and the spiritual realms. But it is my belief that everything we see is the living embodiment of spirit—including grant developers.

We have all experienced the power of synchronicity—knowing who is calling on the phone or having a long lost friend call hours after you have been thinking about her.

I believe that everyone has the capacity to connect to the eternal one to some extent. For me, the connection seems to be stronger and more easily accessed than for other people and becomes stronger the older I get, as I believe is the case for many women.

It is my experience that we communicate energetically at sub-atomic levels through our thoughts and feelings. It is as if we are walking radio transmitters and receivers. Scientists tell us that the left brain is the rational and logical and the right brain is creative and intuitive. And by intuitive we mean connected to the spiritual realms.

Some people argue that it is our right brain that is communicating with the eternal one. I’m content to let the research scientists continue that investigation and I’ll read the results with interest.

But, what I know from personal experience is how tapping into our unseen interconnectedness can have practical everyday benefits for grant developers. Here are a couple of examples.

I was hired to work on a project with a large organization’s senior leadership. I was a little nervous about the project and so before our first meeting, I meditated and my guidance told me that the project was about creating a place of safety for the community that didn’t exist. It didn’t make too much sense given the type of project that it was so I took it with a grain of salt.

A few hours later, I turned up to the meeting and sat next to the CEO. Half an hour into the meeting she turned to me and said “Jane, do you know what this project is about? It’s really about creating a place of safety for our community that doesn’t currently exist.” I was floored but I also knew that it was a deep vein of truth and my job was to portray it in a way that clearly resonated. I did exactly that and the $8 million project was ultimately funded.

A year later, an Executive Director whom I admire called me and said the State had released an RFP that they were in a really good position to win and it was due in 10 days, would I help? As much as I loved the organization, I am no fool so I gave him a point blank, no.

However, he happens to be born charmer and visionary and he explained that he would focus his entire team’s energy on the project, I would have access to everything that I needed, that they could even draft some of the sections, and they just needed my expertise to put it all together. Then he told me what it was for and how well positioned they were to win. Softened, I agreed.

It was one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my career. As promised, their entire team pulled together to help me and the ED called me each evening to cheer me on and see what I needed.

Regardless, it’s still nigh impossible to put together a state grant in 10 days, but everything fell into place. Ordinarily I would spend a week working on a needs statement—in this instance I had one day. When I sat down at the computer to start the research, within half an hour I found a newly released scholarly study that was exactly what we needed to support our case. The entire project flowed like that.

One thing after another fell into place. I knew that it would get funded and it did, for $4 million. Indeed we were the highest scoring project in the field. That project was clearly aligned with the higher good and fell into place accordingly when our team tuned into that.

The worst experience of my career was something else entirely and came just a few weeks later. I was hired to work with a large coalition to submit a massive federal proposal. The team was very nice and competent, and I had no doubt it could be done in the time that we had. We had lots of meetings but nothing seemed to go right.

It was just one thing after another. We switched approaches midway through, people disappeared on vacation without telling me, including the person who hired me (lesson learned: ask about vacation schedules at the beginning of projects), and even my computer died three days before submission.

The process was like pulling teeth and I was miserable. When we finally submitted the proposal, the person who hired me told me that he hadn’t really wanted to do the project but his agency had the funding to hire me and other people had talked him into doing it.

Needless to say, it didn’t get funded and I’m glad. I can’t believe that the team would have worked together any more effectively with a few million dollars in their pocket than they did during the development process.

Coincidentally, I worked on these two projects within weeks of one another so I could see that it was not likely that I was the determining factor in how the projects had gone.

Those two experiences were in such stark contrast that it led me into years of intensive soul searching about what I do and how I do it.

I have come to believe that projects have their own energetic integrity and when we honor that our work flows. I also know that grant developers can be channels for manifesting our collective consciousness.

In hindsight, I realize that for decades I have been using my psychic senses in grant development without being conscious of it.

For the last few years, I have been building and refining my mediumship skills and I now consciously use them during grant development. Sometimes, it is in subtle ways in what occurs to me as deep listening to my team. At other times, I actively seek guidance from the ethereal.

I do not believe that I am alone in relating to our work in this way, it’s just that many of us do it unconsciously or choose to keep it quiet.

In these two quotes, I can hear that Alice and Marilyn are instinctively tapping into what will connect reviewer and grantee and the energy surrounding a project.

I think the artistry is in making the reviewer feel your pain or your enthusiasm. If you can make a reviewer tear up you have done your job. If you can make a reviewer feel compelled to really advocate and get it funded, you have done your job. There is an art in writing a proposal that is authentic, sincere and compelling. - Alice Boyd

You need truth and heart. Truth is speaking plainly, clearly, and directly about the ideas and strive for those qualities. Heart is trying to make sure that the energy I have cultivated through intensive planning process. It’s knowing their goals and vision so that when I write about it that energy comes through in the writing. The difference is that one sings and another just sits on the page. - Marilyn Zlotnik

My daily practice is to begin the day with an hour of meditation. I started out with just 10 minutes but quickly saw that when I take the time to center myself, I am exponentially more productive than when I let myself be pulled in five directions. So, over time I’ve increased the length and depth of my mediation and not only I am more productive but things just seem to fall into place —the right piece of data shows up, someone helps out and does something in half an hour that would have taken me three, etc.

I hope that this chapter will resonate with some people and stimulate discussion about the intersection of the physical and spiritual in our professional field.

Jana Jane Hexter, GPC, President of Grants Champion, has written well over 150 successful proposals and raised more than $28 million for her clients in the last few years alone. Her clients include school districts, higher education institutions, and human service agencies throughout the U.S. Born and raised in England, she graduated from Cornell University where she was a Ford Foundation Clusters Scholar. She is a captivating teacher. She has spoken at the Grant Professionals Association and AFP National Conferences. Her “Presentation on Presentation” at the National GPA conference was given the highest ranking by conference attendees. She taught grant writing at New York University’s George H. Heyman Jr. Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising.She served on the National Board of Grant Professionals Association and is a former chapter board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Finger Lakes. She also served as a Subject Matter Expert for the Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI) to develop the Grant Professionals Certificate exam. In addition, she has served on peer review panels for New York State and the United States Department of Education. Jana is also a medium and channels with the spirit world. She leads spiritual circles as another form of healing work. She is exploring ways of integrating her vocational and spiritual gifts. She lives in Ithaca, NY, and loves to hike in the beautiful state parks near her home and swim in the lakes during summer, and whiz down ski slopes a little too fast in winter. Best of all, she likes to hang out with her two kids and black lab—a little dark chocolate and purpose-filled work makes it all the sweeter. You may contact her through www.grantschampion.com

Purchase info: Available on a gift basis at www.grantwritingrevealed.com or for purchase at

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