December 1, 2009

The ABCs of The Grant Plant as We Crest $10 Million in Funding

As 2009 comes to a close, I am reflecting on the journey that is entrepreneurship… and am thrilled to tell you that among the many changes we’ve seen this year that proposals we’ve written have now topped $10 million in funding!

In October, I accompanied my son’s class on a fieldtrip to the pumpkin patch. On our way home, I checked my blackberry and had received a great email – a challenge grant that The Grant Plant (fondly referred to in-house as Team TGP) had written was funded. This in itself was exciting, but we had been on pins and needles just waiting to pass the $10 million mark. With this $250,000 award, we made it!

I cried from Moriarty to Albuquerque.

It’s embarrassing to say I was crying because of a grant award. It’s incomplete to say that I was crying just for the grant award. And it’s an understatement to say I was crying because I am so grateful to our clients.

All of these emotions caught up with me as I realized what this milestone represents for The Grant Plant and for me personally. There is no greater privilege than to be part of the work being done around New Mexico. I am the first to applaud the work of our resourceful and strategic neighbors and the last to become jaded. I believe in New Mexicans with all of my heart. I have often said TGP is another “child” of mine—when it wakes me up at night because it’s sick, when it learns to ride a bike or achieves some other such goal, when I’m surprised it still hangs out with me after seven years—I can’t help but love it. And when so many people are interested in it, handing out my business card is like bequeathing a person with a wallet-sized photo of my kid’s school picture.

It’s been quite a journey over the past seven years. Externally, there’s the constantly shifting grant seeking field as a whole and the recent unraveling of the economy; internally we’ve added six team members to our original two-person office and “grown up” into a corporation with an office space of our own. Through all of this, it has been the nonprofit sector that has buoyed us—and the state—through various periods of upheaval. The Grant Plant’s growth over the past seven years makes me so grateful.

We—my sister and I—blindly stepped out as a business in early 2003. Along the way we’ve learned a lot… and that’s what I hope to share with you today. In alphabetical order, here’s what I’ve learned over the past seven years… the “ABC’s of The Grant Plant.”

A) Always say thank you.

B) Burnout is a constant threat… treat it carefully. It is a tough lesson.

C) Curiosity fuels the narrative. Ask “why?” to create a great case statement.

D) Don’t be afraid of taking risks or trying new things.

E) Editing is key. We never ever send out anything without an editing round. This article included.

F) Federal grant applications take 1.25 times the “burden” suggested by the Paperwork Reduction Act.

G) Grant writing is a “scientific art:” Technical writing plus storytelling.

H) Home offices are a blessing and a curse.

I) Iff is my favorite mathematical term (if and only if). Iff we get paid on commission is the most frequently asked question we’re asked.

J) Join forces—proposals we submit that have a formal collaboration in place have a much higher rate of being funded.

K) Keep it in perspective.

L) Look for funding in your own backyard first.

M) Money attracts more money.

N) New Mexicans are resourceful and passionate about their work—don’t change!

O) Only hire people who are smarter than you.

P) Policy is an emerging theme you can’t afford to overlook.

Q) Question your founder, your staff, your volunteers, and especially your clients to strengthen your storytelling.

R) Rejection can make you better by showing you what needs work—whether it’s your program design, evaluation, presentation, or your budget. Use it to your advantage.

S) Shine a light on the positive.

T) To plant today is to believe in tomorrow. This is our tagline and I love it just as much today as I did when we first chose it.

U) Understanding and compassion go a long way… they are also the easiest things to overlook… and then the most recognizable when they reappear.

V) Value is emphasized by funders: What’s your cost per client? How will you market their grant award? Can your program be replicated in other areas?

W) Writing is just a smidgeon of grant-seeking. Don’t forget the importance of the budget in the review process.

X) Xeroxing is so 2008. Check out FedEx’s print online option. You can submit a grant proposal anywhere in the nation with a four hour lead time (upload, print, deliver, confirm).

Y) You. Don’t get lost in it. Take some time for yourself, your family, your sense of peace.

Z) Zones are important. Know your comfort and danger zones to make sure you can deliver on the grants you get!

Thank you for being part of The Grant Plant’s history. We are really looking forward to our future! I hope it holds another $10 million and another round of happy tears.

Contact: Tara Gohr, President/CEO,

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