Once upon a time I wrote grants as a nonprofit executive, requesting funding from foundations for projects I was leading, receiving grants, and doing my best to spend that money carefully.

Then I became a grant maker with the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Upon taking the job I immediately called the executive director of a foundation that had funded a project that I was about to complete. I wanted him to know about my move before he heard it on the street. His first words were, “Welcome to the other side of the desk.”

I liked that new side of the desk. Grant making and working at the Murdock Trust was a wonderful experience. They do so many things well, do so much good in our region, and taught me so many important skills. To this day, when I engage with an organization as a consultant I automatically put on my grant proposal analysis glasses. I value the ability to bring a measure of healthy organizational analysis to the table.

But now that I am no longer grant making, I’ve found myself doing some grant writing for others. First I did so as an interim executive director, and now as a consultant. I did not hang out my shingle as a grant writer, nor do I intend to. But I’ve written about 10 proposals, with all of them funded or pending. I’ve also coached several organizations on their proposals as well. Because some of these were to the Murdock Trust, I checked in with my old boss. He liked the idea of my taking on some of this work, and the fact that some of those proposals will end up on his desk. But we both understand that any proposal will involve the rigor of Murdock’s program staff and trustee analysis. A proposal must stand on its own two feet.

This has led me to some thinking about grant writing, which will be the subject of the next several blogs. Grant making vs. grant writing is where I begin today. Then we will also look at three more pairs: fit and non-fit in terms of a foundation, the organization and the project that are fundamental to a grant proposal, and the art and science of grant writing. Stay tuned.

If you would like to get a better handle on governance, I simply offer a shameless plug for my book, Board Essentials: 12 Best Practices of Board Governance. A friend who chairs both a corporate and a nonprofit board suggests it as a great primer.

Board Essentials Book

And for more information visit

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About Dave Coleman

Dave Coleman Principal / Consultant Phone: 253-237-4118 After many years of nonprofit leadership and the privilege of getting to know hundreds of organizations through my work with the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, I am pleased to offer my services to you at BoardTrek Nonprofit Consulting. Our small Pacific Northwest based company is focused on helping guide nonprofit organizations and their leaders into the future by offering our services in board governance, strategic planning, leadership development and organizational change. Always feel free to contact me with your thoughts and questions.
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