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Zen and the Art of Grant Applications

I just sent off my first grant application! And I learned something very important in the process.

Well, it was technically an award application, but if I receive it, I’ll get $5,000 for The Great Exchange. I discovered the award within one day of the deadline, so the process of writing it was a five-hour, 11-page, mind like water experience of trying to reiterate my passion over and over in meaningful ways.

As I send off my heart, categorized and packaged into a strange, evaluator-friendly format, I’m a little surprised that I’m utterly empty of expectations. Of course I’d love to secure the first small chunk of The Great Exchange’s budget. Of course I would. But I’m simply not expecting to receive this grant, nor am I expecting not to.

I’m just happy that in a couple months, I won’t have to wonder about what would have happened, had I only submitted this application. I hate “what-if’s.” I hate them so much that every time I go to my favorite restaurant in Austin I try a new dish, despite knowing exactly what my favorite dish is.

Today, after this submission, more than feeling excited or nervous or hopeful, I feel content. I suppose you could call it the sheer enjoyment of eliminating a “what if.”

I’m glad I arrived at this feeling naturally, because it seems like a fairly profound way to avoid becoming defeated. I think the process of applying for grants will be much easier when I see each grant not as a make-it-or-break-it means to an end, but as another “what if” put to bed.

100 grants won or lost won’t be 100 grants won or lost; they’re just 100 ways in which I won’t have to wonder anymore.


4 responses »

  1. I think you should see this:

    I just happen to stumble onto it and it made me think of you and the Great Exchange!

  2. I wish you the best of luck, but don’t get your hopes up. It is VERY hard to receive a grant to cover start-up costs (usually referred to as seed grants). Grantmakers consider their awards an investment of sorts. Basically, you need to show the grantmaker that your organization is financially sound, and has other sources of revenue. Lots of nonprofits close their doors because they are under a misguided impression that if you have 501(c)(3) status, you can survive off grant funding alone. Not a chance. The worst part: getting that first grant award is the hardest. Once a grantmaker has seen that you have been awarded grants in the past, they are more likely to award them to your organization. That drives me nuts…

    When you are a little more established, I’ll help you get that grant funding…

    • Oh, I definitely understand. My title was misleading…The Great Exchange is in no place to start applying for GRANT-grants yet. The award I was referring to is here: (side note: I spent two years working for Americorps at two separate nonprofits before moving to Austin).

      I think it would be an amazing opportunity to connect up with other social entrepreneurs, and the $5000 for The Great Exchange certainly wouldn’t hurt!


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