Carolyn Appleton's Reviews > You Have a Hammer: Building Grant Proposals for Social Change

You Have a Hammer by Barbara Floersch
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it was amazing

My foray into the field of grant writing began with a week-long grant writing course hosted by The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s. It remains one of the most memorable and genuinely helpful activities I have ever undertaken. Barbara Floersch served for many years as Chief of Training and Curriculum for The Grantsmanship Center. She developed educational programs and trained many nonprofit staff members like me from across the United States and internationally.

"You Have a Hammer" is a book both new grant writers and seasoned ones will enjoy and learn from. As someone long in the field, I find the pressure to "get the money" often pushes grant professionals to act quickly out of necessity and to move on exhaustingly without considering the big picture and importance of the respected craft of, "grantsmanship." While reading the book, I kept thinking it should be required reading for every nonprofit executive director and board member with whom I have worked. For me, this book is about R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha Franklin once sang, both for grant professionals and for funders.

Grantmakers and nonprofits need one another. Barbara remarks, "each funder has a mission - a purpose that motivates and defines its work. And just like other nonprofits, different funders focus on different issues. But as diverse as they are, grantmakers have one thing in common. They use grants as tools to accomplish their mission." This sets the stage for the preparation of appropriate and well-tailored proposals that lead to what she calls, "righteous asks": those grounded in a community need that is "well aligned with the funder’s mission and put forth by a well-respected nonprofit in pursuit of impact rather than dollars."

I appreciated Barbara's observation, "The sad fact is that many nonprofits are guilty of chasing dollars. Faced with an urgent and continuous need for cash, seeking grants easily devolves into a money-grabbing frenzy. I have met thousands of nonprofit staff members who are instructed by administrators to shake every tree that could possibly throw out a grant dollar." #BeenThere

Barbara discusses the need for different forms of nonprofit income, and that "grants" are not necessarily the answer to every financial need. She also sheds light on the role of grant professionals in project planning, how one should argue for change rather than "activities," and for sustaining impact rather than "programs," per se. The critical role played by data is discussed in detail (I liked the phrase, "taking the driver's seat with data"), as are project evaluation, teamwork and collaboration (internal and external), and recognizing and dealing with, "hot spots where ethics are most likely to be violated."

Barbara shares some inspiration when she notes grant professionals are more than fillers of forms. "You are activists bringing your passions and skills to the battles you choose. You are tough, your work is honorable, and your causes are noble." I commend the book to you highly.

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Reading Progress

January 20, 2021 – Started Reading
January 20, 2021 – Shelved
January 20, 2021 – Finished Reading

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