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How I Became a Grant Writer

grant writingTemping Gave Me My Grant Writing Start

The temp agency sent me to assist a professional association director with correspondence. Across the way, two women—a dietitian and a psychologist, I later learned—were unpacking large suitcases full of printed materials into a little office with a couple of desks. They were hired to travel around the country and conduct workshops under a government contract. I helped them for the next two years, at the end of which the government said it was one of its most successful training contracts.

One day while my two bosses were on the road the executive director came to me and asked if I would look at a couple of forms. Apparently, one of their educators had applied for and received a grant but didn’t know how to fill out the paperwork to get the money to which the nonprofit was entitled. I took a stab at it, got a couple of checks back, and the rest is history.

Emboldened by their successes, the executive director created a department of grants and contracts. Under the tutelage of a very smart man and with the assistance of a secretary, I learned to write successful government grant and contract proposals.

Temping Worked Again in a New City

Fast forward a number of years, during which I had transitioned to other writing-related positions within that nonprofit, ending up as a director, then quitting my well-paying job to move to a friendlier climate. Starting over in a new city, and after a few temp computer-related jobs, I was hired to write grant proposals once again, this time for a small medical device company. After a few years, I’d risen to director, supervising a handful of writers and interns, before moving to a similar position at another nonprofit.

My Last Full-time Position Used All My Skills

Wooed away by an acupuncturist after just a year there, I began working as a writer under another government contract. When the contract ended in two years, I was the only contract staffer able to transition to a permanent position, thanks to my lobbying abilities honed at that first nonprofit and the help of my “rabbi,” someone who appreciated my proposal writing (and who still uses my freelance skills). Five years later, I was able to retire from this large company, having attained senior proposal manager status, which meant that I was able to supervise a virtual team of up to 60 people to obtain contracts in the $100-million-plus range.

Freelancing Today

Now, I’m a happy freelancer, writing proposals for both grants and contracts. I have also written successful book proposals to editors and business proposals to funders. In my spare time, I write pro bono grant proposals for a local nonprofit.

For those interested in this type of persuasive writing, I would highly recommend training from The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles; its trainers conduct workshops around the country. Those of you who work in nonprofits will also make valuable connections at this training—I’m still in touch with fellow trainees today.


Michele Mathieu Grant WriterPlease send me an invitation to connect with me on LinkedIn. Below are excerpts from what you will read first when you connect:

I’m a persuasive writer who has worn many hats in her professional career–writer, researcher, manager, marketer, trainer, strategist. … As a writer-manager of grant and contract proposals, my win rate—both for freelance clients and for my immediate past employer—averages 75 percent. … How can I be so successful, especially in this competitive environment? Here are some answers:

  • I put myself in the customer’s shoes.
  • I firmly believe that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and I treat my teams accordingly.
  • I am nothing if not persistent.
  • I don’t care who gets the credit as long as we win.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Blasto Pala

    Great article. I have some samples and can gain from the leads if you are interested. I have been reading Anne Wayman’s blog for almost a year now.

    • Blasto, I don’t read samples, but thanks anyway. Glad you’ve been reading awhile. Thanks.

  • Great article. I sent a LinkedIn connection invitation to Michele.

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