By Patrick Belmonte Co-Founder
Caveat: lots of sarcasm included
For the last few years, Lauren and I have been taking on grant writing for Change is Simple as a couple. And honestly I have been quoted saying, "If we get a divorce, you can bank on it happening during the blows of a heated grant writing battle, likely happening at 2am at our kitchen table the night before it’s due". Writing grants has a LONG learning curve, can be exhausting, and can feel like a tremendous waste of time because you throw hundreds of hours into a proposal and it can be denied for some reason you may never know.
In the 5 years of this venture, nothing has proven to be more deflating and curse word inducing than finding a very thin letter in our mailbox from a foundation. They all say the same thing: "We receive many more applications than we are able to fund, therefore we regret to inform you..." (Insert expletive here)
These grants are nothing short of an in-depth business plan: they ask for blood, and if you can't produce, then don't bother applying.
What's funny to see is that our strengths and weaknesses in the grant writing process are similar to those that we bring into our marriage. For example, Lauren has an incredible eye for the finer things when it comes to cultivating a solid piece of writing. She can take a concept and bring it to life eloquently with all the aspects that would keep a reader intrigued.
The same process can be seen in the way she might handle a dinner party. Picture this: hand-folded cloth napkins, candles, a bottle of red wine breathing on the counter...Through making a pizza, homemade of course, she transforms a casual party into a night at a Sicilian brick oven pizzeria.
Where things fall apart for her is when she runs out of time because she is trying to fold the napkins into origami swans and wants each person to go home with a hand-made party favor. Lauren will dot each i and cross each t, and tweak every paragraph until my head is about to explode. This is about the time divorce lawyers loom around our house like vultures stalking an injured calf in the desert.
I, on the other hand, am perfect. Kidding. I tend to be a strategy, big picture guy. I like to throw out ideas and solve problems with the applications. I tend to know what will please the crowd and what the foundations want to know about us. Funders ask questions that are nearly impossible to answer but you need to come up with something. This is where I tend to pull something out of my...head that tends to work well. (But forget the grammar and punctuation-disastrous! If I submit a grant application or even send an email blast with a spelling/grammatical error, you can bet she will be breathing enough fire to cook that pizza.)
It’s sort of like that dinner party, when we realize we don't have any tomato sauce for our pizza. I stare into the fridge and somehow my brain pulls together ingredients that concoct a pretty badass olive, garlic, parmesan, blanco sauce. I might forget to put the timer on the stove (Lauren will catch it just before it burns), pour people's wine into ball jars, and forget to light the candles, but the pizza will be loved.
All of this-the frustration, the strengths, the weaknesses, the pitfalls-are just proof that a good team is made up of diverse players. No matter what your team, whether a marriage, a business partnership, or a family, everyone contributes in ways that are important to the overall greater good.
Here's to another round of grants all submitted in the month of May (and no divorce) with the help of a few wonderful people, Susan Richman, Catherine Barrett and Melissa Kintish. Many thanks!
PS: Lauren proofread this before we made it public.
UPDATE (15 minutes after our post):: Literally, as soon as we posted it, we picked up our mail only to find a DENIAL letter from a foundation! So much for our internship coordinator position. .