Capacity Building Through Grant Coaching



A couple of months ago, I let you know that I had space in my calendar for a new client and I had a really interesting project turn up that I wanted to tell you about.

I got a call from a lovely lady, let’s call her Shana, who works in a low income community that often ranks the lowest in the state for many health indicators. The community has a remarkably strong history of collaboration and as a result there is an active and strong coalition of non-profits who are working together to improve the health and well-being of the community.  They have great programs, trusting relationships, vision and passion. They have won a couple of large foundation grants but have scored a couple of points shy of the cut-off on several key government grants.

Shana was frustrated and knew that will some assistance they could tweak some things in their grant development and win the grant funding the community needs. She came up with the innovative idea of asking her local Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation for a $5,000 capacity building grant to hire a Grant Coach. Now, $5000 doesn’t go very far when you are working on large federal grants, so the goal of the BCBS grant was not to hire a grant writer but to hire someone with both grant development and coaching skills to guide the coalition to a higher level of performance.

I was lucky enough to be chosen to work with this team and I can see that there a few simple things that they can do to improve their grant development and writing processes. This grant has also acted as a catalyst to stimulate important discussions about collective vision, mission, processes, and priorities. Key leaders in the community have agreed to come together monthly (and bi-weekly in the beginning) over 9 months and each dedicate 30-40 hours to improving their grant development approach because they can see that a large grant is in reach and will make a big difference in their community.

We are at the beginning of the process but I am really impressed by how this grant is really catalyzing the community to improve their capacity. BCBS also recently said to Shana that it was a creative and innovative use of small grant and they are intrigued to hear about the results.

Shana said that I could share this idea with you because it might be a model that you can replicate in your community.

Wishing you a beautiful early winter.


Morning Poem


Every morning

the world

is created.

Under the orange

sticks of the sun

the heaped

ashes of the night

turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches —

and the ponds appear

like black cloth

on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.

If it is your nature

to be happy

you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination

alighting everywhere.

And if your spirit

carries within it

the thorn

that is heavier than lead —

if it’s all you can do

to keep on trudging —

there is still

somewhere deep within you

a beast shouting that the earth

is exactly what it wanted —

each pond with its blazing lilies

is a prayer heard and answered


every morning,

whether or not

you have ever dared to be happy,

whether or not

you have ever dared to pray.

from Dream Work (1986) by Mary Oliver

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