What Are You Putting in Your Mailbox?


Last Thanksgiving a drunk driver slammed into my mailbox, knocked it off its post, and left it pummeled and dented on the ground. My neighbor’s box was knocked off its post too. Of course, I was ticked off and took a moment to vent….and then I ordered a new mailbox.

The thought of installing it was a bit daunting because I’m not that handy. But, the instructions said it was easy so I figured I’d give it a shot. I waited for a mild winter’s day and set out there with my new mailbox and a few tools.

As I was working my neighbor came out and asked if I could help her with her mailbox. She soon realized that I was as clueless as her. But she ran back in her house and bought out her heavy duty drill. Pretty soon we were having loads of fun figuring out just how the heck mailboxes were affixed to posts and getting to know each other.

My neighbor runs a bed and breakfast and is an aesthete. While I was tackling the screws she said, “You know, I’ve got some hangers in my basement, we could hang them off the posts for packages” and off she ran back into her house to get them. Then we realized that they would make great plant hangers and so we hung a couple off the nearby utility pole.

An hour after we started, we had two resurrected mailboxes, a new friendship, and a place for some pretty flowers come springtime.

Beauty Realized

As I walked back into the house, I was buoyed up and thought about what this had to teach me about grant writing (as I am wont to do J).

When we’re working on grants we are often focused on getting the job done, nails in the right place, box squarely lined up – or write information in the right spot, budget that adds up etc.

But, it’s just as important that we focus on beauty – both in the creation and the outcome. Beauty is undervalued in our culture but makes a big difference when it is present.

There are a few different faces of beauty to incorporate into grant writing.

Being Beautiful


It’s just a whole lot more rewarding when we focus on doing something beautifully.  To me, that means treating myself and others tenderly throughout the process even with a big deadline looming overhead. It means remembering to treat a colleague well, having a giggle, treating myself to a few pieces of chocolate, or taking a nice bath at the end of a busy day.

All of these things are nourishing to the heart and soul — and nourished hearts and souls write lyrically in a way that captures attention in our harried world.

Creating Beauty


With the pressure of deadlines, we are usually fixated on tasks and rarely take the time to step back and think about how we create an object of beauty.

When a program officer is plowing through a pile of hundreds of proposals ‘til late at night, think about the impact of seeing one that is beautifully presented.  A proposal that includes a stunning photo, a heart-warming (and relevant) poem, or is printed on high-quality stock is a rare thing in our business and stands out in the crowd. Capturing attention is truly critical in grant seeking.

So, don’t dismiss the power of taking some time to stand back and question, how can I make this proposal beautiful?

Transmitting Beauty


I know several people who aren’t physically beautiful but they radiate beauty nonetheless through their peacefulness and warmth. I’m sure you know people too who confirm that beauty often radiates from within.

The same goes for grant proposals.

Great writing has a certain quality to it that is hard to distinguish but you know when it’s there. A good proposal tells a good story and clearly gives you the facts. A great grant proposal touches you deep down and leaves you caring about the outcome and rooting for its success. It begins with beautiful thoughts. Beautiful thoughts about what you propose doing, the people you are working with, and about the funder who will help it all materialize.

Next time you are writing a grant proposal, try this.

Take a seat, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths down to your belly. Let your body rest and relax. Now, bring to mind the project that you are working on. Envision it unfolding beautifully. What does that look like?  Take your time, there is no rush, just let your imagination run with it. Now, turn your attention to the funder. How can you transmit this vision to them beautifully? Don’t dismiss your ideas, just let them bubble up.

Let me know how it goes and what ways you find to make your grant writing more beautiful.

Wait for beauty to bloom

By the way, the photo above is of my neighbor Lori and I. This Spring, Lori hung an empty planter on one of the hangers, I filled them with flowers and hung them back up, she then left a watering can by the flowers, and when the deer began to eat them she sprayed them (with room freshener – it works) so they could flourish. It was another lesson in the beauty of collaboration  – but that’s a whole other article.

What are you putting in your mailbox?

So, the next time you are working on a grant consider focusing on doing it beautifully. What does it mean for you to do the tasks that you’re engaged in beautifully? How can you create something beautiful? How can you express your loving commitment to your mission and respect for the funder beautifully? And commit to putting something beautiful in the mailbox that will flourish and bloom in a few months time.


Drawing by Leah Pearlman of Dharma Comics, part of the gift economy


A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing

A flowery band to bind us to the earth,

Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth

Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,

Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways

Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,

Some shape of beauty moves away the pall

From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,

Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon

For simple sheep; and such are daffodils

With the green world they live in; and clear rills

That for themselves a cooling covert make

‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,

Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:

And such too is the grandeur of the dooms

We have imagined for the mighty dead;

All lovely tales that we have heard or read:

An endless fountain of immortal drink,

Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

John Keats

Upcoming Workshops

I will be offering 3 workshops in Rochester, NY on developing government grants in October.

On Wednesday, October 23rd, I’m teaching two half-day sessions for people with some experience of government grants. They are both designed to give fresh ideas and new information.

  • The morning session is called “How to Prepare Government Proposals Without Stress” and gives people some tools and strategies to have the process go more smoothly and efficiently.
  • The afternoon session is called “How to Write Government Grants that Win: Beyond the Basics” and in that I’ll share what I’ve learned during my years in the field about how to write and present a proposal that stands out above the crowd.

On Thursday, October 24th, I’m teaching a full-day session “Introduction to Government Grants” for people who are unfamiliar with government grant funding and want to get their feet wet – it’s designed to demystify the process.

You can find information about all three workshops at

I’ll be offering a series of online classes for experienced grant seekers and beginners starting in October/November so watch out for details in the next newsletter.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge