I recently had the opportunity to take stock of how my “village” and my grant writing work have formed and are still shaping who I am. It happened unexpectedly, as I responded to a local nonprofit’s request for consulting quote.
To be honest, I have been “stuck” when it comes to blogging. Professionally, I have fallen prey to the voices in my head that whisper, “You have little to add to the discussion” or “anything that needs to be said about what you do has already been said by those better qualified to say it.” My sister-in-law Jannan is the master of the written word. She encouraged me saying, “It’s simple… figure out what you want to say, who you want to say it to, and keep the conversation going.”
And yet I struggled. That is until a recent Friday while responding to a proposal for a local nonprofit. Their curiosity went beyond my grant writing per se to where my nonprofit work intersects my proximity as a community member. And they want to take a “train the trainer” approach with me as a trainer. That was a new one.
As a result of their request, I spent most of the day grappling through it and completing my response. Following Covid19-brain-fog, the assignment allowed me space to write something new and catalogue my experiences. Noted: I bring a perspective by simply engaging with my village, living through a pandemic with my urban neighbors. Noted: I bring a perspective because others simply have given me underserved, first chances.
Here is a portion of my formal proposal, much more personal in nature than I typically respond. [The content has been edited to fit the nature of this post.]
San Francisco’s Middle Polk Resident and Small Business Owner
I have lived in San Francisco since the summer of 2014 and consider Polk Street and the surrounding areas my Village within the City. My husband and I shop for foliage at SF Plants, purchase our fruit and veggies from the corner Golden Market, and consider a slice from Victor’s a great “go-to”. Although my small business has no retail storefront, I have come to understand the services that [nonprofit advocates] bring to residents and small business communities as I’ve contracted alongside staff members in Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf.
My Resilient Village is Sustaining Amid Challenges
COVID19 sent many of our friends out of the City due to the high cost of rent. We have watched as the friends who stayed have struggled to make their way. We saw some of our favorite local shops boarded despite our best efforts remain loyal customers. Opportunities through SF Rotary and nearby Because Justice Matters opened my eyes to the harsh reality facing many residents and our choice to give them a support structure so they can move forward with dignity and sustainability. A seven-year working relationship with the City’s Chapter of the National Coalition of Black Women has been a practice of listening, learning, and watching their clients thrive.
Pulling from Past Grant Writing Work Plus
As a civic leader in a small NC town from 2007-2011, I was invited to serve on the Board of Directors at the local Y. Eventually as a staff member, I was a “medium fish in a small bowl”, learning organizational aspects as my CEO gave me a chance to develop professionally. We built successful fundraising tools that resulted in gifts. We created strategies for planned giving, individual donor gifts, capital improvement asks, and large corporate partnerships. I supported others in more tactical ways through annual campaigns, fundraising events, and community organization partnerships.
The difference: Engaging Presenter vs. Effective Trainer
I had never been a trainer, but in 2016 the leaders of the American Grant Writers Association invited me to expand my new consultancy to include training. A rude awakening. I came to understand the challenging idiosyncrasies between being a decent public speaker (Rotary) and being a good trainer. Training goes beyond engaging but to educational goal setting and student understanding. A good trainer pulls from a solid tool kit, allowing them confidence and insight to read the students. AGWA’s chance in me as a first-time trainer wasn’t totally pretty by any means. But the challenge allowed me to understand and identify effective tools and methods to include in a training kit.
So, I walk away from this piece with reflection and gratitude amid enduring uncertainty. I look around and appreciate San Francisco’s Polk Districts with their beauty, bruises, and budding resurgences. A few colleagues have pondered, “I wonder if this outspoken southern colleague [me] can pull off this task.” I am thankful for their trust. I write this piece, hoping I am past the “blog slump”. If you made to the end here with me, thanks for listening.
Rhonda Poppen, GPC, CGW, is an independent grant consultant, working from San Francisco alongside Buddy, Labrador/Great Dane and office mate. She is a self-proclaimed pen, paper and word nerd who pours her heart into writing winning grant proposals.
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