You Have a Hammer: Building Grant Proposals for Social Change – Book Review

You Have a Hammer: Building Grant Proposals for Social Change – Book Review

I spotted this little gem – it’s a highly readable and informative 89 pages – on LinkedIn and ordered it from the US. It’s so good that I read it cover to cover in one go. I’d recommend it to any grants professional. The author Barbara Floersch draws on over 40 years of experience in the sector and, latterly, as a teacher and writer for The Grantsmanship Center in LA, to write a concise, thought-provoking and pithy ‘why to’ book.

 This is no grant-writing manual but rather a call to action to move away from chasing dollars to pursuing the goal of social transformation, one proposal at a time. “The dollars you bring in light fires that keep burning. The very process of the work builds and empowers the community.”

Key Grantsmanship take-aways include:

  • Move away from the beggar/benefactor dynamic and developing respectful partnerships with funders; you have the on-the-ground networks and capacity to run programs, they have the funds and connections to support and sustain your work. You’re not asking for a hand-out but a handshake;
  • Your proposal is a blueprint for social change, and a form of advocacy;
  • Educate yourself about what constitutes a good-fit funder – use a specialist research database – check out some of my recommendations here:
  • “A grant proposal is a participatory research report.” The evidence base goes wider than research around the need, it’s about studying what others are doing and what approaches have been effective, consulting the community and involving beneficiaries in figuring out solutions to problems;
  • A grant win is both a vote of confidence in your organization by the funder, and an investment in their own mission. Funders are looking for evidence of strong leadership, mission-driven programs, partnerships and community collaboration as well as all-important financial stability;
  • Your proposal should never be about your organisation as such but about the community you serve. So don’t frame funding cuts in terms of staff job losses but around the impact on those you serve;
  • Avoid dreaming up projects in response to grant rounds (aka shoe-horning or dollar chasing) and instead: develop ‘righteous asks’ where the funding request is grounded in community need that is well aligned with the funder’s mission;
  • Build equitable partnerships with funders, exchange ideas and get to know each other;
  • Gather data, build partnerships with like-minded organisations and plan programs in readiness for when grant rounds open;
  • Get serious about building a variety of other funding streams;
  • Consider if a grant is a good fit for the funding need and type of program: is it worth the time and effort to research, write and – if successful – acquit? And can your organisation sustain the benefits?
  • Argue for change rather than activities: “Many people have a hard time differentiating between a problem (the situation motivating action), an outcome (the desired change), and methods (the activities that will produce the desired change).
  • If others in your organisation lack understanding around grants and grant-seeking, educate them!
  • Sustain Impact not Activities: Continuous evaluation and monitoring of results will enable you to show funders what activities are effective, and to develop a plan for sustainable impact.

And finally Generate Hope“People who practise grantsmanship are optimists, not pessimists.”

If you would like to build your skills around grant-seeking and grant-writing, I am running an interactive webinar on Wednesday 2nd June, 2021 at 11am AEST. To find out more and secure a place visit this link:

You Have a Hammer is available from Amazon and Booktopia among others.