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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Nguyen

“Grant writing is not magic!”

“Grant writing is not magic!” Mike Nichols, Director of Grants Management at Gary Bess Associates (GBA), emphatically encouraged. “It’s an organized, predictable process that anyone can learn.” On a sunny Tuesday, April 16th, in a window-walled room at the Ventura County Community Foundation in Camarillo, California, Mike was presenting to a group of about 60 participants seated at rowed tables. This in-person, day-long workshop was just the start of a larger, joint project between the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), Philanthropy California, and GBA who is bringing an in-person grant writing series to eight locations across the state.  

From a community center in Camarillo, to a library in El Centro, and later the Civil Rights Institute in Riverside, the in-person events offer grant writing training, discussion, and networking opportunities, along with lunch and refreshments—all underpinned by live interpretation in Spanish with bilingual slides and materials. “Access and equity is at the core of the program’s design,” Sarah Peterson, Project Lead at GBA affirmed. “As we think about building grant writing capacity for organizations and communities that have faced decades of under-investment by governments and philanthropy, a starting point is making sure everyone can receive and share information in the language they feel most comfortable using.”


Sarah Peterson, a long-time advocate for plain language communications and an expert in how grant resources can be used to support community-based projects, rightly sits at the helm of what is fondly referred to internally as a “roadshow”—the first of its kind for GBA who is pleased to be lending its 30+ years of expertise as a grant writing and evaluation organization. Accompanied by Mike Nichols and Diane Royal, a Senior Project Manager at GBA, the “band” is rounded out by Dr. Lily Bui and a cadre of leadership from Philanthropy California and its statewide philanthropic networks who offer an experienced and thoughtful funder perspective that espouses trust-based philanthropy.


Yet GBA is no stranger to the broader mission behind this program. GBA Principals, Dr. Gary Bess and Dr. Katie Strautman, are trained social workers, and this kind of work—capacity building that goes beyond a traditional view of “training” and leans into empowerment that is personalized and community-based—is timely. As an organization, GBA lost its offices to the 2018 Camp Fire. Many employees lost their homes and were geographically displaced by the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history to date. As this project supports nonprofits, community-based organizations, Tribes, and tribal organizations working in climate and disaster resilience across the state, its mission is further internalized by invested staff members. Beyond designing and delivering the in-person event series, GBA offers one-on-one appointments with an experienced GBA grant writer to get advice and assistance on a current grant application, program planning questions, and more.


We encourage you to take advantage of either of these grant and capacity building opportunities, and expand your organization’s response to, and preparation for, climate change within the communities you serve. As GBA Principal, Dr. Katie Strautman, emphasized, “This is an exciting project for GBA where we get to contribute experienced staff, and logistical know-how alongside our philanthropic partners who are also committed to a future of funding that benefits communities more equitably. We hope to see many organizations take advantage of these free training and technical assistance opportunities!”


For more information about the Climate Capacity Project, including events and trainings as well as one-on-one support provided by GBA, please visit:

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