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There Are No Grant Writing or Funding “Secrets,” but There Are Dan Browns of the Grant World

A recent GWC commenter included a link to a site called “Grant Millionaire,” in which a guy in a video promises that he’ll tell you, for free, secrets that “the world’s top grant gurus don’t want you to know.” Presumably I’m the sort of person he’s describing. Although I like it when people call me a “guru,” I usually prefer to the term “maharishi.” On a slightly more serious note, however, and as I said to the commenter, there are no secrets in grant writing. Even if there were—and there aren’t—we’d reveal them on Grant Writing Confidential as soon as we discovered them. In fact, if you can think of any “grant secrets,” I’d encourage you to post them in the comments.*

The main point: whenever you find someone promising you secrets, money for nothing, or a perpetual motion machine, your BS detector should start clanging wildly.

The guy who runs Grant Millionaire replied to my e-mail and said he should tone down his rhetoric. I have no idea if he will—at the moment his site seems to be down—but I do know that if you find people promising to reveal mysterious secrets that some ambiguous, undefined they don’t want you to know, be wary. Even the name “grant millionaire,” which evokes a lottery winner, should make you suspicious: grants are primarily made to organizations, not to individuals, and the purpose of a grant is not supposed to be individual self-enrichment, but the betterment of society (however tenuously one might define “betterment” or “society”). The phrase “grant millionaire” sounds wrong, like the speaker doesn’t know the lingo of the industry he’s dealing with—imagine a person who wants a “500 GB processor.”

People like the Grant Millionaire pop up regularly, and so do our warnings about off-the-level grant writers (see, for example, Fake Grant Writers, Spammers, Grant Writing Scams, Community Spec Inc.’s Ryan Reeves, and More). This one is just one particularly egregious example because of the silly promises and language. He also taps into the taste for conspiracy and the drive for secret, hermeneutic knowledge, which seems insatiable—just look at the success of Dan Brown’s terrible novels,** or other conspiracy-minded folks, who congregate on the Internet.

Incidentally, a much better novel that covers not dissimilar territory to Brown is Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. In the denouement of Foucault’s Pendulum, Casaubon realizes that a great void sits at the heart of every conspiracy. If only more people realized that such secrets don’t exist, maybe we wouldn’t have so many lousy conspiracy-oriented novels. We only have what we achieve through hard work and experience; there are no short cuts.

To be sure, we’ll occasionally use the word “secrets” facetiously in post titles (“One of the Open Secrets of Grant Writing and Grant Writers: Reading” or “The Secrets of Matching Funds Exposed: Release the Hounds and Let the Scavenger Hunt Begin“), but when we do we’re alluding to guys like the Grant Millionaire or the conspiracy theorist types. It’s tongue-in-cheek.

Here’s my real grant writing secret: if you want to be a grant writer, start by reading every post in Grant Writing Confidential. Then find an organization to work for, if you haven’t already. If necessary, start by volunteering—people who say they’ll write proposals for free will find an organization eager to have them. Then write proposals. About ten years later, you’ll be really good at it. Now I’ve saved you from signing up for the Grant Millionaire’s nonsense, or the nonsense of whoever will inevitably come after him.

* Joke entries are not only welcome, but encouraged.


** See, for example, this trenchant commentary on Mr. Brown:

Oh, so apparently some guy named Dan Brown has written some new book? The extract soon gets to the point:

The thirty-four-year-old initiate gazed down at the human skull cradled in his palms.

Mmm, beautiful. “Cradled in his palms”. One can feel the reverence with which the initiate is delicately holding this human skull. But tell us more about the skull, Mr Brown!

The skull was hollow,

That is useful information, for now I am no longer visualizing one of those solid skulls?

like a bowl,

Even better — hollow like a bowl, not hollow like, I don’t know, a syringe, or an asteroid hollowed out by aliens. The image is now irresistibly vivid! A human skull, hollow like a bowl!

But wait, Mr Brown, why are you telling us that this particular skull is “hollow, like a bowl”? Are you subtly setting up the idea that the skull contains some liquid?

filled with bloodred wine.

Ah — now this is why Dan Brown is Dan Brown. A lesser author would have been satisfied with a lesser liquid — having the human skull (hollow like a bowl) contain, I don’t know, some gazpacho soup or Ready Brek.