Don’t take her for granted: This writer is worth millions

Jeannie Beckett is a successful writer of grant applications, and one of her secret weapons is CAP LOCK.

Jeannie Beckett, grant writer and head of The Beckett Group.

Jeannie Beckett, grant writer and head of The Beckett Group.

EVERETT — Jeannie Beckett likes to grab her readers’ attention — mostly government types reading on the job — in the first couple paragraphs.

When that happens, it can really pay off. We’re talking millions of dollars. But the cash isn’t hers to keep, she’s just the grant writer.

Each year, public agencies and private foundations offer billions of dollars in grants. But the money doesn’t magically appear in your in-box. Competition is stiff.

The Port of Everett recently was awarded a $10 million federal grant to help modernize the South Terminal dock. The project, which got underway last month, will enable the container dock to accommodate larger ships carrying heavier cargo.

Beckett was on the writing team.

It’s one of three $10 million grants she’s helped land in the past five years. Four if you count the one for $9.9 million in 2010.

For the port proposal, Beckett teamed up with Lisa Lefeber, the Port of Everett’s acting executive director, and Nancy Overton, the port’s in-house grant writer, to craft the successful, 31-page application.

It’s not every day you apply for a $10 million grant. “We realized we were going to need help with this one,” Lefeber said. “Jeannie really takes the time to really dig into the details and understand how things work.”

Beckett is CEO of The Beckett Group, a transportation strategy firm that specializes in grant writing, financial analysis and related services. An operations director for the Port of Tacoma through 2010, Beckett started her business in 2007 as a part-time gig.

Grant writing is an art and a science.

The writing must be vigorous. The cost-benefit analysis, the document that spells out a project’s worthiness and economic value, must be solid. It can’t be some “pie-in-the-sky” proposal, Lefeber said.

Submitting a request? Imagine a beleaguered teacher facing a mountain of final exams, Beckett said. Reviewers are looking for ways to cull the pile.

“Tell me what you’re going to tell me by the first page. Don’t let me get to page 30 and not know what your proposal is about!” said Beckett, taking a cue from Strunk and White in “The Elements of Style,” the renowned writing guide.

A government worker “might have 800 proposals in front of them,” she said. “So make it interesting for the poor reader.”

Be bold. When you need to make a point in a big way, don’t be afraid of hitting Control-B or using ALL CAPS.

The port did, and in the first paragraph. “The Port of Everett … supports nearly $25 BILLION worth of U.S. exports annually.”

Beckett got her first lesson in not-so-good writing as a teacher’s assistant at the University of California in Berkeley, where she majored in economics and minored in transportation. One of her tasks, grading papers, could be deadly dull.

The takeaway? “Even when you’re writing an assignment — make it interesting.”

That’s especially important when your reader has 200 to 800 grants to read, each 20 to 30 pages long.

“They’re looking for reasons to not put your application in the yes pile,” Beckett said.

Too much jargon? Toss it in the “no” pile. Runs 10 pages over the recommended format? Try again next year.

Even the cover art should be snazzy. The port proposal featured brilliant, sunny-day photographs of the South Terminal and Mount Baker.

“The cover should be memorable enough that the reader can easily find it again in the pile of 800,” Beckett said.

If your proposal isn’t the “lucky dog” the first time it’s submitted, don’t be discouraged, she said.

“I tell clients, you usually have to submit it four times before its accepted — if you use those intervals to sharpen your project’s focus, address issues and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.”

Rejected? Grant reviewers will tell you exactly why your application didn’t make the cut, Lefeber said.

“In 2009, the port applied for a grant for the South Terminal,” Lefeber said. “We did it in-house. I went back for a debriefing and they told me it was not ‘shovel-ready.’ I spent the next seven years setting the stage to make sure it was shovel-ready.”

Off the clock, Beckett reads murder mysteries. “Nothing too heavy,” she said.

When a grant comes through, it’s time to celebrate, she said. “I like to have a nice dinner and a big glass of wine.”

Read the Port of Everett’s WINNING application: www.portofeverett.com/home/showdocument?id=8749

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

The strip-mall site (bottom) where Trent Development hopes to build 350 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2020 in Lynnwood, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Hundreds more apartments planned around Lynnwood light rail

In a new proposal, a developer envisions 350 units, two buildings of at least seven stories, a one-acre courtyard and a dog spa.

Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, poses with a production electric engine, the magni500, at the  company's new office on Seaway Boulevard on Monday, Jan. 18, 2020 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Electric aircraft developer magniX moves HQ to Everett

The company builds electric motors, and it’s teaming with Arlington’s Eviation to launch a fully electric plane.

Weatherstripping is installed Thursday afternoon at Pallet in Everett on January 21, 2020. (Kevin Clark/The Herald)
Everett-based Pallet offers a novel way to shelter homeless

The manufacturer’s small, temporary homes have helped hundreds of people get off the streets around Puget Sound.

A Boeing 777X airplane flies over Moscow, Idaho. during a test flight Tuesday, June 23, 2020. The new model of airplane had its first flight on Jan. 25, 2020, from Paine Field in Everett, Wash. The 777X will be the world's largest and most efficient twin-engine jet, according to Boeing. (Geoff Crimmins/The Moscow-Pullman Daily News via AP)
Tax break proposed for manufacturers, but it needs a sponsor

Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefeber hopes to boost manufacturing across the state with a new incentive.

Our readers have voted on a few of their favorite things in Snohomish County. (Getty Images)
The best in Snohomish County, chosen by you

Even during a pandemic, people still have their favorites.

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2019 file photo Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, left, looks on as Suzi LeVine, right, the state's Employment Security Department Commissioner, talks to reporters at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. The state of Washington is calling in the National Guard to help process unemployment benefit claims as officials grapple with a backlog caused in part by a fraud ring that stole more than half a billion dollars in aid, officials said Thursday, June 11, 2020. LeVine said that Gov. Jay Inslee approved the deployment of troops who will start assisting her team next week as it tries to reduce the unemployment claim backlog.(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren,File)
Head of state employment agency to join Biden administration

Suzi LeVine’s departure is effective Feb. 1. A deputy, Cami Feek, will serve as acting commissioner.

FILE- In this Sept. 30, 202, file photo, a Boeing 737 Max jet, piloted by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Steve Dickson, prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle.  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
European aviation agency: 737 Max to be cleared next week

The review of the aircraft “began with the MCAS but went far beyond.”

Matt and Jill Wurst opened Audacity Brewing in December 2020 and are now managing to stay open, with the COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, at their brewery on 10th Street on Monday, Jan. 11, 2020 in Snohomish, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
It took some Audacity to open this new Snohomish brewery

The COVID-19 pandemic hit just as Matt and Jill Wurst were getting the business off the ground.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020 file photo, workers stand near a Boeing 737 Max airplane parked at Renton Municipal Airport next to the Boeing assembly facility in Renton, Wash., where 737 Max airplanes are made. On Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, the company reported final 2020 numbers for airplane orders and deliveries, and they are down from 2019 even though the 737 Max is flying again. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Canada OKs return of Boeing 737 Max aircraft

The planes will be permitted to fly as long as they meet specific safety conditions.

Most Read