Thursday, November 13, 2008

When Partnerships Go Bad

It happens. Because partnerships between agencies are based on relationships between people, sometimes things take a negative turn - just like personal relationships sometimes do.

So, what can you do to keep your collaborative relationships from going bad, and how can you recoup a relationship that has already taken a turn for the worse?

  1. Communicate. Yeah, I know. Everybody talks about communication like it is the panacea for whatever ails you. However, when it comes to relationships, it really is important. The problem is that when relationships are strained, talking it out is exactly what we don't want to do. There is an agency I volunteer with that I am having some trouble with right now. The last thing I want to do is pick up the phone and talk to the person who is annoying me, but my relationship with that organization depends on it. Ask yourself, how valuable is the relationship to me? If it's a valuable relationship, suck it up. Start talking.
  2. Focus on the positive. Even when people don't agree on everything, it's likely that they do agree on some fundamental principles. Focus on those. Release your emotional grip on the details that don't really matter and focus on common sense of purpose.
  3. Express your appreciation. Everybody wants and needs to know that they are valued and appreciated. It may be hard to express your appreciation when things are strained, but that is when it is needed most. Send a heartfelt card or a handwritten note expressing your gratitude for the collaboration or something special the individual involved has done to make your work easier.
  4. Keep the problem to yourself. You may be tempted to tell the story about what went wrong to others. Don't. No good can come from that, and you could cause permanent damage to the collaborative relationship if you do.
  5. Don't over-analyze the problem. Sometimes it's easier to get over a bump in the road by just driving over it. If you stop, get out and start analyzing why there is a bump in the road, and detailing all of the possible ways around it, you may end up stuck there at that bump forever. In the same way, sometimes the best and most productive and respectful way around a problem with a collaborative partner is to acknowledge that there has been an issue and keep working together anyway. Not all problems in relationships need to be defined and fully resolved before you move forward. Agreeing to disagree and moving on can be a very good thing.

Don't be discouraged when a wonderful collaborative relationship hits a bumpy spot. Remember that it's normal for highly committed individuals to disagree sometimes. Not all people communicate perfectly all the time. A temporary disagreement doesn't have to turn into a permanent rift.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What to Look for in a Request for Proposals - BlogTalkRadio Show Today!

Today's BlogTalkRadio show topic is "What to Look for in an RFP." We'll be talking about the things you should look for in an RFP when making the decision about whether or not to apply for a grant, and what detail items you need to look for to be sure you don't miss anything in your application.

Remember, if you miss the live broadcast today at 3:00 p.m. PST, you can listen to the archived version by following the same link below.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Another Blog Your Should Read

I probably spend more time than I should scouring the Internet for resources and useful information. There are many blogs and websites out there that don't provide much useful information or, if they do, you have to pay to get it. Every now and then I come across some great resources that are useful and free. I'll be sharing them from time to time, so keep checking back.

The first blog I want to share with you is 79 Grant Writing Resources. The blog gives some excellent grant writing and grant seeking tips, as well as links to resources on a variety grant related topics. You'll also find some good warnings about little known tricks and errors to avoid.

Check it out. You will definitely learn something you didn't know before.

BlogTalkRadio Show About Mini-Grants

If you missed Friday's radio show about Getting Started with Mini-Grants, listen to the archived version now. You can access it by clicking on the BlogTalkRadio button on the right hand side of this page. In addition to giving some tips on how to get started and be successful with mini-grants, we also highlighted some excellent sources of mini-grants that you can download and apply for today.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Grant Opportunities in Tough Economic Times - Separating Myth from Reality

It's hard to escape messages about the troubled state of the economy these days. On television, the radio, even in casual conversations on the street, it seems like everyone is talking about difficult economic conditions and the dismal prospects for the next few years. I have had several conversations about grant writing with folks in the last few days, and the theme I hear is the same - "There probably won't be any good grants out this year because of the economy." Well, that is not necessarily so.

Let's separate some myth from reality:

Myth - A downturn in the economy always means fewer grant opportunities. This is just not so. There are many factors that affect the availability of grant opportunities.

Myth - There will not be any grant applications out this year. Not so. I already have the scoop on several RFPs that are in the editing process and on their way out. Keep your eyes open.

Myth - The change in presidential administration will mean fewer grant opportunities. Again, this is not necessarily so. In fact, Democratic administrations historically have favored discretionary grant opportunities as a way of distributing funds, particularly for programs for disadvantaged youth. Republican administrations prefer direct grants to states, but they have never eliminated discretionary grant competitions completely (case in point, haven't there been a bunch of federal grants available in the last eight years?).

Reality - We are going through an economic rough patch and this will have some effect of federal and state budgets. Indeed, it has already had some effect on grant funding. It is unclear, though, exactly what the full impact will be.

Reality - With a change in presidential administration, there are many uncertainties in the grant world. So, we have to watch and wait a bit. What's new?

Reality - Most economic downturns don't last more than a year or two.

Reality - When economic times are hard, grant opportunities have historically been one way that government officials have chosen to distribute limited funds.

So, let's all stay calm. Be patient. There will be grant opportunities available this year - and next year, too. We just need to be prepared for change and ready to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Do your grant planning as you would in any other year, and watch for the right opportunities for your organization to become available.

Are you ready?

Evidence-Based Violence Prevention Strategies

If you missed our BlogTalkRadio show last week on Evidence-Based Violence Prevention Strategies, be sure to listen to the archived version as soon as you can. Marjorie Rist, Probation Program manager responsible for Juvenile Probation, from the Yolo County Probation Department, was our special guest.

She used the hour to share her experience with some excellent evidence-based violence prevention programs for youth, and she provided some excellent resources to help you find some good evidence-based programs.

To listen to the archived version of that radio show, click on the link on the right side of this page, or go to our BlogTalkRadio profile page.

To get links to some of the excellent resources Marjorie talked about during the show, go to the Grant Goddess website, click on the "Forum" tab at the top of the page, and then look for the thread on Violence Prevention Strategies.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Importance of Respect When Working Collaboratively with Others

Several years, I visited a new church. It was an inviting place to be - the people were nice, the chairs were comfortable. Then the minister began to talk. He spent 30 minutes or so chastising the congregation because there weren't more people there. I remember thinking, "Does he realize that he's upset with the wrong crowd?" Needless to say, I never returned to that church.

This weekend, I had a similar experience at a Youth Substance Abuse Summit I attended. I was invited to attend, as were there other 80 - 100 people who were there representing 6 or 7 different communities. We were there to explore ways we could collaborate to decrease youth substance abuse.

We heard some good speakers who shared some excellent information. Then we were sent off to work in community groups to come up with action plans for addressing the issue that we would continue to implement long after the summit activities ended.

In my community group, we had some good discussions. We went back and forth on several issues, and we struggled with finding a good starting point. Many of group left early (it was a Saturday, after all!). Our facilitator was a bit inexperienced, but she did her best to keep us moving forward. I admire her efforts because keeping us on track was probably a little like herding kittens. As we approached the end of the day, we had a plan to meet again and a priority list of issues we would address. Not bad.

Then, with 30 minutes left to go, a new facilitator came in the room and starting chastising us for all that we had not accomplished on that day. He said some rather inappropriate and untrue things about our community. He spoke to the group harshly and cruelly. In the end, all of the good will and excitement that had been built up over the past 24 hours was gone.

As you can imagine, I was angry. I was a bit upset about some of the things he said about our community that were not true (clearly, he has not been involved with the work in our community in recent years and months), but I was most upset about the way he treated those dedicated and hardworking people who were volunteering their time on a Saturday to do something good for their community.

The people he was most upset with were all the people who were not in room, but he took it out on the dedicated folks who were hanging in and working to the end of the day.

We expressed our frustration about what had happened with the organizers of the summit, but in the end, we have decided to let it go. We know that we are planning to move forward with the work in our community. We know we have done good work thus far. We know the really hard work lays ahead.

Here's the lesson I pulled from this experience ---Organizations are working collaboratively with other organizations more than ever. Not only is a collaborative approach the best way to leverage the most existing resources within a community, but most state and federal grants (and many private grants) now require inter-agency collaboration as a condition of funding.

How are we treating our collaborative parnters?

Are we showing them the respect they deserve for giving of their time and energy to help the effort?

Are we showing respect for their dedication to their community?

If not, it's time for an attitude adjustment. Remember, working with groups of people and agency representatives is not easy. Tasks that seem like they should be simple can take much longer than we expect. The discussions we have with our partners as we negotiate details and ideas are extremely important in paving the way for future progress.

Now, I could choose not to go back to that church were I was chastised years ago, but I cannot (I will not) choose to walk away from my own community. Collaborative partners simply must find a way to work together. We must get passed the petty hurts and offenses and keep moving forward - together. The stakes for our children are too high to let someone who is ill-informed and rude throw us off track.

The gift I got this weekend was a reminder about the importance of treating my fellow community members with respect.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What You Need To Know About Grants.Gov

O.k., I'll admit it. I was not very fond of when it first came out. It was glitchy. It was cumbersome. It cramped my creative style.

Things have changed. Not only have major improvements been made to the whole system, but I have adjusted to change...and now I embrace it. It helps that I have no choice.

What is It is the online source for finding and applying for federal grants. Most, although not quite all, federal grants must now be submitted through the website.

Here are some important things for you to know about

  • Your organization must be registered on prior to submitting a federal grant through the system. Registration is not too difficult, but it is a multi-step process that can take up to a week to complete. If you think you might want to consider submitting a federal grant this year, I highly recommend that you register now. Waiting until the wee before your grant is due is a bad idea.
  • If you were registered in the past, you may need to update your registration. Log on to the system and make sure that your registration is still valid. Update any authorized users and email addresses that need to be updated.
  • has a new blog now with some nifty information. It is definitely worth checking out. For example, today I learned that there are 165 different grants closing on September 30/October 1 (63 for HHS and 101 for EPA). The system is going to be really busy (translation = expect long upload times and glitches), so we should all plan on submitting our applications early.
  • You can sign up on the website to have notifications of all new grant announcements sent to you via email. You have to wade through announcements for pesticide grants and loads of medical research grants, but it also gives you access to the announcements you want as soon as they come out.
  • The website now has an RSS feed so you can subscribe to find out about any updates to the website as they happen.

If you are even remotely thinking about applying for federal grants, you should check out Accept it. You'll be happier.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Learning the Wii Way

I bought a Nintendo Wii today. I had been holding out for months, in spite of my teenager's black-belt level of whining and begging. What changed my mind?

Last week, I heard about an after school program in northern California that had purchased a Wii system. Now, the context in which I heard about the purchase was interesting. It was shared with me that some school administrators were questioning the value of such a purchase. I can almost hear the conversation...

'At a time when budgets have been cut and funds are low, and everyone is being asked to be a bit more frugal than usual, can we really justify spending money on a video game system? Don't we need books and other real instructional materials?'

But the second I heard about the purchase, I knew it was genius. In fact, I can't think of any other school-related expenditure that would guarantee a better return on investment (ROI).

Here's why:
  • It's hard enough to motivate junior high and high school students to attend after school programs. Since Wii is all the rage right now, it seems like it would be a great motivator for attendance...and for participation in general ('If you get your homework done, there may be some time for Wii...').
  • At a time when childhood obesity is at an all time high, and experts are searching for ways to combat it, an activity that kids like that also gets them moving can't be a bad thing, right? And the youth attending the after school program are the ones who most need the additional motivation for physical activity. The athletes are already in sports. The teenagers who are not in organized sports get little physical activity. Wii could really make a difference for some of them.
  • We know from research that some kids learn best when they can be physically involved in their learning. Wii, and the huge assortment of Wii games, can provide a unique opportunity in that area.

Video games have typically been a stationary, and often solitary, activity. Yes, I know all about online games and even the hybrid of video system/online games, but most kids don't have access to those, and those youth who need additional academic support and participate in state and federally-funded after school programs are typically the ones who do not have the resources to afford those systems.

So, the news about this school's purchase got me thinking. . .

and I bought a Wii.

For five hours this afternoon, my 16-year-old, my 4-year-old, and I played video games. We laughed, we sweated, we moaned when it was time to stop. In what other world (other than this virtual Wii world) could the 4-year-old take on the 16-year-old in a boxing match - and have a chance to win? We all burned a few calories and had a great time together.

I have never been a big supporter of video games, but this was different.

We spend a lot of time in education trying to get young people to come into our world of print and mathematics, and we usually do it in ways that are not very engaging.

Maybe we should all spend a little more time in their world. We may all learn more.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Disadvantaged by Expectations

I attended a school board meeting last night where I observed a presentation made by several school administrators about the 2008 summer school program in that district. There were three separate programs there - a k-6 program, an Algebra Academy summer program for students in grades 5-8, and a 7-12 program.

The Algebra Academy program looked spectacular. Students who had scored proficient or advanced on the previous year's California Standards Test were invited to participate. The Academy ran all morning on the days it was in session, and students progressed through a series of 35 minute class sessions with no real breaks. The teachers were math experts who love teaching math. The sessions were exciting and interactive. Students were using manipulatives, playing math games, and building things. In short, they were having a blast--while they were learning!

Then we heard about the traditional summer program for students in grades 7-12. The program was designed for students with Ds and Fs who needed to retake a course or two, or get some additional tutoring to pass the California High School Exit Exam. The presentation talked about attendance and students completing "essential assignments." Overall, it looked like the program was successful because high percentages of students passed their courses, but it was clear that neither the content of the program or the methods employed by the teachers were anything like the Algebra Academy.

Here are the questions that were running through my mind after the presentation:

Don't the students who have been struggling with grades deserve an exciting, engaging program, too? Don't they actually need it to succeed?

Why should engaging teaching methods be reserved as a reward for students who have demonstrated that they can succeed with more traditional methods?

If all teachers during the regular school year employed the type of hands-on, motivating teaching techniques used during the Algebra Academy, wouldn't there be fewer students with Ds and Fs? Wouldn't overall attendance also be better? Wouldn't fewer kids drop out of school?

Why do we expect that students who have performed better in response to traditional, less interactive teaching methods need more creative methods to really excel and keep from getting bored, yet we assume that those who have not performed well in response to traditional methods need more of the same to "get it right?"

I completely understand the challenges associated with motivating students in today's secondary schools, and I also understand the challenges associated with teaching to standards and preparing students for exit exams and proficiency tests. However, the expectations of most schools regarding which students need which teaching methods is completely confused.

The more advanced students absolutely should have access to creative, innovative programs and engaging teaching methods.

All students should have access to those programs and methods all the time.

Students who are disengaged from school and getting Ds and Fs know what most educators think about them and what they expect from them. Eventually, they will adopt those same expectations for themselves. By high school, most of them have already.

The current approach will continue to disadvantage those who are already disconnected from the schooling process and traditional methods.

Restructuring programs for struggling students is difficult. It demands much more of administrators and teachers. Most importantly, it requires the courage to advocate for an instructional approach that takes more energy to implement and bucks up against over 150 years of tradition in secondary education.

Who will have the courage to do it differently?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Welcome to the New Year!

O.K., it's September and most people think the new year starts in January. However, if you work with schools, you know exactly what I am talking about. The new year starts in August or September, right?

As we start the new year, I thought I'd take a few minutes to let you know what you can expect from the Grant Goddess Blog this year.

1) The main purpose of the blog is to provide updated and current information and advice about grant writing and program evaluation. The blog goes hand-in-hand with the Grant Goddess website, so please don't just check one and not the other. There are links to the website on the right hand side of the blog, and you can access the blog from the website by clicking on the button on the navigation bar that says, "Blog" (catchy, no?).

2) The difference between the blog and the articles on the website is that the blog is much less formal and more closely linked to our everyday work here at Creative School Resources & Research. As issues come up in our work, we'll post articles to the blog. Those concepts may be expanded on in website articles, but you can rest assured that there will not be any duplicate content.

3) I will be making a concentrated effort to post at least several times a week (dare I say every day?). If you have questions or comments, please comment to posts. I would love to hear from you and I will respond.

4) While there are some links to other resources on the website, our first discussion of cool resources for grant writing and evaluation will come on the blog. This is also a great reason to subscribe to the RSS feed for the blog so you can know when new content is added right away. You can also check it every day.

Here's to an exciting new year!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lazy Days of Summer

As you can see, there have not been many posts for the last couple of months. We had a flurry of busy-ness at the end of the school year and then I took a much needed vacation.

We are now back in full swing, and you can expect a dramatic increase in posting here on the blog and on the website.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

There is Still Time to Enter the Webcam Contest!!!

The webcam contest ends on May 31, 2008. Take a look at my blog entry for April 28, 2008 for all the details. You can also go to the Grant Goddess website, click on the "Forum" tab, and see the discussion thread where the rules are explained and the initial entries are posted.

Right now, there are only a few entries. If you jump in the contest, you have a very good chance of winning!

Finding the Balance Between Need and Showing Competence

When writing a grant, you usually need to devote a section to making the case for your need for the grant. Most people really go overboard with this. They write about all the things they need to serve their clients well. They write about how needy their clients are. They produce all sorts of statistics to document just how much they need help.

The problem with going overboard in documenting your need for the grant is that you run the risk of looking incompetent. Your readers might start asking questions like this: If the situation is really that pathetic, how did you let it get this way? If you haven't solved it by now (in your organization's 30 years of business), why should anyone think you'll solve it with the addition of a three-year grant?

The trick is to accurately demonstrate your need for the grant while also demonstrating your capacity to manage the funds well and use the funds to make a real difference and improve the situation. It also helps to highlight some strengths on which you can build. Ideally, you'll be able to show how the funds you are requesting will enable you to leverage other resources to really make a difference.

It's a balancing act. Don't go too far in the direction of showing too much need, or you may end up without the funds to help you work toward a solution.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Top Ten Grant Management Mistakes

For those of you who missed the May 2nd webcast on the Top Ten Mistakes People Make When Managing Grants, you can access the information now in two ways:

1) I just published an article on Squidoo on the topic. Click here to read it.

2) You can also view the full length recorded version (with PowerPoint slides and all). Go to my helloWorld site, click on the icon on the left that looks like a broadcast tower. You can find the recording there.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The First Grant I Ever Wrote

I wrote my very first grant application about 18 years ago. It was a $5,000 mini-grant for technology equipment for the classroom. I requested a video disk player (remember those really big video disks that were as big as old record albums?), a big screen TV, and some science-related video disks.

The entire application was 5 pages long and it took me several days to get it right. The hardest part was writing the goals and objectives. I was trained as a teacher, so writing behavioral objectives was not new for me, but writing behavioral objectives linked to the use of the stuff I was asking for was definitely a challenge.

I remember being so excited about the program design, and I was really looking forward to using the new equipment in my classroom. When I sent off the application, I was excited and nervous. It seemed like forever while I waited to get the results four weeks later.

I got the grant! It was thrilling! I filled out the paperwork, ordered the equipment, and waited some more.

When the equipment arrived, my principal confiscated it and said it wasn't fair for it to go in my classroom. She said it should go in the multi-purpose room where everyone could use it. I strenuously objected because the proposal was written as classroom-based proposal. It didn't matter. The equipment was placed in the muulti-purpose room, and I rarely got the chance to use it. It wasn't because other classes were using it, but because the multi-purpose room was so overbooked with other activity (play practice, band, lunch, rainy day activities, etc.).

In the end, the equipment I was so excited about was used very little. I was very disappointed, but it didn't stop me from pursuing other grants in the future.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Follow Me Around!

If you want to get regular updates from me about rbeaking news and what we're up to over here at CSRR, you can follow me on Twitter.

Go to:

You can sign up for free, and you can read the updates on your computer or your mobile phone. I have twitter updates sent to my mobile phone as text messages. That way, I can check on the folks I'm following, and see their messages, from anywhere. I can also send updates at anytime!

Once you sign up and invite others to join, you will probably find out that several of the people you know are already on Twitter.

Once you check it out, send me a note and let me know what you think.

If you're already on Twitter, let me know, so I can follow you, too!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

New Episode in the Tips from the Grant Goddess Podcast Series

I just recorded a new episode in the Tips from the Grant Goddess podcast series. You can view it by going to our helloWorld site or you can click on the icon below and veiw it right now!

This episode is all about gathering effective MOUs and letters of support for your grant effort. The video is about 15 minutes long.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Waiting is the Hardest Part. . .

We wrote three grant proposals for a competition that was supposed to announce the preliminary list of those selected for funding on Friday (4 days ago!). Now it's Tuesday and we're still waiting.

Sometimes it really feels like this is the hardest part of the grant process.

Everyone is anxious for results. People are waiting to make definite plans for next year and the grant competition results play an important role in those decisions.

Unfortunately, there is no way to speed up the process. All we can do is wait.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

New Grant Related Articles Just Published on Hub Pages!

I just published two new grant-related articles. The first is End of Year Grant Management Tips. The article provides some down-to-earth tips for addressing the last quarter of your grant year.

The second article is What Comes Next If Your Grant Was Not Funded? This article gives some good tips for moving forward from a grant rejection notice.

I published these on HubPages where I have also published several other articles (or hubs, as they are called on HubPages). Feel free to add comments after you read them.

Take a few moments to check them out!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Webcam Contest!!!!

I mentioned it a few weeks ago, but the webcam contest is here now!

The purpose of the contest is to give our readers a chance to interact with us...and maybe win something, too!

Our May 2008 contest focuses on the interaction between your right brain and your left brain. Specifically, we want you to write and submit haiku poems that have something to do with grants. Your haiku could be about getting a grant, administering a grant, evaluating a grant, looking for a grant for your program, or even the frustrations of writing a grant. ANYTHING associated with grants! The word grant does not need to appear in the haiku.

What is a haiku?A haiku is a type of poem that has three lines. The first line has 5 syllables. The second line has 7 syllables. The third line has 5 syllables. That's it.

What can you win? One winner will receive a free webcam and a 30 day free trial to helloWorld, a web-based social networking site that can help you easily create live video broadcasts, video podcasts, video email, video blogs, and more! Click here to check out helloWorld.

Submit your haiku by replying to this post or replying to the "May 2008 Contest" thread in our forum. You will have to register to the forum to reply. If you prefer, you may email your entry to If you choose to enter, your email information will not be shared or sold, and you will not be subjected to a bunch of spam.

Entries will be accepted between April 18, 2008 and May 31, 2008. The winner will be announced by June 6, 2008.

If you are the winner, you will be asked to submit your full name and address (which will remain confidential) so we can send you your prize. Failure to do so within 15 days will result in the loss of your prize and we'll give the prize to the next ranked winner. The winner will not be charged any fees, shipping costs, etc.

y entering this contest, you agree that a) any haiku you submit is your original work, b) you give your permission for your haiku to be posted on the Grant Goddess web site, and c) you will receive no compensation for the posting of your haiku. You also agree that our decision regarding the winner is final.

You may enter as many times as you wish!

If you have any questions about the contest, you may send me those via the email adress above, too, or you may reply to this post with your question and I'll ansswer it here for everyone to see. I'll do my best to get you a timely response.So, it's time to get creative!

Start writing those haiku!

Surviving the Big Deadline

Today is a grant deadline for us. As we were rushing around to get the proposal finalized so we can deliver it this afternoon, it occurred to me that we use some very definite strategies for dealing with "the last day," better known as "the deadline."

Here are my tips:

First, take one thing at a time. During the rest of the grant development and writing process, multi-tasking is OK, even essential. However, when you are coming down to the final stages (final proofreading, assembly, etc.), you really need to take one step at a time. Completely focus on the task at hand and don't stop until that task is completed. For example, if you are proofreading forms, do not give anything else your attention until the forms are complete. If you are double-checking the order of documents in the proposal against the RFP checklist, give that task your undivided attention. Jumping from task to task at this stage is the best way to make a critical error.

Second, don't panic. If you stick with one task at a time, it's easy to avoid panic, but panic sets in when a) you try to do too many things at once, and b) you get too close to the final deadline. That brings me to my next tip. . .

Know when to stop. Here's the deal - you can revise that document over, and over, and over again - forever. The nature of the writing craft includes the fact that it can always be improved. But you really need to know when to call it quits.

Remember that the deadline will come...and go. It helps me to deal with deadline stress to remember that tomorrow this deadline will be a thing of the past, no matter how many more changes I make. There will be an end to the stress.

Finally, remember that the goal is to get the proposal submitted on time. Keep your eye on the clock. You can have the world's best proposal that you have revised twenty times, but if you miss the deadline, it just won't matter.

You can get through this. I promise.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Importance of Budget in Grant Development

I know - I usually go on and on about how the money should not drive your vision, and how you should develop you vision and your plan first, and then work on finding funding. All of that is still true (and I will probably go on and on about it even more in the future!). However, there is a time when the budget is a critical part of the grant development process.

On the grant I am working on right now - the one that is due in less than 48 hours - that time would be NOW.

I have worked with my client on the vision and the plan development. We have talked about all the different components of the program and what they want to do, but what they actually can do, and how many individuals they can serve, depends on how much money they will have and how they will choose to use it. Until those decisions are made, my writing project is dead in the water.

So I wait.

Wouldn't it be great if we could implement a million dollar program with $200,000? Yeah, that would be great. But we can't, so we are forced to make the hard decisions.

Here's the opportunity cost of waiting until the last minute (i.e., the day before the grant is due) to finalize those difficult budget decisions:

1) The final program design in the narrative cannot be written (or it will have to undergo major revisions) until the budget is finalized. This means that -

2) There will be a last minute rush to double-check all the facts and figures to make sure the budget matches the narrative. This means that -

3) There will likely be more errors than usual in the final proposal because rushing through something at the last minute is not the way to do your best work.


4) Our proofing and editing time is now cut down by every hour that we are delayed at this point. I have lost the chance to put it down and come back for a review 24 hours later. We'll probably be doing final proofing and editing on the due date, which is never the best case scenario.

How can this scenario be prevented? Move budget development up in the prioritization process. Ideally, the budget should be completed after the vision and program development process and before the narrative is written.

O.K., there are usually glitches in the grant development process and it's not unusual for all the pieces to come together at the last minute (or close to it). I just feel better when the budget is done a bit sooner.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New "Tips from The Grant Goddess" Video Podcast Episode

I just added two new video podcast episodes:

Don't Try to Say Too Much


Proofread, Proofread.....Then Proofread Some More

There are several ways you can access the podcasts. One way (and probably the easiest way) is to go to my helloWorld site. When you get there, click on the i-pod icon on the left side of the page. Then you'll see a list of all the video podcast episodes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Writer's Talent on Display

I watched the movie Resurrecting the Champ with my son last night. There was a quote at the beginning (that was also repeated at the end) that caught my attention. The quote compared a prize fighter's talent being on display in the ring to a writer's talent being on display when a writer's work is published.

That caught my attention because I have been asked to review several other grant writers' work recently and I am often struck by how difficult it is for writers to gracefully accept critiques of their work. Beginning writers, especially, find it hard to accept criticism. Those of us who have been earning a living with our writing for years or decades have developed a thicker skin, but it's still not very easy.

Having your talent on display and open for criticism is never easy. Grant writing can be especially brutal. Even though you may get a gold star when your grant is funded, being rejected feels like a severe judgement on your talent as a writer, even though the rejection may have had nothing to do with your writing and everything to do with the content of the program you were writing about.

My message for today is this - Be kind when you are critiquing someone's writing. Tell the truth, but speak it with love. It's not easy having your talent on display.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Evaluating When a Grant Opportunity is Right for Your Organization

I just published a hub page on "Evaluating When a Grant Opportunity is Right for Your Organization."

I can't tell you how many times organizations approach us just wanting money. Sometimes they come with a grant application in hand that is clearly not right for them. Pursuing grants that are not right for you is usually a futile effort.

Learn how to know when an opportunity is really right for you.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Top 5 Mistakes of Novice Grant Writers

I wrote an article this morning on the Top 5 Mistakes of Novice Grant Writers. Click on the link to go to my Hub page for that article.

The article summarizes the mistakes most often made by novices, even those who are good writers. If you avoid those errors, you'll be sure to improve your grant writing success.

At the end of the article, leave a comment. Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Forum on the Website!

We have a new forum feature on the Grant Goddess website! Just click on the "Forum" link on the menu bar on the Grant Goddess home page and you'll be taken directly to the forum. You can browse the forum without registering, but you have to register to post any comments or questions. Registration is free, and all that is required is you first name and email address. Don't worry. We will not sell or share your email address. You don't have to worry about spam with us.

So why did we start a forum? We want you to have as many opportunities as possible to ask questions, express your thoughts, and interact with us as possible. You can post to the blog (here) without registering, so if you'd prefer not to have to give up your email address, that's ok, too.

I get questions from people all the time about grant writing, evaluation, performance report preparation, and training. If you don't want to send an email or call with your question, you can use the forum. Also, the forum is a great way to read answers to other peoples' questions. Together, we can create a community of learners here that can really make a difference for people.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Postage with Your Picture!

I made this very cool discovery....

You can upload any photo - a picture of your kids or grandkids, your school, your company's logo - and your photo will be printed on real U.S. postage stamps! How cool is that?!

Click on the banner to go to the website to check it out for yourself.

I had some made with my son's picture, and now I'm about to have some printed with a picture of my company's logo.

I thought it was fun and different....and worth sharing.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Few Thoughts About
Performance Reports

For those of you new to the grant world, grant recipients are usually required to submit some sort of performance report to the funding source to give information about how the grant is being used and how successful the grantee has been in meeting goals and objectives. These performance reports are due at least annually. Some programs require them twice a year. Others require them quarterly.

Here are some of my issues with performance reports:

1) They are usually due at a strange time of year, before most outcome data are available. I understand that funders want to use the information to make decisions about continuation funding for the coming year, but how useful is that when most of the data are missing because they are not yet available? The effect it has on grantees is very stressful. They worry that they won't be refunded because they don't have data, but everyone knew the formal outcome data wouldn't be available until later. My favorite example of this is standardized test scores for schools. Students take the tests in the spring. Results are available in the summer. Grant performance reports are due in the spring. Grantees are forced to fill out all sorts of forms that mean nothing because all they say (in many different ways, in several boxes) is that the data are not yet available. Then they have to fill them out again and submit them as "updates" in the fall once they have the data. Isn't there a better way to do this?

2) Everyone acts like the reports are unexpected, when they aren't. As an evaluator, I have many grantees who don't want to make time to meet with me to discuss evaluation throughout the year, but they panic and want me to drop everything when they get a notice that their report is due in a few weeks. If you keep up with your evaluation as you go, the report is no big deal. If you wait until the report is due to talk about how you're doing, there will be panic and stress. There is a better way.

3) Funders keep the report guidelines and due dates a secret. OK, maybe not a total secret, but I find it very annoying that at least a due date can't be published months in advance. Would it hurt anybody to let people have some planning time? Is there a good reason why the deadline date has to be withheld until 3 weeks before the report is due? If so, please share the reason with all of us. If not, please stop it.

4) Report formats are becoming more and restrictive. It used to be that a grantee could report their outcomes and progress following a basic narrative template. Nowadays, more and more funders are requesting restrictive data sheets and limiting the amount of narrative a grantee can provide. I understand the need to force people to report both quantitative and qualitative data - and sometimes a form is the best way to do that. I understand that the people reviewing the reports want to minimize the amount of time they need to spend reviewing the reports. I also understand that reducing paperwork requirements on grantees is, in general, a very good thing. However, in many cases, the minimized reporting formats actually prevent the grantee from fully explaining what they have done, why, and what the outcomes were. How is that a good thing?

Alright, that's enough whining from me (for now). Back to my reports......

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

One Grantee's Rocky Road of Grant Implementation

I am working with a client to evaluate a grant project that has multiple implementation sites. This is not unusual. In fact, it is extremely common with grants awarded to school districts for multiple school sites to be involved. There are other, non-school situations in which multiple sites are also common.

The problem with this current client is that some of the sites are not implementing the grant as they should. You might think that this is not much of problem, except for the fact that those sites are putting all of the participating sites at risk. In this case, there is a required assessment (required by the funding source, not by this friendly evaluator) that some of the sites have not administered. Their lack of compliance could very well cause all of the participating sites to lose their funding.

So why don't they just do it?

Who knows? It could be that they are too busy. It could be that they really do not understand the importance of it. It could be that they never really wanted to be involved with this project to begin with so they aren't going to inconvenience themselves to comply.

Here's the real problem - In an effort to save a buck and reserve as much of the budget as possible for direct services, the grantee chose not to hire a grant coordinator. As a result, there is no one pulling all the pieces together, no one riding herd on the sites to comply with grant requirements, no one "coordinating" the effort.

This is a common grant implementation error. An effort to save a buck may result in all the money being lost.

It seems a little short-sighted, doesn't it?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Success is in the Details

Tomorrow is a big grant deadline for us. This competition requires an online submittal through, so we're trying to get one of these grants finished and uploaded tonight so we won't have too much to do tomorrow.

Whenever I am at this stage in the grant writing process (final proofreading, editing, assembly, etc.) I am amazed at how important the details are. Not only are the details in the narrative extremely important (making sure all the numbers are correct, matching the project activities to the budget, etc.), but it's also important to watch for details involved in assembling the appendices and following the assembly checklist.

The problem is that when you get to this final stage in the grant preparation process, you think you are finished, but the reality is that you are far from finished. This is when the greatest mistakes are made because you have let down your guard and you think the hard work is done. It is at this stage that I force myself to act against my instincts. I want to rush through and slap it together now, but I force myself to slow down - take it step by step - focus on one small task at a time. I check my documents thoroughly. I check them again. I ask someone else to check them. And then just when I am ready to submit the proposal, I stop and check them again.

Obsessive? Maybe. Successful? Absolutely!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Contest Coming!!! FREE Webcam!!!

Keep watching this blog for details about a contest we'll be unveiling within the next week. You can win a brand new webcam! Don't miss out!

The Life of a Consultant

Ten years ago, when I left the world of public education to start my new life as a consultant, I thought it would be so much fun not be tied to an office and a regular schedule. I thought the travel would be glamorous and full of exciting adventures. Here's the verdict ten years later:

  • Not having a schedule imposed on me by someone else is fantastic! I can arrange to attend many of my children's school functions and that's great. On the other hand, my time is not completely my own. There are deadlines to meet, and during our busy seasons, that means lots of evenings and weekends. Still, the freedom is the best part of what I do.
  • Traveling is not as glamorous as most people think it is. There's a lot of driving, hours in airports, luggage to haul around, and schedules to shuffle. As for hotels....some are better than others. I brought bed bugs home from one hotel several years ago that cost eight months and $10,000 to eradicate. Yeah, not so glamorous.
  • This life is full of exciting adventures. I get to meet interesting people doing very fascinating and creative things. I have the opportunity to help them be successful, and I love sharing in their success and enthusiasm.

So, overall, this is a great life! The traveling is just part of the price I pay for the wonderful benefits.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tips from the Grant Goddess Podcast

I just recorded another video podcast for our "Tips from the Grant Goddess" podcast series. You can view it (either this episode or the whole series) by going to my helloWorld site and then clicking on the little ipod icon on the left. There is also a direct lnk from my home page.

This tip was on avoiding jargon and local expressions. Previous podcasts have focused on finding the time to write grants and finding funds that match your vision (rather than developing a vision to match a funding source).

By the way, access to the podcast series (just like access to the other videos on my helloWorld site) is completely free.


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Too Much Data, Not Enough Space

Here's my challenge today... I'm writing a grant (don't even ask why I am working on Saturday) and I have more needs data than I could possible use. I have a 40-page limit for the narrative and the needs section is worth 20 points (out of a possible 100), so only 20%-25% of my pages at most should be spent on the needs section.

The good news is that I have lots of data. I am usually challenged by not having enough hard data. The problem is prioritizing all this good information.

Here's what I do:

1) Focus on the main issues. I may have some good data for some of the more peripheral problems faced by my client, but I need to stay focused on the main issues that we will be trying to address with the grant.

2) Decide which data best support those big issues. I have to cut loose (for now) the information that doesn't make the strongest case.

3) For the data I won't be using, mention tat it is available, and that it supports the rest of the findings. I don't do this too much, though, or the readers will question why I didn't include it all.

4) Use the data evenly. If I have loads of evidence to support one need and only one little stat to support another, I need to be careful. If I use all of what I have for the first issue, it will make the second one look very weak. Sometimes less really is more.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Collaboration Between Organizations - Why It Often Fails

Many grant funding sources now require collaboration between organizations for good reasons. Collaboration helps stretch scarce resources and it dramatically increases the likelihood of sustainability after the grant funding period.

Unfortunately, collaboration between organizations in a community is not easy. Collaboration between organizations with large bureaucracies is extremely difficult.

So, why does it often fail?

Changing personnel - Collaboration relies heavily on relationships and trust. In large organizations, it is not uncommon for people to move in and out of positions within the organization frequently. If the person who developed the collaborative relationship leaves the organization or changes positions within the organization, the relationship is at risk. Sometimes it falls apart completely.

Lack of experience and bureaucratic requirements - Face it, large bureaucracies are designed to be self-sufficient. They are not designed to work and play well with others. People within them are not trained or encourage to collaborate with others. Here's an example. There's a collaborative grant that requires representatives of the partner agencies to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to document their partnership and the commitments that each agency is making as part of the grant effort. The lead agency drafts the MOU and negotiates the details with the representatives from the other agencies attending the meeting. Agreement is reached. Then, as the MOU is being sent around for signatures, the business departments in the other organizations all start to object because they each have their own required template for MOUs that includes their own legalese. Even though the language in the MOU is very similar to the language in each of the different templates, an entirely new level of compromise and negotiation is required because the different agencies simply cannot just accept a template that is not their own.

Self-preservation - The tighter the budgets, the worse this is. Collaboration requires that partners look out for both the best interests of the group and the best interests of each of the partners. organizations that can't see passed their own needs often sabotage an entire collaborative effort.

So, what do organizations need to do to make it work?
  • Focus on the common good;

  • Ensure that there is something "in it" for every partner;

  • Send multiple representatives to represent the organization so personnel shifts will not alter the collaborative's progress;

  • Be willing to step aside and let others get a little more sometimes (a little more money, a little more publicity, a little more whatever); In short, be more of a giver than a getter--and you'll get more;

  • Negotiate a common MOU template when you are not facing a grant deadline - then you'll have it when you need it;

  • Learn more about your partner agencies so you know where they're coming from

You'll see more detail on these strategies in future posts.

"Seeing difference is ignorance. We are all one." - Sankara

"Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves." - Horace Mann

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Opportunity All Around

This is a really interesting and different year for us.

On the one hand, we keep hearing terrible news of doom and gloom about the economy. Organizational budgets are being cut like crazy and people are nervous. Some are downright scared. In California, schools are looking at budget cuts amounting to over $500 million. That's a lot of books, pencils, and teachers. I heard on the news yesterday that there may be 100,000 Californian teachers laid off over the next couple of years. Wow! I know a lot of teachers, and that number staggers me.

On the other hand, it spite of this, we are having one of our busiest grant writing seasons in years. There are so many opportunities with deadlines coming so close together that we can't take advantage of them all. It's a real shame. In addition, we're seeing clients turn down opportunities that are perfect for them because they are either a) overwhelmed and busy, or b) so focused on budget cuts and scarcity that they can't see the opportunity clearly. I actually heard someone say to me, "We can't apply for a grant right now. We have to cut $2,000,000 from our budget!"


It's really frustrating when people are so overwhelmed and afraid that they just can't see the possibilities. They call it "trying to focus," but it's just another way of saying that they just can't handle one more thing. They just can't take the chance that they might get more bad news (competing for grants is a risk, I know).

I really wish I could help them see that there is opportunity all around. You just have to adjust your vision so you can see it. You have to look at opportunities with an entrepreneurial mindset, not from a position of fear and lack. I'll be talking more about this in future posts.

Opportunity presents itself in your life (and to your organization) in lots of ways. Sometimes, it's in the form of a grant or some other new source of funds. Sometimes it's in the form of a partnership. I had a great conversation today with the owner of We're developing a partnership to work together on some data analysis and evaluation projects. It's a win-win proposition and who knows what it could lead to in the future for both of us. If I were only looking for cash, I would have missed it.

Is your vision so narrowly focused that you are missing many opportunities that might make a huge difference for you? Or are you open enough to see and hear opportunity when it knocks?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A personal note from the Grant Goddess....

Grant writing is no mystery. It just takes some planning and attention to detail. Of course, one of the most common arguments I hear from people about why they choose not to apply for grant funding is that they don’t have time. I know exactly what they are talking about! We all seem to be busier than ever. However, there are some opportunities that you just can’t afford to pass up.

Mini-grants are a wonderful opportunity to sharpen your grant writing skills without spending hours and hours developing a lengthy proposal. Can you think of anything positive you could do with $500? How about $1,000? Or $5,000? Try your hand at writing a mini-grant or two. Starbucks gives grants between $5,000 and $20,000 and the application is surprisingly simple. New guidelines will be released in early 2008, so be sure to watch the website. Target Foundation grants are another great opportunity for a small project. Check the Target website in January and February. They accept applications between February 1 and October 1 of each year. It is highly recommended that you apply early in the funding window because once the funds are gone no more grants will be awarded. Check with other department stores and businesses to see what grants and/or corporate giving opportunities are available in your local area.

About Creative Resources & Research

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Woodland, CA, United States
Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.