Thursday, December 31, 2009

Our Favorite Clients

We do a lot of grant writing and program evaluation work with many different kinds of clients. Many are schools and school districts. Others are non-profit organizations, county agencies, or municipalities. In spite of their many differences, they also have many things in common, including a commitment to the constituencies they serve.

I was involved in a phone conference a while ago with a potential new partner. It was an interview of sorts. They were interviewing me and I was interviewing them - which is the way it should go when you are considering establishing a new business relationship. One of the questions they asked me was, "What are the characteristics of your favorite clients?"

Wow. What a great question! I didn't have to hesitate at all. In fact, I could immediately give an example of one of my favorite clients who happens to be a mutual acquaintance. Then I started to explain why that client ranks among my favorites.

Here are the characteristics of our favorite clients:
  • They have a clear vision. I really love folks who come to me with a clear vision of who they are, where they are going, and even an idea of how they plan to get there. The conversation starts with a great idea they have to meet an identified need for their organization. They have already charted out their ideas and they have at least the beginnings of a solid program design already in place. Let's contrast this with people who come to me with a simple, "We need money" attitude. They usually have only the seed of an idea, if that. And they rarely have a vision. What they have is a desperation for cash. That rarely is enough to be successful securing grant funding, and it is almost never enough to successfully implement an effective program.
  • They are very well-organized. In the grant writing process, there is a certain amount of data gathering that takes place. My favorite clients have excellent data systems and clearly understood responsibilities so it's easy to get the information we need quickly.
  • They understand that they have an important role to play in the grant writing process. They do not expect that since they have hired a grant writer, they are off the hook. Not only do they know there will be some work for them to do, but they want to be involved in the process.
  • They make time for their part in the grant writing process. My favorite clients make sure that, when we have am impending deadline, I am the call they take - no matter what. They allocate the time it takes to help me get the job done. And they don't complain about it.
  • They assign a contact person to work with me directly on the project. My least favorite clients don't assign a single contact person; they want me to communicate directly with four or five high level administrators - all of whom are usually too busy to really focus on the project. A single contact person makes it easier on everyone.
  • They are flexible. When we start a grant writing process, we establish a timeline. About half of the time, something happens to pull us off the timeline. Sometimes the client isn't able to get us all the data on time. Sometimes we have several projects going at once and we fall a day or two behind. of course, we always stay on track to meet the final deadline, but our favorite clients remain flexible and don't freak out if a draft shows up on Tuesday morning, rather than Monday afternoon - especially when the ultimate deadline is more than a week away.
  • They treat us as professional partners in the project. While we are really good at the actual grant writing work, our favorite clients understand that our real value to them comes in our experience - as grant writers and experts in education and social services. They are respectful of our experience and our time.
  • They have high expectations. This goes along with treating us as professionals. They expect good quality work and they are willing to call us out if we do not performs appropriately, for whatever reason (a rare occurrence). I have the utmost respect for those who expect excellence.
  • They take care of the business side of our business arrangement. They do what it takes to get a contractual agreement written and approved. They ensure that we are paid in a timely manner. Conversely, our least favorite clients never have time to get the contract taken care of and, after the grant is submitted, they seem to forget that we did anything for them that requires payment.
For any of our clients who are reading this, I hope you are smiling because you know you are our favorite. Yeah, you know who you are.

Some Thoughts on Change from the Grant Coach

“Just because we cannot see clearly the end of the road, that is no reason for not setting out on the essential journey. On the contrary, great change dominates the world and unless we move with change we will become its victims.”  (John F. Kennedy)

Try these 3 ways to embrace change:

1)      Be open to new experiences.

2)      Look for a way to use your words that lead to a more positive outlook on change. Instead of saying “if we don’t make these changes, we’ll be unable to compete in the new market,” try “when we make these changes, no competitor will be able to touch us.”

3)      Minimize the fear of change by limiting the routines in your daily life. The more routines you have, the harder it is to make grasp opportunities for change.

For more wisdom from our certified coach, MaryEllen Bergh, become a member at

A Few Words from the Coach About Focus

The Coach's Corner section of the member site is full of inspiration and wisdom from certified coach, MaryEllen Bergh. She'll also be sharing some of it here for everyone. If you want more, learn about becoming a member.

For now, here's what the Grant Coach has to say about Focus:

In the movie “UP”, a pack of dogs are viciously approaching our heroes – teeth bared, eyes   focused and fixed on their goal. All of a sudden, there’s a shout, “Squirrel!” The dogs suddenly lose sight of our heroes and run excitedly in all directions, falling upon one another in their frenzy to find the squirrel.

How do you discriminate between distractions that contribute to your creative process or those that have you chasing squirrels?

Try these 3 ways to stay focused:

1)      Eliminate distractions. Turn off the phone, close the door, close email, stay away from squirrels.

2)      Quickly picture what you want to achieve. Stay with it for a couple of minutes to truly experience the feeling. The start your writing or other project.

3)      Take a short walk. Before you return, think of two things that you want to accomplish when you return.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Online Charity Links Donors and Teachers

Have you ever wondered how you can donate some money to a school and know that it really gets into the hands of a teacher doing good work with kids? can help.

Teachers across America post about a classroom project and what they need to make it happen.  requests include everything from microscopes to instruments. Donors go to the site, pick a project that interests them, and donate through a secure link. Donors get a cost report showing how their money was spent, pictures of the project in action, and a thank you note from the teacher.  Donors who give over $100 may also get thank you notes from students.

You can give any amount (as little as $1.00 or as much as...well, millions of dollars!) and know that your cash is making a difference for youth.  The folks at call it "citizen philanthropy."  I call it a great way to make a difference.

Oh, I almost forgot.  If you're a teacher looking for some supplies to make a classroom project work, visit the site, sign up, and enter your project. Then come back here to and we'll help you get the word out to prospective donors.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tips for Preparing for the Upcoming Grant Season

You know you need to write some grants this year for your organization and you're itching to get started, but there are no applications out right now. What should you do? Isn't there some way to get started and avoid the last minute grant writing rush?

Yes. And No. There will always be a rush to the deadline as you try to assemble complicated applications with less than 4 to 6 weeks between announcement and deadline, all while still trying to do your regular job. However, there are some things you can do to get ahead of the curve a little and make your job easier.

1) Pull together your needs data and get it organized. Take a look at available survey results for your agency, and quantitative data documenting the number of people you served in the last year and, most importantly, the outcomes documented for those clients. Don't wait for an application to be out; look at your data now, get it organized, and determine what it's telling you.

2) Write your brief needs statement. If you draft out a page or two describing your agency's need (documented by data, of course), you can easily modify it to fit a formal application.

3) Prepare all of the additional materials you need for an application. If you manage a non-profit agency, prepare your agency budget, develop an updated list of board members, and make sure your IRS letter documenting your non-profit status is handy. Consider putting together a single file that has all of these documents in one place so you'll be ready when an application is released.

4) Develop a plan to consult and the websites of funders to which you hope to apply. Assign someone in your agency (maybe it's you!) to regularly check for funding releases. Check your online sources at least once each week, more often if an application release is imminent.

U.S. Department of Education Funding Forecast

About three weeks ago, the new funding forecast from the U.S. Department of Education was released. The forecast outlines the discretionary grant competitions the Department plans to fund for the coming year. It is not a legal document and it changes throughout the year, but it is extremely valuable if you want an idea of what grants might be coming your way and when they might be due.

As I mentioned, it's not always accurate. For example, last week the forecast said the application notice for the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools grant would be out on December 15th. It wasn't. Now, it simply says, "TBD" for information on when the application will be available. So, you have to keep checking back for the latest information. By the way, the latest information will be available at the Department's website or on anyway, but the forecast is still effective as an early planning tool.

And don't forget, the official notice of grant applications, rules, and funding criteria will be published in the Federal Register.

CA's Education Reform Stalled in the Senate

Bill SBX5 1 stalled in the Assembly Education Committee while alternative Bill ABX5 8 moves forward to the Assembly Floor.

A major education reform package aimed at reforming California Education Code to align with the Federal education reform mandates of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) failed to gain approval of the California Assembly Education Subcommittee.

Both SBX5 1 (Romero) and ABX5 8 (Brownley) would make key changes to California Education laws making the state eligible to apply for some of the nearly 4 billion dollars in ARRA funding through the Race to the Top (RTTT) program. The key differences in the bill reported by the SF Chronicle is the elimination of a strong parent choice component in SBX5 1 that would have allowed parents of children in Program Improvement schools to move their child to any school, anywhere in the state; and stronger regulations imposed on Charter Schools in ABX5 8.

ABX5 8 may be voted on today in special session. If approved, the bill would be sent to the Senate for confirmation. California has only until January 19th to submit grant for the first round of RTTT funding. Not all states will receive RTTT funding and it is a one-time grant to the states so there is a sense of urgency to get a “hat in the ring” before the money runs out.

Proponents of SBX5 1 denounced the elimination of parental choice and the imposition of regulations on Charter Schools concerned that the Assembly form of the bill makes California less competitive in the RTTT competition.

The Grant Goddess will continue watching this one for you!

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.