Monday, December 27, 2010

A Grant Writer's Post Christmas Euphoria

I had the most wonderful Christmas in years. My folks came down from Oregon and were so content to hang out and go to my local haunts for a couple of days. My son was with us for much of the time. We ate too much, and drank a little but just enough. We watched “The Grinch” (cartoon version of course) and “Scrooge” with Alastair Sim for my Mom, and a bunch of WWII historical documentaries that involved airplanes for my stepfather. I dodged watching a single episode of "House" or even one minute of Fox News (basic cable is a wonderful thing).

I tried out two new recipes on my guests and both turned out to be big hits. Chili ala Mark and Brian was tremendous and while I altered it a little bit, I mostly held true to the recipe and it was awesome chili. I also made potato pancakes for Christmas morning ala Good Housekeeping and these too turned out better than I could have hoped for when one considers my limited kitchen and culinary aptitude.

We compromised on our annual argument about opening gifts on Christmas Eve by allowing my son and stepfather to each open one gift while my mother and I held steadfast in the face of this flagrant challenge to tradition and we opted to open all of ours on Christmas morning.

Our family gathering held at my cousin’s place on Christmas day was equally wonderful with a huge ham dinner and a Rick’s Dessert Diner cake provided by my Mom to top it all off. We stood under the house eaves in the rain and smoked some cigars (recreational stupidity, not a habit), we drank some nice wine, and we played some Nintendo video Frisbee golf (badly) and enjoyed the company. We all decided not to exchange gifts and simply enjoy each others’ company.

I’d say that by comparison, this was one of the nicest Christmases I’ve had in my lifetime; I’d rank it in the top five. I still have to say that the best one ever was when I got my first bike at about age 7. It was a big red Sears cruiser with a headlight built into the frame. My red-headed girlfriend Rhonda would ride on the back until she caught her foot in the rear spokes putting an end to our on-bike romancing.

This morning I am back in the office working on various grant-related projects. It’s good to be here in the afterglow of such a wonderful time with family. I hope everyone had an equally terrific Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

14 Tips to Stay Off the Naughty List

It might be a little late to think about this if you’ve already made it onto Santa’s Naughty List. If you’re in that unfortunate situation this year, you’ll need to pay attention to these tips for the coming grant year so you avoid another lump of coal next December 25.

In order to make Santa’s Nice List as a grant writer, here are some things to do in your grant work:

1. Always tell the truth in your narrative.

2. Always follow the RFP outline carefully.

3. Always proof and edit until your narrative is perfecto.

4. Always follow the formatting requirements.

5. Always charge an ethical fee.

6. Always complete all of your contract obligations.

7. Always help other grant writers out.

8. Always make your deadlines.

9. Always remember to thank your clients and keep them informed about new opportunities.

10. Always use the services of a good editor.

11. Always deliver an electronic copy of the narrative to your client.

12. Always keep careful grant submission evidence.

13. Always keep your electronic files organized.

14. Always leave milk and cookies for Santa.

Santa is probably putting the finishing touches on his Naughty List for this year so I’m not sure if you have time to make up for any lapses, but it’s never too late to get started! Giving your clients everything they deserve will definitely put you high on Santa’s Nice List. I hope Santa brings you exactly what you want for Christmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Grant Writing Training at Taco Bell?

Nobody takes their broken car to a used car salesman for repair. People don’t take their watch to Taco Bell for a new battery. We all look for people who have expertise, credentials, and a successful background to prove they can do the job. A spokes model may make a compelling pitch, but it is unlikely they've ever written a grant.
Our company, Creative Resources and Research, offers grant writing courses. We provide these courses in a seminar format on site and we develop curriculum, videos, and materials for a series of online courses.

We use our rich experience in grant writing to develop materials and training scripts; our training is not creative writing. If you purchase grant writing training from Creative Resources and Research, you can be assured that you are getting top quality information created by successful, practicing grant writers.

We have decades of combined experience as full time grant writing professionals. We also held jobs that required grant writing for many years before entering the field full time. We know grant writing backwards and forwards because we’ve written hundreds of successful proposals. Nearly all of the grants we’ve written have been for annual amounts of $100k or more, and some were for totals in the millions of dollars. We have secured nearly 160 million in grants for our clients since 2000.

We’ve written grants for local and state governments and even for the government of Puerto Rico. We’ve scored grants for State and Federal government agencies. We’ve written grants for non-profits and for-profits. We’ve written business plans in Southern California and business proposals in South Africa. We’ve written marketing copy, web copy, and we can even run the copy machine. We’ve done every part of the grant process many times over.

Our experience in grant writing is built on long hours of hard work and diligence. It is built on excellent mentoring. It is built on a network of professionals who give us feedback and share with us about the field. We are still learning, but we are accomplished grant writers. We are not pretenders. We are not beginners.

We respectfully suggest that buying grant writing training from a spokes model makes as much sense as having your watch repaired by Taco Bell. If you want to learn how to write excellent grant proposals, you’ll choose to learn grant writing from experts. At Creative Resources and Research we are grant writers first, teachers second, and spokes models last (or not at all depending on who you talk to).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Let's be Honest - You're a Lousy Writer

Ouch.  Was that really necessary?

Well, if you ever want to become a good writer, then yes, it was necessary.

Alright, I would never say it quite that way, but I have reviewed many grants and other writing samples, and it's the hardest thing to have to tell someone. If the basic writing is solid, it's easy to talk about structure, objectives, graphics, voice, flow, and responses to the scoring criteria. Having a discussion about poor basic writing skills, though, is very difficult.

I think it's hard for several reasons.  First, people take their writing very personally. Criticism about someone's writing feels a lot like criticism of them personally, even when it is not. Second, basic writing skills are the hardest to develop if a person doesn't already have them. It takes time, focus, effort, and patience. Someone who is a lousy writer can't just become a good writer overnight. Sure, it's possible to become a good writer, but not in a week or through a single revision cycle. Finally, anyone who comes to me with a writing sample usually assumes and thinks he is a good writer.  There's an identity and self-esteem issue in the mix. Getting through that without destroying the relationship and dashing a person's writing hopes and dreams is like navigating through a mine field in the middle of a dark night, while blindfolded, during a rainstorm.  Your chances of success (See?  I'm not a complete pessimist.).

Still, knowing about any shortcomings in your basic writing skills is critical information if you're going to get any better. Writing is a craft that requires constant improvement. Everyone makes mistakes when they write. That's why we learn to proofread our own work and sometimes employ outside proofreaders, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about writing that is grammatically incorrect more than 20% of the time or that is riddled with punctuation errors. That kind of writing will not improve without a focused effort to learn what's wrong and to fix it.

Then, you have to practice writing.  Work through critiques and revisions, and practice some more.

At the same time, you need to read a lot so you can see examples of excellent writing of all kinds and allow the millions of structural variations to become part of your own language repertoire.

My suggestion is to find a friend or mentor who is already a good writer, and who will tell you the truth.  This is no small task (for the reasons I cited above), but it's essential if you want to become a good writer.

Anything worth doing requires effort.  Writing is no different. Get an honest assessment of your skill, and then don't pout.  Get busy making your writing better.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Accidental Grant Writer

I wasn't going to be a grant writer.  No, I was going to be an attorney.  That was definitely my plan as I was growing up.  It was still my plan in college.  That's what I thought the smart girls were supposed to do.

Then the twists and turns of life led me to the classroom at the age of 22 and I became a teacher.  I loved it.  It wasn't necessarily the kids I loved (but yes, I do love children), but it was that moment of epiphany when a child finally learned something new. I loved learning so much that it shouldn't have surprised me that I would enjoy helping others learn, too.

It was as a teacher that I wrote my first grant proposal. It was a $5,000 grant for some technology equipment.  Specifically, I wanted a videodisc player (remember those?) and a large screen TV (back before they were in anyone's home) to help my ELD students have more multimedia experiences (there were no computers in classrooms in those days - only small labs with Apple IIe machines) so they could understand the curriculum better. It required a 5-page narrative and it was very challenging for me, but I did it, and I was successful. The grant was awarded to my classroom!

Still, even though I had written a successful grant, I didn't think of myself as a grant writer.

After years as a teacher, I became a school administrator.  That's what I thought the smart girls were supposed to do. As a school administrator, I was responsible for overseeing several grants. It was interesting.  I enjoyed starting new programs from scratch, and it was in that capacity that a met a grant writer and program evaluator who became my mentor (Read about the Top 10 Lessons I Learned from my Grant Writing Mentor).

After several years, he asked me to do some grant writing for him on the side.  I discovered that I was pretty good at it, but I was still an educator who also did grant writing.  I still didn't think of myself as a grant writer.

A few years later, he asked me to leave public education and to come work for him as a full time grant writer and program evaluator. It was a big step for me, but he told me that's what the smart girls were supposed to do, so I did it.

A few years after that, I left his firm and started my own. By then, there was no question in my mind that I was a grant writer; however, there was no point in my life in which I said to myself, "I want to learn how to be a grant writer."  It just happened.  I stepped from opportunity to opportunity and learned what I could as I went along. There were no classes on grant writing offered in graduate school at that time. No one had even even mentioned it to me as a potential career path.

It was almost as if it happened by accident.  I was the accidental grant writer.

(Of course, I know there are really no accidents, but that's the subject of an entirely different post.)

Things are different today for folks who have some writing talent who want to make a difference in their corner of the world.  There are online courses in grant writing to teach you how to become an excellent grant writer, and there are even courses in how to become a freelance grant writer so you can learn the business side of the business. There are courses in colleges and universities, and even certification programs (although a certificate does not guarantee any success; the most successful grant writers I have ever known hold no special certificate). There are blogs, like this one, and websites to read to learn about the industry.

There is so much more support available now than when I started. Tapping into this support, well, that's just what the smart girls (and boys!) do.


Related Posts:

Grant Writing: A Romantic Misconception

Think Positively and Make It Happen

So You Want to Become a Freelance Grant Writer: Are you Barking Mad?

Would you like the digital version of 101 Tips for Aspiring Grant Writers to download right now?  Download it now!

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Grant Writing Fantasy

My feet are firmly planted on the ground, and I am grateful for each and every one of my grant writing clients; however, I do have a bit of a fantasy life (shhhh...let's just keep that between you and me and the millions of folks on the internet, ok?).  This means, of course, that I have a grant writing fantasy, too. In the interest of full disclosure, I have decided to share it with you.

I get a phone call from a prospective client.  He sets up an appointment to come and see me about a new grant (instead of asking me to drive three hours each way to see him). I like him already.

When he arrives, he looks just like George Clooney (you don't have a problem with that, do you?  This is my fantasy, ya know...), and he has come prepared with a box of materials to share.  As we sit down to talk, the following things become clear:

  1. He has already thoroughly read the RFP.
  2. His organization has a well-developed vision and mission, and they have already been planning a new project that is a perfect match for this funding source.
  3. He has already assembled a grant committee that has developed a detailed summary of what they want to do.
  4. He has also already developed a draft budget.
  5. His community partners are on board, and they have already written some draft letters of support for me to review.
  6. The box he brought in with him also contains his organization's strategic plan (which has been updated within the last year), notes from grant planning meetings (along with sign-in sheets), recent outcome evaluation data documenting the effectiveness of his organization's services, and the results of a client and stakeholder survey he administered within the last month to gather information for this grant proposal.
  7. He respects my opinion as an expert, which he demonstrates by asking insightful questions.
  8. He has come fully prepared for the business side of the discussion. He has done his homework, so he knows our rates, and he has already acquired approval from his board to sign a contract - right now, today. In fact, he has a check in his pocket for the first payment.
Every now and then, he stops talking and just gazes at me with his gorgeous eyes (MY fantasy, remember?) and then he continues, staying on topic and respectful of my time.  He answers my questions about the project clearly and succinctly, and if he doesn't have the answer to one of my questions, he makes a note of it, and calls or emails me within a day with the answer.

As we start working together, he sends more helpful data and he is always available to take my calls when I need more information. 

He reviews drafts I send within 24 hours, and it is clear that he has reviewed them carefully because his comments are thoughtful, insightful, and useful. He trusts my writing process. 

As the deadline approaches, he remains calm and confident that we will get the job done well and on time. He doesn't start calling and emailing 20 times a day to ask the status of the project. He refrains from changing the project design after he has already reviewed the third and final draft of the narrative. He allows my staff the freedom to make minor budget changes, as necessary, to ensure that the narrative matches the budget (subject to his final approval, of course).

He reviews the final product carefully before submittal, fully understanding that he is responsible for the final product.

After the grant has been submitted, he makes his final payment in a timely manner - it actually arrives a day before it is due! He knows we won't have any news for several months, so he refrains from calling every week "just to see if we've heard anything yet." 

He does, however, call with new projects for us to work on together, all with the same planning, organization, and professionalism that he demonstrated on the previous project. Soon, he sets up another meeting to introduce me to a colleague from another organization who is also looking for a grant writer and has a specific grant project in mind.  He tells me that he taught his colleague everything he knows, so the process will progress pretty much as it did with his organization.

By the way, his colleague looks a lot like Brad Pitt.


Related posts:


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Think Positively and Make It Happen

I’ve found that there are basically two kinds of people working in the world. There are those with the desire to make “it” happen, and those who enjoy the comfort and stability of the status quo. The “it” is what makes life interesting as a freelance grant writer. The whole risk-reward equation is invigorating, motivating, and adrenaline-inducing.

Whether I have worked inside an agency or outside of one, I’ve been the type of person who wants to make it happen. It didn’t matter if I was making it happen for other people, for the agency I worked for, or for myself, I enjoy the ongoing challenge of promoting a worthwhile person, idea, or project.

Grants offer me the chance to make a difference. I can help someone obtain funding they need to promote an idea, program, or project. That’s a pretty cool position to be in and it’s what I have always been best at doing. I’m good at getting people to the table and facilitating the discussion. I’m good at negotiating compromise and seeking ways around, over, and under barriers. I love it, probably in part because it’s all about using language effectively.

The grant writing process is the process of using both verbal and written language effectively to write successful proposals that promote change. When I held leadership positions, I used to say that change is so hard for people that you can’t change a light build without dissent. Grant projects are like that on a grander scale in which lots of light bulbs usually need to be changed. Grant projects can move big ideas forward but grants almost always mean change will happen. The work of that change often falls on staff outside of those employed by the grant.

Negotiating agreement with people impacted by a grant program is a big deal if the grant is going to be successfully implemented. I’ve seen many grants written through the years that did not involve meaningful input from the “stakeholders” (ugh, we need a new word for that, sounds like a waiter at Ruth’s Chris). These grants got bogged down from Day One as people woke up to the reality of all this new work! “Holy guacamole!” they’d say, “I never agreed to do that!?”

I observed helplessly as these grants failed to gain the momentum needed for change and failed to meet their objectives. Lots of money got spent, but resistance to change prevented anything meaningful from happening. More negotiation was needed before applications were made.

The results of a badly negotiated grant program are terrible. A few of the consequences I’ve seen are the loss of good staff; often these are the same people who brought the idea to the table in the first place. These highly motivated, creative and dedicated people who lose heart and move on to more adaptable environments. The staff hired to replace them are often less committed and more willing to “water-down” the activities and objectives to accommodate the level of resistance they meet.

Another terrible consequence is that the agency may be less willing to pursue future grant proposals or suggest real change. The burn of a grant gone wrong can hurt the agency for a long time so it’s important to negotiate well with everyone the changes impact. This does not mean that all objections must be overcome, that rarely happens. Sometimes a grudging acknowledgement is the best you’re going to get, just be prepared for a few mules.

In spite of that, lay it all on the table so people can’t say they didn’t know what was coming. There’s always going to be unintended consequences but good planning can minimize those. Plus, nobody will be able to honestly say that those consequences were concealed to push a grant agenda forward (some may still say it but you’ll have meeting minutes to prove it just ain’t so).

Making it happen is an exciting feature of grant work. But obtaining funding and successfully creating change are not the same things, the latter does not necessarily flow from the former. Grant writers who volunteer to become involved in the planning process can have a positive influence on outcomes. A grant writer who has been around a while can point out planning pitfalls, suggest program alternatives, and give a fresh perspective to difficult issues of implementation. I find that my many years of project implementation experience make me a valuable resource around the table when grant planning is taking place. Not only that, the information I collect by participating makes my narrative concrete so the time is well-spent.

People in the insurance industry who bring in clients are called “producers.” I’ve always liked that term and apply it to what I do in terms of working with clients. I like to make it happen and produce clients. I like to write grants that make it happen for others. Grant writing is rewarding work in many ways and it takes positive thinking to make “it” happen.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas (for Grant Writers)

On the first day of Christmas,
My client sent to me,
A hundred page RRR-F-Peeeeee,

On the second day of Christmas my client sent to me,
Two weak objectives,
And a hundred page RRR-F-Peeeeee,

On the third day of Christmas my client sent to me,
Three grant amendments,
Two weak objectives,
And a hundred page RRR-F-Peeeeee,

On the fourth day of Christmas my client sent to me,
Four urgent emails,
Three grant amendments,
Two weak objectives,
And a hundred page RRR-F-Peeeeee,

On the fifth day of Christmas my client sent to me,
Five nervous Board members,
Four urgent emails,
Three grant amendments,
Two weak objectives,
And a hundred page RRR-F-Peeeeee,

On the sixth day of Christmas my client sent to me,
Six project changes,
Five nervous Board members,
Four urgent emails,
Three grant amendments,
Two weak objectives,
And a hundred page RRR-F-Peeeeee,

On the seventh day of Christmas my client sent to me,
A seven figure error,
Six project changes,
Five nervous Board members,
Four urgent emails,
Three grant amendments,
Two weak objectives,
And a hundred page RRR-F-Peeeeee,

On the eighth day of Christmas my client sent to me,
Eight readers reading,
A seven figure error,
Six project changes,
Five nervous Board members,
Four urgent emails,
Three grant amendments,
Two weak objectives,
And a hundred page RRR-F-Peeeeee,

On the ninth day of Christmas my client sent to me,
Nine new partners,
Eight readers reading,

A seven figure error,
Six project changes,
Five nervous Board members,
Four urgent emails,
Three grant amendments,
Two weak objectives,
And a hundred page RRR-F-Peeeeee,

On the tenth day of Christmas my client sent to me,
Ten phone call messages,
Nine new partners,
Eight readers reading,

A seven figure error,
Six project changes,
Five nervous Board members,
Four urgent emails,
Three grant amendments,
Two weak objectives,
And a hundred page RRR-F-Peeeeee,

On the eleventh day of Christmas my client sent to me,
Eleven new objectives,
Ten phone call messages,
Nine new partners,
Eight readers reading,

A seven figure error,
Six project changes,
Five nervous Board members,
Four urgent emails,
Three grant amendments,
Two weak objectives,
And a hundred page RRR-F-Peeeeee,

On the twelfth day of Christmas my client sent to me,
A Twelve page color graphic,
Eleven new objectives,
Ten phone call messages,
Nine new partners,
Eight readers reading,

A seven figure error,
Six project changes,
Five nervous Board members,
Four urgent emails,
Three grant amendments,
Two weak objectives,
And a hundred page RRR-F-Peeeeee.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Non-Profit Grant Writing eBook Published!

We just published our latest eBook and it's now available online!  We titled this one, "Non-Profit Grant Writing" and it's a collection of essays on the topic!  Like our five other eBooks, it's absolutely free to download so if you're interested just Click Here and you can complete the form and download it instantly!

Our five other eBooks may also be downloaded by clicking the links below.

"The 12 Secrets of Successful Grant Writers"
"Freelance Grant Writing"
"Using Social Media to Improve Your Business"
"Selecting an Evaluator"
"Cooking Up Winning Grants with the Grant Goddess"

The Fortunes of Grant Writing

There once was a grant writer with a big problem. No matter how much he wrote and wrote, none of his grants were getting funded. He was in despair and began to lose hope. In between grant applications, he began to submit employment applications for jobs in other fields.

One day, while delivering a resume for a job as a truck driver, the unhappy grant writer walked past a store with a sign in from on a pole that was leaning precariously as though it may fall over with the slightest breeze. The sign read, “Fortune Teller - Fortunes Told $5.”

He pulled his thin wallet from his pocket and opened it to find only four dollars inside. Thegrant writer sighed deeply and put his wallet away. He turned to walk away when the door of the shop opened and an ancient woman peered out at him and motioned at him to come in.

Quickly the grant writer looked behind him but seeing he was alone he knew she meant for him to come inside. He had second thoughts about the whole idea because he was broke and could ill-afford spending even four dollars on such a dubious adventure as having his fortune read.  The old woman again motioned for him to enter.

He was in desperate straits and willing to take any course to change his grant writing luck so he ambled up the walk and into the dim, cluttered shop where the old woman had positioned herself behind a small table draped with black cloth. In the center of the table was a large, shimmering crystal ball. The woman wore a black gown with a multi-colored sash around her shoulders. Her long, silky, white hair cascaded lightly about her shoulders. Her face was wrinkled and craggy, and her nose long and crooked.  She had an air of ancient mystery about her.

The old woman gazed intently at him, “Sit down,” she invited.  The grant writer meekly took the chair opposite her. “I knew you would come today,” she said in a low, even voice that had a metallic quality. “What is it you want to know?” she asked the grant writer. He was nervously peering into the crystal ball trying hard not to meet her glassy, black eyes. “I want to know if any of my grants will get funded,” he asked very seriously, “You see, I am a grant writer…” “I know what you do,” she interrupted.

“How do you know?,” he asked her. “I see all and I know all,” She told the grant writer. He merely gaped at her in wonder. “, you can tell me if my grants will be funded or not?” “I can,” she asserted with confidence, “Sadly, none of your grants will be funded.”

The grant writer’s face fell and his eyes searched the crystal ball for answers. “Why, why won’t they get funded?” he pleaded with the old woman to tell him. “Because, you mislabeled the address on the envelopes and they’ve all been coming here to me,” she stated flatly as she plopped a stack of fat envelopes in front of the grant writer. “This is 501 Capitol Avenue and you should have written 501 Capital Avenue on these envelopes. The post office knows how to spell young man, if you’re going to be a successful grant writer, so must you,” advised the sage old woman.

So the grant writer took the old woman’s advice. He learned to use spell check, he read each narrative carefully, and he hired an hourly editor to review each grant. Soon, the grant writer was successful and nearly all of his grant applications were funded!

The moral to the story - The postman cannot read your mind.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Where to Market Grant Writing Services Online at Low Cost

I spoke to an artist over the weekend about how he markets his artwork online. He told me he recently closed down his web site because it was costing him too much money to make changes and updates.  He was completely dependent on his web designer to do all that for him.  I wasn't surprised to hear his complaints.  As the Internet becomes less dependent on designers, fewer people should have to pay a lot of money for a web presence.

There’s nothing wrong with web designers, I’ve known some good ones. But I’ve found that while web designers are very interested in the “design” part, many are not so "into" the boring maintenance part. Lack of responsiveness can be a real problem for the owner of the site. Keeping a web site fresh and up-to-date is important for search engine rankings. If you don’t work at it and keep it current, visitors don’t come back and search engines rank the site progressively lower and nobody will ever find your site.

Here are some ideas for people who want an online presence but do not want to pay for it. These options are offered free on large sites that get high rankings so some search engine favoritism is built in making it easier to find you.  These are a few options that I use so I will direct you to the pages I’ve created there so you can see some basic layouts and how the content is presented on them.

Squidoo – On Squidoo you create what they call a Lens. You may create many of them which are actually content pages about whatever you want to write about. Mine is about Grant Writing Tips. I have Squidoo connected to Posterous so everything I post there goes to Squidoo as well.

Tumblr – This is a web site set up to act as a web site/blog.  Here is the tumblr staff blog so you can see a pretty nice example of what you can create here.
Posterous – This is an online service where you can set up a blog like mine here. Posterous is also nicely organized so you can enable reposting to your other sites such as Squidoo and Tumblr. Perhaps the nicest feature of Posterous is that it allows you to post via email. All you do is send your post by email to your personal account and it not only posts it to your Posterous blog, Posterous also posts it to every service you have connected. It’s pretty slick and a fast way to get your information out there around the web with one click.

Twitter – Twitter is so talked about it probably doesn’t need to be described here. I advise using it for two reasons. First, we know at our company that putting out tweets on a daily basis has a huge impact on our website traffic. Second, search results in Google are increasingly from Twitter posts (tweets), this tells me that Google thinks Twitter traffic is important. You can connect your Posterous blog to Twitter so a tweet will be issued whenever you email a blog post via Posterous.  You can also create custom twitter backgrounds like Veronica's instead of using the stock ones that Twitter provides.
You may be reasonably asking why you would want to re-post the same content across several sites as I have advised here. The primary reason is that your audience is probably not all finding their information in the same place so you want to establish the broadest footprint on the web that you can in order not to miss anyone!

These are a few online marketing tools that can help you drive traffic back to your web site without spending a ton of money on design, Using these resources, you can build your own reputation as an expert and share information that is useful to improving the field of grant writing.  Free online services such as those above can help customers find you at a low cost.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Starting a Non Profit Takes Money

Almost every week, I speak with someone who has just started a new non-profit organization. Many of these fine, well-intentioned folks call me because they want to find grant money to help them get started. I am not surprised when some of their expectations are a little out of alignment with reality because anyone who would go to the trouble and expense of starting a non profit organization is a bit of a dreamer and idealist to begin with. Sometimes people dive in on faith without checking the depth of the water and that can be a painful mistake.

The trouble is starting a non profit organization is an expensive undertaking, and dreams don’t always align well with reality of implementation. The legal paperwork, the tax deposit, and the time and effort to start a non profit all add up to a sizable sum of money. Many of the people I speak to are already “tapped out” by the up front expenses of becoming a legal entity. They’ve got the status, but not have no money to do what they wanted to do, so they call me about seeking grants. But grant seeking costs money too if you want someone else to do it for you, it’s a lot of work with no guarantees.

I know from first-hand experience that it’s a lot easier to start a non profit than to raise the money to keep it going. I learned this through direct experience serving ten years as a founding board member for a national non profit, starting my own non profit organization (which failed to thrive), and serving on the start-up Board for another non profit that did thrive (due to good leadership).

Here are ten things my experience tells me you should consider before paying the up front legal expenses to start a non profit organization. Attending to these things may help you avoid finding yourself in a financial hole before you even get started. I advise you to delay filing the legal paperwork until:

1. you have recruited a large enough Board with sufficient connections and resources to provide a base of local funding and support for a basic level of services;

2. you have completed a thorough assessment of the need for the services you want to provide including competing agencies and services;

3. you have surveyed potential participants on their need for the services and their preferences in terms of service delivery;

4. you have identified a sustainable entry level of service delivery;

5. you have at least explored finding a suitable and available location and/or facility to house your services;

6. you have developed at least a rudimentary fund raising plan that includes multiple funding streams and an identifiable donor pool (a fund-raising plan that may include grants, but is not dependent on grants);

7. you have recruited a Board member who is a CPA, or you have enlisted the assistance of a CPA firm willing to donate or discount their accounting services;

8. you have, or you have Board members with, credentials, experience, and connections in the area of service you want to provide;

9. you and your Board have written a mission statement that is meaningful to the community you’ll be raising funds within;

10. you have listened - really listened - to the “devil’s advocates” who can give you an alternative perspective on what you want to do (might be your wife!).

You can’t be afraid of examining your mission through the lens of the devil’s advocate. You must be courageous enough to listen to alternative points of view as you plan your non profit. If you don’t, you’re going to miss something important and you may just spend a lot of money starting a non profit that has a noble cause and no money to support it.

Funding is the life-blood that your heart-based operation must function on. Not all good ideas are fundable. Few brand new non profits are fortunate enough to identify a deep enough pocket to establish themselves. You can’t count on securing a huge grant to kick off your non profit! (In fact, as a start-up, you can probably count on not securing a huge grant) It’s probably going to take the shallow pockets of lots of people who believe in your mission to fund your project.  Take the time to test the waters before you dive in!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Intensity and Duration

Success in most things is not a lightning strike; it’s more like a slow sunrise on a frosty morning. It’s often coldest just before sunrise. I learned that fighting forest fires. I’d be out working on the fire line all night long and then just before dawn it could get bitter cold. On those early mornings I was grateful for a smoldering tree stump to warm myself beside.

Sometimes, success is like a rising sun. It is often lurking below the horizon and if you keep working just a little longer, it’ll rise up and warm you.

Grants are difficult narratives to write. Writing a grant narrative takes intensity of concentration and the duration of hours of work. The level of intensity of focus and the ability to endure that level of focus until the job is done is the key to creation of a great grant narrative.

I see lack of intensity and duration in grants when I read as a grant scorer. A grant often starts off sharp. The needs section is focused and the narrative is strong. I can see the needs of the organization and the people they serve so clearly. I am moved by their needs.

In many instances a lack of focus creeps in after the needs section. The intensity of the writer is spent on writing the needs section and the narrative begins to drift. I begin to despair that the needs might not be met by the project design.

As I continue to read the narrative, I see holes in their plan, there are unexpected components that are unconnected to the needs described. I become confused, and as I do, the scores for each section get progressively lower.

Continuing my reading, I see errors in spelling, in arithmetic, incongruities between sections, and sloppy formatting. I can see the writer could not endure, their intensity faltered.

It is truly sad reading a grant like this because the initial narrative showed you needs so clearly, needs the writer wanted to help remedy. Those needs could even be greater than the needs of all the other grants you are scoring. But having needs is not unique and it is not sufficient.

Writing a grant that describes needs and goes on to describe a logical, achievable solution to those needs IS unique. Putting forth a plan that builds reader confidence that the grant will be successfully implemented is critical to being granted the money.

It is important to keep working until success rises up to greet you. Only a writer with intensity and duration will write successful grants. Writers must bring their whole mind to grant writing and success comes to those who can press their concentration through to the end of the task.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Grant Writer's Holiday

Thanksgiving has come and gone for the year. That means one thing, that the feast is over and the holidays now have an unstoppable momentum that will swoosh us into the New Year grant season quicker than the wink of Santa’s eye. My Thanksgiving was great, a feast of two types, one gourmand and one of writing.

Every grant writer knows there are seasons for grants. Grant seasons are when agencies issue RFP’s, and these are somewhat predictable. A grant writer in high grant season is like a grizzly in the river catching salmon, there’s lots to eat. In low seasons, the feast is slimmer. Sometimes we’re scrounging around a bit looking for the odd berry, or digging up mushrooms.

Fall is customarily a fallow season for grant writing. This means that the Thanksgiving holiday is normally uninterrupted by work. Unexpectedly though, this past weekend, there was a sudden surge of salmon in the river! I landed a nice contract on Wednesday that was due today! Yes, I had just four days over the Thanksgiving weekend to complete the proposal! A new corporate client in a foreign country requested emergency writing assistance and I thought -JEEPERS! - there’s salmon in the river during off season!

So I did what a hungry grizzly does when confronted with a sudden run of salmon: I dove into the river of course. I engaged immediately with the RFP and developed an outline. Before going to a wonderful Thanksgiving feast, I began to write the narrative. A grizzly doesn’t decide that it would be better to watch four days of televised football and eat potato chips when there are salmon to be caught.

I was too full of turkey to continue writing on Thursday evening so I worked in my office Friday and Saturday. On Sunday I did revisions and took overseas Skype calls from Africa at home and by the afternoon, my client and I put the proposal to rest.  Ahh, a belly full of salmon.

My Thanksgiving was a complete success, I ate turkey with stuffing and I feasted on writing. Here I am on Monday full and satisfied; the fall run of salmon is over for now and I am back in the bushes looking for berries.

Photo Credit - Thomas Picard

Monday, November 22, 2010

Perspectives on Thankfulness

I am confronted with poverty each time I take my weekend walk around Midtown. Sacramento draws a large number of homeless people. They are – for the most part - an industrious group. I wonder at their wandering, that is, their constant movement to avoid arrest or to seek resources. Some wait patiently by the road or outside a grocery store asking for money. Others roll all their worldly possessions along the street in a shopping cart or carry them in bags on their back. One group is sometimes BBQ’ing on a small Weber in a vacant parking lot.

Often coming home from a late evening at the office, or leaving early in the morning, I see the same people searching for recyclables. These busy folks move quickly from trash can to trash can seeking what the rest of us throw away. I’m impressed by their work ethic and the long hours they keep. I’m impressed with the optimism that they will find what they need which keeps them moving, always moving.

Many non profit organizations work with homeless people. Some provide food, some shelter, some clothing, and others offer medical care and mental health services. I’ve talked with some of the people who work in these organizations. They see the hardships of life on the streets every day. They love the people they serve – they experience their humanity. These non profit folks speak of the gold that is considered by society to be in the gutters. I love the fact that grants and grant writers can make an impact by helping non profit organizations find money for services which give hope to the homeless.

As I prepare to attend a Thanksgiving feast on Thursday, I am mindful that homeless people will be outdoors in the cold that day using a hooked pole to reach into garbage bins. I am mindful that the hungry can’t afford to take a day off. Many will face the cold of that night with an empty stomach holding on to a slim hope that tomorrow will be better. If I am up early the next morning there they will be, trundling their bundles of cans and bottles along the alleyways wearing the same straw sombreros, moving, always moving.

Thanksgiving is a time to count blessings, serve, and share blessings with others. Times are tough for many, yet most of us will still sit down well-dressed and warm to a Thanksgiving feast. May we all be truly thankful for our blessings this Thanksgiving, and thereby, be motivated to bless others.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Waxing Poetic about Freelance Grant Writing

Into My Own

by Robert Frost

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,

So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,

Were not, as 'twere, the merest mask of gloom,

But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

I should not be withheld but that some day

Into their vastness I should steal away,

Fearless of ever finding open land,

Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

I do not see why I should e'er turn back,

Or those should not set forth upon my track

To overtake me, who should miss me here

And long to know if still I held them dear.

They would not find me changed from him they knew--

Only more sure of all I thought was true.

To embark upon a path as a freelance grant writer is to venture away from what is known and comfortable, from a job and co-workers you’ve known and perhaps liked so well. It is a step into a vast open landscape of business where you may never find, as Frost writes, open land again. But if you are meant to be an entrepreneur, then there are things about yourself you know to be true, that others may only seek and never find. Some others may follow after you and find you to see if you were in fact were being true to yourself to strike such a daring path.

To start your own business is a bold adventure into a mask of gloom. But there is open land out there to be found and only the brave will discover it. Many of us cling unhappily to the safety of the familiar and routine. Some dare not enter that which stretches away into the unknown, perhaps to the edge of doom. Leaving the well-trodden path leads away from those who might miss us, and we them.

Walking through the fear is what Veronica told me to do long ago. I was hesitant to start my own grant writing business. She encouraged me to walk into the unknown because she had already done so, and knew therefore, that there was open land to be found. I took that walk too soon after her, and it was good land!

We don’t often have the opportunity to wax poetic in our grant writing so thank you kind reader for indulging me here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Are You Experiencing Writers’ Block?

It’s one thing to be a hobby blogger and get writer's block, it is quite another to have a large grant contract and have writer’s block. Writer's block on a grant contract gives me high anxiety. Before panic sets in, I leave the narrative, sit myself down, and try to decide what it is that has me stuck.

Writer’s block for grant writers is not the same thing as it is for a fiction writer. Fiction writers are creating a story from whole cloth while grant writers – usually – are writing based on tangible facts or at the very least creating project designs based on current realities.  This makes is easier to identify the source of the block.

Whenever I experience writer’s block it is usually based on one or more of several things; for example, a lack of facts, a lack of understanding of the RFP, or a lack of conversation with the client about their plans.

Lack of facts can kill your writing flow early on in the process. Most grants start with the Needs Section and that’s where you usually have the most current, well-sourced facts. If you have trouble getting needs data from the client, which is sometimes the case, you need to look online for relevant facts about their needs. You may need demographic information, unemployment information, crime statistics, or you may need to do a Google search for current news about the topic. You may find that your client does not keep good records about what they do so it can be difficult to make a case for need. In those cases you’re going to need to supplement their data.

You’re going to get writer’s block if you don’t fully understand the RFP; or worse, you’ll write a narrative that doesn’t address it. There are times when I read an RFP and I think to myself, “who wrote this?” Sometimes the sections seem to be asking me to describe the same thing over and over again. In these cases, it’s usually my lack of careful reading that is the issue. I need to go back to the RFP and use my knowledge of grant writing to decide what the agency wants in each section even if it sounds the same, because it certainly is not the same to them. Generally there is an unfolding of the program plan right from the abstract through the evaluation plan which is logical and creates an orderly description of the program. If the RFP is confusing, lean on your knowledge about how a grant is written in a general sense that will help you unravel mysterious RFP’s. You should also review the scoring rubric to find clues about what to include in each section.

Failure to adequately discuss the project design with a client will leave you frustrated in the writing, and make your client frustrated when it comes to reviewing a draft. If you’re stuck when you begin writing goals and objectives, re-engage with the client immediately before you trek off in a southerly direction when they’re expecting that you’ll be headed north. They are the ones who have to implement what you’re writing so be sure that you’ve had enough discussion with them to write with authority.

A host of other things can cause writers’ block that have nothing to do with the grant. These can include lack of sleep, poor diet, personal drama, etc. Since I am neither Dr. Oz nor Dr. Phil, I won’t wade into those topics. Writer’s block can be stressful for a grant writer. When you’re feeling blocked, stop trying to force the narrative, grab a cup of coffee, leave the computer, and head for your quiet spot to sort out what is creating it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Grant Writing - Fact or Fiction

It’s my turn to write today. Veronica and I take turns - more or less - depending on the work we’ve got on the board. Today it’s my turn. Actually I could write tomorrow since we try to post once over the weekend – that per our editorial calendar, the one we developed post-Blog World Expo.

Often when I am blogging, I don’t know what I want to write about. My bulb is burning a bit dimly as it were, and as it is. So I just start writing and usually something gels, an idea crystallizes and I find a thread of an idea. You a probably wondering at this point what that is in this post – well, so am I, so take a number.

When I train people in grant writing I tell them that it is about writing both fact and fiction. The fiction must be based on fact of course, but let’s face it, most of the time you are writing about what you WILL do after you get the money. You are describing a future state created by the money you’re asking for. You don’t have the money yet and you can’t very well say, "I don’t know how this is going to work out,"can you?

So while you are describing the facts as you understand them, the present state of being, the needs, the structure of your organization, the people you will serve and why they need the services; you must also project into the future and describe how the services will be delivered.

The truth is that you’re giving your very best educated guess at how the services will be delivered, but it’s still a guess. Anyone with enough gray hair will tell you that no matter how well you plan something, implementing it is always full of dead ends, barbed wire fences, concrete barriers, and stubborn people who won’t do things your way. So you have to adjust, find ways under, through, over, and around.

But that’s reality. Reality in describing the perfect program implementation is what a grant writer is paid to do, not to project into the future to describe the inevitable problems that the project manager is going to face in implementing the project: that would be a critical error. A grant writer has to exude positive expectations and describe how things WILL go, and go well they will indeed. And only because you say they will mind you.

Don’t even get me started on the issue of sustainability. That topic is a post unto itself. Sustainability is where fiction turns to Pulitzer prize material – and perhaps, if you’re good enough at writing, Nobel prize material. Sustaining a program beyond the project period is an art form not achieved by many project managers, much less grant writers. Writing about how it will occur in a convincing manner is the stuff of Laureate grant writers.

Fact and fiction is what grant writing is all about. You simply must be good at both in order to write convincing proposals. So write blogs to express yourself, write poetry to develop your lyric expression, write fiction to exercise your imagination, and combine them all to write grants for pay.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Grant Goddess eCookbook?

You may be wondering if we’re an “abstract short of a complete application.” Maybe you’re even thinking the Grant Goddess is “one reboot shy of an install.” But we at Creative Resources and Research are boldly living up to the “Creative” part of our name. Publishing our new eCookbook thrusts us where no microwave-toting grant writer has dared to tread, into the realm of culinary greatness.  Comparisons to kitchen legends are sure to develop putting Veronica into the company of such as Julia Childs, Wolfgang Puck, and Gordon Ramsey (ok…well, without the gourmet cooking or the tantrums).

Cooking Up Winning Grants with the Grant Goddess is a collection of essays and recipes. It’s put together like a real cookbook with the added bonus of having interesting essays about grant writing. Here are the topics and the related recipes:
  • Deadlines are like Burritos
    • Ultimate Grant Beast Burritos 
  • Grants are like Box Lunches
    • Grilled Pastrami and Roast Beef Sandwich 
  • Some Grants are like Peanut Butter
    • Double-Decker Peanut Butter Sandwich
  • Grants are like Donuts
    • Extreme Pumpkin Cheesecake
  • Grants are like Sausages
    • College Casserole 
  • Grants are like Lasagna
    • Easy Lasagna
  • Grant Writers are Wah-Wah-Licious
    • Wah-Wah-Licious Ribs
  • End on the Last Page
    • Pickled Eggs
  • Bless His Cotton Socks
    • Bless My Butter Tarts

 You will appreciate the creativity of this eCookbook as well as the value (it’s free). Please use it as you wish and feel free to pass it around (makes a great stocking stuffer too). Let us know if you’ve tried some of the recipes and how they turned out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Being Creative is a lot of Fun/Work

It is hard sometimes to find the time to be creative. There are blog posts of course, and web sites, graphics, and creating new products, planning and executing new market strategies. Of course there are things within things, within things to do as well. Well, and of course there is the need to do some actual work that involves getting paid!

Let’s take creating an eBook as an example of how completing one creative product involves layers of work.

1. First, there must to be a concept. Sometimes the concept is the easiest part. But that’s only when someone has an idea that can kick off the whole process. At other times, being creative is the hardest part.

2. After the concept is chosen, content has to be content created and/or adapted. Aligning existing content with the concept is sometimes easy and at other times, it’s a creative process of its own to develop a nexus between the two.

3. Graphic elements must be created/found, selected, modified, and placed.

    a. A creative graphic idea may involve going out to take some photos, then processing the photos in a   graphic design, then placing the graphic design into whatever medium it was meant for.

    b. It may also involve development of original

4. Page design must be determined and sometimes a downloadable template will do, but this is still time-consuming to find just the right one for the project. Modifications may need to be made in order to make any particular template work for the project.

5. Next you have to assemble all of the content of the eBook and make sure it all fits, is visually appealing, and well-organized.

6. After you have it all nicely formatted, you then go through the editing process which can mean some formatting dilemmas as well!

7. Next the document must be rendered into a pdf format. Pdf files are preferred because they are small in memory and almost everyone with a computer has adobe reader so the files are easily downloaded or emailed.

8. Last and ongoing there is development of marketing tools to let people know it exists. Which involves a number of the steps above all over again.

Being creative is interesting and fun, but it’s also a lot of work! Not that much different than being a grant writer I guess.

You can download our new eBook - Cooking Up Winning Grants

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thankful to be a Grant Writer

I am in the mood to talk about the things that make me thankful to be a grant writer. This could become an entire series but I’ll start with one post and see how it goes. I’ve decided to start with the top ten things I am thankful for.

1. I am thankful that I get to work with great people. I’ve met the most interesting and wonderful people since I set out on this career path. I’ve met many energetic, intelligent, kind, thoughtful people who are committed to a cause. So many of the people I’ve met are really inspirational.

2. I am thankful for the difficult people I work with too. Of course there have been a few turds in the punch bowl, but that’s life isn’t it? I’m still thankful for those people. They taught me valuable lessons like having a thicker skin, understanding that not everyone will like me or see things my way, and that usually when someone is being a jerk it isn’t about me (but when it is, I need to consider changes).

3. I am thankful for having the luxury of time to practice the craft of grant writing and the art of writing.

4. I am thankful for not being stuck on a salary schedule.  It always offended my sense of fair play when I saw people receiving range and step increases for nothing more than breathing and working to contract.

5. I am thankful that I get to go wonderful places for conferences, meetings, and training. It’s a benefit of being a consultant that never gets old.

6. I am thankful that I get to do a variety of tasks with my computer from writing to graphic design to web work. It is never slow and it never gets old because it’s always changing.

7. I am thankful for earning enough money to pay my bills and sometimes a little extra for the luxuries.

8. I am thankful for hot coffee every morning and really good snacks on our “grazing counter” in the kitchen. That’s where anyone may put food for everyone to share.

9. I am thankful I live in the USA where working as a consultant and making a decent living at it is still possible.

10. I am thankful for all the supportive family and friends who encouraged me to go out on my own as a grant writer leaving a secure, well-paid government job to work for myself. Their faith in me helped me gain the courage to go out on my own.

As you can see there are many things to be thankful about as a grant writer. I’m sure I could list ten more without any effort at all, like the fact that my wonderful old Civic started again this cold November morning and got me safely across the causeway and through the fields to work (thank you Honda).

Friday, November 5, 2010

Grant Writing is No Mystery

A good grant writer does not leave much to the readers' imagination. Page restrictions limit grant narratives and require a taut, limited narrative. A mystery writer seeks to spark the reader’s imagination but a grant writer seeks to answer all possible questions directly and early on.  A grant writer who writes grant narrative mysteries won’t be writing grants for very long.

Let’s compare grant writing to the rules of mystery writing.

1. In mystery writing, plot is everything – In grant writing the core is project design, but you can’t really say it’s everything. All parts of a grant are scored and since a nearly perfect score is what you need to get funding, you can’t say that one part of a grant is “everything.”

2. Introduce both the detective and the culprit early on –I like to open each grant with a short summary paragraph about what the grant will do and for whom. It sets the stage for the reader.

3. Introduce the crime within the first three chapters of your mystery novel – This is probably most like the purpose of your grant and here again, I like to introduce that immediately, certainly sooner, not later.

4. The crime should be sufficiently violent -- preferably a murder – Yikes! Well, let’s say that your solution to the needs presented should be compelling, perhaps not murderously so.

5. The crime should be believable – Your goals and objectives must be believable in terms of addressing the needs presented, in terms of scope, in terms of budget, and so on.

6. The detective should solve the case using only rational and scientific methods – In this case, your project manager, principal investigator, of project director should be implementing activities that use rational, research-based, evidence-based methods to meet the needs described.

7. The culprit must be capable of committing the crime – Use real data and cite sources for needs data, cite sources for methods to be implemented that demonstrate to the reader that the proposal and the proposing agency are capable of, and likely to, “commit the solution”.

8. In mystery writing, don't try to fool your reader – WOW, maybe mystery writing is a lot like grant writing. #1 rule in grant writing is to tell the truth. Lay it all out there clearly and succinctly and you will have made the best possible case for your proposal and when it’s funded, you won’t have trouble meeting your objectives!

9. Do your research – Amen!

10. Wait as long as possible to reveal the culprit – This is where grant writing and mystery writing are at polar opposites. If you wait until the end of your grant to reveal important details about your project, you’re sunk. A grant is not a mystery, and those that are receive low scores and don’t get funded.

There are other differences between writing a mystery and writing a grant. The amount of descriptive language contributing to setting and character development are minimized in writing a grant. It may be important to talk about the general setting of the place where the project will be implemented such as, “impoverished inner-city neighborhood.” A mystery writer may have the luxury of using a whole page to describe the dank alley in this neighborhood where the crime took place. A mystery writer may take pages to describe characters but in a grant this is typically replaced with an attached resume for the principal investigator.

Writing fiction and writing grants are not the same, but grant writers who also write fiction develop a variety of skills that cross over. Plain English that tells a story well is a common goal of both grant writing and mystery writing.

(Ten Rules of Mystery Writing taken from:, accessed on 11/5/10)
Photo Credit - Marija Gjurgjan

By Derek Link

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Technology is Changing Everything, Even Grant Writing Jobs

I was born in '59, that’s right all you young whipper-snappers out there, in the fifties (but barely).  It means I’m fifty one but context can only provide a vision of how old that really is.  In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states (in honor of my birth), Barbie dolls were introduced by Mattel (the start of negative body images among women), Weird Al Yankovic, Magic Johnson, Kevin Spacey, and Val Kilmer were born while Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens died (Bye Bye American Pie).  Bobby Darrin's "Mack the Knife" was the #1 song and the Beatles had not even invaded yet.  A lot has certainly transpired in the past 51 years.

Technology has continuously challenged me to keep up. Technology I remember in my house as a kid can be inventoried as: 1) a black rotary telephone (the ones with a round dial you used to put your finger in and actually dial), 2) a black and white television; 3) a toaster that burned the toast every morning, and 4) a hifi with radio and turntable. (I still get nostalgic when I hear someone scraping toast). Our black and white TV was replaced by a color model when I was in third grade. Television programs ended at around 10 or 11 and a test pattern with an Indian in the center was all you saw until around six the next morning.

Transistor radios came out in the early sixties and I recall getting one for Christmas one year. These relied on a one-ear headphone that broke easily so we all learned how to strip wires and twist them back together which never worked. Digital calculators began making their way into the schools during the time I was in high school and these were an expensive novelty and only good for spelling words upside down since I never did my math homework anyway. Digital watches followed soon after.

Computers were obscure things back then. My Dad worked in programming at Paramount Pictures on the IBM UniVac and my Mom was a keypunch operator for a couple of years. But we had no idea about the computer age that was coming our way. I think only Bill Gates and a few of his pals were that omniscient in those years (drat our lack of vision).

Video games entered my life in my senior year of high school in1976 when we were given a Pong game that played on the television. We enjoyed it but there were claims that the game damaged the television screens so I think we got rid of it. Sometime after Pong, Pac Man games were introduced and the pinball machine never recovered its former glory.

I paid little attention to technology in college, all I needed was my portable Remington typewriter for writing papers. My post-college room mate owned an Apple IIe computer which was useful for writing my Masters thesis. I think during the process he upgraded to a MacIntosh computer which was a giant leap forward in technology and it actually used 3.5 inch disks rather than the 6 inchers that the IIe required.

I first used the Internet during my Masters work when I used an online database for research at a local university, the only place it was accessible. I would not even have an email address for another four years or so and would not really begin to use the technology for several after that.

My first cell phone was a Motorola bag phone that weighed about three or four pounds. I remember the first two times that I was really impressed with the cell phone technology. The first was when I was travelling by car in Ontario, Canada and the phone rang. It was my secretary in California calling me. Here I was about 2,500 miles away, wireless, and the phone rang nonetheless! The second time was when some teenagers were acting like fools in a car. I was mad so I placed the phone on my dashboard and picked up the receiver and waved it at the driver who quickly sped away.

Grant writing jobs have emerged from the technological dark ages along with everything else. My first grants were written on computer so I never suffered the task of writing a grant on a typewriter. I consider those old-time grant writers to be a bunch of tough old birds, like the pioneers who came to California across the Wolfskill Trail in Conestoga Wagons. Grant research in those days surely would have required grueling time in the library searching the stacks for relevant literature to quote, more like my Masters research required.  I'm soft and like it that way.

The vast Internet search improvements from Gopher to Google have made my job as a grant writer smoother and easier. It has also raised the bar for research to a whole new level. Grant maker research is also improved and getting notification of RFP’s no longer depends on the post office. Grant submission is increasingly an online process so the entire grant industry is moving inevitably toward a paperless norm, and speaking of paperless...

I arrived at home the other day to find an early Christmas present from a dear friend. The box was labeled Amazon and when I picked it up it rattled, so I thought I’d received a book. A book was inside, but it is more correct to say that I received books, thousands of books; my friend sent me a Kindle! This amazing little piece of technology can even read the books to me aloud! Although I am still learning all of its functions, I know that I can download books anytime and almost anywhere. It is amazing.

I don’t know where technology will take me next but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be more amazing than my new Kindle, Netbook, or laptop. It’s going to do more, cost less, and be more incredible than what I’ve even dreamt of. My main challenge is to adopt and implement new technology before it’s obsolete. I have an little seven year old HP handheld that is so out of date I can’t even give it away even though it’s WIFI enabled.

I look back at my life so far and I’m astounded that technology has progressed from the vacuum tube operating system in our black and white bunny-eared TV (remember those horizontal and vertical hold knobs?), to a black and white, chip-driven, wireless Kindle that can read to me, and all this in a little over 50 years. Mostly I’m grateful that I didn’t start writing grants when the writing wasn’t the hardest part of the process.

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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.