Friday, April 30, 2010

Rediscover the Joy in Writing

I have a son in kindergarten who is just learning to read and write.  In spite of his lack of technical skill, almost every evening he joyfully grabs some paper, pens, and colored pencils or crayons and sets out on the task of creating a book.  Lately, all his books are about Bakugon (a kids' TV show), his current favorte obsession. He creates new characters, agnonizes over their characteristics, painstakingly "writes" his narrative, and creates elaborate illustrations to bring his ideas to life. Then he asks his father or me to staple or tape his book together.

No author on the New York Times Bestseller List is prouder than he is each time his new creation is complete.

Then he "reads" it to me (usually more than once) and he makes plans for how he's going to share it with his class the next day. And his eyes gleam with excitement the whole time.

Now he's after me to help him start a blog because he's convinced that the whole world needs to hear what he has to say, and he has a neverending supply of imaginative stories to tell.

The sheer joy he experiences when he writes inspires me every day.

I wonder when that creative joy of writing turned into "work." I think we rip the joy out of writing for children in school by constant focus on conventions and the writing process (including endless editing and rewriting),  rather than on content and creativity.  In his book, Readicide, Kelly Gallagher writes about how schools are killing reading through an over-focus on analysis.  I think we are doing the same thing to writing.

As adults, we have bought into the idea that writing has to be perfect or it's bad, and that only those with a particular gift can or should write. Non-fiction and technical writing (including grant writing) have been relegated to a level below fiction and determined (by whom???) to be less creative, less deserving of praise than fiction.

I have already written about the real payoff to grant writing - the opportunity to see the grants you have written as they are brought to life and really change peoples' lives. I have the honor of witnessing that over and over again.  I saw it again last night as I attended a public meeting and heard people talk about a very powerful program that made a difference in their lives - and I knew that two years ago, at about this time of year, it was all just a jumbled bunch of ideas in my head.  I put it on paper.  The government thought it was good enough to fund, and now it's real. Wow!

But even for those that are not funded, is there value in their writing?  Absolutely!

My son has discovered the sheer joy that comes from having an idea and using writing as a means of preserving and sharing it. The idea of tempering that joy with criticism or correction never enters my mind when he is sharing.  There is a time for analysis, and focusing on the conventions of writing, but that time is not when an author is in the flow - or experiencing the joy of creatvity.

Can you remember that joy?  Did you lose it?  When? How about trying to get it back?

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Where Do I Start? Advice for New Non-Profit Organizations

Here is some advice from non-profit consultant Derek Link for new non-profit organizations:

I get calls from leaders of new non-profit organizations periodically to help them raise money. Often these individuals have already gone through an awful lot of work to get their organization established. Usually they’ve already a) established a mission; b) written bylaws; c) established a board; and d) filed paperwork with their state and with the federal government to establish non-profit status.

They’re ready to find funds to get started and many think that foundations are the deep pockets they need to establish their services. Often at this point they’re a little frustrated because they’ve discovered that foundation grant seeking is difficult. They’ve probably written letters of inquiry with no return so they suspect they’re doing something wrong – because their mission is so worthy.

My guess is that what they’re doing wrong isn’t presenting the importance of their mission; it’s more likely to be that they haven’t built an internal case for funding – they very simply haven’t gotten started yet and foundations often see “start-ups” as risky investments.
Here is my advice to people wanting to start up a non-profit organization from scratch.
  1. Build a budget and strategic plan before filing your non-profit paperwork.
  2. Build an influential board that is willing to contribute financially or raise a percentage of the budget you need for year one.
  3. Build your local network with agencies that care about your mission, that may either have a budget for your services, or who may include you in future grant applications to provide services.
  4. Include other non-profits in your local network, including your local community foundation.
So, I suggest to you that you start your non-profit by building a local base of support before looking outside the community for funding. Foundations want to see that the local/impacted community is committed to your cause, and that you are doing a good job of establishing a solid business model for achieving your mission.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Find Happiness in the Midst of Deadlines

Spring! Does anyone have the time to stop and smell the roses? Amidst grant planning and deadlines, budget slashing and planning, state testing, and annual performance reports, stress takes center stage – zapping our energy and our health. MaryEllen Bergh, Grant Coach, shares some simple strategies to keep you happier and healthier this spring.
In an article in Prevention Magazine (May 2010), Alyssa Shaffer writes about 12 Power Health Moves that provide major benefits for our bodies and our minds. Here’s how 3 of these moves - holding hands, writing thank-you notes, and laughing - can keep you more relaxed and much happier.
  1. Hold hands and reduce stress by 200%! A little hug and a few minutes of holding hands with your partner, significant other, or friend can lower your blood pressure. A study conducted by researchers at the American Psychosomatic Society told two groups of partners that they were going to give a speech (an exercise that typically causes a spike in blood pressure). The first group sat holding hands for a short while and shared a hug for 20 seconds before the speech. The other group was separated (no hand holding or hugging allowed) shortly after the task was described. During the speech, the blood pressure and heart rate of the non-hand-holding/hugging group was more than double that of the people who held hands. Other research has demonstrated that a heartfelt hug (lasting at least 20 seconds) from a friend releases a bonding hormone called oxytocin which reduces stress, lowers heart rate, and improves your mood. Make sure you squeeze a little squeeze into your life today!
  2. Write a thank-you letter and feel 20% happier! Researchers at Kent State found that students who wrote letters expressing gratitude to someone special were happier and more satisfied with their lives. Through the process of writing a heartfelt sentiment, students had time to think about the connections between themselves and others and to count their blessings. There is one caveat, states researcher Steven Toepfer, “Dashing off a quick email or texting a pal might not have the same effect as taking the time to reflect and put pen to paper.” Put yourself in an attitude of gratitude and send a little thank-you to someone in your life.
  3. Laugh and improve blood flow by 21%! We all know that humor and laughter keep us balanced amid chaos but did you know that it is also good for your heart? A recent study from the University of Texas at Austin found that those who chuckled during a comedy increased the dilation of blood vessels by one-fifth for up to 24 hours; when they watched a serious documentary, the arteries constricted by 18%. Laughter releases feel-good neurochemicals that have numerous favorable effects on the body. Laugh long and prosper!

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

What is a Non-Profit Organization? (Part 1)

Non-profit consultant Derek Link sheds some light on non-profit organizations eligible for non-profit status:

Around April 15 each year people think about non-profit organizations because they’re filling out tax forms. Most people think of a non-profit organization as one that gives them a benefit when they donate to it; that is, their donation is considered tax-deductible by the IRS. The organizations that are given tax deductible status are listed in IRS Publication 526.


Examples given in Publication 526 include:
  • Churches, a convention or association of churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and other religious organizations.
  • Most nonprofit charitable organizations such as the Red Cross and the United Way.
  • Most nonprofit educational organizations, including the Boy (and Girl) Scouts of America, colleges, museums, and daycare centers if substantially all the childcare provided is to enable individuals (the parents) to be gainfully employed and the services are available to the general public. However, if your contribution is a substitute for tuition or other enrollment fee, it is not deductible as a charitable contribution, as explained later under Contributions You Cannot Deduct.
  • Nonprofit hospitals and medical research organizations.
  • Utility company emergency energy programs, if the utility company is an agent for a charitable organization that assists individuals with emergency energy needs.
  • Nonprofit volunteer fire companies.
  • Public parks and recreation facilities.
  • Civil defense organizations.
And something I didn’t know is that these may also be included for a tax deduction:
  • Canadian charities. You may be able to deduct contributions to certain Canadian charitable organizations covered under an income tax treaty with Canada. To deduct your contribution to a Canadian charity, you generally must have income from sources in Canada. See Publication 597, Information on the United States-Canada Income Tax Treaty, for information on how to figure your deduction.
  • Mexican charities. You may be able to deduct contributions to certain Mexican charitable organizations under an income tax treaty with Mexico.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

10 Things the Game of Baseball Can Teach You About Grant Writing

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a baseball fan.  No, not just a baseball fan - I am a big baseball fan.  Specifically, I love the San Francisco Giants (Go Giants!), but I will watch a baseball game anytime, anywhere. So, it should come as no surprise that I have done a bit of thinking on the similarities between grant writing and baseball and what grant writers can learn from the game of baseball.
  1. Keep your eye on the ball. Focus matters. Fielders who take their eyes off the ball usually drop the ball. Batters who take their eye off the ball usually strike out. Staying focused on the details of your current grant writing project will increase your likelihood of success. If you lose your focus, you'll drop the ball.
  2. You can't win the game by yourself. Even the best pitcher can't win if the fielders behind him aren't doing their part and if he doesn't get any run support. When the short stop fields a ground ball, he usually has to throw it to someone to get the out. If you're trying to succeed in grant writing all alone, you probably won't make it. You need others to help you gather data, proof your work, and give you feedback.  Even if these others are your clients, you need to make them your partners in the work to achieve maximum success. Also, look for opportunities to network with other grant writers. You can learn a lot and build a powerful support team by teaming up with others.
  3. The game isn't over after one strike...or one out....or eight innings. Success is all about perseverance. Don't give up just because of one failure (or two, or three, or...). Babe Ruth was the home run king (so was Hank Aaron...and Barry Bonds), but he also struck out a lot. His ultimate success was just as much about picking up the bat over and over again as it was about talent and skill.
  4. Showing up every day, ready to play, is the foundation of an extraordinary career. Cal Ripken Jr. played in a record 2,632 straight games over 16 seasons, from 1982 to 1998, earning him the nickname, "Iron Man ." His attendance record is amazing as it is (how many people do you know who never missed a day of work is 16 years?), but all that playing time gave him lots of practice, and many opportunities to excel. Just as you can't hit a home run if you never pick up the bat, Cal learned that you don't get good playing the game unless you play it - a lot. He started out strong by winning the American League's Rookie of the Year Award in 1982, but he earned his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame through perseverance. Show up. Work hard. Write many grants. It pays off.
  5. Sometimes you have to sacrifice for a greater good. Ballplayers know that there are times when a sacrifice hit (one in which the hitter gets out so a runner can be advanced or a run can be scored) is the right thing for the team. As a grant writer, sometimes you have to sacrifice your immediate best interest for a greater good or a longer term goal. Turning down a job so you can devote more focus to  another one is sometimes necessary.  Giving a loyal client a discount on a project can also be a good thing in the long run.
  6. Sometimes the game is slow and sometimes there is a lot of action, but you need to be ready to play every moment you are on the field. When my oldest son first started playing t-ball at the age of 4, the parents loved watching the little guys in the outfield. Instead of paying attention to the game, they'd start chasing butterflies, looking for bugs in the grass, twirling, dancing, etc. The parents would all start hollering when they would take off their gloves or sit down out there. The lesson for grant writers? If the game is being played, you need to be in the game. There are busy deadline times and times when things are slower. When things are slow, don't take your head out of the game. Focus on things you can do to prepare for the next deadline. Review previously successful grants.  Conduct some grant reseach.  Read readers' comments. Sharpen your skills by taking (or teaching!) a grant writing course. Get busy networking. Stay in the game.
  7. Even the best players take batting practice (except for pitchers in the American League, but don't go there...). No matter how successful you are and how well things are going, you need to continue learning and improving your skills. Attend workshops, serve as a grant reader, read books written by successful grant writers.
  8. Someone has to be in charge. Someone has to make the decision about whether to pull the starting pitcher in the sixth inning with two runners on base and one out - or let him face another batter or two. All the players are expected to give their individual best, but someone has to make the big picture decisions. The manager accepts advice from others (the pitching coach, the pitcher himself, the catcher, etc.), but ultimately he is the one who makes the decision and is responsible for it. If the decision is the wrong one, and if he makes enough of those wrong decisions, he is the one who will pay the price (i.e., lose his job). There is definitely a place and time for consensus decision-making, but as a professional grant writer, you are ultimately responsible for the decisions you make in a prposal and your own success rate. Give good advice to clients, gather necessary information and data, but then make good prposal decisions that will lead to funding.  Your client is focused on implementing programs, but you should know what is most likely to be funded, so you need to share that information with your client.  Don 't wait until you lose the game and wish you had made some different decisions.
  9. Sometimes the ump just makes a bad call. Every professional grant writer who has been doing the work for than a couple of years has seen her share of bad calls. Sometimes you read a comment from a reader that makes no sense at all, or a reader says something was missing from your proposal that wasn't missing at all. After the fact, there's not much you can do about it.  Sure, you can file an appeal,but you have about as much chance of success as the baseball manager who comes out of the dugout to argue with the umpire over a bad call. You have to take your lumps like everyone else, trusting that there will be a time when you will be the beneficary of a bad call at some point and it will all even out. Don't let it get you down or distract you from your next project.  Learn what you can, and move on.
  10. Focused play is even more important during extra innings. Ballplayers can easily make mistakes in the 10th, 11th, and 12th innings (and beyond) because they are tired and ready to be done for the day, but that's precisely when they need to be more focused! When you are approaching the end of a grant writing project, and you're in the middle of the tedious wrap-up tasks like proofreading, don't lose your focus. That's when it's the most important for you to stay in the game.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Learn When to Say "No!"

Non-profit consultant and grant writing expert, Derek Link, shares some thoughts on risk taking and when to say "no" to a client:

Grant writers who make a living doing freelance work take a big risk in doing so. It’s also tough because the nature of grant making, especially in poor economic conditions, is highly competitive. Your reputation can be injured with a client if the grant you’ve written fails to get funded; so, it’s important to know when to say “No, thanks” to a grant writing contract.

Not all grant clients are created equal, in each grant competition, some clients are more likely to be funded than others. This fact means you need to have a full understanding of the grant writing opportunities presented to you in terms of:
  1. Funding Levels – How much money is available in a particular competition? If it’s a national competition and there’s only 12 grants available, it’s important to consider how qualified your client is in other areas.
  2. Geographic Distribution – If your client is rural and the funding source only allocates a small percentage of the funding toward rural projects, then it’s important to look at other considerations to estimate likelihood of writing a successful proposal.
  3. Demographic Preferences – If your client serves only English fluent adults and the funding agency has a preference for funding programs serving immigrants who speak a foreign language, then it’s important to look at other factors to consider the likelihood of funding.
  4. Organization Preferences – If your client is a public agency and the funder previously has shown a strong preference for community-based organizations, then it’s important to consider as you evaluate their “fundability”. Maybe there is a CBO that can apply with your client as a partner, or maybe your client just needs a CBO partner to be a viable applicant.
  5. Program Preferences – This is the old round peg in a square hole thing. If your client is trying to stretch the truth, or if they are trying for funding that clearly is outside of what you know the funder wants to give grants for, then you need to be very honest with the client about that.
Free lance grant writing is a tough business and the financial risk of running your own business is always a little scary. But saying "No" to a client who is clearly a bad candidate for a particular grant is thousands of times better than saying "Yes," taking their money, then having to explain why the grant wasn’t funded. Protect your reputation as a grant writer by learning to say "No" when you have to.

Related Posts:

Are You a Risk Taker?

How Competitive is TOO Competitive?

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Grant Writing Tip - Put Needs Data in Context

I was working on a school library grant recently and I had all sorts of great data about collection size, age of the school library collection, access to the collection, and qualifications of staff.  Sounds great, right?  The problem is that knowing all that really didn't tell me anything.  Without the context of state and national averages, I didn't know if this school was doing great or really in need of help. So, I started doing some research and I got the information I needed to put the data into context and describe the need.

This experience reminded me again that data in isolation means nothing.

As a grant writer, you use data to help you tell a story and build a case for why you need a grant. Using only local statistics without using regional, state, and/or national data to put the local data into context is just as innefective as only providing national data without any local data to show your local situation.  Both scenarios will have the same effect - you won't get funded.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Video Tip - Writing a Great Grant Budget Narrative

Here's this week's Video Tip from the Grant Goddess.  It's all about getting the edge by writing a great budget narrative for your grant proposal.  Take 5 minutes to improve your grant writing skills.




Want more tips? GrantGoddess.com

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Superman, Where Are You?

We are facing a big deadline this week.  We have multiple grants due at the same time and everyone has his or her head down and nose to the grindstone, but we can always count on Derek to help us see the humor of it all.  Here are some humorous thoughts from non-profit consultant and expert grant writer, Derek Link, on slowing down time when deadline time is racing closer.

Time flies when you’re approaching a deadline. I’m pretty sure that Superman is the only being, real or fictional, who can turn back time. If you’re approaching a deadline - mere mortal that you are – here are a few places you can go where in my experience time can actually slow down.
  1. The DMV.
  2. Customer service calls to the phone company.
  3. Jogging on the indoor track at Sun City.
  4. Meeting with an IRS agent.
  5. A long line at the grocery store with a rookie cashier, a bad receipt tape, and a customer who’s using their debit card for the first time while arguing about the amount her single tomato was discounted.
  6. The post office at lunch.
  7. Watching the calendar after hiring a building contractor with a bunch of Better Business Bureau complaints.
  8. Technical support calls from – or to – India with “Roger”, “Jason”, or “Howard”.
  9. Auto dealerships after giving up your car keys.
  10. Driving and waiting for the “Code 3” police car to pass you knowing you were five mph over the limit.
  11. Waiting for a copier repairman or anything else on grant deadline day.
So if time seems to be going too fast and your deadline is staring you down like an angry railroad union member at the helm of a locomotive, take yourself away to a place where time slows down. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could merge these time warps and make it slow down for important stuff and speed up for annoying stuff? Oh Superman, where are you!?

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Related posts:

Grant Writing and the Space/Time Continuum

Stress Relief through Laughter

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Don't forget to visit GrantGoddess.com for tips and ideas to improve your grant writing skills!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Get Your Free E-Book - 12 Secrets of Successful Grant Writers


I am about publish a 20+ page e-book titled, 12 Secrets of Successful Grant Writers. I will be sending it our electronically on Friday, April 23rd. There are THREE ways you can get it FREE on that day:




  1. Become a fan of my new Grant Goddess Facebook Page. The Grant Goddess page will focus on sharing news about electronic grant writing resources. On Friday, 4/23, I'll send a link to the e-book download page to all fans of the Grant Goddess page on that day.
  2. Sign up to receive our electronic newsletter (e-zine). Go to http://grantgoddess.com/ezine.html and enter your email address to sign up. All subscribers will be sent the e-book link on 4/23. By the way, the e-zine is currently published once a month, but we'll be moving to twice a month soon. Don't worry. You won't be flooded with email and I don't use that list for any purpose other than the e-zine.
  3. Buy a copy of 101 Tips for Aspiring Grant Writers through my website. Go to http://grantgoddess.com/101-grant-tips-book.html to place your order. Ordering through Amazon doesn't count for this offer because I won't know who you are or where to send the e-book link.
You don't have to do all three of these to get the e-book, just any ONE will do. Of course, if you would like to do more than one, that would be great!

Also, please share this opportunity with anyone else you know who may be interested.

Remember, the e-book will be sent out on 4/23 to anyone who has accomplished any one of the three actions mentioned here by that date.

An abridged, audio version (CD) of 12 Secrets of Successful Grant Writers is available for purchase in our online store.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Some Grants Are Like Peanut Butter

Here we go again..... Non-profit consultant and expert grant writer, Derek Link, shares yet another food-related grant writing analogy.  What do you do when the words just get stuck in your head?

In all the time I’ve been writing grants, I find that some grants flow easily out of my brain to my computer and others get stuck to the roof of my mouth like a spoonful of peanut butter. I sit at the computer during those times like my old German Short-Haired Pointer “Tucker” eating peanut butter, just gumming and gumming and gumming but not able to free up the narrative.

It’s hard sometimes to figure out why I’m stuck with a grant, but often it’s because I don’t have a clear picture of the program I am writing. Oh, I know what the program is about, but I just can’t explain how it’s going to work. Here are a few things I try to get the narrative “peanut butter” off the roof of my mouth.
  1. Develop a logic model for the project. This forces you to outline your thinking in a sequential (and logical) way.
  2. Do a little reading about the topic area you are writing about. Sometimes that gives me the spark I need.
  3. Talk more to the client about the program design and get them to expound on how they see it working.
  4. Try to write the abstract. If you can’t write a summary of the project, this may explain the parts of it that you’re stuck on.
  5. Revisit your goals and objectives. Sometimes your objectives are just activities and if they are, you’ll get stuck because you won’t have anything new to write about in the program section.
So when you’ve eaten a big gob of peanut butter and its stuck to the roof of your mouth and you’re sitting at the computer trying to get unstuck, try one of these five ideas. Hope it helps!

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Related Posts:
 
Facing the Blank Page (Or, Beginning to Write)
 
Try a Change of Perspective
 
Some Thoughts from the Coach on Setting Your Intent
 
A Few Words from the Coach about Focus
 
 
Want more tips?  Visit GrantGoddess.com!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Grant Writing and the Space/Time Continuum

Time seems to fly by at a faster speed every year, particularly during the busy grant season when it is easy to get overwhelmed with grant projects and all the other things that can’t be put on the back burner while the applications are being completed.  Grant Coach, MaryEllen Bergh, shares her thoughts on this phenomenon of the inetrsection between grant writing and the space/time continuum:

I’ve heard that time expands when you need it and contracts when you don’t. Is that a factor in the space/time continuum? Well, I don’t know for sure if it is a factor but I do know that the earth is slowing down and that soon we will not be dealing with gravity at all (which will be a blessing for all the parts of my body that have not already succumbed to the forces of gravity). How do you know that this is true, you ask? Every Monday, my colleague and I have the same conversation, “Blog posts go up today,” and I reply “Right!” Seems simple but Monday comes amazingly fast. I blink and I hear the words again, “Blog posts go up today.” “Right!” So, you see, it’s basic physics (thanks to Eric Maisel for pointing this out to me) – as you approach the speed of light, time slows down. Since it seems that I am traveling at the speed of light, would that mean that I am not getting older or that the earth is getting ready to stop rotating?


Why do you think artists dream of spending a couple of months painting in Fiji or a month or two writing in Paris? I am sure they dream of spending time in those places because they see themselves experiencing time differently there; they envision “beach time” or “cafĂ© time.” They see themselves not in a rush with no one asking them to do “this” or “that” or judging them for taking all day to stare at the ocean or drink an espresso. The calm pace provides a space for observation, reflection, and allows creativity to walk in the door.

In our real lives, we spend our whole day rushing from one thing to the next until all we have left is 15 minutes before going to bed – just enough time to feel badly about all the things we did not get accomplished. Today, even when we are sitting, we are speeding. We are looking for our next cell-phone call, texting, reading and responding to emails, updating Facebook, writing proposals, blogs and copy, rushing from one task to another… overwhelmed as we valiantly attempt to tackle each item on our agenda. Sometimes I feel the strains of exhaustion early in the day and question my ability to effectively address all my tasks.

Eric Maisel in A Writer’s Space talks to us about how to get into the right “space” to write, how to orient and organize our neurons to help us get a grip on our writing lives. In lesson 19, he provides an exercise on creating space to write through mindful self-reflection. Here are the 4 steps: 1) Grow quiet (this is when I turn off the email alerts, silence my cell phone, close my door and breathe); 2) Reflect (I consider what I need and how I will accomplish these needs); 3) Stay calm (I breathe, relax into what I want to accomplish and set my intent); and 5) Take action (I consider the length and nature of my to-do list and edit my agenda including setting reasonable expectations. Time does expand when I choose to experience time differently.

 
 
Related posts:
 
Time Management Tips for Grant Writers
 
Facing the Blank Page (Or, Beginning to Write)
 
Good Grant Writers Are Like Wedding Planners
 
Making Time for Grant Writing by Focusing on the Dream
 
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Friday, April 9, 2010

Grants Are Like Sausage

Non-profit consultant and expert grant writer, Derek Link, must be hungry.  Last week, he shared with you how Grants Are Like Donuts. This week, he writes that grants are like sausage. Enjoy his post about the importance of processing and editing your final grant proposal:

Like making laws, writing grants is sort of like making sausage, a messy process not too appetizing to watch. Processing a grant, like making sausage, involves lots of parts getting thrown together, with tons of information being ground up into a palatable chunk of copy.


Have you ever chomped down on a piece of cartilage in your sausage? Kind of slows you down doesn’t it? But when sausage is properly ground, you probably don’t ever come across anything too chewy! Reading a badly written grant is kind of like that piece of cartilage that you have to stop and chew on a while.

Here’s a piece of copy from an actual grant that, in my opinion, represents chewy cartilage. This kind of chewy writing makes your brain do a lot of unnecessary and unpalatable mental chewing.

“LEP students at J. Doe elementary school have a high level of psychomotor and spatial/mechanical skills that will be utilized through computer assisted instruction to enhance language learning activities. In selecting LEP students for participation, attention was paid to the Special Education criteria required by the State Education Agency. Special Education students are diagnosed using appropriate instruments and will be served accordingly.”

I have to guess at what they were trying to say, but it sure was chewy! This grant should have been processed more, and by that I mean edited, reviewed, commentary invited, revisions made, and re-edited – then edited once more. Chewy grants don’t score well and don’t get funded. So be sure to process-process-process!

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Related posts from the archives:

Trust the Grant Writing Process

How Can the Grant You Just Finished Help Make You  a Better Writer?

Good Grant Writers Are Like Wedding Planners

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More Evidence for the Importance of Reading Everything in the RFP

You know that I am always saying you should read the instructions for any grant very carefully and follow those instructions. I also advocate this careful reading even if you have applied for the same grant in the past because things can change. One of our video Tips from the Grant Goddess discussed taking your research beyond the RFP and reading all ancillary materials referenced in the RFP.

Well, this week, I discovered two more examples of the importance of this. The first example is a case of writing a proposal that we have applied for in the past.  Last year, we wrote several of a particular variety of federal grant, so we thought we were very familiar with the requirements and the RFP.  Not so fast.

The name of the program is the same, and the basic priorities are the same, but the scoring criteria and much of the detail about the requirements has changed.  The narrative is even 10 pages shorter than last year! The week before a grant is due is a lousy time to figure this out.  How can this be avoided?   By reading the RFP thoroughly before you even start working on it.

The second example falls in the category of additional, but critical, information that is not in the RFP.  Of course, everything is supposed to be included in the Federal Register announcement, but we all know that it isn't always included.  In this case, there is a required letter of partnership that is not mentioned in the Federal Register or the RFP.  It is mentioned, however, in the non-regulatory FAQs.

The message? Read everything!  Read it thoroughly.  Read it early in the planning process.  Don't get caught off guard as the deadline approaches.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Donor Appreciation - It's Magical

Here are a few thoughts on donor appreciation from non-profit consultant and expert grant writer, Derek Link:

My Aunt told me a funny story about her little grandson to whom she had given a cookie She didn’t get a “thank you” from him and wanting to remind him of his manners, she said to him, “What’s the magic word?” to which he said earnestly, “abracadabra?”

Being on the same page with your supporters in terms of gratitude is important. Showing appreciation needs to be communicated carefully and with meaning. People give to nonprofits because they want to feel good and often that means they are acknowledged for their gifts.

I was talking recently to a friend of mine who has been volunteering with a local nonprofit organization for many years. He owns an art gallery and a few Saturdays ago he was working on some table decorations for a big event. I stayed around to help for a while because he was working all alone.

Last week I saw my friend again and asked him how the event went. He said that the event was fine but he was discouraged by the response he received from the nonprofit for all his hard work. The nonprofit recognized his gift of time, materials and effort with a form letter that didn’t even have an original signature on it! My friend was unimpressed.

Like my Aunt getting “abracadabra” instead of “thank you”, my friend felt as though there was no real appreciation for his effort. Saying thank you to supporters of your cause doesn’t have to be spectacular, but it does need to be communicated in a “language” they understand and value, one that communicates meaningful appreciation.

Saying thank you and meaning it is magical.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

101 Tips for Aspiring Grant Writers

Yes, it's finally here!  You can now pre-order a copy of 101 Tips for Aspiring Grant Writers. This 169-page book by Veronica Robbins is divided into 13 chapters, and is designed to walk you through the preparation of a grant application from start to finish.

If you pre-order between now and April 22, 2010 you can get the book for only $8.95 (that's $4.00 off the $14.95 cover price). All pre-orders will ship around April 23, 2010.

The chapters included in 101 Tips for Aspiring Grant Writers are:
  • General Grant Writing Tips
  • Expressing Your Need for the Grant
  • Goals and Objectives
  • Program Design
  • Management Plan
  • Personnel
  • Evaluation
  • Budget
  • Editing
  • Formatting
  • Assembly and Mailing
  • Ethics
  • Finding Grants
Extra bonus!  Anyone who pre-orders by April 15, 2010 will receive an autographed copy of the book, signed by the author!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Grants Are Like Donuts

Non-profit consultant and grant writing expert, Derek Link, loves donuts....maybe a little too much. Here are some useful thoughts on sustainability and balanced funding:

Organizations sometimes consume grants like I eat donuts, fast and furious. Grants come in lots of flavors just like donuts. There’s federal maple bars and state chocolate covered, even foundation cream filled, and each is delicious!

Grants are sweet and taste good when you get them, but like donuts, they’ll always run out and leave you wanting more. Building a budget only on grant money is dangerous to your fiscal health, just like building a diet on donuts can be hazardous. Grants can leave your budget bloated with costs you can’t easily erase when the grant is gone. Just try to get rid of a valuable employee! Just as donuts can leave you with some extra pounds and health problems, grants can lead to budget problems.

Here are 3 things to remember about grants:
  1. Plan for sustainability from day one of each grant.
  2. Build sustainability into the grant as much as possible in terms of equipment costs, training for existing staff, and organizational capacity building.
  3. Pay attention to developing all legs of the fund raising stool while the grant is funded.
So treat grants like you should treat donuts, as part of a healthy balanced budget (diet). A few donuts won’t hurt, but making them the central part of your budget could lead serious shortfalls as grant funding runs out.

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Realism on Grant Funding

Non-profit consultant and grant writing expert, Derek Link, has a few thoughts to share on realism when you are seeking grant funding:

Grants are not a gift of money, and grants are not given blindly. Don’t think that because you have a good idea and a nonprofit, someone will simply like the idea and give you money for it. That is an unrealistic view of grants that I run into frequently, and which leads to disappointment.


Grants are:
  1. Investments, not gifts
  2. Established for targeted causes, not scattered about like birdseed.
  3. Given to credible organizations and people with credentials, not for pipe dreams.
  4. Carefully monitored fiscally, not an open checkbook.
  5. Measured for impact, grant makers care what happens.
  6. Limited, not a bottomless well.
  7. Time sensitive, even federal grant funds have a definite season for applying.
The bottom line is that in order to get a grant, there must be a credible organization run by credible people. It is not enough to be a nice person with a neat idea. Working to establish a detailed plan and budget, establish a responsible organization, and building a competent staff with credentials all contribute to being in a strong position to receive grants.

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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.