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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HillTop Consultant said...

Good article, I love sports. Enyoyable read, don't forget baseball violation, obstruction and interference. I'm an umpire, so I get technical like that. SMILES

Grant Goddess said...

I love sports, too, Ray - especially baseball! Maybe I'll write another post sometime soon that includes some more technical issues. We'll see. Thanks for your comment!

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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.