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: http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/genrefiction/tp/mysteryrules.htm, 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.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Some Federal Grant Writing Resources You Shouldn't Miss

Ready or not, the federal grant season is coming. Every year at about this time, the calls start coming in from folks who want information about federal grant opportunities. I thought that this would be a good time to put together a list of resources that can help you in your efforts to secure federal discretionary grants for your organization.

Grantmaking at ED - This 69 page e-book from the U.S. Department of Education (2010) contains a significant amount of information about the grant making process for ED, and it also includes some good resources. The easy to scan Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) format makes it easy to read, too.

Catalog of Domestic Federal Assistance (CFDA) - The CFDA contains detailed information on 2,073 federal assistance programs, including programs from the Department of Health & Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Justice, Department of Agriculture, and Department of the Interior.

Grants.gov - Your source to find and apply for federal grants.  You can search by topic, agency, or several other categories.

Office of Justice Programs Funding Resources - This page provides links to a variety of DOJ grant resources.

Applying for a New SAMHSA Grant - The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a page devoted to links to help you write a new grant proposal.

SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices - If you're writing a grant for SAMHSA or any other department that includes substance abuse prevention services or something related to it, you need to review the evidence-based programs in this guide. NREPP is an online, searchable guide of more than 160 interventions supporting mental health promotion, substance abuse prevention, and mental health and substance abuse treatment.

OJJDP Model Programs GuideThe Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Model Programs Guide (MPG) is designed to assist practitioners and communities in implementing evidence-based prevention and intervention programs that can make a difference in the lives of children and communities. The MPG database of evidence-based programs covers the entire continuum of youth services from prevention through sanctions to reentry.

This is not an exhaustive list of federal grant resources.  If you are interested in an ongoing stream of resources, find us on Facebook and follow the Grant Goddess on Twitter.

You should also consider becoming a member at GrantGoddess.com for the latest in grant news and information.  members also have access to a huge multimedia library of grant writing tips.

You may also want to visit our Federal Grant Resources page where some of these resources are repeated, but where other resources are included and where we add resources as we find them.
Finally, if you're new to grant writing or you want to brush up on your grant writing skills, consider taking an online course at Grant Goddess University. Learn grant writing on your time and at your own pace.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Grant Writing by Accident

My high school counselor never told me I was especially good at technical writing. I’m not sure why he didn’t see my potential, but grant writing as a career never came up. To be honest, I can’t remember what he did tell me, but I’m 100% certain it had nothing to do with writing grant proposals and I wasn't hearing what adults were saying too well anyway.

I am constantly amazed at the diversity of ways people earn a living. The tiniest fraction of these jobs make it onto counseling sheets. Counselors are, after all, living in a small part of the working world and for all intents and purposes sheltered from what’s going on in the business world. It isn’t their fault, they have an office and a job to do which prevents them from wandering about the way I have meeting people who do odd and interesting things.

For instance, I know a man whose business is to sell space on cell phone towers to companies that want to place an antenna there. I know a man who sells space in a secure data storage facility where companies can pay to keep their servers, (lots of medical companies use their services so the data is secured). I met a young woman who sells bandwidth for cell phones on undersea telephone fiber optic cables between continents (bet you thought cell phones were all satellites too!). I know a man who builds solar water heating panels, and an art gallery owner too. I’m pretty sure that none of these people got into those jobs by following advice based on the results of a high school aptitude test.

I know my grant writing job has something to do with what I did learn in high school, but nobody could have directed me here. My ability in grant writing was developed out of job necessity and interest. Grant writing requires a distinct set of skills that a high school guidance counselor would have a hard time assessing.

Grant writers must be; a) excellent at writing, b) skilled at research, c) excellent at reading technical documents, d) detail-oriented to a fine degree, e) excellent at verbal communication, f) excellent at planning, g) competent at graphic design, h) highly determined, i) good with people, and j) super-organized.

My success as a grant writer was not predictable because the job also requires intensive concentration. My dismal record in completing high school geometry homework would not have recommended a career requiring concentration. But perhaps my career was never meant to follow a linear path, maybe we're all works-in-progress, or maybe I was just another “wing-nut” teenager (OK, I was).

Self awareness and having interaction with lots of people leads to discovery of new opportunities, that’s what led me to a grant writing job. I committed myself to learning and I found new opportunities. I even encountered people who were willing to help me. A grant writing job is one of thousands of possibilities for a person determined to develop their talents.  So even if you start off all tangled up with your foot on your head, you may still eventually get where you're going.

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.