Thursday, March 24, 2011

Even a Grant Writer Needs a Break!

I am enjoying my coffee and my Al Stewart station on Pandora, it’s a nice little interlude in the day. This blog is about the importance of taking breaks since that’s what is on my mind at the moment.

If I were diagnosed as a type, I’d be in the “Type A” category. Taking a break is a hard thing to do sometimes as the clutter of the unfinished work and looming deadlines up in my mind.  For me, paying too much attention to those piles can become stifling, even paralyzing.
The piles and the pending can become tyrannical haunts that invade my time away from work when I should be relaxing. They can fly darkly through my dreams and interrupt my activities.
A freelance grant writer lives with uncertainty.  There is uncertainty about where the next
client is, whether a grant will be funded, when a client will send that overdue
check I desperately need to deposit.

In good times, it’s easier for me to take a break because I’m not so worried about business.  In these troubled economic times, my breaks are less carefree. I remind myself that much of what happens in business is beyond my control. I am responsible to do what is sensible, professional, and reasonable.
These days I take shorter breaks like sipping my coffee, or trekking out on my daily walk.  Each day as I walk, I remind myself to look upward at the sky, to breathe deeply of the fresh air, and to appreciate my ability and opportunity to walk about freely.

Relaxing on a break requires me to clear away the clutter of the job (and sometimes the news). Perhaps it is surprising that the sidewalk outside my office is not strewn each afternoon with discarded papers, bills, and phone messages.
Other posts you may enjoy:
Is Grant Writing Keeping You Up at Night?
Writers Must Know Their Limits

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Where is Grant Writing Perfection?

I’m agonizing over a grant narrative.  It isn’t perfect yet.  I’m missing a key piece of data from the client.  There are a couple of sections that can be tightened up. The deadline is coming and it’s not perfect yet. I always have trouble decided when to put it to rest.

There are some big truths about grant writing I’ve learned through years of practice.
1.      Writing is never finished.
2.      You and your client rarely prioritize the grant in the same way.
3.      The further removed a partner is from the writing, the harder it is to get what you need from them.
4.      You must stop revising at some point at edit carefully.
5.      When a section of narrative is hard to tighten up (make crystal-clear and comprehensible) a graphic might help accomplish that.
Perfection in your written narrative is something you aren’t going to achieve.  You do though want to be perfectly accurate, perfectly edited, and perfectly on time!  You’ll always agonize as you send it that there was a section you could have improved upon.  There will always be that unhelpful partner that sends you a letter of support the day after the grant was due.
We all learn to live with a little imperfection in the world and grant writing is no different.

Related Posts:
Grant Writing is No Mystery
Grant Writing is like Lasagna

Friday, March 4, 2011

Q & A - How do foundations decide who to give grant money to?

I know this sounds like an elementary question to anyone who has worked in the non-profit field for any length of time.  But for many people who are just starting a non-profit, this is an important question.

The answer is complicated because there are actually many ways that a foundation will decide to give a grant.  The ones listed below are general in nature and not all criteria will apply to every foundation.  These are common, but the list is not exhaustive.
1. Field(s) of interest determined by the foundation’s board and defined in their bylaws.
2. Types of funding – Money isn’t money to a foundation.  If you want funding for a building, that’s a capital expense and not all foundations are willing to spend money on. Many foundations shy away from funding operating expenses although that restriction has eased a little in some cases with the state of the economy.
3. Relationships – Often a foundation will fund organizations and individuals they know and trust to do the most effective job with a grant.  Newcomers must establish these relationships over time and by proving they can do the job. Many foundations give a small grant in year one and assess performance, if an agency does well, sometimes subsequent requests can be larger.
4. Geography – Some foundations specify locations to give to excluding everyone else.  Some give nationally while others give internationally. It is important to look at previous grants funded to know where they will fund.
5. Types of Organizations – Foundations usually only give to other non-profit organizations so individuals have a harder time finding assistance from foundations directly.
Of course there are many factors that help determine the allocation of grant money.  These five are generally applicable to most foundations. It is imperative that grant seekers pay close attention to these five – at a minimum – in screening potential funding sources when seeking grants.
For more information about grant writing and non-profits see:
Grant Goddess Resources

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Is Grant Writing Keeping You Up at Night?

The deadline is coming, it’s less than 36 hours away. Your narrative is coming along, but you aren’t confident about it yet. You haven’t received all of the signature pages and letters of support from the client and grant partners. Forget about the budget narrative, you haven't even  gone there yet.  You’re worried and tired so your anxiety level is peaking.

Veteran grant writers know these feelings well. There are times when a grant comes together so smoothly it feels effortless. Then, there are the grants that feel as though they will never come together. Tough grants cause high anxiety that grows over the period of development as the pieces of the proposal seem to defy gravity or force of will.

A veteran grant writer has fewer of these experiences than a novice. Through experience we learn to sidestep some potential problems. But much of what goes into a grant proposal such as signature pages, letters of commitment, MOU’s, budget figures come from people and/or organizations outside of the grant writer’s control. Depending on others can be problematic for lots of reasons: People are busy; People are flawed; People forget things; People lose things; People do not always read emails from others who ask them to do things.

When the anxiety of an approaching deadline strikes, it’s wise to take some concrete steps to place the responsibility where it belongs and refocus on what you can directly impact.

1. Carry out a campaign of direct, polite, yet redundant, communication to unresponsive people using a variety of media (phone calls, emails, text messages, Skype phone calls, etc) and personal visits if needed.

2. Stick to your checklist and complete all the items you have control over.

3. Document your efforts to collect missing information.

4. Keep a folder of all emails related to the project, a folder of all memos, and a folder of all documents developed.

A grant writer is a ring master as well as the main performer in the proposal development circus. Striking a good balance between the two roles is important if you’re going to get any sleep.

Related Posts:
Time Management Tips for Grant Writers
Good Grant Writers are like Wedding Planners
Stress Relief through Laughter
Photo Credit - Nara Vieira da Silva Osga

Wax On, Wax Off – Find Your Grant Writing Myagi like the Karate Kid

Your organization is under assault. United Way contributions are dropping. Donations have slowed to a trickle. Your endowment has taken a beating in the stock market. You need help; you need to write some grants.

If you haven’t written a grant before, you’ll need a mentor to teach you the skills. In the Karate Kid movies, the kid is getting beaten up – feeling victimized by his lack of ability to fight back. In the original movie, the kid turns to a mentor named Myagi who makes him do seemingly unrelated stuff to learn the skills he needs to defend himself.

Just as the Karate Kid needed to learn the fundamentals of martial arts, you need specific skills to be a good grant writer too. You need a mentor who insists that you put the wax on and take the wax off in the right way. You need someone to tell you what’s important and how to do it right. You need to practice those skills until they are ingrained in your writing, until they become habits.

A writing mentor isn’t there to baby you. He or she is there to support you in developing good habits that make you a success. A weak teacher allows bad habits to form leading to failure and frustration and maybe even getting beaten up further.

Find a grant writing mentor, persevere, learn, grow, strengthen your skills, and develop good grant writing habits. You'll find success and your organization will benefit.  Who knows, you may find a whole new career!

Related Posts:
Let's Face It, You're a Lousey Writer
The Best Ways to Learn Grant Writing
Is Grant Writing Success Really Just About Luck?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mini Grant Announcements for Youth

In this difficult economic environment, all program managers should learn how to write and submit a mini grant.  Here are a few mini grants currently available.

Disney Friends for Change Grants

The Disney Friends for Change program will award 50 - $500 grants to youth-led service projects around the world that demonstrate youth leadership, creativity, and the commitment to making a positive impact on the environment.

ING Run for Something

The 2011 ING Run For Something Better School Awards Program will provide a minimum of fifty (50) up to $2,500 grants to schools that desire to establish or expand upon an existing school-based running program. Programs must target K-8th grade students and be a minimum of eight (8) weeks.

Sparking Innovation and Lowering Barriers

The Impact Fund is designed to support youth-serving organizations with the resources they need to get underserved youth connected to the outdoors. Program funding from $15,000-$50,000

Kohl's Kids Who Care

Every year, Kohl's recognizes and rewards young volunteers (ages 6-18) across the country for their amazing contributions to their communities. This year Kohl's is recognizing more than 2,100 kids with more than $415,000 in scholarships and prizes.

The ESA Foundation

The ESA Foundation is a philanthropic vehicle of the Entertainment Software Association, is dedicated to supporting programs that make a difference in the lives of America's youth.

The foundation is accepting grant applications from nonprofit organizations that provide programs and services utilizing technology and/or computer and video games to educate America's youth and young adults (ages 7 to 18).

Learn How to Write Grants
If you need assistance learning how to write a grant, we offer many free grant writing resources on our Resources pages.  If you really want to tune up your skills, consider taking one of our online courses offered through Grant Goddess University.

A Grant Writer's Favorite Things

Grant writers can be hard to get to know because we spend so much time writing. I’ve put together a short list of favorite things that may help you understand us a little better. Please feel free to add to this list in the comments!

One Grant Writer’s favorite things:

1. The last page

2. Stamping original on the finished proposal

3. A Fed Ex tracking number

4. Clicking “submit”

5. Discovering the perfect quote in the literature

6. Tables of content

7. Unlimited appendices

8. Limited appendices

9. A new ink cartridge

10. An approval letter

11. A new RFP

12. An organized client

13. A completed checklist

14. A jam-free photocopy machine

15. A client who knows more about pdf’s than fax machines

I haven’t put these to a “Sound of Music” melody yet; but it’s in the works, as is the hiking clothing made from window coverings. (I’m finding that venetian blinds make scratchy shorts.)

Other posts you may enjoy:
Waxing Poetic About Grant Writing
Grant Writing is No Mystery
Photo Credit - alfonso diaz

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.