Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What To Write Next?

Even a grant writer who also blogs can run dry sometimes. It's tough to write-write-write and then get up tomorrow and write again while trying to keep it fresh and interesting. The good folks at nonprofitmarketingguide.com wrote a nice concise little post about this very topic that hits all the right notes for me (well, 7 of them anyway). If you're a blogger who also writes grants, or a grant writer who also blogs (or if you can't decide which category you fall into), you'll appreciate this nifty post.
All people who produce content for a living, whether they are writers, musicians, artists, or nonprofit communicators  repurpose their content. No one produces completely original content all the time.
If you're out of material, that is the time to sort through those old, tired out blog posts that turned out to be less "green" that you thought and freshen them up, take a new perspective, or rewrite them for a new audience.

I'm going to start reviewing our old posts and see what I can reduce, re-use, and recycle; of course, always rewriting with relevance in mind.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Has the Golden Age of Education Grant Writing Passed?

I started writing grants in about 1995 during what I have come to think of as the Golden Age of education grant writing. Government grants were used as a positive way to spark and spread new ideas and solutions. I became, and remain, a huge proponent of grants as an effective vehicle to fund educational change.
A prime example of how education grants were used in the Golden Age was bilingual education. Bilingual grants spurred innovation as practitioners were given funding to experiment and seek the best ways to implement bilingual programs. The government looked to the field to discover the best way to ensure immigrant children succeeded, and concomitantly, to teach a second language to both English and non-English speakers. Bilingual education got plowed under by the politics of language and immigration; in the end, success was irrelevant and all the funds were redistributed.
Slowly but surely over the past 16 years, the number of grants from the federal and state level for all educational programs dwindled as government leaders consolidated centralized control, in the form of standards which remain the organizing dictum for budgeting in education. In the absence of innovation, standards have gone largely unchallenged as the preeminent organizing philosophy (a topic for another post).
The Golden Age of grants passed into the Lead Age of entitlements in which money is redistributed at pennies per student to be consumed by the ravenous starving dogs that are general fund budgets (woof). In this new age, grants to fund innovation are superfluous and replaced by entitlements and a few grants to pay for implementation of “approved", "research-based” solutions.
I’m eager for an educational grant renaissance that will revive an entrepreneurial style of leadership; one that sparks innovation and change. The answers to educational issues can be discovered but it requires that we trust practitioners to plan and take risks based on their experience on the front line.

Other posts you may enjoy:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ten Summer Grant Writing Chores

Here are just ten of the scores of things you might want to use your summer months to accomplish.  Since summer tends to be a bit of a lull in the grant writing year, here are a few things I try to accomplish to make the best possible use of the time:
  1. Now is the time to clean off that desk – Yes, get the shredder and the recycle bin and plow through those stacks of grant narrative revisions you don’t need, those research documents you need to file away for next year, and those bazillion dog-eared post its stuck to everything.
  2. Clean out your email In-Box – You may be pushing the memory limits on your mail provider anyway and let’s face it, you only need so many forwarded emails in there with PowerPoint presentations of waterfalls, kittens, and guys falling off stuff.
  3. Clean out your e-files like your documents file which I can imagine has tons (digital tons) of loose documents that you made up in a hurry and then didn’t have time to file away in their proper location, or maybe there wasn’t even a file folder created!
  4. Send out thank you/wish you a great summer cards and/or email to all your clients, previous clients, and anyone who might be a future client. Give them a heads up of any upcoming grant opportunities you’re aware of.
  5. Write some blog posts and queue them up to post automatically for the rest of the summer, one less thing to think about for the summer months if you take a little time to do it.
  6. Review your client list and note their priorities for the coming year then use the list to match their needs to potential grant opportunities. There may be some prep that can be done with them or you may be able to lock in a contract for writing in advance.
  7. Visit local agencies and organizations you don’t have relationships to meet people face to face. Just call and if you can get an appointment, you’re in.  Do a little research on them and bring them a few examples of grants they might be interested in. Bring your marketing material and don’t forget your business card and your smile!
  8. Participate in training opportunities and networking events to expand your network.
  9. Fine tune your online presence. Are you using social media to your advantage?  Are you positioned as an expert in grant writing online? It might be time to freshen up your web site.
  10. Review the results of the past year. Review readers’ comments and if you don’t have copies, contact your clients to see if they have them and just forgot to send them along. If you had some unsuccessful proposals, see if the grants that were funded have been posted by the funding agency and read them.

Now’s the time to refresh, reorganize, recharge, and renew, there’s a long winter of grant writing ahead of us all so a smart grant writer will use the slower summer months wisely!

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

Photo Credit - Henry S.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Importance of Being Earnest

Public people take public falls for being dishonest.  Congressman Weiner’s fall from grace this week is the latest in a long string of prominent people who’ve been caught acting in a destructive way that has damaged their reputations, careers, and families.
Grant Writers may not be public people per say, but often a grant writer is contracted by a public (government) or a public benefit agency (non-profit). A grant writer charged with writing a narrative is usually given facts and figures to write the narrative by the client. Sometimes those facts won’t present the organization in the best light to the funder. Even so, it is vital to the writer’s reputation to write honestly, even if the grant narrative suffers from the truth. There’s nothing wrong with “planting the flowers on the client’s side of the street” but a professional grant writer always does so in a way that keeps their integrity intact.
Here’s the plain truth. Telling lies in a narrative will be exposed. There are times when the client does not read the narrative carefully before the grant is submitted. But, the client and usually one or more of the client’s board members and stakeholders read the grant carefully as notice of funding is received. 
It does not matter that a grant is funded or not, the client and constituency will want to know how to begin implementing, or why it wasn’t funded.  If the writer wrote a narrative that is inaccurate, exaggerated, or fraudulent, the grant writer might as well have Tweeted pictures of himself or herself in their skivvies; the lies are about to be discovered and everyone is going to be upset.
Honesty is the best policy in grant writing as in everything else. A grant writer who writes dishonestly will ruin their reputation. Their fall from grace may not be quite as public as Congressman Weiner’s humiliation this week, but their career will be equally damaged.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

By Xochitl Peña of Mydesert.com

Photo Credit - Lorenzo González

Friday, June 3, 2011

Should You Write Grants in Exchange for Evaluations?

I get asked on a regular basis by potential grant writing clients, “Will you write the grant for the evaluation?”
“No,” is the answer I give.
I have a good reason for saying no and not negotiating the point.  In the Middle Eastern bazaar that is grant consulting negotiations, a grant writer must be clear on what they’re selling.
I write about this today because I’ve spent the last two days slaving over a hot copy machine scanning thousands upon thousands of surveys. Stacks of surveys that are crumpled, mis-marked, unmarked, sticky; surveys printed on multicolored paper that threw the scanner into photo-static conniptions, surveys that are un-scannable because some staffer decided a significant portion didn’t need to be completed by respondents because there was a sticker affixed with the same information - a sticker that can’t be read by the scanning software (genius) so that data for a thousand surveys now must be hand-entered.
And don’t get me started on the scanning software which can’t always read a clearly marked dot due to some mystery of arcane software programming.
It’s all well and good if one is paid to do this evaluation work, which we are; it is entirely another thing to do this work in exchange for writing the original grant application - which we are not.
“What does any of this scanning work or the analysis and interpretation of this data, have to do with grant writing?”
That’s right.
That's why I always say no.

A grant writer who takes a grant in compensation for the evaluation is doing two jobs for the price of one. That grant writer may also be guilty of one or all of these things:

  •          Being a foolish business person;
  •          Undervaluing their services;
  •          Being complicit in breaking some laws depending on the funding source;
  •          Undermining the general value of grant writers in the marketplace.
As the Grant Goddess would tell you, “Grant writing and program evaluation are different disciplines.”  A client who asks a grant writer to write for free in exchange for the evaluation contract is comparable to a homeowner telling a landscape architect that she should design and install the landscaping free of charge in exchange for a contract to maintain it. That’s the kind of suggestion that could merit a leaf blower up the nose.

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.