Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Grant Writing is Part Fiction

In the broadest terms, grant writing is like fiction writing because the grant writer describes a future state that results from delivery of grant services. The details of how the grant will unfold are fictional, based on the best facts at hand, sound planning and demonstrated competence of the organization.  In this post, I compare the key parts of a fiction story to key features of a grant narrative.

Fiction Writing
Grant Writing
The Main Character
The main character is the one who has to solve the conflict of the story.

A main character has a history that gives depth and makes the characters present actions logical.

The main character needs to experience some form change that causes them to grow.

It is not necessary to describe as much history about the supporting characters as the main character. A supporting character may support the resolution of the conflict while others may be the cause of the problem.
The Applicant
The applicant is the main character and must be described. The writer must detail the history, strengths, accomplishments, plans, etc.

The conflict in a grant narrative is the need that has caused the submission of the grant in the first place.  The grant is designed to resolve the needs(conflict) presented.

The supporting characters in a grant application are the partners, major donors, etc.  The amount of description to include for each partner depends on their involvement in the grant design.

Another type of supporting character in a grant application is the recipients of services who may also grow, change or benefit from the services that the grant provides. It could be people, the environment, or an organization that benefits from the grant services.

A grant typically produces changes and/or growth in the application organization that relates to its history and mission in a logical way.
Character Building
A fictional character must be defined for the reader. A character must be described thoroughly so it produces a clear picture in the reader’s mind.

Many times in fiction a more unique each character makes the story a lot more interesting.
Building the Program Design
Character development is similar to development of the project design in grant writing.  The project design needs to be defined, shaped, and described so clearly that the grant reader can “see” the end product with absolute clarity and conviction. Uniqueness can be helpful in grant writing too, but only if it builds the funder’s commitment to giving you the grant.  If the uniqueness of your project just makes it unbelievable, you’re in trouble.

Grants do not have dialogue.  This is a key point of departure between the two writing genres.
Details greatly enhance fiction but using too much detail can ruin a story by bogging down the flow of the action.

While too much detail may ruin a fictional story, detail can only help a grant narrative; in fact, getting enough detail into a grant narrative is the most difficult challenge a grant writer faces. Detail is crucial to the credibility of your narrative.

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Photo Credit - Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Grant Writer’s Review of “Do the Work” by Steven Pressfield

This post is related to grant writing in that it is related to the work of writing in general.  It is also related to the act of getting to work as a writer which is the topic of the book, "Do the Work" by writer Steven Pressfield.  The book was published through The Domino Project and is available at Amazon (that I am really ticked off at because they fired me as an Affiliate since I am in California, but that's another story).
I like all of the Domino project books I’ve read so far including: “Poke the Box” by Seth Godin; “Anything You Want” By Derek Sivers; and, “Do the Work” by Steven Pressfield. 
Each of these books caused me to think about my work, my work habits, my creative self and why I don't work more diligently to express it.
In “Do the Work,” Pressfield presents his concepts about what prevents us from creating. He labels things that interfere with our work as “Resistance.” I won’t go into detail about resistance, or you won’t need to get his book, and I recommend you do.  It is enough to say that resistance is a universal force that keeps you from working and manifests itself in a variety of forms.
The first time I read the book was on Saturday, April 30. I was inspired by the book and decided to try out Pressfield’s basic writing outline for a book project I’d been contemplating for almost a year. So after church on Sunday, May 1, I went to a discount store and I bought 3 spiral notebooks to use for writing. I was challenging resistance, then it kicked me in the tail end, literally.
On Monday, May 2, I was rear-ended in a violent car accident. I wasn’t hurt badly, but my car was fatally crushed and had to be put down. I decided to ride the bus until the insurance paid out. 
I'd owned a car or motorcycle continuously since I was sixteen so living within the limitations of the transit system is a big change.  I discovered the bus adds two hours a day to my commute, not to mention about 2.5 miles of walking.  This reinforced that the accident was an experience in resistance. I felt like I was “losing” two hours a day to work. I was frustrated and I wanted to find a way to regain the time.
One day I put one of the notebooks into my backpack and carried it on the bus. I used the time that day to outline my book and begin writing.  I soon discovered that the bus rides were too short! In a month, I filled three notebooks and now I am completing the third revision of my book.
The accident that I’d taken for resistance turned into what Steven Pressfield calls “Assistance.” Assistance happens, Pressfield asserts, when you overcome resistance and press into your work.
I am still riding the “bus of assistance.” I enjoy not owning a car and I value my time on the bus because it's so "soupy" (read the book or ride the bus, you'll get it).
Oddly, I found my muse and she’s an angry, middle-aged, union bus driver with no customer relation skills whatsoever.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New Federal Grant Opportunities

The federal government, under the auspices of The Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance, has announced three new grant opportunities. These new grants are announced in the form of a "Funding Opportunity Announcement" for the Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood Grants program.

The programs are well-funded with $52,000,000 available for a Fatherhood program, $57,000,000 for a Marriage program, and $6,000,000 for an ex-prisoner Father's program.

Links to each of the programs are provided below:
Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood Grants Program
Community-Centered Healthy Marriage and Relationship (CCHMR) Grants Program
Community-Centered Responsible Fatherhood Ex-Prisoner Reentry Pilot Project

Call us if you need help writing a grant for one of these opportunities. (530) 669-3600.

Do I Have Your Full Attention? Ten Grant Writing Tips

I’ve been writing grants for a living since before the turn of the century; that makes me rather old. Before I became a professional grant writer, I moonlighted as a grant writer for years; that makes me even older.
But guess what? Older is better. Today I type faster, am more efficient at research, more inquisitive in questioning a client, more effective at editing, revising and narrating. I tend to get grants funded more often than I used to with a lot less outside assistance.
Here are some long-in-the-tooth tips for you young grant writing whipper-snappers out there.
  1. Spend more time reading the Request For Proposals (RFP) before you start writing than you think you need to.  Reading an RFP once is never enough for me.
  2. Spend more time talking to your client about the proposal than they want to.  If getting their attention means you have to buy them lunch, do it.
  3. Write a detailed outline for the proposal. Follow the RFP outline carefully.
  4. Collect all the research you think you need first and understand it before you begin to write. Everything you collect should be the most current literature in support of your design.
  5. Cross out blocks of time on your calendar and hold those times sacred. Turn off the TV, the radio, and send the kids out to play.
  6. Stop writing when you become unclear about any element of the project design and call your client to ask questions. If you are unclear, your narrative will be too.
  7. Employ a trusted editor to review your writing.
  8. Communicate with your client early and often about what they are required to provide and do during the process.
  9. Overestimate the time that ancillary pieces of the grant with take you to complete, they always take longer than you expect.
  10. Always obtain and keep some form of verification that your grant was submitted.

We have many distractions these days from cell phones to messages that pop right up on your computer as you write. You won’t be a successful grant writer if your writing does not receive your full attention. It may sound kind of like I am an old fuddy-duddy about those dang electronic deeee-vices, but I am not at all actually.  I love my electronic devices and I am a better grant writer because I use them. Electronics can get in the way if you aren’t careful so be sure you are giving your client 100% of yourself when it’s time to write.

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Photo Credit - Leroy Skalstad

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.