Friday, March 30, 2012

First Grant of the Season

I just finished writing my first grant of the "season."  It was a 55-page proposal for an excellent program. I loved the client.  I loved the idea.

But writing it was like pulling teeth for me.

It happens to me every year.  There is something about that first big grant of the season that is a struggle for me. It must be something about the creative part of my brain that works part-time when it's not grant time.  When it's time for it to get back to full-time work (or more than full-time work), it drags its feet, whines, and rebels against all my attempts to impose any intellectual discipline.

Yes, it feels like my mind has a mind of its own.

After that first one, it's under my control again and the next grant goes well, as does the next one, and the next one, and so on until the end of the grant season.

Frankly, I don't know why it's so difficult, because I always win and end up with an excellent proposal.

I am the Grant Goddess, after all.  ;-)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When Is It Time to Let a Client Go?

If you're like me, you want to think that you can help everybody.  The truth, of course, is that you can't. That is true in life, and it's true in the world of grant writing and program evaluation, too.

I recently let a long time client go.  At the same time, I released about $70,000 in income they would have provided over the next year and half.


Because it was the right thing to do.

The bottom line is that when the relationship isn't helping the client anymore and it's making you crazy, it's time to step back. I reached that point with this client.

My contacts for the organization were not taking any of my suggestions (which is their prerogative, of course) and they were making really poor decisions that were not good for anyone, especially the youth served by that organization. There was so much infighting and backstabbing and lying within their organization that nothing got done and no one knew who to trust.

After working with them for 8 years in various capacities, I spent the last two years focused on my role with them and just trying to stay alive.

Just trying to stay alive.....seriously.  My health suffered. I wasn't sleeping. I had convinced myself that to walk away meant failure, and I just don't do failure. So I was banging my head against the wall until I realized that my work with them wasn't helping anyone.

Since they were ignoring my reports and advice, not letting me do my job (everyone's an expert, ya know), and I was literally sick from all the stress, it made no sense to continue the relationship.

Sure, that was a lot of money to walk away from, and it made me nervous, but money was not a good enough reason to stay. Money should never be the main reason for taking or keeping a consulting job.  It's about making a difference.  If you are not making a difference, what's the point?

Walking away wasn't easy.  I knew there would be gossip and speculation about what happened, and there was. I knew professional ethics wouldn't let me speak about the detail of what happened, and I didn't - even when I heard untrue rumors floating around. I also knew that there were some very bad things going on related to youth that I would not be able to even attempt to remedy if I walked away, but I had to. That was the really hard part.

So I walked away. What happened?  My health has improved dramatically.  I'm sleeping well again. I have time now to take on new clients who want to work with me, so I'm developing new relationships and my work is fun again and more fulfilling.

Oh yeah....and these new clients have just about replaced the income I lost from the old one, and it only took a couple of months. So my biggest fear - losing the income - was just a boogieman that couldn't survive in the light of reality.

The client hired another firm to handle the work.  Maybe that will work out really well for them.

Maybe the change I made will end up being better for everyone in the long run.

I learned a valuable lesson from this experience - walking away from a client when it's not good for anyone is not a failure. It's an opportunity to grow. Sometimes it's the only right thing to do.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Give Them What They Want

Do you know what grant readers want more than anything else?

They want to be convinced that you have a significant need, that you have a great plan to meet that need, and that you are capable of implementing that idea.  Yes, they want to be convinced. So, give them what they want.

I read a non-funded grant proposal written by someone else recently (the agency came to me for this year's submittal, hoping I'll be more successful). As I read the proposal, I noticed numerous technical problems with it like poorly written objectives, lack of baseline data, not much research documenting the effectiveness of the model (required), and a few other things. It was easy to see why it wasn't funded as it didn't effectively address all of the scoring criteria. All of those things are easy to fix.  They are the things we teach in Grant Writing 101: The Basics.

But that's not all that was wrong with it. It simply didn't make a convincing case.  It wasn't persuasive at all.  Even if all of the technical elements had been in place, I wouldn't want to fund that proposal.

Remember, grant readers are people and scoring guides are more subjective than you'd think.  If a reader really likes a proposal and wants to fund it, he can find a way if you have at least attempted to address all the criteria.  On the other hand, there are hundreds of ways a reader can nickle and dime a proposal's score when he doesn't want to fund it.

Of course, you know that I think you should nail the scoring criteria and make a compelling case for your project. Don't make the mistake of thinking that technical prowess is all that is needed.

Convince the readers that your idea is fabulous.

That's what they want.


Get unlimited access to successful grant proposal samples at

Monday, March 5, 2012

Plagiarism is a Big Deal

It pains me to say this, but college students aren't the only folks who plagiarize.  Grant writers do it, too. I know someone who plagiarized more than a few times by lifting my writing and putting it into grants she was "writing."

Practically speaking, every time she plagiarized from a grant that I had written, she committed fraud and she harmed my reputation.  Clients don't like it when they think they are paying for original work and they learn that they are getting a product that has been cut and pasted from someone else's document.

The worst part was that she didn't think it was a big deal.

But it is a big deal.

Plagiarism is fraud.

If someone made a widget and someone else stole that widget and then passed it off as his/her own, it would be clear to everyone that a theft had occurred. Theft of ideas and written work (even small portions of written work without proper attribution) is just as damaging, particularly to those of us who earn out living with our thoughts and writing. has some good information what does and does not constitute plagiarism and how it can be prevented.

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.