Quick Tip for Grantwriters

What happens if you DIE tomorrow?

Die Tomorrow

 

Few of us want to die anytime soon.  But things happen.  We have wills and trusts to protect family members.  BUT…

What are you doing to keep your agency going if the unthinkable happens to you?  Will you leave your agency in the lurch?

My most important tip of the day:

Keep you files backed up in a shared folder.

Your own computer and/or laptop won’t be accessible if it’s password protected, so you’ve got to protect your agency by keeping your files backed up in a way that someone else can continue your work without missing any deadlines (so to speak).

This is serious.  If you care at all about your organization, and your cause, then you’ll back up to a shared file host today.

The #1 Mistake Grantwriters Make (that Loses Lots of Money!)

And 2 Ways You Can Prevent It!

What is the #1 Mistake Grantwriters Make?

The #1 Mistake Grantwriters Make

Every time I talk with grantwriters and grant-writers-in-training, it seems the same question gets asked:  “What’s the #1 mistake that grantwriters make?”

It’s an interesting question, for sure.  Every grant proposal that’s written probably has a number of things wrong with it but is there some underlying cause to all (or nearly all) of these proposal errors?  Is there, in essence, one mistake that leads to most of the other mistakes that are made?

I believe there is.  After having had contact with and learning from hundreds of grantwriters over the years, I believe the #1 mistake that grantwriters make is “not following directions”.

“Really?”, you’re thinking.  “That’s it?  After over 35 years of writing grants, that’s the best you can come up with?”

It does sound a bit trite.  What is it that gets drilled into us in school, from first grade on?  Follow directions!  But you know, it is easy to understand why this happens.

The typical Federal grant RFP is dozens of pages long, with large amounts of detail in each single-spaced page.  Some of this information is VITAL, while other information is “only” exceedingly important.  When I ask people to highlight the important information on a hard copy of their RFP, what I see often looks like the pages were printed on yellow paper, because almost every sentence has been covered with yellow highlighters.

Unfortunately, when EVERYTHING is important, it is easy to lose track of some of the finer details.  Information relating to what needs to be included in the proposal is often strewn across the RFP in different sections.  It doesn’t always get put together in the heads of grantwriters.

Another common reason that grant proposals don’t include everything needed is that when teams of people put the proposal together, it’s easy to overlook when something is left out.  Even more common is that information drafted by different authors isn’t reconciled and turns out to be contradictory.  For example, budgets and program plans may be revised separately and no one ensures agreement.

Time pressures add to the mistakes that are made.

Most grantwriters know the importance of organization, but even they can overlook enough of the explicit instructions to lose points due to making the number one mistake of grantwriters—not following directions.

While you might be tempted to think of these as separate reasons that grant proposals are not funded, the truth is that it’s all the same underlying reason.  It’s the mistake that “rules all other mistakes”.

Now that you know this is the most common mistake, and one that will certainly lose you points and cost you lots of money, you also know what you can do to solve it.  There’s one mandatory solution I recommend, and one voluntary practice that will pay off very well, despite having a cost to it.

Mandatory Solution

Create the “grantwriter-in-chief” for any particular proposal.  This person needs to know the RFP better than anyone else, and is responsible for ensuring that all directions are followed.  This person has ultimate authority for what is submitted (subject to CEO and board approval).  Obviously, this person should have considerable experience, if possible, but whoever it is, that person has to have the seniority and status to do this job, even if it means stepping on a few toes to get the proposal completed on time.

Voluntary Solution

Hire an outsider with considerable grant experience to read your proposal.  This person doesn’t even need to be an expert in your particular area (though that is nice).  What’s more important is that the person understands the logic of grantwriting, is willing to be critical, and can work quickly.

In case you don’t have anyone you can turn to for this service, you can contact me to see if I could be of service to your organization.

Want more points on your next grant application?

Be sure to have a great sustainability plan!

Grant applications at every level are placing more emphasis on what you plan to do to sustain the programs they are funding, once their contributions end.  Be sure to understand what sustainability planning is and how to show reviewers you are on top of the situation.

Here’s a short video from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services department of the US Department of Health and Human Services that will help you write a better plan for continuing your grant-funded programs when they (or any funder) stop their contributions.

 

 

Do You Need a Scary Identity Crisis to Improve?

How the Cattleman's Realization Applies to You

Image

Do you have a strong self identity as a grantwriter?  That may be getting in the way of you becoming a GREAT grantwriter.  Seem impossible?  Read on.

In this post, you’ll find out what ‘The Cattleman’s Realization” is, and how applies to you.

 

I was watching a documentary about the effects of a decade-long drought in Texas.  There’s only so much water to go around, and how it gets used and shared is complicated.

The documentary spent a few minutes detailing the plight of one Texas cattleman.  He ranched on land owned by his family for generations and had always wanted to carry on the tradition.  But the drought was making that option less and less viable.  The traditional ways of ranching weren’t working in an environment with less water.

He had to re-think the situation and find ways of dealing with the new reality.

So he began to look at why his business and his cattle weren’t doing well.  The chain of events he came up with went something like this.

The cattle weren’t doing well because they didn’t have enough to eat. Grass wasn’t plentiful enough.

He bought hay to solve that problem, but the business wasn’t doing well because he couldn’t buy enough hay at a reasonable price for the cattle to thrive.

Why didn’t the land he owned provide enough forage anymore?  It used to!

Turns out there were lots of reasons.  Sure, there wasn’t enough rain but there were other issues that were making the problem much worse.

For example, a certain type of cypress tree had taken over along the river bank that went through his ranch.  This cypress sucked up two to three times more water than what had been there before and the cattle couldn’t eat it, unlike the grass that used to grow there.

Further away from the river, grass was sparser as well because mesquite was using up lots of water, with its deep taproot and large network of other roots just under the ground.  Grass, with its shallow root system, couldn’t compete to get water.  It was also being “overshadowed” by mesquite—being killed as life-giving sun was being blocked.

The cattleman thought long and hard about what to do.  In the end, he realized that, in order to salvage his cattle business, and his livelihood, he had to change his self-identity.

No longer would he be a cattleman (at least not first and foremost).  No, instead he realized that in order for the livestock to do well, and his business to do well, and in order to save his family’s past and legacy for the future, he needed to be something different than “a cattleman”.

From then on, he was in the business of “raising grass”.

He realized what the core to the cattle business was and it didn’t have everything to do with cattle. Without grass, something that used to be taken for granted, nothing else would work.  Rain would be extremely helpful, of course, but he could do quite a lot to save his ranch by changing his focus from cattle to grass and taking action on his own.

Here’s the lesson for grantwriters.

We ARE going to face hard times.  What we do during those hard times may need to something unexpected.  We may need to stop “being” grantwriters.

Many nonprofits are experiencing difficulties right now.  Lots of reasons contribute to this—just like many reasons affected the cattleman’s livelihood in raising livestock.

Consider these questions:  What is sucking your “ranch” dry?  Where are your “cypress trees” and “mesquite” that are killing your “grass”?

Here’s that awesome idea I want you to consider:  Stop thinking of yourself as a grantwriter.

Maybe your current identity isn’t what’s needed right now.  In an era of diminished resources, instead of being a “grantwriter”, you need to think of yourself as a “marketer”, or an “advocate” for program ideas.

Where shifts in your identity or thinking do you need to make?

How would this shift your focus, even as you continue to write grants, even while continuing to work in your current position?  What else might you do, or what might you do in addition?

A marketer would paint a picture of a problem intense enough to evoke strong reader emotions in a grant’s needs statement

A marketer would be championing the value of particular interventions, including information into the section on “planned program”.

A marketer would emphasize how well an organization has solved problems in the past—a part of the capabilities and capacity section of most grant proposals.

An advocate knows that resources are in many places, including the government and political systems.  If there’s not enough “rain” in the form of grants, an advocate would be clearing the ranch of mesquite and cypress trees to increase water supplies.

An advocate puts the best case forward and constantly gathers evidence to bolster the case.  (Does your organization have strong evaluations in place?)

Advocates develop relationships with “rain-makers” even when rain isn’t needed immediately.

We can still “raise cattle” even as we “grow grass”—if we’re wise enough to see how they interconnect, and how you can’t do one, without doing the other.

Do me a favor—if this sparks some ideas in you, causes you to have an insight into how you can address a problem in your life by thinking about your identity in a different way, could you let me know?

You can do that by commenting below.  Also, please share this, as it might be just the insight someone needs to see today.  This idea doesn’t apply ONLY to grantwriters!

Let’s start some identify crises by understanding the value of a cattleman’s realization.

Learning From Grantwriters

You need more than skill!

[jwplayer mediaid=”786″]

 

While all grantwriters need to have skills related to writing, researching, conceptalizing, budgeting, and so much more, these are things that can be taught.

Go to any grantwriting workshop, and that’s what you’ll get.  The trouble is, if all you have are skills to write grants, I doubt you’ll ever reach the top ranks of the profession.

Yeah, sure, you may write a few successful grants on sheer technical merit–and more power to you!  But what you’ll be lacking are the elements that will keep you in the job,  improving month after month, grant proposal after grant proposal.

Click on the image above to hear my thoughts about what you MUST come to the job with if you are ever going to become more than a passable proposal writer.