Monday, March 17, 2008

# 50: Grant Writer! Accentuate the positive. Eliminate the Negative

You know that old song...
"Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive. E-lim-inate the negative. Latch on to the affirmative.
Don't mess with Mr. In-between!"
(Bing Crosby sang it. That's why his picture is here.)

Well, when we're writing about our organization's need for grant money, it's easy to focus on the negative. 'Kids are killing each other on the streets. The environment is going to hell. And, everyone in the neighborhood needs shoes.'

And, some days, the cup just seems half empty. Everything out of my mouth is negative.

But, as grant writers we know that our choice of language has a psychological impact on the reader. So, consider carefully the impact you want to have.

While a some negative language about the problem may be inevitable, leave the reader with positive feelings. I reread my text to find negative sentences and try to rewrite them as positives.
Without your funding the situation will continue to deteriorate and life will be miserable.
With these additional resources the neighborhood can rise to the challenge and solve some of its problems.
Now, doesn't that feel better? Well, you know what I mean.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

#49: KIDS COUNT-- data for grant writers from the Casey Foundation

As a grant writer you probably already have the Casey Foundation bookmarked. If you don't, do it now! This site is an invaluable resource for anyone who writes about need.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT online database has a whole new look and feel. Now featuring child well-being measures for the 50 largest U.S. cities, this powerful tool contains more than 100 indicators, including the most recent data available on education, employment and income, poverty, health, and youth risk factors for the United States as a whole, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands."

#48: User Testing for Grant Writers

I've talked about these tips before, but it never hurts to remind ourselves that all our writing needs "user testing." The grant writer's work must turn a complex subject into understandable, jargon-free text. It requires testing before submission.

Matthew Stibbe's
advice targeted geeks writing for a general audience, but it applies to grant writers as well. From one of my favorite writers about writing:

Geeks: How to Write for a Non-Technical Audience : "Bad Language" : Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus
User testing. I recommend three kinds of testing: read the article aloud to yourself. Does it sound like you? Is it natural? Does it make sense? Ask a non-technical friend or colleague to read it and check that they picked up on the main points you wanted to convey. Finally, try to find someone who can proofread it properly- it's very hard to proofread your own work.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

#47: The Mossberg Solution - the grant writers guide to school data

A month or so ago, Walter Mossberg, a Wall Street Journal technology columnist, published a column describing three sites where parents can research schools. I use, but you may find one of the others more to your liking. Check them all out.

The Mossberg Solution - ", a service of Standard & Poor's, is more bare-bones, containing quick statistical comparisons of schools. (S&P is a unit of McGraw-Hill Cos.) This site gets its content from various sources, including state departments of education, private research firms, the Census and National Public Education Finance Survey. This is evidenced by lists, charts and pie graphs that would make Ross Perot proud."
I especially like the fact that SchoolMatters can generate one report that pulls together data from several schools. I'm currently writing a grant application for three after school programs -- an elementary school site and two very different high schools. One report gives me the data on all three.

Here are the three sites Mossberg reviews:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

#46: Statistics Help for Grant Writers

Here's a site to help those of us who are statistically challenged.

Statistics Help for Journalists: "Statistics Every Writer Should Know
A simple guide to understanding basic statistics, for journalists and other writers who might not know math."

#45: Can a catchy name help get a grant application funded?

Do you think a catchy name for your program that is also descriptive of the project can make a memorable first impression?

Project names can be challenging. Sometimes we just stick with the title of the RFP -- bureaucratic and boring -- and sometimes we get quite hysterical brainstorming for a name when the application deadline presses.

And, I'm always interested in whether a client sticks with the catchy name we used in the application or ends up changing it during implementation.

Nancy Friedman presented six naming strategies in a two-part article on Visual Thesaurus. A couple of them won't work well for grant applications but most will trigger some ideas.
  1. People's names - who has inspired this program? Who's the founder?
  2. Connecting two words, like CareerWorks, Facebook, Wordpress
  3. Blended, or portmanteau, names like Technorati (a blend of technology and literati) - these are tricky.
  4. Affixed words - using a prefix or suffix with a descriptive word. For example, add Bene-, Bio- or Pre- at the beginning, or -ist, -ish, -cast, -ly, -ite at the end. BeneWorks, maybe, or BeneFunds;
  5. Invented words -- like all those accounting/consulting firms and the pharmeceuticals advertised on TV -- not a good choice for our projects.
  6. Phrases like 'Habitat for Humanity' and 'Teach the People.' One client's after school program is called 'McKee After 3'
Please note, Nancy didn't add acronyms to her list. Let's avoid ACE (Achievement it Career and Education) and ACT (Assisting Children Through Transition).

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