Saturday, December 30, 2006

#25 - 2006: The Year in Research from RWJF

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has published their ten best 2006 research findings. These can be invaluable resources for grant writers if the projects you're seeking funds for fall into any of their categories. At their site, each links to a summary of the research and information about how to access the full study.

RWJF - Newsroom - Features - 2006: The Year in Research:
  1. U.S. children and teens consume more daily calories than they need to support normal growth, physical activity and body function, leading to excess weight gain.
  2. New evidence shows the potential for Cash & Counseling, a consumer-direction model, to reduce dependence on nursing home admissions.
  3. Despite substantial investments by the tobacco industry in smoking prevention, their ads are shown to have no effect at best and may actually increase the likelihood of teen smoking.
  4. One economist is convinced that with a reinsurance program, the federal government can help lower the number of uninsured by one-third.
  5. Substance abuse treatment may be a wise investment when one considers the decrease in costs to society and the increase in productivity that is associated with such treatment.
  6. The many drawbacks of the medical tort system are stimulating interest in health courts as a more efficient and cost-effective alternative to the current medical malpractice claims system.
  7. Translating effective programs into practice is always a challenge; two Active for Life programs have proven successful in encouraging physical activity in older adults.
  8. While some disparities in care exist, due to characteristics such as race and insurance status, they are small compared to the gap in care between what everyone should get and what they are receiving.
  9. The cumulative effect of mental health disorders, substance use and domestic violence increases a child's risk of social and emotional behavior problems.
  10. An examination of chronic care management among the elderly uncovers waste, inequality and inefficiencies and highlights areas for improvement.
If you aren't familiar with RWJF, take some time to browse their site and sign up for their announcements for the topics relevant to your clients. They provide great information and solicit applications in the broadly defined healthcare arena.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

#24: DOJ Reports on Crime in Schools - Stats for Grant Writers

Another useful source for statistics - this time dealing with school violence. I'm glad to hear it's decreasing, but always amazed at how widespread it is.

Bureau of Justice Statistics Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2006
Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2006 Presents data on crime and safety at school from the perspectives of students, teachers, principals, and the general population. A joint effort by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics, this annual report examines crime occurring in school as well as on the way to and from school. It also provides the most current detailed statistical information on the nature of crime in schools, school environments, and responses to violence and crime at school. Data are drawn from several federally funded collections including the National Crime Victimization Survey, Youth Risk Behavior Survey, School Survey on Crime and Safety, and School and Staffing Survey.

Monday, December 04, 2006

#23: When Grant Writing, Use Those Easy Pieces Wisely

Today's Non-Profit Times e-newsletter had a brief article on grant writing. Their advice --

Grants ...Start the process with the easy sections You've done the research, found grants to apply for, assessed your organization's ability to complete a competitive proposal. Now it's time to actually start writing your grant proposal. What's the first thing you should do? Don't panic,according to Alexis Carter-Black, author of "Getting Grants: The Complete Manual of Proposal Development and Administration.

...She suggests breaking up the proposal into smaller sections and writing one section at a time, starting with the one you find easiest -- it doesn't even have to be in order until you send it in.

It's good advice to break the proposal into smaller sections. Then, find the strategy that works best for you.

Rather than do all the easy stuff first, I like to spread it throughout the writing process. I write an easy section whenever I need a break. I may need to let a more challenging section percolate a bit, or just have a hard time getting started one morning.

Whether you do the easy stuff first, spread it around, save it for last, do an easy piece every morning, or write them on those nights you have insomnia, think through what works best for you. The easy pieces are gifts. Treasure them and plan accordingly.

Photo by dcJohn, CC some rights reserved

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

KISS Me Again, Grant Writer!

I'm not giving this post a number because it's really a repeat of #14: Apply the KISS Principle to Grant Writing. But, I came accross this quote tonight and I just couldn't resist using it to reinforce one of the most important things any successful grant writer must learn.

"As our friend and author Andy Goodman spoofed:

If Nike were a nonprofit, its 'Just do it' campaign would be 'While an occasional disinclination to exercise is exhibited by all age cohorts, the likelihood of positive health outcomes makes even mildly strenuous physical activity all the more imperative.'"
Don't fall into that trap. Just say what you have to say. Say it clearly. Say it simply. Say it passionately. But, just say it.

By the way, I found the quote in an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The author was discussing the importance of researching your target audience before investing in non-profit marketing and fundraising communications.

It's good stuff, if you want to take a look. But, I won't discuss it here.
Stanford Social Innovation Review : Articles : Research Rules (December 1, 2005):

Photo by Paulo Sacramento, Creative Commons - some rights reserved

Monday, November 20, 2006

#22 - The FBI - a Grant Writer's Friend

Need local crime stats? Start by contacting your local police department. They may post stats on their website, or you may have to ask for them. But they'll give them to you, often by neighborhood.

But if time is short, or you want city-wide stats, the FBI is your best friend. Local law enforcement must report periodically, and all that data is available on line at the FBI Crime in the United States site.

Note the link to Table 8 - How many crimes were reported in my city in 2005? in the lower left corner next to Quick Finds. It takes you to a table where you can find the stats for your city.

Crime in the United States 2005: "About Crime In the United States"

Photo thanks to Malingering - Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Monday, November 13, 2006

#21: Grant Writing Guidance From the Horse's Mouth

HHS' SAMHSA issues RFP after RFP. Seems like it should be easy to capture some of their funding, doesn't it? But the competition is fierce.

I'd written more than one SAMHSA grant application before I discovered this manual. What more could a grant writer want than the funder providing the skinny on just what matters to them? Here it is, straight from the horse's mouth.

You'll also find links to grant opportunities, statistics, news... a site worth visiting periodically if you provide services or write grants for the substance abuse, mental health, or prevention fields.

Developing Competitive SAMHSA Grant Applications - Table of contents: "Developing Competitive SAMHSA Grant Applications Participants Manual"

Where did that expression "straight from the horse's mouth" come from. by the way???

Sunday, November 12, 2006

# 20: Grant Resources from the White House

The White House has pushed faith-based initiatives. Part of that push includes a site loaded with resources designed to help faith-based and small community-based organizations find money to support the White House goals. It's worth some time, some rainy afternoon when you need a break.

And, you never know what tips you'll find. For example, it never occurred to me to ask for copies of winning applications through Freedom of Information until I read it here.

Faith-Based and Community Initiatives: Grant Opportunities: "White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives --Federal Funds for Organizations That Help Those in Need"

Friday, October 06, 2006

# 19: Know your funder - Advice from Donor Power Blog

Jeff Brooks, Donor PowerBlog, has some advice in his post The Secret of Non-Profit Branding that grant writers should keep in mind. When you read it, just substitute 'funders' for 'donors.'

"Put it this way: Your donors are giving to you because of what that giving says about them -- to themselves or to others.

They aren't giving because your programs are so brilliant.

They aren't giving because you're so smart (or strategic, or any other great attribute).

They aren't giving because of your long history or superior achievement."

When you write a grant application you tell the funder 'you'll be happy to have your money and your name associated with this program and this agency. We will represent you well.'

Pay attention to what they want their funding to say about them -- for example: Do they want to be seen as a funder for projects staffed by highly professional, credentialed staff or are they self-help or peer oriented? Are they interested in agencies with a track record of sucesses or in nurturing start-ups. Do they like risk-taking and funding innovations or do they want projects based on model programs? Are they consumer or community-oriented or research-based?

You can tell a lot from the RFP itself, but I also like to see who they've previously funded, and how they describe those projects. What image do they project in their newsletters and conferences? Anything I can learn about the face they present to the world will inform my narrative strategy.

Jeff says "So ask yourself: What about our brand feeds the unique aspirations of our donors? What is it about giving to you that makes them feel proud or happy or cool or validated?"

Read Jeff's post. In fact, read his blog regularly. I do. As a grant writer, it will broaden your perspective. As a non-profit marketer and fundraiser, you'll find something relevant in every post.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

#18: How Can You Prove Your Outcomes Are Worth the Money?

Oh, finally someone has said something sensible about outcome measurement. What do they say? You can't prove it -- and, it can be counter productive to try.

Stanford Social Innovation Review : Articles : Drowning in Data (August 30, 2006): "The only surefire way to show that a program is helping people more than they could have helped themselves is to conduct expensive and lengthy studies involving control groups. Because so many people underestimate the difficulty and cost of demonstrating impact, nonprofits often collect reams of data that are not only useless, but also misleading. As a result, evaluation is failing to help make the social sector more effective."
Yes, the team needs to have a logic model and identify goals. But, my money is on program improvement, not long term outcomes.

Read this article. Pass it along. It's important!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

#17: OJJDP Provides Updated Juvenile Statistics

Writing a grant that targets at-risk youth? Any youth, for that matter. Need statistics? This OJJDP report deserves your attention.

"Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report"

The report offers a wealth of statistics on juveniles. The first chapter sets the stage with a good overview of all children and adolescents including state comparisons.

You can use it to put together a good baseline to compare with your target population.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

# 16: Does Anyone Around Here Read?

Long ago, I gave up expecting grant prep team members to read the RFP. Yes, some conscientious individuals will. But most won't. They're busy running programs, as they should be. Grant applications get sandwiched in. Why be disappointed or frustrated with them? Compensate.

I start the grant writing process with a 1 or 2 page (max) summary which includes the funders goals and requirements followed by bulleted questions for the team to consider, or the program content already under discussion. I aim to make the document one someone can scan in less than five minutes.

It's worth the effort. It helps fix the funder's agenda in my mind. It guarantees we have easily referenced requirements in front of everyone as we plan. And it serves as the basis of the background material we provide to people who agree to provide letters of support. (More about those letters another time.)

Does Anyone Around Here Read? Not the RFPs! But why worry?

# 15: 'To Be or Not ...' - How to Avoid 'To Be'

I always learn a lot I can apply to grant writing when I read Daphne Gray-Grant's e-newsletters. Avoiding forms of 'to be' has been etched on my brain, but I never thought to use this editing technique she recommends.
I use "control + F" to help me find BAD things in my writing, and eliminate them. For example, I go on a search and destroy mission for all forms of the verb "to be." To do this, I hit "control + F" and type the word "is" in the handy-dandy little box. Then I hit, "find next." The software then takes me methodically through my story or article, highlighting every time I've used the word "is." One by one, I then try to replace each "is" with a more interesting verb. And then, if I'm feeling energetic, I do exactly the same thing with: were, was, are, will be.
If you're interested in subscribing to her newsletter, you'll find it here. She sends short, useful tips wrapped in good stories.

# 14: Apply the KISS Principle to Grant Writing

It's a great temptation to reach for long, scholarly words to impress grant evaluators. Anything to prove our clients are smart and worthy. But, STOP!

Daniel Oppenheimer, at Princeton, says,
"Anything that makes a text hard to read and understand, such as unnecessarily long words or complicated fonts, will lower readers' evaluations of the text and its author."
His research,
Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly, found people rated the intelligentce of authors who wrote in simpler language, using an easy to read font, as higher than those inserting unnecessary complexity. The study was published in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology 2005

His conclusion-
"One thing seems certain: write as simply and plainly as possible and it's more likely you'll be thought of as intelligent."
So, colleagues, Keep It Simple, Smarty!

'ScienceDaily: The Secret Of Impressive Writing? Keep It Plain And Simple:

Thursday, August 17, 2006

#13 Neighborhood level census data for grant applications

I love finding new, easier resources.  I'm always challenged when I have to locate census data that's not readily available on the Quick Facts Census reports.  Oh, I find it...eventually.  But I waste time going in circles.

This little census tutorial highlighted a great tool - enter the address, then choose the level report you want - census tract, city, county, etc.  You can map your choices, too.  Especially helpful when working at the census tract level.

FASTEN Network
Neighborhood Data

Want to explore some more? You can also retrieve a lot of information about your city or even your neighborhood from the Census web page. To do this go to and find the picture of the street sign followed by the words "Enter a street address to find Census 2000 data." (It's in the section between the red lines near the top of the page.) Click on the highlighted words "street address."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

#12 Grant Writers Need Fresh Statistics

I hate using old statistics when I'm making a case for funding.  Makes me feel like we haven't done our homework.  So, I'm always on the lookout for good sources.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation publishes an annual database - Kids Count.  This year they've added some great bells and whistles.  Take a look.  And order a hard copy of the book -- it's free.

KIDS COUNT State-Level Data Online
Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2006 KIDS COUNT Data Book are now available in our easy-to-use, powerful online database, "State Level Data Online", that allows you to generate custom graphs, maps, ranked lists, and state-by-state profiles; or, download the entire data set as delimited text files.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

#11: Grant Writing and Client Feedback

When do you ask your client to read your draft grant application? And what kind of feedback do you want, when?

Working with short deadlines forces me to share drafts sooner than I'd like. My client often sees a draft that looks nothing like the finished product. But I need feedback on the content.  Are the facts right? Am I emphasizing the right points in the evidence?

Seth Godin's blog entry about giving good feedback is useful in thinking through how to ask your client for feedback on that early draft. 

Seth's Blog
In the interest of promoting your career, making your day at work more fun, improving the work life of your colleagues, and generally making my life a whole lot better, I'd like to give you some feedback on giving feedback. As usual, the ideas are simple--it's doing them that's tricky.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

#10 Saving Time Using Two Screens

If you aren't using two screens, start now. I know it seems like an indulgence, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. Besides, you probably have an old monitor sitting unused in a corner.

Glenn bugged me for months. "Ruth, you really should add a second monitor." I thought he was being silly and I resisted. But grant writing involves pulling together information from multiple documents and so much cutting and pasting.

Having a second screen makes it possible to keep my draft on the main screen and my source documents and the RFP on the second. I usually keep my email open on the second screen, as well, so I can see the answers to those time-critical questions as they come in.

Technically it's pretty simple, especially if you're using a laptop. Just connect the monitor and change a few settings. Voila! your desktop stretches across two screens.

I really recommend it. Your IT guru can help you set it up, if you're not adventurous. Save yourself time, stay more organized, keep what's important in front of you.

Thanks for pushing me, Glenn.

Friday, July 07, 2006

#9 Google Government Search, Now With State Filtering

Google Government Search, Now With State Filtering

One of the most useful blogs I follow is ResearchBuzz. She keeps track of resources and tools for researching on the web.

Now she's gone a step further. She's improving the tools out there. I was delighted when Google introduced Government Search. But the addition of state filtering makes it perfect. WOW!

And thanks, ResearchBuzz.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Any advice?

When I realized I hadn't posted here since mid-May I thought back over the month. It's been difficult. We spent much of the month away from home. Glenn's brother died - a blessing, but none-the-less a loss. Since working efficiently while traveling has been a goal, I thought my systems and tools were in pretty good shape.

But I wasn't very productive this time. I've had a tough time refocusing, too.

Any recommendations for how to be productive on the road?

Friday, May 19, 2006

#8 Use Strong Language

Which is stronger?
In our youth work we try to draw upon proven

In our youth work we draw up proven

Of course, it's the second one.

But this week I reviewed a grant application written in house for a client. It was rife with wishy-washy words that communicated a lack of confidence in their ability to successfully implement their proposal.

I didn't have time to write the application for them but agreed to review what the
staff wrote and offer some suggestions. I've worked with them long enough to know they are extremely competent and manage several effective youth programs.

So why the weak language?

Humility. They thought they should be humble. It's a problem that plagues us all when we begin marketing our services to potential clients or funders. We're shy about saying we're good at what we do.

Unfortunately, it weakens the proposal.

You have to go for strength. Take out the passive tense. Eliminate the we try's and we believe's and we want to's -- go for strength, action, confidence.

Prove you're worthy of the money you're asking for.

Monday, May 08, 2006

What do I look like?

Someone asked what I look like. This will give you an idea!

Monday, April 24, 2006

#7: Who Proofreads Your Stuff?

When I'm finishing up a grant I can't find my typos, misspellings, or grammar errors. I see words that aren't there and miss words that fail the spellchecker. My punctuation deteriorates into scattered dashes and dots.

I never was much good at grammar. And my spelling -- well, some people find it entertaining.

So before I put an application to bed it's time for someone else to take a look.

I always ask my team to read the grant for content and clarity, but it's rare that they're any good at proofreading. But when someone shows a penchant for editing, I ask them to do a careful reading for me.

One person is good; two is better.

Now I have a handful of people I ask to proofread for me. Some, like Candace, enjoy doing it and will squeeze me in whenever I need them. My errors jump out at her. And its a break from her usual people-problems work.

If you don't have a sharp reader you might want to try a service like They're professional, painless, and fast.

They also publish a neat weekly newsletter that focuses on one grammar tip a week. I read it religiously.

It's brief (takes about three minutes to read) and entertaining (can you imagine entertaining grammar?). And I find that these tidbits tend to stick in my mind as I write.

So who's proofing your work? Tip #7 - find someone. Don't do it yourself., Inc.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

#6: Survey your clients -- how are you doing?

I once had a new client tell me I was the first grantwriter who hadn't yelled at her and lost my cool at some point during the process. She wanted me to know she really appreciated it, and she's become a regular customer.

While clients won't use a grantwriter who can't bring in the awards, they'll also shy away from one that is tempermental, disorganized or difficult to deal with. But when the deadline is staring us in the face, we grantwriters don't always know we're being difficult. We're just getting the job done.

So I've found it's wise to ask for feedback from my clients.

About once a quarter I put together a simple on-line survey asking them to rate my service and comment on what they like and what can be improved. (I use -- it's free for surveys under 100 responses.) Sometimes I get surprised. It's always instructive. And when the comments are positive, it feels really good.

So don't be shy. Ask. And don't just ask the boss. Whether you freelance or have a position on staff, it's a good habit to periodically survey all the people who work with you preparing applications and proposals.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Resource # 5: Checking the Latest Research

Foundation Center - Research Studies - Regional Trends

I always want to know the latest research published on my topic before I start writing an application. It helps inform the proposal - everything from the field's buzz words to the design of the program.

The Foundation Center's PubHub is a good place to start that research. It's a repository of reports created with foundation money, so you know the content reflects funders' agenda. You can search by subject, keyword, publisher, foundation - and a mix of all of these.

Happy reading.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

#4 ReadPlease

ReadPlease - Downloads - Text-to-speech software that lets your computer talk

When you write a grant you are having a conversation with the evaluators. You want to talk with them, not write at them. It's easy, but disastrous, to fall into bureaucrat-speak.

I find that the best way to check myself is to have someone else read my copy outloud. (When I read it I can put the inflection just where I want it to go, so it's not a real test.)

Unfortunately, I don't always have someone handy who can drop everything to read to me. So I use ReadPlease.

ReadPlease has a free version that does just fine for me. The voice may be flat, but I can hear what is awkward or muddled. Or pompous. It's great for comparing versions, too.

Check it out.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Resource #3 - I'm from the government and I'm... - Get Started

Well, this time it's true. They are here to help us.

If you're interested in Federal grants this is the place to start. You can sign up for their daily email of newly issued RFP's, browse and access RFP's for open requests, and get lost as you wander through a world of government sponsored resources.

This is also the site to start your treacherous journey to on-line grant submission. Did I ever tell you about the time... well, we've all played beat the clock to submit our applications. We'll all trade war stories someday.

I must admit I prefer on-line submissions to handling all that paper. But I'm getting pretty annoyed when we have to do both.

But this, too will pass.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Resource #2: Basecamp

My friend Tom told me about this collaboration software and after two days I don't know how I managed putting together a grant without it. Tom works for a start-up company that has a handful of employees seldom in the same place at the same time. Things change rapidly and everyone needs to be in the loop on decisions. As he described how they use basecamp I realized its value to me.

Putting together a grant requires input from a team of people, all busy with their real jobs. And when the grant is for a coalition...well, you know how complex the communication becomes. Keeping track of who's providing what and making sure they know when you need it. Keeping everyone apprised of the program changes (oh, no, that component got dropped 3 days ago. The budget wouldn't stretch that far.)

Well, Basecamp has messages, to-do's, milestones, writeboards for brainstorming and drafting. It's web based so you can access it from anywhere. There's a free version that handles one project at a time. That's what I thought I'd use but I quickly realized the benefit of having several seperate projects going. And my clients have found it simple to use and really seem to appreciate it. (Do any of you want to comment from the client side?)

Take some time to look at it. Read the case studies. Sign up for the free level to try it out. You'll like it, too. It's worth five, maybe even ten, resource entries.

Why 79?

I know. It's rather cheeky of me to name this site 79 Grant Writing Resources You Can't Live Without when I've only listed one so far. The operative words in that sentence are "so far." I've got at least 79. Probably 179. And you probably have that many more to share.

But I can't stop what I'm doing to add all 79 at once. And if I wait, I might never get it done. It will become like the piano lessons I've promised myself I'd take and never have.

So, I thought I'd start. And maybe some of you will find the resources useful. And maybe you'll be inspired to share some of your resources. And day by day the list will grow -- way past 79.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Resource #1: CareerZone

Career Zone is on my mind because I happen to be working on a grant to prepare young people for the world of work. This is a pretty neat site where young people can explore careers that match up with their personal interests. CareerZone

Career Zone can be a useful tool in any youth development program that has a component focusing on work and careers.

Test Post for 79 Grant Writing Resources

I've wanted to start this blog for quite some time. I finally carved out some time this afternoon. It's a break between taxes, a bidders conference, and settling down to write this next grant.

So this post will test all the settings and give me a look at the template.