Tuesday, November 06, 2007

#42: Have you used NOZA?

An anonymous commenter left us a link to NOZA. Are you familiar with them? I'm not.

NOZA just announced free foundation searching. This is a site that gathers information across the internet and makes it searchable. In other words, if we had all the time in the world, we could find it, too. But, we don't. So a new business is born.

The foundation information is free. They charge for individual donor information you might want for direct mail or donor cultivation.

I spent a half-hour or so exploring the site and thinking about how it might be useful. It's a bit complicated, but probably worth testing out for a real-world search.

I'll let you know how useful I find it. If you use it, please share your experience in the comments field here.

NOZA, Inc. - World's Largest Searchable Database of Charitable Donations

Thank you, Anonymous.

Speaking of comments -- May I ask something of you folks? I know there are many lurkers out there. The stats tell all. Would you leave me a comment when you disagree, find something helpful, or have another resource that could be useful. Your comments are my reward for my time invested. Inspire me to publish more... Thanks!

Monday, November 05, 2007

#43: Evidence-Based Treatment Standards for Substance Abuse

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been filling my in-box lately. I guess it's fall publication time.

This time it's a new report outlining the consensus on standards for the treatment of substance abuse. If your organization provides services for people with substance abuse issues, this is a MUST ADOPT document.

Anyone who submits an application for funding that is out of step with these standards can kiss that grant goodbye. Endorsement by 365 member organizations means this is now the gold standard.

National Voluntary Consensus Standards for the Treatment of Substance Use Conditions: Evidence-Based Treatment Practices: "Building upon recommendations from a 2004 NQF workshop, this report assembles a set of detailed, fully specified, evidence-based treatment practices based on seven practices recommended at the workshop—evaluating those practices and pursuing consensus around them. The treatment practice recommendations include target outcomes and additional specifications for what a practice entails. Consistent with the priorities established, these practices are applicable across a broad range of populations (e.g., adolescents and adults), settings (e.g., primary care and substance use treatment settings), and providers (e.g., counselors and physicians). Publications"

#41: What Does This Trend Mean to Your Agency?

I've written before about the focus funders are putting on model programs. RWJF has a longstanding reputation for funding innovation, so I was surprised to receive their email announcing an RFP that will fund eight New Jersey agencies/schools to implement a particular model program -- Safe Dates.

These will be hefty awards -- $250,000 to $400,000 per organization over three years. RWJF clearly takes this issue seriously and is leaving no choice of model curriculum to the applicants.

How do your clients or the program staff you work with feel about funders dictating the curriculum you will use? Seems to me to have some inherent problems, especially if they turn the spotlight on fidelity of implementation.

I'm all for research to determine the impact of our programs. We need to know that our investment will have a high probability of positive outcomes. But, is there a balance somewhere that allows for choice based on the target population, the talents of the staff, and the context within which the program will be offered?

And, where will the resources to develop new curricula come from?

If this is the direction that funders are going in, you service providers better get busy evaluating model programs in your area of expertise and making your voices heard. Don't let this be a one-sided discussion. What do you think?

Here's a bit about Safe Dates:
Hazelden: Product Details: "Does your school's health, family life, or violence prevention curriculum address dating abuse? Given the fact that up to 38% of high school students report having been a victim of dating violence,* this is a critical issue to address in any comprehensive middle or high school violence prevention program. As the only research-based curriculum of its kind, Safe Dates helps young people recognize the difference between healthy, caring, and supportive relationships, and controlling, manipulative, and abusive dating relationships.

Highly engaging and interactive, Safe Dates gets young people thinking about:
  • how they want to be treated by a dating partner
  • how they want to treat a girlfriend or boyfriend
  • what abusive dating relationships look like
  • why dating abuse happens and its causes and consequences
  • how to tell if they are in an abusive relationship
  • what to do about feelings of anger and jealousy
  • how to help a friend who might be in an abusive relationship
Safe Dates, proven to be effective with both boys and girls, addresses perpetrators of violence as well as victims. It works as both a prevention and intervention tool, with case studies and activities that are relevant for teens who have not started dating as well"

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Grant Writing: Getting Blamed?

September brings good news and bad news in the grant writer's world. The Feds finally make all their decisions public in anticipation of their new fiscal year, October 1.

As usual, the results for applications I've written are mixed. We're all disappointed when we get a rejection, especially when we thought it was an especially good match. So, this post on Kivi Leroux Miller's blog caught my eye. Here's an excerpt and a link --

Nonprofit Communications » Blog Archive » Why I Don’t Write Grant Applications or Direct Appeals: "1) Nonprofits blame you, the grant writer, if they don’t get the funding, even if their project is really weak or they are applying to the wrong funding source. Even a beautifully written grant application can’t turn a lousy project into a winner, nor can it convince a project officer to fund you if the project is outside her area of interest."

I don't think I've ever been blamed for a grant application not getting funded. Maybe I've been lucky, but it's always seemed such a team effort that blame hasn't entered the equation.

What's your experience? Am I just lucky?
Photo by debaird

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Grant Writing Easier Than You Think?

Executive Director Lain Shakespeare at the Wren's Nest in Atlanta may have it right. What do you think?
The Wren’s Nest » Ketchum: Wren’s Nest Wins!: "I don’t want to jinx myself, but it seems like grant writing is a lot easier than professional grant writers would have you think. Actual writing talent is way overrated–personality goes a long way, and nobody can tell your story better than you.

After you identify your grant and maybe perform a little research at the Foundation Center, all you’re gonna need is three things: passion, precision, and knowledge of your audience.

The last one is most important because each grantmaker has different rules. Learning these rules is like learning your manners all over again."

Saturday, August 04, 2007

# 40: Grant Writing for Scientists in Tight Times

Depressing news for scientists seeking grants -- ScienceCareers.org reports that about one in five applications to NIH get funded. If you're a new grant-seeker, one in six. And, in Europe, 97% of new science-grant-seekers will receive rejection letters.

ScienceCareers.org | Special Feature: Grant Writing for Tight Times: Kotok: 27 July 2007

So, the quality of your application clearly matters. It must stand out from the crowd. As a scientist, your livelihood depends upon it. One of the tools the article suggests is the Ro1 Tool Kit:

In The NIH R01 Tool Kit, the Science Careers Editors provide new and experienced grant writers with tips on preparing grant applications for NIH's main research funding vehicle, the R01. This article updates one of our most visited pages, first written in 2001, to reflect new procedures for electronic grant applications and what we've learned over the last 6 years. The tool kit offers pragmatic advice for improving your chances with the NIH committee, called a study section, that reviews your proposal.
I don't write science oriented grant applications, but I believe in reading every piece of funder-specific advice I can find. If I were a scientist, I'd certainly check this out.

#39: How do you make maps for your grant applications?

Well, I've tried many mapping methods. Here's my current, and simplest method:
  • I get a google map of the area I want and choose 'Print' from the links on the right, above the map.
  • I don't actually print the map. I open "SnagIt" and take a picture. (I'll tell you about SnagIt in a minute.)
  • Then with SnagIt tools I annotate the map.
  • Finally, I save it as a jpg that I can insert into my document.
SnagIt is an invaluable screen capture and image editing utility from TechSmith. It's not free ($39.95 with a free 30 day trial), but worth every penny. I use it for everything from capturing error messages for tech support to writing instructions. And, sometimes, just to add captions to funny pictures for my friends.

You'll find a great series of SnagIt video tips at 24 in 24. Watch one or two and you'll appreciate both the tool and the SnagIt team.

What Grant Writing Books are on Your Shelf?

This news brief caught my eye.

Chronicle-Telegram » Off the Beat 07/28/07: "From the desk of Mike Kobylka…
Lorain Safety Service Director Mike Kobylka never likes to judge a book by its cover, but sometimes he thinks he should.

Sitting on the floor of his office are two books, one on top of the other. The one on the bottom is called “The Only Grant Writing Book You’ll Ever Need” while the one on top is “The Complete Book of Grant Writing.

He bought “The Complete Book of Grant Writing” first, but said he wishes he would have taken “the only book he’ll ever need” claim at face value.

“The other one was awful, but (“The Only Grant Writing Book You’ll Ever Need”) had it all,” he said.
— Adam Wright"

What grant writing books are on your bookshelf? Which are the ones you turn to on a regular basis?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

# 38: CDC Stats for Grant Writers

The Center for Disease Control has introduced VitalStats, a site that will let you create your own tables from the information they collect. I haven't checked how local the reporting options are, but they offer a QuickGuide to walk you through the how-to.

Their description:
"Welcome to VitalStats, a collection of vital statistics products including tables, data files, and reports that allow users to access and examine vital statistics and population data interactively.

Use our prebuilt tables and reports for quick access to statistics. Or, you can use the data files to create your own tables--choosing from over 100 variables. Using the data files takes a little more time but gives you access to more data. You can customize the tables, and create charts, graphs, and maps. You can even export the data for use offline or in another format. Please see the Getting Started Quick Guide Graphic of P D F for more information. "
I find it interesting that they also provide a QuickGuide for calculating rates and percents. I could have used both the data and the guide when I wrote a grant last month that examined teen pregnancy figures from every conceivable direction.

Book mark this site for future use.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

#37: Writing, Briefly

Paul Graham wrote one of the best essays on writing in March of 2005. I encourage you to read it. In fact, print it out, post it on your bulliten board, and read it every time you start a new writing project.

Writing, Briefly:

(In the process of answering an email, I accidentally wrote a tiny essay about writing. I usually spend weeks on an essay. This one took 67 minutes—23 of writing, and 44 of rewriting.)"
Whether it's a grant application or a novel, Paul's advice applies.

Follow the link to Paul's site.

#36: Picture the Grant Reviewer

A reviewer at the National Institutes of Healt...Image via Wikipedia
Always write for your audience, not your client. And in the grant writing business, your audience is your review panel. Who are they? Your agencies' peers. People who research and consult in the area the grant addresses.

I write to a specific individual I picture with applications stacked up around him, late at night, eyes blurring. But here's Scott Adams' (of Dilbert fame) take on peer review. It's a bit different than mine.

The Dilbert Blog: Peer Review: "Peer Review

Peer review in science is a good thing, in the sense that it works better than any other process you can think of. But how well does it work? Dilbert Blog reader Jeff points to this link about the limits of peer review.

The article fits my preconceived notions quite well. Assuming scientists are human beings, it seems to me that most peer reviewers would fall into one of these categories:

1. Asshole
2. Biased egomaniac
3. Nice person who doesn’t want to make people feel bad
4. Too busy to put any quality thought into it
5. Person with low self-esteem who doesn’t want others to succeed in his or her field
6. Coward who doesn’t want to rock the boat

I suppose some scientists have plenty of free time, no biases, and would be happy to see colleagues succeed beyond their own careers. But seriously, how many of those scientists could there be? I don’t know any non-scientists who could fit that description."

Have you been a reviewer? Defend -- err, tell us about yourself.
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Fake Grant Writer Admits Fraud

Here's a news item that caught my eye in the midst of my grant writing frenzy last month. Can you believe it?

Fake Grant Writer Admits Fraud: "TALLAHASSEE, FL – A Hillsborough County woman has been sentenced to five years in prison for committing organized fraud.

Karen Kiehl pled guilty to defrauding more than 60 victims in a grant acquisition scam that ran for approximately 13 months. She was prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution. An investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office revealed that Kiehl, 50, falsely promoted herself as a grant writer. She claimed she could guarantee federal and state grants for anything from medical costs to home repair costs and charged approximately one percent of the requested grant amount for her grant writing services. More than 60 victims paid Kiehl approximately $195,000, but none of the grants were written and the victims received no money from Kiehl.

Kiehl was charged with one count of organized fraud, a first-degree felony. She pleaded guilty to the charge in April and was sentenced to five years in prison to be followed by 10 years of probation. She must also make restitution to her victims. 6-04-07"
Photo by !Borghetti

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

#35: Speaking the Language of Grants

Kaylea Hascall at Educause Connect posted a piece recently on a grant writing course she attended. One of the things that caught her attention was the jargon. I try to avoid jargon so her list gave me pause.

How could anyone write a grant application without using most of these words? They're so integrated into RFPs and narratives that I assume everyone knows what they mean. And, of course, that's just what jargon is -- a word that has special meaning within a particular group.

So here, thanks to Kaylea, are some important terms that may be foreign to new grant writers.

"I noticed a number of terms came up again and again. Some of these are very familiar to the business world or the IT world, but they have a specific meaning in the context of dealing with funders.
capacity-building -- This is a particular category of grant, where the non-profit seeks funding which will expand their reach or make them more self-sustaining. One example of a capacity-building grant is obtaining funds for a development person who can raise money from other sources and move the organization toward being self-sustaining.

sustainability -- Once you get started, how will you continue this project or program? Will you be dependent on the funder for some time into the future? This is an important consideration for foundations in particular....

cost-sharing -- A popular term, if you can use it. Basically it means that someone else is putting up some of the money, and thus the foundation gets more bang for their buck.

dissemination -- How you will share the project with others. Will an article be published in the New York Times? Will you present results at conferences? Historically, this is of particular concern to agencies that fund basic research, but over time this is also more of a concern for foundations.

leverage -- Another popular term, if applicable. Will foundation money enable you to better use existing resources?

stewardship -- the process of taking care of a grant and its funder after the grant is made. Thank-you notes, progress reports, and invitations to view the results of the work are all appropriate. Getting a grant from a funder more than once is impossible without this.
Thanks, Kayla.

#34: Does Grant Writing Require Much Revision?

This morning a client called to ask me to send her a copy of a grant we wrote almost three years ago. They're renegotiating their contract with the County and the proposal has to be updated and attached to the contract. (Seems like clients keep paper copies but lose track of their digital copies -- but then, that's another posting.)

I opened the final narrative just to check and found all my revisions laid out for the world to see. Yes, I revise and revise and revise. And I didn't know then what I know now.

Always, always, always accept all changes in your document before sending it out into the world.

You don't use the Reviewing Tool Bar? Well, start now. It only take a few seconds, but it makes your work present professionally and can potentially save you embarrassment and/or protect agency secrets.

In case you need to know how here are the steps --

Select View > Tool Bars > Reviewing to open the Reviewing Tool Bar.

Then drop down the Accept Changes menu that the arrow points to. Next select Accept All Changes in Document.

If you follow these steps no one will ever know that you were going to provide the service for half the price or that you changed the funders name when you recycled the leadership biographies.

I make this my final step before saving for the last time. You should, too.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Oh, my! June is here.

Who was I kidding -- 79 resources by June! Ha!

I've just finished a major writing jag. One deadline after another. The phone ringing. Drafts moving back and forth across the ether. The clock ticking. Adrenalin pumping.

And suddenly it's quiet. Not a grant deadline in sight. What a nice way to spend the balance of June. Plenty of interesting work to address at a sane pace.

I have a long list of posts to polish for you. A client's and my own e-newsletter to publish. An annual report to finish up, and a search for private funding for some of my clients' dream projects.

My new summer office is almost ready. We've replaced the old screen house with a new screened gazebo. Glenn's added electricity and a ceiling fan. With a wireless internet connection, my laptop and a monitor, and a wireless phone I'm ready to spend the summer working outdoors.

Oh, I love summer.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Grant Writers' Proofreading and Copy-editing Test

If you're one of those people for whom test-taking is another way to prove how smart you are, here's one for you. How strong are your proofreading skills?

Freelance Proofreading and Copy-editing - Proofreading test:
"The following passage contains several common errors of the type you are likely to come across in a set of proofs (though not as closely clustered as here, I hope). This test should not be taken too seriously, but since you have nowhere better to be at 9:15 on a Thursday morning than here, I hope that you'll find it fun, at least."
Thanks to Visual Thesaurus for pointing me here. Yes, I took the test on a Thursday morning. I'm glad I have spell check, grammar resources, style guides, and good friends to edit my work.

How did you do?

Friday, March 16, 2007

#33: Eliminate the Dreadful 'his/her' from Your Grant Narrative

Don't you just hate to write sentences like "The most improved student will present a portfolio of his/her work?"

But, I'm a feminist. Gender neutrality matters. So, try out these techniques.
  • Convert those sentences to the plural, if that will work
  • Avoid the pronoun altogether -- "The most improved student will present a portfolio of work."
  • Use the singular "their" -- "The most improved student will present a portfolio of their work."
I only recently read about the singular 'their' and intend to use it more often.
Yes, generally singular nouns take singular pronouns. But as you aptly note, 'his/her' is awkward and using only 'his' skews the meaning of a sentence. Using 'their' as a singular, inclusive pronoun has historical precedent and promotes the meaning better than those choices.

This choice has historical legitimacy, is acceptable for all informal writing and — if used consistently — for formal writing as well (though some will raise their eyebrows).

Sources: Professional Training Company: Communication Strategies for Scientists and Engineers and The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd edition. NY:Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992

Photo by
Henrik Ahlen

#32: Parent Engagement Strategies for Grant Writers

Grant writer, how will you engage the families of your young program participants?

This question, in one form or another, keeps popping up in grant applications these days. All the research shows kids do better when their parents participate in their world.

But, engaging parents challenges even the best programs. It's especially sticky for those designing programs for adolescents. Seems like the parents of adolescents just run out of energy.

And many at-risk kids wouldn't be 'at-risk' if their parents were involved.

I turn to the Harvard Family Research Project for up-to-date research on family engagement. You'll find a wealth of information, toolkits, publications, annotated bibliographies, and a monthly newsletter from FINE.

If you write grants to fund youth programs, this site deserves a place in your favorites. And do share it with the staff providing services to youth.

Welcome to FINE - Family Involvement Network of Educators - at the Harvard Family Research Project: "The Family Involvement Network of Educators (FINE) is a national network of over 5,000 people who are interested in promoting strong partnerships between children's educators, their families, and their communities."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

# 31: Look at your grant narrative with squinty eyes

From travel writer and humorist Stan Sinberg --

People tend to think of writers as having one job. But they really have two. I divvy it up this way: in my writing job I pour all my creativity and story-telling skills and wit down onto the page. Then "I" swivel completely around in my chair and return as a crusty, squinty-eyed editor wearing a little poker visor. At which point I look at the thing I just wrote, and harrumph, "Ok, what did that lunkhead Sinberg give me this time?"

Well, it's the same for grant writers. I get up and walk away. Until tomorrow, if possible. When I enter edit mode I'm a different person. Brutal.

Sometimes I have to trick myself. I save those sentences and paragraphs I'm in love with that just don't fit right. But, I paste them into a separate document. I tell myself I'll come back and use them later or elsewhere. I don't. I throw them away.

Nurture the crusty, old, squinty-eyed editor in you. Your writing will be stronger. Your wastebasket will be full.

Source: AWAI

Photo by Claude Covo-Farchi

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My New Grant Writing Help Web Site

I've just published a new website - Grant-Writing-Help.com. A work in-progress to be sure, but fun to do. Take a look and tell me what you think.

I'm in the pause between intense grants. Trying to take a deep breath. Clear the brain. Get some fresh air. Think about other things.

I finished an application to provide transition services for soon-to-graduate high school students with disabilities. I'm picking up speed on two new ones -- a mentoring grant and a community drop-in center/after-school program.

I find that during these brief pauses I surf through craft sites, fashion sites, Flickr groups -- lots of pictures and no words. Lots of color -- no black and white.

Do you use color in your grant applications? I haven't, but I'd like to. It could make the pages more readable if carefully applied. The problem rests with the unknown. Will the evaluator read it on-line and with color? or print it out in black and white, anyhow?

Photo by Chris Gierszewski

Sunday, February 11, 2007

#30: Can You Teach an Old Grant Writer New Tricks?

As a professional grant writer, I've evolved a system that works for me. But, I love finding new tools and new perspectives that will make my applications even more effective. That's what I found in The Complete Book of Grant Writing by Nancy Burke Smith & E. Gabriell Works.

Two things I especially liked -- the perspective of an experienced grant evaluator and the many useful templates. I've already incorporated the Team Review Rubric into my practice.

I'll write more about some of their tips in future posts. But for now--

This guide will stay in a prominent place on my reference shelf.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

#29: Serial commas, grant writers, and proper punctuation

I can't tell you how often I find myself adding that last comma in a series - the one before the 'and' that so many people think you should omit. My proofreaders often want me to put them back in.

I thought the final comma was optional -- that the rule was either way, but be consistent. I plugged it in because I believe it facilitates clear communication.

Now I've learned that the only style guide that advocates leaving it out is the Associated Press Stylebook. The rule according to all other authorities requires that final comma.

We don't write newspaper articles. We write grant applications. So there! My instincts were right for a change. (Generally, I don't trust my grammar or punctuation. I'm forever looking things up.)

For a more authoritative discussion than this:

The Case of the Serial Comma--Solved!: "My original assertion stands, with minor qualifications: Except for journalists, all American authorities say to use the final serial comma: 'He went to the store to buy milk, butter, and eggs.'

The reason for the final serial comma is to prevent the last 2 items' being confused as a unit (butter-and-eggs)."

Friday, February 02, 2007

#28: How to Avoid Acronyms in Your Grant Applications

Remember that song from HAIR?
LBJ took the IRT down to 4th Street, USA. When he got there what did he see? The youth of America on LSD.
I recently came across this Acronyms.pdf on the Good Grammar, Good Style website. The author, Helen Moody, scolds us for using acronyms. She points out (in a most entertaining fashion) that acronyms are writer-centric. And we need to serve the reader, not ourselves.

I'm guilty! I admit it. And, I promise to do better. No more writing out the phrase once, with the abbreviation in parentheses. After all, I want them to remember my client's name.

Moody's pdf covers the whys and where-fors of acronyms and offers some good work-arounds to help avoid them. It's a quick and entertaining read.

Good Grammar, Good Style (tm): "The Good Grammar, Good Style™ Pages"

Friday, January 26, 2007

#27: The Easy Way to Prepare Diagrams for Your Grant

A picture is worth a thousand words. And when the funder has limited your proposal to 20 double spaced pages with a 12 point font, saving those thousand words is worth a diagram or two.

Putting a diagram together, especially when the clock was ticking closer to my deadline, gave me the hee-bee-gee-bees. Then I learned the easy way.

Forget about WORD -- go straight to PowerPoint. Design your diagram there. You'll find you have much more control. The tools are plentiful and easy to master. The end product will look much more professional.

Once you're happy with it, just copy and paste it into your WORD document. Great diagram, no grief.

Want a little inspiration?

This essay by a 14 year old Chinese adoptee is an example of why I'm in this business.

Elizabeth Li-Anna Qiuju Gaeta Holmes won 2nd prize (I would have given her first prize) in the essay contest my client, the NY Center for Interpersonal Development, sponsored for their Celebrate Diversity event.

It will only take you a minute to read. It will warm you for days.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

About This Blog

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Ruth Wahtera. I love my job, which is -- whatever I make it! In 2001, after years working in large organizations, I set out to be my own boss. I have no desire to build a huge company. I just want to use my talents to help people I enjoy make great things happen.

More often than not, that means that I'm helping people and organizations translate their dreams into language others will understand and support.

Strategic plans, business plans, grant applications, web sites, blogs.... I write a lot. I also facilitate conversations and planning sessions. I consult. I work on special projects. I serve as a sounding board.

And, I love to explore and test new tools and techniques for working efficiently and managing projects.

One day I started thinking about how my clients could use blogs. That made me think that I better start blogging myself. After all, there's nothing worse than a consultant preaching about something they've never experienced. So, I thought, hmmm -- grant writing tips.

Every non-profit, many individuals, every school, and some businesses submit grant applications. And, we're all struggling with the same issues. Some involve nuts and bolts. Some present ethical or philosophical. Some are pure resource needs -- where can I find statistics about the number of xyz's in my state?

So, this blog was born. It provides me with experience blogging. It helps me think about the process of writing good grants, and that helps me improve my craft. And, I can share what I've learned with others.

If you find value in what I offer, I hope you'll encourage me by posting comments and offering your own tips and resources. Knowing you've found something useful will keep me writing. And when you share something that works for you, you make me very happy.

I hope you'll subscribe by RSS or, if you prefer updates by email, by Feedblitz. You'll find the subscription information at the bottom of the sidebar. I also publish a periodic enewsletter about whatever I find interesting -- the epitome of arrogance. But you may find some of it interesting, too.
Post a comment to let me know you're there.

All the best,

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Look

They finally moved my blogs to the new-out-of-beta Blogger, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to change the look of the blog. Do you like it?

What I like best is the ability to label each post.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

#26: Grant Writers, More White Space, Please!

Alison Snyder reminded scientists of some basic tenets of grant writing in a recent article in The Scientist. One of her points was that aesthetics count. In addition reminding them to follow directions about font size, margins, and spacing, she encouraged them to pay attention to how the page as a whole looks. Add space between paragraphs. Use headings and sub-headings.

This point prompted the following great comment about white space.
Applicants generally do not appreciate the importance of [white space]. "White space" in a proposal allows a reviewer to annotate the document while reading, instead of jotting comments on a note pad, which can be missplaced prior to writing a formal critique. In addition, white space "lightens" the document in a reviewer-friendly way. Applicants should consider that their proposal may be read by a reviewer late at night when a baby is crying or on an airplane travelling to a meeting. The more reviewer-friendly, the better.
Robert B. Trimble, PhD, Director, NIH Office of Research

I try to put myself in the readers shoes, and I'm very conscious of white space from an aesthetic perspective. I want my proposal to be a pleasure to read when the reviewer pulls it out of the stack. But I have to admit, I never thought about making it easy for the reviewer to make notes directly on the document. Thanks for the insight, Dr. Trimble.