Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Speeding Up Grant Writing in High Pressure, Last Minute Situations

I think that grant writing trick shots are most impressive when they occur at the last minute when the pressure is greatest and the need for correct decision-making is at its zenith. Below, I want to share with you some of the day-to-day habits that end up being trick shots when they pay-off under difficult circumstances. 

Pearl Rothman, Grant Writing Associate, recently visited Paris. Despite her absence, we were able to keep working on her 
projects because we all use the same passwords.
1. Use Excel Spreadsheets for Your Budgets: I always recommend that the staff urge work on the details of the client's budget early and as quickly as possible. Most organizations tend to procrastinate on creating a budget, in part, because it usually includes sensitive information and involves working with the already overwhelmed accounting department. I have found that it solves a lot of problems to insist that all budgets are written out in Excel spreadsheets. These spreadsheets can easily be incorporated into your existing documents. Moreover, they make it easier to implement last minute changes without creating difficult to sort out math problems. It takes a little longer to set up a budget in a spreadsheet, but you will look like a trick shot genius when you easily make the inevitable, last minute, required changes to the budget. 

2. Don't Be Too Careful with Your Passwords: This point is a little counter intuitive. I have found that nothing causes more problems at the end of a project than dealing with inaccurate or forgotten passwords. This is especially true if you are working on different computers, at different locations, all at the last moment. My solution is to put the passwords right into the document or to put them on easy to see post-its on my desk or in my wallet. To be sure you run the risk of someone accessing your grant and stealing your work. However, I have never seen this happen in real life. On the other hand, I have seen people panic and lose valuable time when they are struggling to remember the password they need to access or submit their on-line grant application. Worst case, I have never gone wrong or made any mistakes by simply using the same passwords over and over. Right now, I think my team is pretty much trained to use the same password all the time so that we do not have to struggle with this part of the grant writing process.  

3. Write Your Summary Last: Since you are more likely to know what your project is all about after you have done your first draft, I recommend doing the summary, which usually appears at the front of the document, as one of your very final tasks. This way, your summary will include all elements of the grant that you have learned as well as your brightest last minute ideas. 

4. Last Minute Numbering: There is no shame in finding that you got some of your page numbers wrong. You can always add spacing numbers like 1-A and 1-B if you need to add a page between pages 1 and 2 and you do not have the time or the patience to do it exactly right. 

5. Don't Get Too Creative: By this, I mean that you will always save time and create effective, likely to win grant proposals if you follow the funder's directions exactly. For me, this means answering their specific questions, word for word, part by part, in the exact order that they are presented to you in the request for proposals (RFP). This simple exact approach provides you with many advantages including giving you a standard with which to measure the responsiveness of your grant copy and giving you guidance on what to do next when you come back to a project that you have momentarily set aside. 

6. Read the Request for Proposals (RFP) Multiple Times: Unfortunately, it is not possible to fully understand the motivations behind a request for proposals or how to create the best possible answer without spending extensive time with the RFP itself. These documents are not designed to be accessible. They are prepared by people who have the incentive to make your job tougher and to discourage people from even applying for the money. One of the reasons I tend to under research grants is because I believe creating a quick first draft is one of the best ways to slow your brain down and actually learn, line by line, what the funder is seeking from you and your agency. By doing a quick first draft, it forces me to take the RFP seriously and to understand it enough so that I can start doing extremely high quality work in later, more careful drafts. I have also found it useful to take the RFP home and read it at night while I am more relaxed. I often write on it and number the new ideas that come to me as I reread it. Many times I have found that my better understanding of the RFP actually makes it simpler and less difficult to respond to.

Easier Than It Looks: How to Perform Grant Writing Trick Shots

If you have experience as a grant writer, I am sure you have had moments when others have been astounded by your ability to solve a problem in just the few minutes before the grant is due. Without getting too dramatic, I thought I would share with you some of the techniques which make it possible for me to perform what I like to think of as grant writing trick shots. 

1. Use a Professional Proofreader: The one technique I use that comes the closest to being a YouTube trick shot is leveraging the expertise of a paid proofreader. This is a secret advantage which will make you look like a genius of grant writing. After all, I cannot stress this enough. It is physically impossible to proofread your own work. I have had three Ph.D. level scholars review a document and my paid proofreader has still found errors of spelling, usage, spacing, punctuation, and consistency on nearly every page of the document. If you want to produce an awesome final product, I don't think you have any choice. Hire someone else to proofread. As an additional trick, I recommend having the proofreader go over the application guidelines too. You may be surprised that you have misunderstood a question in your haste. A smart proofreader will catch your error and make a huge difference to the final product. 

2. Leverage the Power of Consistent Filing:
 Most people do not understand the amazing power of having well-organized files because they never face situations in which they need to 
retrieve documents in an emergency. Under extreme stress, a predictable, routinized filing system allows you to smoothly process and collect information and produce surprising results. At Drew & Associates, for example, we now keep electronic files in Dropbox for all our clients. Within each Dropbox folder we establish four sub-folders as follows: 1Work, 2Administration, 3Reference and 4Personal. This system is exactly the same for each client and it allows us to quickly find the information we need to complete the grant. Likewise, we use the same coding style for each electronic document starting with an abbreviation for the client, the full year, the project, and the funder. The benefits of this disciplined system only become freakingly amazing when you are working at high speed and find yourself effortlessly retrieving exactly what you need at the right moment without any hassle and fuss. 

3. Normalizing Last Minute Genius: One of the persistent patterns in grant writing is that you get more persuasive and knowledgeable about your topic the closer you get to the deadline. If you are working under extreme pressure, then you will most likely get your best and most convincing ideas at the tail end of your project. The bravest grant writers, of course, are more than happy to place their fresh new insights into the grant application. In the heat of the moment, however, they may not appreciate the extent to which a brilliant idea cannot credibly appear in just one spot in the grant proposal. Doing this sends a signal to the reviewer that you are not really serious about this idea and this undercuts its value. I fix this problem by reminding myself to make sure that the logical ramifications of my new brilliant idea are artfully seeded or hinted at elsewhere in the document by referencing it in the summary, problem statement, plan of action and even the table of contents. By artfully seeding elements of the last minute idea in at least four other parts of the proposal, I'm able to create the illusion that this great idea was with us from the beginning and not just a last minute realization. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Wonderful Life: Remembering My Friend Richard C. North

Outdoors-man, Richard C. North
(right) tackling a bout of river rafting. 
On the far left, Harold Moore and 
Stephen North.
I checked out WebMD when I heard my friend Richard C. North had brain cancer. Basically, the article said that it brought death quickly and that his decline would be rapid and irreversible. It implied he would be worse off each time I saw him. Sadly, he only lasted about six months and died yesterday at 10:15 p.m. on August 26, 2017. He was 60.

I met Rick when I was in the seventh grade at Placerita Junior High School. I remember him mainly from the track team. We were both distance runners. In the ninth grade, he ended up beating me at the final championship event - after I had beat him in all the previous races - when he came from behind to pass both me and a seemingly invincible runner, Richard Armour, from another junior high.

We ran cross country and track in our sophomore and junior years at Hart High School. Rick quit track and cross country during his senior year to work in a gas station near his home. Nevertheless, he ended up more committed to distance running than me, competing in races all the way up until the last year of his life.

Dr. Richard C. North with his wife,
Sonia North.
As I told Rick one of the last times I ever saw him, he was the older brother I never had. He was there when I had my first drink, my first distance bike ride, my first high school party, my first rock concert and kissed my first girl on a ride in Disneyland. My secret life as a teenager was inescapably richer because of his willingness to include me in new things that, at the time, seemed taboo, but nevertheless safe.

I lost track of him after high school. He ended up at California State University Northridge (CSUN) where he was deeply involved with a fraternity, a group of brothers that stayed active in his life right up until the end. He graduated from CSUN in 1980, took an M.A. from Pepperdine University in 1985 and then a doctorate in clinical psychology from Cambridge Graduate School of Psychology in 1991.

He was, by all accounts, a strong athlete and adventurer his entire life. According to a mutual friend, James Farely, Rick was a mountaineer and a marathon runner. Rick climbed Mt. Rainer which has a summit at 14,411 ft., completed the entire 210 mile John Muir trail a section at a time, and ran the Los Angeles and Santa Clarita Valley marathons. He also enjoyed travelling. Over the course of his life, he toured China, India, Israel, Turkey, Thailand, and all over Europe including Spain where he amazingly ran with bulls in Pamplona.

As I recall, Rick was also a leader of the Red Cross' disaster mental health team in the Santa Clarita Valley after the 1994 Northridge earthquake and continued with this service for over 20 years. (I think he would have been thrilled to be flying out to Houston, TX to help people recover psychologically from Hurricane Harvey.)
Richard C. North with his fraternity brothers 
and their wives, from left to right, Patty and 
James Farley, Sonia and Richard North, 
Mary and Harold Moore.

Rick was always in my life - one way or the other. He went out of his way to be my friend and to involve me in his activities including rock-climbing, cross country skiing, listening to Breakfast with the Beatles, or shopping for beer at Trader Joes. He could be irritable and occasionally stubborn and pedantic. Nevertheless, he was kind and quick to mend fences.

Professionally, he worked as a psychologist. This was ironic since he once told me he went into psychology without ever having been in therapy himself. Even so, some of my favorite moments with him were spent talking about the research he was doing for this doctoral dissertation or his observations regarding some of his most difficult and unusual patients. He was the first to introduce me to more sophisticated personality profiles which indicated whether the person was a healthy or unhealthy version of their profile.

I saw the impact of his therapeutic techniques myself after I climbed Mt. Shasta with him in 1990. As I recall, I made it up to 7,000 feet where the oxygen drops to about 10% of normal. Each step left me exhausted and winded and I ended up at Avalanche Gulch. The slope that day was icy and I was only on my second day with crampons and an ice ax. After what I now know was a panic attack, I was so afraid of slipping and falling down the slope that I felt paralyzed with fear. Rick told me to imagine that I was walking down the mountain into soft, warm sand. Even years later, I am grateful that I took his suggestion and that it worked well enough that I made it safely down the mountain. On that same trip, Rick made it all the way to the summit at 14,179 feet. At that altitude the oxygen is only 25% of what it would be at sea level.

After I got sober in 1993, the distance between us increased. The mountain climbing and hiking through the ice and snow got to be too expensive, time-consuming and unpredictably dangerous.

Richard C. North cross
country skiing 
near Frazier Park.
After I met my wife, Trish, I moved to Orange County and Rick and I saw each other seldom. Nevertheless, we stayed in touch through Christmas cards, lunches, e-mail. He was not so interested in Facebook or Twitter or politics. At a distance, I watched his son Stephen grow up. (Rick was the scoutmaster of of Stephen's troop 602.) I was proud of Rick when he and his wife Sonia bought a beautiful new home in Valencia right near CalArts. This is where we would run as teenagers and, in one instance, apologize to an angry driver for inexplicably tossing small stones at cars and trucks.

I would never have predicted that he would predecease me. His wife, Sonia, cannot remember a time when he missed work due to an illness. His father, Carl, cannot remember him ever being sick, even as a child.

Nevertheless, the information in WebMD was correct. He was worse each time I saw him. The first time I held his hand and told him I loved him. The second time, he seemed cheerful, but quiet. The third time we were at dinner with his fraternity friends and he did not remember that we had arrived in the same SUV. The next two times I saw him were at Kaiser Hospital in Panorama City where I could not communicate with him. The first time he was asleep and the second time he was completely unconscious.

I have only a small handful of old friends in my life. He is the first to die and I will miss him greatly. Richard C. North is survived by his wife Sonia and his son Stephen. He is also survived by his mother Diane and father Carl North and his brother Don North.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Friday, April 14, 2017

How the Trump Administration Intends to Dramatically Cut Federal Grants, Part 2

In the coming months, we will gain a more precise understanding of what will be in and what will be out over the next four (and possibly eight) years after the OMB releases the full budget, and Congressional committees start sorting through and adjusting these priorities on their own. Nevertheless, it seems likely the Congress will follow Trump's emphasis on Homeland Security, Defense and Veterans Affairs. One response to his budget cuts might be to adjust (or re-imagine) your existing programs so that they align with the priorities he is setting. Below, the folks from Management Concepts review how Trump proposes to impact the budgets of still other federal departments, as follows: 


Department of the Interior

  • Eliminating the Abandoned Mine Land grants, National Heritage Areas, and National Wildlife Refuge fund payments
  • Reducing funding for more recent demonstration projects and initiatives that only serve a few Tribes.
  • Leveragin] taxpayer investment with public and private resources through wildlife conservation, historic preservation, and recreation grants. These voluntary programs encourage partnerships by providing matching funds that produce greater benefits to taxpayers for the Federal dollars invested.

Department of Justice
  • Safeguarding Federal grants to State, local, and tribal law enforcement and victims of crime to ensure greater safety for law enforcement personnel and the people they serve. Critical programs aimed at protecting the life and safety of State and local law enforcement personnel, including Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement Officer Resilience and Survivability and the Bulletproof Vest Partnership, are protected.

Department of Labor
  • Eliminating the Senior Community Service Employment Program
  • Eliminating the Bureau of International Labor Affairs' grant funding
  • Decreasing funding for job training and employment service formula grants
  • Eliminating the Office of Disability Employment Policy's technical assistance grants
  • Eliminating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's "unproven" training grants

Department of Transportation
  • Eliminating funding for the TIGER discretionary grant program

Department of the Treasury
  • Eliminating funding for the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund grant
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Reducing categorical grants by $482 million
  • Eliminating more than 50 EPA programs, including: Energy Star, Targeted Airshed Grants, and infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native Villages and the Mexico Border

Small Business Administration
  • Eliminating PRIME Technical assistance grants, Regional Innovation Clusters, and Growth Accelerators
  • Following the budget’s release, Congress reviews the proposal and adopts a budget resolution, which sets spending thresholds. Congress then begins the appropriations process, which determines funding for each program.
  • Since the President and members of Congress are elected by different constituencies, the priorities for Congress frequently differ from the President’s, therefore it is important to note that many of the budget’s proposals are unlikely to be enacted. 

Once OMB releases the full budget, and Congress begins its work, we will have a better understanding of how grant programs will fare in the coming years. If you are like me, you may be surprised to learn that some of these programs even existed in the first place. It is so easy to underestimate the size and scope of the federal government. Many of its programs only appeal to small, distinct interest groups and the rest of us do not have the time or the incentive to learn about them. 

In my experience, the best place to look for guidance regarding your own agency's federal grant supply is through your Washington lobbyist or through the staff of your local congressional representative. 

How the Trump Administration Intends to Dramatically Cut Federal Grants, Part 1


Last month, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released president Trump's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018. (We are, of course, still using president Obama's budget.) The presidential budget typically lays out a president's priorities. As the analysts at Management Concepts indicate, Trump's budget for next year intends funding decreases for nearly every Federal department, except for Homeland Security, Defense, and Veterans Affairs. Additionally, Trump is calling for the elimination of 19 independent agencies, including grant-awarding agencies such as the African Development Foundation, Appalachian Regional Commission, Corporation for National and Community Service, Delta Regional Authority, Denali Commission, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities


While the documents we currently have available are only the general outlines of Trump's budget, they do provide us with a heads up on what to expect for the next four years. Significantly, analysts can glean the following guidance for grant writers who include federal applications in their grant campaigns. In sum, Trump is calling for: 

Department of Agriculture
  • Eliminating the Water and Wastewater loan and grant program
  • Reducing funding for Rural Business and Cooperative Service by $95 million
  • Eliminating the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program

Department of Commerce
  • Eliminating the Economic Development Administration
  • Eliminating the Minority Business Development Agency
  • Eliminating NOAA grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant

Department of Education
  • Increasing funding for charter schools, new private school choice program, and Title I
  • Eliminating Supporting Effective Instruction State Grant programs
  • Eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program
  • Eliminating the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program
  • Reducing the Federal TRIO and GEAR UP programs by $193 million
  • Eliminating or reducing funding for over 20 categorical programs, including Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments, and International Education programs

Department of Energy
  • Reducing $900 million from the Office of Science
  • Eliminating the Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program

Department of Health and Human Services
  • Increasing SAMSHA funding by $500 million to expand opioid misuse prevention efforts
  • Reducing NIH spending by $5.8 billion
  • Restructuring similar HHS preparedness grants to “to reduce overlap and administrative costs and directs resources to states with the greatest need”
  • Eliminating the discretionary programs within the Office of Community Services, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG)

Department of Homeland Security
  • Eliminating or reducing State and local grant funding by $667 million including the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, which is “unauthorized by Congress,” and Homeland Security Grant Program.
  • Establishing a 25 percent non-Federal cost match for FEMA preparedness grant awards that currently require no cost match

Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Eliminating the Community Development Block Grant program
  • Devolving community and economic development activities to the State and local level.”
  • Eliminating funding “for a number of lower priority programs,” such as: the Home Investment Partnerships Program, Choice Neighborhoods, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program
  • Increasing funding by $20 million for the mitigation of lead-based paint and other hazards in low-income homes
  • Eliminating funding for Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing

Friday, March 3, 2017

How Do You Learn a New Craft? The Idea of 10,000 Hours of Practice.

Ultimately, there is no secret to picking up a new skill. As Malcolm Gladwell has written, if you invest about 10,000 hours in practicing it you will get to be world class at it. I certainly found that was true of my foray into the field of oil painting. It took me about 2,000 hours of practice - over the last 10 years - until I started hearing that folks were interested in buying and displaying my paintings. In the field of grant writing, however, most of us cannot afford to invest 10,000 hours in learning this craft. Typically, we have a grant due in the next week and we need to get it done to keep our jobs or our charity afloat.


Recent Oil Paintings from John C. Drew, Ph.D.



I was in a similar situation back in 1996 when I took a job at an anti-child abuse agency called Family Solutions in Santa Ana, CA. I took my second grant writing class from Carol Gueisbauer at the Volunteer Center of Orange County. When I took her class, I followed one of the tricks I learned as a graduate student at Cornell University. I followed her directions exactly, even the directions that seemed silly and pointless. I did not argue or quarrel with her philosophy or methods, I gave her the benefit of a doubt and followed them exactly. Eventually, I taught along side her at a seminar at University of California - Irvine and by then I had evolved my own unique approach, my Lightning Fast method. But I never forgot how much I learned from her by doing everything she said including going after local foundations first. I had ended up making $100,000+ for my employer by following her techniques. 

In addition to compliance with a noted authority, I also found it extremely useful to obtain and review copies of successful winning grants. In this regard, I remember being startled at the extent to which the winning grants in my possession made extensive use of charts. This is a technique that I still use today with great impact. I don't think I would have figured that trick out or employed it so effectively early on in my career if I had not gone out of my way to check out winning grant proposals from similar agencies. 

Another one of my secrets of success was simply to dive in and start writing grants. In the process, I picked up many of the skills that still work for me today and that I enjoy teaching others, including my never rewriting a draft the same day I write it, infusing my writing with a sense up urgency and economy, and being careful to answer each element of the funder's questions. To be sure, I cannot share everything I know about training new grant writers in this space, but I think I have given you the most important basics as they work for me: 

  • Identify a great teacher.
  • Rely on multiple sources of information.
  • Pay attention and follow the resource's instructions even if they strike you as silly. 
  • Take action and make as many attempts as you can quickly to build your skill level. 

Finally, please do not hesitate to call me or e-mail me if you are stuck. I enjoy helping out anyone with an interest in grant writing. You are never alone in this business. 

How Do You Find a Great Teacher: Not as Easy as It Looks

I was so cynical as a young man that I doubt I would have recognized a great teacher at all. For the most part, I thought the folks who taught me in elementary school and high school were losers because they were not college professors. Later, I discounted my college professors because they were not highly published research university professors. Even as a graduate student, I despised my graduate school professors for being unsupportive, distant and unhelpful. Nevertheless, I concede did stumble across great teachers and I found that the really great ones had a manner of teaching which made everything easy, unintimidating and clear. They remain in my mind the greatest teachers in my life because they showed me the techniques which made my chores easier to accomplish. I try to honor them in my own teaching whenever I get an opportunity.


When a Physics Teacher Knows His Stuff
When a Physics Teacher Knows His Stuff

Accordingly, if I'm looking for a great teacher, then one of my first requirements is that I need to be able to understand what they are talking about. I have reached a point in my life where if I find I do not understand something, I no longer blame myself. I blame the lousy teacher. 

As a political scientist, for example, I am opposed to the deliberate obscurantism of philosophers like Jacques Derrida. In the New York Review of Books article "An Exchange on Deconstruction" (February 1984), John Searle offered one of my favorite comments on deconstruction

. . . anyone who reads deconstructive texts with an open mind is likely to be struck by the same phenomena that initially surprised me: the low level of philosophical argumentation, the deliberate obscurantism of the prose, the wildly exaggerated claims, and the constant striving to give the appearance of profundity, by making claims that seem paradoxical, but under analysis often turn out to be silly or trivial.

I have also found it useful to seek teachers who have succeeded in the fields where I want to see some success myself. To be sure, a track-record of extraordinary success does not necessarily make someone a great teacher since teaching is an entirely different skill set. Nevertheless, if I want to learn about grant writing, I'm not going to study under someone who has not won many grants or someone who has stopped writing them all together to focus instead on teaching. I need someone who is still active in the profession, who is also aware of the current trends and other significant contemporary issues in the field. 

Unfortunately, you may not have access to a great teacher in your community. Accordingly, I think the next best thing is to create your own best possible teacher. You can do this by buying at least three books on the topic of grant writing and then reading all of them in order. The trick is to look for the common themes which appear in each book. For example, if all three books say it is important to follow the funder's directions, then you can be confident that this is a major point to reflect on and remember. If a key idea appears in only one of these volumes, you may be well advised to write it off as an individual idiosyncrasy for now.  

Along these lines, I prefer to have a teacher who has produced a book or a workbook. Although I get a lot of good information from listening and taking notes from an expert in the field, ultimately I have found that I learn best if I have something to read. I need to be able to study an idea, review it, and reread it later when I'm in a bind. I just cannot do that with a typical classroom lecture. I have also found that I need to keep that book around for a while as a reference tool. Too often I have found that my memory of what was written, particularly the step-by-step procedures they recommended does not stay locked in my memory banks. I need to go back to the source and refresh my memory to really grasp what I need to do. So, I've found it pays to work with an instructor who also has written materials to distribute to the class.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Which Programs Will Be Nourished and Which Will Be Starved Under the Trump Administration?

Trump's stunning upset victory over Hillary Clinton has given us a president who is likely to shake up the goals of federal grant making in a similar manner. Consequently, the surprising results of the presidential election are causing non-profit executives to wonder what, if anything, they can do to ensure a steady supply of federal grants for non-profits in California and across the country. 

While we do not know the specific policy changes that the new president and his Republican-led Congress will pursue, non-profit executives can make reasonable guesses about the increase, repeal, rollback or decrease of various federal grants based on what political scientists tell us about the broad patterns of American government. Based on these patterns, I think it is safe to offer my predictions for federal grants from the Trump administration in the space below. 


Basically, you are best off investigating congressional behavior and specific presidential appointees if you want to accurately predict what will happen to your particular niche in the federal grant system. This is because grant programs are low visibility items. They are barely, if at all, even noticed by the general public so members of Congress have nearly complete autonomy to do what they want without the burden of public attention. The federal grants that you and I compete for on a yearly basis are more likely to be influenced by the behavior and preferences of little known interest groups, bureaucrats and congressional staffers. 

Accordingly, the election results will not be a strong predictor of Trump's presidency unless the policy matters impacts a high visibility, high conflict issue such as building a border wall or cancelling previous trade agreements. Off the top of my head, however, I would say that grants to study or prevent global warming are a dead end on arrival for the foreseeable future. On a more optimistic angle, I think the Trump administration will be open to new ideas that increase the number of construction jobs and construction workers, particularly in the key swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. 

As you contemplate the future of federal grants, it is probably a good idea to understand how long the Trump administration will last and what may happen to partisan control of Congress.

Right now, the indications are that Donald Trump will be reelected in 2020 and serve out two terms in office or eight years total. My confidence in this prediction is that it is fairly easy for presidents to get re-elected in general. As you may know, twenty presidents have competed for reelection since 1900: Of those, 15 won and five lost. (I am counting Gerald Ford as one of the losers even though he was initially appointed and not elected to the office). Incumbent presidents have a lot of advantages in terms of visibility, name recognition, fundraising resources and, of course, all the money and influence available to them through their control of the Executive Branch. Even unpopular presidents tend to get more popular when it is time to file for office again. 

Unless, Trump loses a war or zigs off in a completely unpopular direction (or faces a strong third party candidate) there is little chance that he will be a one-term president. Accordingly, it is safest to assume that - for better or worse - your charity will be serving in a Trump administration dominated political environment for the next eight years. 

Historically speaking, Trump should lose congressional seats in the next mid-term election. In all likelihood, it will be much harder for him to pass new legislation after the mid-term elections are over. Right now, Republicans have a positive outlook since of the 25 Democrat Senate seats up for re-election include senators from ten states in which Trump won large victories. Nevertheless, it is rare for a president to gain legislative strength over time. Although he would be unlikely to lose the House of Representatives, there is a chance he could lose control of the Senate. The significance of this possibility is probably not lost on Trump. He has every reason to make the best of the next 200 days and the next two years when his legislative majorities will most certainly be at their peak. 

Given Republican advantages in the electoral college and their control of most of the state legislatures, I believe that the House of Representatives will stay in Republican hands for the foreseeable future. Due to Republican dominance among governors and statehouses, they will be able to gerrymander their congressional districts and carefully apportion their voters so that they get the maximum number of congressional leaders elected to the House of Representatives. The bottom line is that the trends you see in funding right now, as indicated in the first few months of the administration, are highly likely to be the ones that control the pace, focus and size of federal grants in your field for the next eight years or so, if not longer. 

Finally, it is important to understand just how significant will Trump's appointees be in regards to any changes we might see in federal grants. This issue goes to the heart of the limits on executive power and the natural constraints placed on a chief executive like Donald J. Trump. Since no U.S. president can personally control the day-to-day operations of a cabinet department, much less the entire federal government, it makes a lot of sense for non-profit executives to drill down and pay greater attention to the folks that Trump appoints to lead the departments that distribute the grants you want for your non-profit organization. Personally, I have found it helpful to do a little Google research on the key people who are taking over the government departments where I compete for federal grants. 

For example, you might start getting to know the following cabinet officers or potential cabinet officers by using this handy list:

AppointeeDepartmentWikipedia Research
Ben CarsonHousing and Urban DevelopmentWikipedia Research
Betsy DevosEducationWikipedia Research
Tom PriceHealth and Human ServicesWikipedia Research
Sonny PerdueAgricultureWikipedia Research
Andy PuzderLaborWikipedia Research
Elaine ChaoTransportation Wikipedia Research
David ShulkinVeterans AffairsWikipedia Research
Ryan ZinkeInteriorWikipedia Research

If you research President Trump's appointments, then you will certainly help your non-profit agency prepare itself to win federal grants. You will also be among the most knowledgeable people in America, among the very few who will be able to predict for others much of what will happen over the course of the next eight years.