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. 

One Key Question: Does Donald J. Trump Really Mean What He says?

My study of similar charismatic leaders indicates that charismatic leaders like Donald J. Trump really do mean what they say. Since they are traditionally seeking to upset existing power structures, they cannot survive unless they take care of the followers who they ask to trust them and be willing to follow them despite high risks and potential social pressure. Unlike Obama, demonstrably Trump cannot lean on the support of a sympathetic press or the adoration of Hollywood. Instead, he has to rely on his relatively smaller base of working class voters in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to hold on to power. Given the narrowness of that band of political support, he really cannot afford to offend that base or back off his promises to them. 

Indeed, one of the consistent patterns seen in charismatic leaders like Lincoln, Washington or Napoleon is that they were known for their commitment to strong principles of justice and fairness. If charismatic leaders were simply chaotic, insincere liars, then it would be difficult for them to attract die-hard followers. Their key inner core of supporters would abandon them if they lacked fidelity to their closely cherished beliefs. Followers maybe patient with their leaders, but they are not stupid about them. Like Napoleon and other leaders, you have seen and can count on Trump to say different things to different audiences to win their support. We can predict that he will occasionally offer alternative facts to get temporary advantages. In the long-run, however, it is a safe bet to assume that Donald Trump believes what he says and that he fully intends to make the sort of changes he promised during his campaign, particularly on the big picture issues like trade, immigration, and fighting ISIS. 

The most important question is not whether Trump is sincere, but to what extent will he be able to do what he wants given the constraints of our U.S. Constitutional system.
 
The simple answer is no, as the highly charismatic Barack Obama learned. It is not so easy to get things done and make them stick because the U.S. Constitution created three separate branches of government and gave to each its own tools for protecting its turf, i.e. the famous checks and balances. 

One of the best ways to improve your predictions of how much of their agenda any president will accomplish is to pay attention to the priorities of the legislative branch, Congress. In this regard, Trump does have an advantage in getting his policies put into law. His party controls both parts of the Congress, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Perhaps due to all the media attention focused on the president, one of the truisms of American government is that, the legislature has a lot more power than people think it does. After all, most of us do not pay much attention to how government really works and fail to follow how the actual details of a president's legislative agenda are hammered out in the House, the Senate and then the conference committees which combine their separate bills into one law that the president can then either sign or veto. 

Unlike many U.S. governors, the president suffers from limits to his executive power because he does not have a line-item veto. Such a veto power would allow him to pick and choose which parts of a proposed law to accept or reject. 

In view of these real world constraints, I think it is a wise bet to assume that President Trump will end up approving a lot of the existing, conservative, Republican policies that have been bottled up in the legislative branch under the Obama administration. This is because the quickest and safest way for Trump to get quality legislation completed quickly is to simply rubber stamp the legislative changes which have been consistently repressed and vetoed by Obama. If you know what the Republicans have been wanting to do in your particular field of interest, then it is a safe bet to assume they will get their way under President Trump. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Getting Noticed as a Non-Profit Organization: How Many Times Do You Need to Repeat Your Message?

One of the surprising things for most non-profit executives is to realize is how hard it is to get out their charity's name and message. Large corporation manage to buy visibility for their brands simply by purchasing large print ads, television advertising, radio spots or by dominating certain segments of the social media including ads on Facebook or other social networking sites. 

Audi R8 Big Game Commercial - Commander - Extended Cut
Audi R8 Big Game Commercial - Commander - Extended Cut
This, however is quite expensive. For example, in 2016 the 111.9 million viewers who tuned into the CBS broadcast of Super Bowl 50 were treated to no fewer than 62 commercials from 53 different advertisers. This level of participation is amazing with you consider that a tiny 30-seconds of air time cost a record $5 million.

Nevertheless, non-profit charities by and large cannot possibly compete for attention under these circumstances. Instead, their only realistic option if to choose their name, pick their winning slogan and then stick with it for a long-time. Only by consistently repeating their name and slogan will they ever begin to make a dent into the consciousness of their neighbors and potential donors. 

This is why I like repeating to my workshop participants one of the most important ideas I learned from working on political campaigns as a pollster and a campaign manager. Your prospect needs to hear your name and message at least six times before they start to remember it. Consequently, one of the clues that you are doing a good job of spreading your charity's name and message is that you will gradually get bored with it. As I like to suggest, it is only at the point where you are starting to get really bored with your message that your audience is finally starting to be impacted by it in a memorable way. 

How to Create Goals and Objectives for Your Grant Proposal: The Simple to Remember Tools of the Trade

One of the most pleasant moments in my Grant Writing Fundamentals course is when I cut through all the silliness associated with setting goals and objectives and provide the participants with a relevant and simple system for organizing their grant project in a manner that is appealing to the funders and relatively easy for you to supervise and manage. Goals are the easy part. Goals should be big, broad, vague dreams that motivate you, help you think big, and keep you inspired over the course of the year. "Every child will go to college," for example, is an illustration of a terrific goal. 

SMART Objectives
SMART Objectives

On the other hand, objectives are the complete opposite of goals. Objectives need to be very specific and detailed, the more specific and detailed they are the better it is for you and your grant application. In the video below, you will see an illustration of the standards for writing objectives that has worked for me. It is based on the acronym SMART. This stands for S-specific, M-measurable, A-achievable, R-realistic and T-timed.   

If you make sure that each of your SMART objectives contains each of the above features, then you will create realistic and persuasive objectives which will impress the funder. More significantly, such objectives will give you important management tools for implementing the grant later on. For example, you will be able to use these objectives to keep you and your staff accountable for implementing the promises you have made to the grant funder or to your other stakeholders.