Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Secrets of Success: Speed Up Your Learning with Triangulation

One of the secrets of being a really great grant writer is developing the ability to write quickly about things you know nothing about. Personally, I find this business challenges me to learn new things quicker than a meteor. Luckily, my training as a political scientist gives me unusual advantages when it comes to high speed learning. These advantages have been important to my success, since so much of what I do tends to take place on an emergency basis.

Ironically, I did not get good at learning until I was already half-way through my graduate career at Cornell University.  It was only then that I started to receive higher quality instruction from professors who were paid to share practical tips, useful advice, and easy-to-follow templates.

For much of my life, I had assumed that learning was supposed to be hard, confusing, and solitary. I had come to believe that enduring poor quality teaching was actually good for me. The big break-through for me occurred after I earned my Ph.D. At that point, I started taking post-graduate classes in statistics and something inside of me snapped. I realized that if the professors explained something to me and I did not understand them, then that was their problem not mine.  

One of the best ideas I picked up at the University of Michigan while I was studying statistics was the idea that I should read at least three statistics textbooks at a time.

This way, I found it a lot easier to make sense of a topic. In my experience, reading just one textbook makes study difficult, in part, because it does not give me any sense of what was crucial to know, good to know, or simply useless detail. By reading about the same topic in three different textbooks, I found that I started getting a better fix on the priorities attached to any given topic. This approach made it easier for me to concentrate on the important stuff I really needed to know immediately and to only memorize the details that I would need to hold on to for the future. Looking back, I wish I had an instructor in high school who might have suggested this same idea to me while I was studying physics or mathematics. (I also wish I would have had a high school teacher who explained that learning math and science was a long road to follow, but that it was quite beautiful when it all came together during graduate work.)

As a grant writing consultant, I use triangulation to help me quickly understand the client's field of interest.

Typically, I start by reading the client's literature, reviewing their website, and interviewing their staff. Then, I search on-line to see what other experts have to say about the topic and then supplement this with my own library research.

I have found that this technique of using multiple sources makes me a much more knowledgeable participant in the grant writing process. For example, I have found that the federal government keeps track of role-model programs, measurement techniques, and other things that will improve your grant application. There are resources out there on the issues of responsible fatherhoodhealthy marriage, and substance abuse.  

The main thing, in my experience, is to not rely on a single source of information. There is safety and insight in accessing multiple sources of information on the same topic. At the very least, you quickly learn what it is okay to forget.

Up Your Game: How to Identify the Most Convincing Research

As you may know, I have had a lot of success in winning large federal government grants. In retrospect, I think that my background as a political scientist and as a published author gave me unusual advantages with federal government grant applications because so many of them are based on evidence derived from previous government studies. 

Since I had experience doing my own research and creating literature reviews as a political scientist, it was relatively easy for me to pick through federal websites and identify prospective interventions, programs, and practices that would most likely make a difference for the clients of the charities that hired me to work as a grant writer. 

As such, I apply certain internal standards to help me determine whether or not a particular study will present strong evidence in support of the program that I am trying to get funded. I will share some of these standards that I look for in the section below:  
  1. Peer-Reviewed Articles: In general, I know to look for articles printed in peer-reviewed journals. This is just a fancy way of saying that an article in the journal will not be published unless a jury of independent researchers determined that it met their field's standards for academic research. In most fields there are the prestigious and the less prestigious journals. I look for ones that have been around a long time and for individual articles in those journals that have been cited by other researchers.  
  2. Random Assignment: Next, I am particularly interested in finding studies which use random assignment to establish test and control groups to test whether or not a particular program or intervention works or not. A test group is simply the group of people - or animals, I suppose - who will be treated differently by the experiment. The control group, on the other hand, is supposed to be a group of very similar people who will not be exposed to the treatment variable. What is crucial is that the assignment to either the test or the control group must be random. This is a fundamental assumption behind the statistical methods used to determine whether or not there is a significant difference between the test and control group after the experiment is done. 
  3. Quasi-Experimental Studies: Sometimes, it is not possible to simply assign people at random. In these cases, we might create test and control groups by recruiting volunteers or testing the same people before and after they were exposed to the treatment. These studies are called quasi-experimental studies. 
  4. Population Similarities: The strongest studies are experimental and quasi-experimental studies that are based on populations similar to the one you are looking to serve. For example, you should not justify an experiment on college students, based on a study that looked at elementary school students. 
  5. Multi-Site Studies: You will also be better off in picking larger studies that included multiple sites, meaning that the research was conducted at a number of different college campuses or in different cities around the nation. The problem with single site studies is that the single site might be contaminated statistically with unique people who respond to the intervention in the same way simply because they already have so much in common.
  6. Attrition Rates: You need to pay attention to the little details in the study like how many of the participants dropped out of the study before it was done. This is because the people who dropped out will influence the final results of the study. 
Finally, you should be aware of the possibility for "experimenter bias" which is the tendency of the researcher to confirm their own suspicions in their own study. Sometimes this happens on purpose when the researchers fudge their results or manipulate their data to match their own conclusions. Other times there is an error in the study itself, but the research fails to notice this error because the overall study supports their conclusions. Since the results break their way, the researcher sees no need to double (or triple) check their own results. To guard against experimenter bias, I like to find studies where the researcher(s) appear to be sincerely surprised by their own results. To me, this is at least one indication that they are being honest with themselves and their readers. 

Dusting Off the Classics: Hot Tips for Recycling Grant Proposals

One of the best ways to speed up the grant writing process is to have readily available templates based on earlier, successful grant applications. Frankly, even copies of previous losing grant applications are immensely helpful whenever you sit down to write a new grant

The challenge is that the grant reviewers can often tell that you are simply recycling a previous grant rather than preparing a new, fresh, cohesive application for their benefit. 

Despite this difficulty, I have had a lot of success in recycling earlier grant applications into successful contemporary grants. Part of the reason is that I implement some key changes that insure the revised proposal still looks fresh and relevant. 

First, I am very careful about updating all of the dates in the document related to program goals and objectives. Leaving in a prior date is a powerful signal to the funder that you are simply recycling an old version of a previous grant.

Second, I make sure to update the research used to support the grant application so that the footnotes indicate that we are using the most recent articles in the field. These articles may still have the same information as the earlier articles, but they look sharper with a more recent publication date. 

Third, if I do add some new information to the existing grant, I make sure to balance that additional information out by referring to this new information in three or four other locations in the grant application. This makes for a more consistent application. It also creates the impression that you have thoughtfully revised the proposal rather than simply recycled an existing one. 

Finally, I am also careful to revise the grant so that it reflects a single voice. We all have slightly different, habitual writing styles. The reviewers can often tell that a grant has been recycled simply by noticing the abrupt changes in writing style that sometimes appear in a grant application. My favored technique is to rewrite each line of a previous grant so that it reflects my voice and not the style of the previous grant writer. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Start 2019 Off with a New, Inspiring Resume

One of Dr. Drew's biggest secrets of success as a grant writer is his skill at tweaking the resumes of the charity's key talent so they are more likely to win really big, life transforming grants. In our increasingly media saturated world, a fresh -- strategically designed -- resume can be the difference between winning or losing either a job or a multi-million dollar grant. At any rate, we thought it would be fun to offer a special in January 2019 for everyone who is seeking to find or get a better job. Here are the details of Dr. Drew's resume writing package.

Here's What Dr. Drew Will Do to Improve Your Prospects for 2019 

This is a special service of Drew & Associates.  Dr. Drew will ask you to email him a copy of your existing resume or curriculum vita which he will 1) read and analyze, and 2) discuss with you by phone for one (1) hour.  Then, he will 3) rewrite your resume curriculum vita, improve its format and look, so that it will tell a positive, uplifting, and attractive story about your life, your value to others, and the special skills you bring to the marketplace. 

Discounted price: $400. 

Regular price, after January 30, 2019: $500.

Payment by Check

For payment by check, mail to: Drew & Associates, 1231 E. Dyer Road, Suite 215, Santa Ana, CA 92705.

Please make checks payable to “Drew & Associates.”


Payment by PayPal


Read What One Professional Says About Dr. Drew's Resume Writing Services and Why a New Resume is a New Life.

I highly recommend John Drew's resume writing services for anyone in the job market. As a full time community college faculty member and department chair, I decided to expand my job goals to seeking a position in administration. John helped me immensely with updating my curriculum vitae and creating a new cover letter tailored to the specific job I am seeking.

I felt his knowledge of the community college system, strong writing skills and his connections were extremely valuable to me - helping me gain insight and add information that I would not have considered myself.

He gave me a lot of time from our first phone conversation until we came up with a final product I felt good about. His interpersonal style made me feel as if I were speaking to a motivational coach who was helping me discover my strengths and abilities to move toward my career goals. 

I strongly recommend his services - personable, well-qualified, knowledgeable and outstanding writing skills. With his help, I got a great new job. Thank you!

-- Dr. Irit Gat, Antelope Valley College

Monday, November 12, 2018

How to Make The Most of December: Planning for a Great 2019

For better or worse, the last two weeks of December is clearly the worst possible time for fundraising activities. The problem is that your donors - individual, corporate or foundation - are too busy during the holidays to worry about the needs of your charity. Nevertheless, you can make the best use of the last two weeks of December if you turn your attention to planning ahead for a great 2019.

"Christmas Pears," John Drew.
The first thing to do to have a great 2019 is to ask all your management level staff fill out the project innovator form. This is their chance to define a specific project they would like to see funded. It is a terrific exercise for this time of year. It allows your staff to dream about the future. It also helps everyone make those dreams come real by committing them to paper. 

The second thing you absolutely have to do is schedule your grant writing chores for the year ahead. This means noting the exact due dates for the funders that set due dates. It also means spreading out the grant application chores over the rest of the months in order to make sure you cover a lot of ground by pacing yourself. In that spreadsheet, I like to include the name of the funder, the name and phone number of the primary contact, the due date, and any comments which are appropriate including notes about past wins with that funder. In general, I prefer to put this information into a spreadsheet. I know there are software tools out there that help you organize grant funders, including the Foundation Center's On Line Directory. Nevertheless, I haven't found anything easier to use or easier to share than a simple spreadsheet. 

Third, make sure that your grantsmanship library is up to date. As a refresher, remember that your grant library has the following items. 

  • Resumes
  • How to Books
  • IRS Determination Letter
  • State of California Determination Letter
  • Photos
  • Project Innovator Forms
  • IRS 990 Tax Forms
  • Annual Budget
  • Program Budgets
  • Audited Financial Statement

It is important to have all these items updated and ready to go so that you don't have to slow down in 2019 trying to find them. As I like to say, if you can't get hold of a document in 10 seconds, it is useless to you. 

Plan Now to Get Ahead: Dr. Drew's Teaching Schedule for 2019

Grant Writing Fundamentals: An invigorating, informative, hands-on workshop created for new and experienced grant writers, executive directors, organizers, board members, community volunteers, development officers and individuals who want to get a detailed look at the grant writing process. Participants will be introduced to relevant information for a successful grant proposal. You will learn how funding is announced, how applications are judged and how to construct each element of a winning proposal. Dr. Drew is an award-winning author, speaker, and consultant.

Fee: $65 (Material Fee Due at class: $36) Time and Date: 9-4 p.m. Saturday, March 23, 2019.

Fee: $65 (Material Fee Due at class: $36) Time and Date:  9-4 p.m. Saturday, March 2, 2019.

Fee: $65 (Material Fee Due at class: $36) Time and Date: 9-4 p.m. Saturday, March 9, 2019.

Grant Research Fundamentals: Dr. John Drew presents this hands-on workshop as part of the Grant Writing series of classes. This class has been created for those grant writers who need a detailed look at the technology and the practical tips available to speed-up grant research. Participants will be introduced to:

  • Top websites for grant research including those provided by the federal government, State of California, and the Foundation Center of New York
  • Useful websites for identifying individual grants for art projects, scholarly research, and college and graduate school scholarships.
Fee: $65 (Material Fee Due at class: $36) Time and Date: 9-4 p.m. Saturday, March 30, 2019.

Fee: $65 (Material Fee Due at class: $36) Time and Date: 9-4 p.m. Saturday, March 16, 2019.

Grant Writing Intermediate: This class is directed towards professionals, providing the immediate information and access needed to obtain resources from corporations, foundations, and government agencies. This class also teaches the skills needed to be successful in researching individual grants or educational scholarships. You will have step-by-step guidance on how to become a grant-writing consultant or to create a non-profit charity. John C. Drew, Ph.D., is a speaker, author, and consultant with a 100% per campaign success rate.

Fee: $65 (Material Fee Due at class: $36) Time and Date: 9-4 p.m. Saturday, April 13, 2019.

Fundraising Fundamentals: "Unlike sales," says Dr. Drew, "fundraising requires exceptional political, interpersonal, and research skills." In this workshop, the award winning author, trainer, and consultant introduces simple but proven ideas for success now. Participants will learn how fundraising has evolved, and how the new software, New Raiser's Edge and Fundraiser, will make it easier to track donors and reduce the pressures of a face-to-face request.

Fee: $65 (Material Fee Due at class: $36) Time and Date: 9-4 p.m. Saturday, April 20, 2019.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

How to Cut Corners to Quickly Produce the Reader's Tears

Although many of the tips I shared above are perhaps used by all writers, my aim is not to teach you how to be a screen writer or a novelist. (I do not have the calling or the skills to do that anyways.) What I can do, however, is share with you how I have bent -- or broken --conventional writing advice in order to write emotionally powerful grants under the pressure of significant and unalterable due dates. 

1. Don't Worry About Originality

Traditional writing coaches caution us not to plagiarize someone else's work. They may even teach their students not to risk plagiarism in the first place by even trying to take inspiration from books, movies or popular television shows. As a grant writer, however, some of my greatest successes have involved copying, almost word-for-word, an existing story that made me tear up and simply changing a few of the details to match the experiences of my non-profit client. When you are preparing a last minute grant because the previous grant writer passed out from overwork and exhaustion you can always rely on proven stories to work in your favor. If this bothers your conscience, you can take comfort in assuming that as you go through the rewriting and editing process that you and your team (boss) will make enough minor changes to personalize and make your material fresh. 

'This Is Us': The 11 Most Gut-Wrenching Moments That Made Us Cry This Season (So Far)
'This Is Us': The 11 most gut-wrenching moments that made us cry this season (so far).
2. Don't Worry About Being Sappy

Novelists and playwrights have the time it takes to create exotic or complex emotional situations. Grant writers do not. We have no choice but to be sappy which basically means we have an un-limited license to write in a manner which is overly sweet or sentimental. A choice which would seem lazy or silly or predictable in a major motion picture can nevertheless succeed in a grant proposal because we have a different format, an extremely limited exposure to our reader, and we need to balance out the other parts of the application which can be very dry including the budget or our goals and objectives

3. Embrace Cliches

As grant writers, we are not really in the business of creating brand new characters who have deliberately different or idiosyncratic emotional reactions. We do not have the time. Instead, we need to latch on to overly familiar or commonplace applicable story elements which, in another context, would rightly be considered cliches. We can produce tear provoking material at short notice by polishing up and reusing cliches which are already known to hook readers and draw them into an appropriate empathetic response. Therefore, we can get away with telling stories that include a child who loses a father to a gang attack (Lion King, 1994), a husband's fight to maintain custody of his son after his unfaithful wife leaves him (Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979), or a wife diagnosed with early onset dementia whose Alzheimer's stresses her family life (Still Alice, 2014).

4. Add Emotion Enhancing Coincidences

When we tell stories in real life, we typically add in amazing coincidences. Although writing instructors would disagree, it is okay for us to create scenes where the rains start to fall the moment your character gets sad news, or sees a beautiful sunset as an answer to a prayer. In grant writing, we have a poetic license which allows us to report scenes that have as much emotional punch as possible.

5. Don't Rewrite or Revise Too Much

While your initial draft of your story should make you cry do not get disappointed if you do not feel the same emotional impact after you are on your seventh or eighth edit. When you get bored or numb to your own story it will actually hurt you if you take the time to rewrite your material in order to create an improved emotional impact on yourself. Instead, I have found it useful to assume that the reader, who will be reading the story for the first time, will most likely have the same initial emotional experience as I did when I first created my over-the-top tear producing story. 

How to Grab Your Audience by Leveraging Emotional Power in Your Grant Proposal

Technically, people cry as they read a story because they are emotionally engaged with the main character and then that character suffers some sort of loss. To complete this task a novelist has a lot of advantages that grant writers do not. For example, a novelist has a whole book length manuscript to use to build up a powerful identification with the main character. As grant writers our task is much more difficult because we do not have that luxury of time and space. If we are going to make readers cry we need to accomplish our objective much more quickly, in perhaps a page or even a paragraph. To pull this off, we need to focus with precision and line up as many of the most significant causal factors as we can in our appeal.

1. Tear Up Yourself

If you can write stuff that makes you cry, then you will already be half way to your goal. As you may know, method actors typically draw on their own experiences when a director asks them to do a crying scene. Method acting coaches get actors to cry by asking them to remember their most painful experiences such as the loss of a child, a parent or even a pet. Transferring your own saddest reactions into the text is probably the quickest, fastest and most reliable way to get your readers to cry. If this is not within your comfort zone, then you will need to lean more heavily on the other factors that generate tears. Personally, I recommend using all of them including a likable characters, sad settings, poignant moments and engaging details. 

Fans Make Milo Ventimiglia Cry with Their This Is Us Stories
How his fans cause Milo Ventimiglia, who plays
the father in This is Us, cry with their stories. 
2. Focus on an Identifiable, Likable Character

To quickly get your reader to identify with your main character, you need to create - or find - one who immediately becomes a likable and easy to identify with figure for the reader. One of the most effective uses of this technique is the animal cruelty television ads which cause the viewer to immediately identify with a lonely, hurting, frightened, malnourished and yet still cute and cuddly dog, horse or cat. So, in order to set up the reader's tears, you must immediately share extremely positive, even heroic information about your client.

3. Draw on Familiar Family Situations

One of the best way to speed up the reader's tears is to present them with character types which are already highly familiar to them. For example, it is best to focus on a mother or a father, a brother or a sister, or a son or a daughter. By focusing on family members you automatically tap into your reader's own powerfully charged emotions surrounding their own family members. This is, by the way, one of the key techniques leveraged by the writers of the This is Us series. The show would not be able to routinely provoke intense emotional reactions if the characters were dealing with distant relatives, strangers, or unfamiliar situations. 

4. Place Your Story in an Extremely Sad Setting

Just as the animal cruelty videos feature animals in cages and bleak environments, you can use the descriptive setting of your story to immediately establish a mood conducive to sad, compassionate emotions. For example, you would quickly lose points if your started telling a sad story based on a sunny Mediterranean beach. Instead, it is more effective to pick a setting that basically screams sadness and misery including being out in the rain, in the cold snow, in extreme heat, or in dull, sterile and oppressive environments like tunnels, alley ways, hospitals, prisons, courtrooms, cemeteries and so on. The setting creates a depressing mood which facilitates your reader's saddest associations. Another way to remember this point is to understand that anything in your setting which is bright or happy will distract your reader from the character's painful loss. 

5. Don't Be Shy About Leveraging the Pain

As a grant writer, you have the reader's permission to engage in a level of hyperbole or exaggeration that would be over-the-top for a novelist or a screenwriter. For example, if it is sad for a child to lose a finger, then you might be better off choosing to tell the story about the child who lost a hand or an arm. Give yourself the freedom to push your own boundaries and focus on the elements of the client's story which are extremely painful. If you push yourself as hard as you can, you will probably be moving in the right direction. No matter what, you can always scale it back. The problem for most grant writers, however, is that they are too shy to push the readers into an extremely upsetting situation. 

6. Focus on Creating a Single Poignant Moment

Since we do not have much time, it makes sense to immediately establish an incredibly sad moment. The good news is you do not need a series of sad incidents to get the grant reader to a gut-wrenching moment, it is enough to build quickly to a single climactic moment where all the character's pain, loss and suffering is most acute. Creating a concentrated peak moment is useful, in part, because it focuses your attention and make the most of your existing skills as a drama writer. Of course, a short single poignant moment will also be easier for you to refine or share with your grant writing team. Here, the fastest way to get your reader to cry is to focus on a story where someone has to go away or leave for whatever reason. For example, if you have ever taken one of my workshops, then you will remember how sad it was at the end of the day when the workshop came to an end and we all packed up to go home.  

7. Add Vivid Details

Finally, you will immediately gain your reader's attention by seeding into your story some unique, striking details. For example, you might write about the dust on a teddy bear's button eyes, or the smell of an apple, or anything that quickly gets your reader visualizing a concrete, specific imaginary moment. Personally, I have found it useful to seed into my story details which connect with each of the five senses including sight, hearing, smell, taste or touch. Again, if you try this please give yourself permission to be bold. You can always scale back the details later on if you must.