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 the 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, easy to imagine 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. 

How to Encourage Your Team to Think Creatively and to Improvise as Well.

In addition to the improvisation you do yourself as a grant writer, it is also important to know tools for helping your grant writing team improvise as well. Too often a lack of creative energy can be traced to the fact that various team members may be afraid of failing. With this motivation, they may be more creative inventing reasons for giving up than coming up with solutions that will make it happen. Below, I will share with you the five most important techniques I have used to help my teams improvise like jazz musicians. 

The Lion's Cage (Charlie Chaplin), Music Composed by Colin Bruce
The Lion's Cage (Charlie Chaplin), Music Composed by Colin Bruce
1. Do the Right Thing

I picked up this idea from George H.W. Bush. As a vice-president and former director of the CIA, the elder Bush had a lot of experience in working with appointed and career government staff. One of his techniques was to simply ask his team: "What would we do if we wanted to do the right thing?" Of course, this seems a little funny because we assume that everyone would naturally want to do the right thing. Bush's question was an acknowledgement that international relations is an opaque business and that often it is not possible to do the right thing if it creates other disadvantages and risks. Nevertheless, I am fond of asking this question because it challenges staff to really check their own agendas and respond with high quality solutions which represent an ideal answer to a question. Once you have their innovative answers on the table, you can always scale them back and do what is most practical at the moment. 

2. Time and Plan Your Improvisation Challenges

Typically, any grant writing team has enthusiasts and doubters. Both have a role in the grant writing process. In my experience it is best to start out with the enthusiasts, they are the ones who will be most energetic and committed to making the grant happen. With them, I encourage their spontaneous comments and ask them to elaborate on their enthusiasms. It is only late in the process - after a draft or two - that I invite the doubters to take a shot at the proposal. At this stage, their negativity will point out holes in the document. Based on their comments, I will get a solid list of issues which need to be sorted out and fixed as the grant moves forward. One question I ask the doubters is "What can we do to make the grant work to your satisfaction?" 

3. Out Crazy the Crazies

One of my favorite techniques of improvisation is to run with a crazy idea and, in a sense, out crazy the craziest person in the room. For example, someone may say that we should provide free equipment to students. (Clearly impractical.) My response is to suggest that we give them free clothes, movie tickets and automobiles. The impact of this approach is that I have loosened up the thinking of the group, helped them think outside the box, and made them more comfortable with speaking their minds. This technique is really most helpful when the crazy comment is really delivered by a crazy person. You might also try the reverse crazy technique which is to suggest to the group that they do the exact opposite of what they expect. This approach helps them zero in on the merits of the project simply because extinguishing it has been placed on the table. 

4. Take Money Off the Table

Another way to open up your group to innovation is to ask "What would we do if money was no object and we were certain to succeed?" This question gives your team the freedom to dream the best possible solution. They get to shoot for the stars. This approach actually yields surprising results since some ideas of the staff and administrators may not be so expensive or risky after all. There might be ways to approximate the things they want to do by using new technology, borrowed resources, or key donations. No matter what, you will get fresh ideas and the motivation to proceed. 

5. Make it Personal

Finally, it sometimes helps to touch the heart and highest aspirations of your team by asking "What would you do if it was your own mother or daughter in this program?" The responses to this question often elicit surprisingly sensitive, thoughtful, and decisive answers. It works, in part, because it gives the team members a simpler problem to solve. They are solving the problem of their own, for their own family, without regard to the objections and concerns of non-family members. Even though their ideas might highlight their personal values, the ideas themselves will probably be at least 80% of the way to the correct solution. 

If you remember to apply these techniques when you and your team are threatened by writer's block, then you will quickly find new avenues which restore your freshness, confidence and energy. As long as what you write works for you, you should be in good shape. This is true even if you are entirely unfamiliar with the topic of your grant application.

The Secrets of Success for High Speed Grant Writers Who Need to Improvise to Succeed

The need for improvisation in grant writing is the logical consequence of the requirement to write long, original, persuasive documents under tight deadlines about topics which are unfamiliar. Due to severe time constraints, the grant writer will never have the time to adequately research their topic. If they are afraid of improvising, then they may deny themselves and their team adequate time to review and revise the grant proposal. After all, keep in mind multiple revisions are needed and will be made to make the document perfect. Below, I list my five most important tips for effective improvisation. 

"Big Bear Lake Scene," oil on canvas 18" x 24" by John C. Drew, Ph.D. 

1. Trust Yourself

In an emergency situation it always makes sense to begin by trusting your own gut instincts. Often the program managers at your charity may have no clue how to organize their work either. Your best guess at the way to proceed may actually win the team over and impress the funder. Plus, if you are sincerely happy with what you are writing then you are probably at least 80% of the way toward identifying the ideal elements of a winning grant proposal including the needs statement, the program solution and the evaluation measures. Regardless, the key is to keep writing no matter what. When you read what you have written the next day you may be surprised by the quality of your work and the internal coherence of your arguments. 

2. Play the Worst, Average, Best Game

If I am stuck about the best course to follow as I'm writing a grant, I like to play a little game called Worst, Average and Best. I begin by thinking about a serious issue and then ask myself what the absolute worst solution would be. I don't know why, but imagining the absolutely worst solution, the solution that would make things much worse, tends to clear my mind and gives me a foundation on which to build. I then ask myself what would be an average solution to the problem. Here, my brain generates traditional answers to the immediate questions. I have found that this question tends to trigger my existing memory and pull up ideas and procedures or thoughts which I hadn't previously considered. The next step, however, is what makes this game so satisfying. I ask myself what would be the best possible solution to the problem? Out of this question, I have often found surprising solutions appear in my mind. These are ideas which are grounded in the literature, and are simple, effective, and creative. Even if my idea is off base, however, I still go with it. The staff of the agency or its leadership may or may not agree with my take, but - at the very least - I have done my duty by providing them with my best original insight. In times of crisis, I have found that playing the Worst, Average and Best game has often led me to powerful solutions that make me feel quite confident about what I am writing or doing for a client or for workshop participants. 

3. Reverse Conventional Wisdom

One of the best improvisational techniques in my repertoire comes from my graduate school mentor, the late, Theodore J. Lowi. He taught me that it was frequently useful to take an idea and then explore the practicality of its complete opposite. For example, one of the truisms of grant writing is that the best pathway to winning is to follow the funder's directions. It would be folly to ignore this advice. Yet, we can imagine the creative ideas that might emerge if we reversed this saying and thought instead, the best pathway to winning is NOT to follow the funder's directions. How might that be true? As I ask myself the question it occurs to me that the best way to win grants, in reality, is to know a board or staff member of the foundation and have them recommend you to the funder. Some funders expressly ask you not to do this. Nevertheless, this is one sure way to win grants. This idea might not have occurred to me if I did not experiment with reversing the original shibboleth

4. Make Up Facts and Figures Just to Keep Writing

The only practical solution is to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses and do your best at improvising when you run across mainly unfamiliar matters. Whatever inadequacies this creates are relatively minor since other readers on your team should be able to revise the document and make it more realistic. This is why, in my seminars, I recommend that you write a draft of the whole grant first and then do the research for the document. 

5. Google It

The internet has been one of the greatest blessings for grant writers in a hurry. If I am stuck on something, I am usually pleasantly surprised when a quick Google search of key words or a name brings up a Wikipedia article or some other resources which fills me in on the topic. The Wikipedia entries are particularly useful when they contain recent footnotes. Even so, I and you need to check those links. Too often the source cited in the Wikipedia article is no longer available, at least in its original form. When I bump up against paywalls, I usually just make do with the article summary and rely on the agency staff to verify my take on the article in question. My associate grant writers are particularly adept at finding key information on the internet. In one case, an associate grant writer found step by step directions for creating fish ponds. We were able to use this document in our draft grant proposal and the client, who built fish ponds himself, seemed perfectly okay with what was submitted.

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.