Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Video by Matt Kresling: Seventeen

Before we had Google, a grant writer needed to have careful listening skills and the talent of a professional journalist. In my case, I had an unfair advantage in becoming a grant writer because of my experience as a journalist at Hart High school in Newhall, CA. While I was still in my teens, I enjoyed the unusual opportunity of writing a weeking column in the Newhall Signal regarding what what going on at my high school under the 1960s sounding title, "Hart Happenings."

Ironically, I enjoyed the process of creating a weekly column so much that I'm still sort of doing the same thing 35 years later as an adult. I've never gotten over the thrill of seeing my words and ideas in newsprint. In fact, the thrill has outlasted my subscription to my local newspapers here in Orange County, CA.

At any rate, I've discovered this new video by one of my favorite artists, Matt Kresling. I thought you'd enjoy his little YouTube video and draw strength from your own days as a student journalist exploring a career as the next Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Write the Grant First and Then Do the Research

Every once in a while, I'm surprised at the power of my own techniques. Recently, I was putting a grant application together for a new client with a new potential funder. Following my usual strategy, I started writing the client’s application without doing any research – except, of course, interviewing a staff member and a Board member.

As I wrote the application, I quickly figured out that the funder had in mind much more narrowly defined project that what I was expecting ahead of time. In other words, my efforts to answer the funder’s questions had given me a much more precise understanding of exactly what the funder was willing to pay for in terms of a model grant program.

Ironically, I was already about 3/4 of the way through the first draft when I noticed the funder’s own website had a lot of the information I was looking for regarding the proposed grant project. If I had scanned the funder’s entire website beforehand, I do not think I would have noticed - or paid much attention to - the valuable information posted there, information that was immediately relevant to my client’s grant application.

Since I was already writing the first draft of the client’s application, I was hypersensitive to the exact information I needed and it just jumped out at me when I flipped to the funder’s website.

I think you will have this sort of time saving experience too if you give this technique a try. Often, I find I do not need to do the all extensive research I anticipated once I actually look at the questions posed in the actual grant application paperwork.

Moreover, the client’s staff experts can often quickly provide me with the most relevant research - once they have read a draft and understand the internal logic of the application. In a world of severe time constraints and limited rationality, I think it is usually a waste of time to ask the client to figure out the fundamental issues of significance by reading the funder’s guidelines. I have found the client’s staff can often be more helpful if they respond to a fully established rough draft of the full proposal.

Best of all, I think that if you do your research second, you will sometimes find you already know more than enough to write a tolerable solicitation document. With this technique, I have been able to avoid losing valuable hours and minutes researching things that may - in the end - have nothing to do with my client's proposed project.