Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Plan Ahead: Grant Writing Always Occurs at the Last Minute Under Stressful Conditions

When I first started grant writing I was a little surprised at what a chaotic mess it turned out to be. The executive director I was working for only gave me the budget for her program minutes before the grant was due. Often, I was given a few days to accomplish work which probably should have required months of planning and careful thought.
Trish Drew visits Australia in April, 2016. There are miles of beaches out there.
Trish Drew visits Australia in April, 2016. There are miles of beaches out there.

At first, I blamed my bad luck. Perhaps I was just unlucky at finding work with nonprofit agencies that matched my high standards for preparation and planning? Later on, however, I noticed that it did not seem to matter whether or not I was working for a quality institution. I ran into last minute difficulties even when I was working for myself.

Ultimately, I figured out that the real reason why grant writing take place in last minute stressful conditions is that the funders wanted it that way.

Truthfully, if they wanted to make our lives easier they could. They could give us sample grants to review. They could all work off of the same common, on-line grant application. They could provide us with their deadlines long in advance and make things easier for us by spending money for their staff to work with grant applicants.

Instead, they tend to treat grant writers were the sort of remarkable disdain, in large measure, because they want to reduce the number of applications they have to read. This is why they suffer no penalties for producing poorly written requests for proposals or by establishing arcane, unnecessary and often difficult to understand application requirements. 

After it became clear to me that I was going to always be writing grants under stressful conditions, the standard recommendations of the grant-writing literature became much more exciting for me to understand and follow. That is because the standard recommendations only makes sense if you realize that you need to conduct yourself with utmost efficiency, particularly if you want to make a living as a grant writer or as an independent grant writing consultant.

For example, one of the most important tasks of any grant writer is to assemble their grantsmanship center. This is a centralized location where they keep all the most important documents and paperwork needed for applying win grants. This includes the standard documentation required by most funders including your mission statement, IRS determination letter, and resumes for your staff. 

Finally, it does pay to anticipate the upcoming deadlines for your various grant applications, even those that have not yet been spelled out by the funders. It is important to calendar your upcoming deadlines so that you can begin the necessary perforation long before the deadline. I have also found that it makes a lot of sense to use voice recognition software to speed up the grant writing process. I will discuss the use of technology in grant writing in the next newsletter. 

The Most Important Fundamental of All: Study the Largest Funders to Get the Largest Amount of Money

I won the first eight federal grants I wrote. In addition to helping jump start my career as a grant writing, this experience taught me the considerable advantages of going after the largest funders first. This principle may seem counter intuitive at first because it is natural to assume that the smaller, local funders - even the tinest family-run funders - might be softer targets.
Drew & Associates has moved to Santa Ana, CA. Here are some pictures of the new offices including the conference room and lobby. Starting in November, we will offer Dr. Drew's workshops and retreats here.

In reality, these small local funders provide grant writers a number of sometimes insurmountable obstacles. Since they are so small, they only have a little money to give and they tend to give only a small number of grants each year. Due to their limited resources, they are less likely to have staff to answer your calls or provide you with additional assistance. The information on their website will most likely be out-of-date. Many, in fact, won't have a website at all.  

In contrast, the largest funders - including the federal government - have full-time staff available to provide you with advice and guidance. In my experience, some of these program consultants will almost write your grant for you if they like your cause. Their websites are usually quite detailed and include links to earlier grantees and other valuable program information. The federal government is especially valuable to grant writers because it goes out of its way to refer you to the latest peer reviewed, state-of-the-art research. 

(It is often a good practice, as Beverly A. Browning notes, to begin your grant writing campaign with your federal grant applications so that you will learn enough new information to write really great state and local-level grants.)

All in all, it pays to go after the largest funders if only because they can give larger grants. After all, for virtually the same amount of effort you access greater possibilities and eventually win much larger grants. My most recent federal grant, for example, was a $1.5 million win for Irvine Valley College. 

Best of all, the larger funders - especially the federal government - are relatively slow to change their interests or application requirements. Once you master their system, you are virtually set for life. For these larger organizations, change comes slow so you can count on the fact that your study of the largest funders will benefit you for many years to come, no matter where you work or how many times you need to craft grant applications. 

Finally, the largest funders have such large endowments that they will probably be the largest funders even decades from now. Smaller foundations may find themselves vulnerable to running out of money because they cannot hire sophisticated investment advisers to manage their portfolios. Again, you have an advantage if you study the largest funders because they will most likely be the same ones you will revisit over the course of your grant writing career. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Golden Baugh: Coast Hills Elders Apologize to Their Ex-Pastor

At Coast Hills Church this Sunday, the Board of Elders made a heartfelt apology for the way they mistreated their ex-pastor Ken Baugh. As you may remember, an earlier incarnation of this elder board abruptly fired Baugh in November 2014. Baugh is a protégé of Rick Warren and, undoubtedly, one of the brightest and most gifted leaders in the Christian church today.
Ken and Susan Baugh received an apology from the Coast
Hills elder board on Sunday, August 28, 2016.

The backstory is that while Baugh was working on his doctoral dissertation at Talbot School of Theology he ran into some of the roadblocks that impact a large percentage of us who take on the extremely difficult effort to earn a Ph.D. The extraordinary challenges faced by graduate students is evident in studies which show only about of third of those who start doctoral degrees ever finish them. This disappointing statistic is due, in large measure, to the callousness of dissertation committees, inadequate mentorship, and a lack of knowledge regarding the daily habits and organizational skills needed to complete a Ph.D. dissertation.

Instead of coming along side Baugh and helping him complete an effort which would bring positive attention to both Baugh and Coast Hills Church, the elders abruptly dismissed him in a manner I previously described as a train wreck. Although the church elders sought to discourage public criticism of their decision as inconsistent with Christian virtue, I do not think any reasonable person believed they handled this delicate matter in a way that honored either Christ or common sense.

The elder's mistake left us with a diminished church, the loss of Saturday services, unstable leadership and a host of folks who shook their heads and decided it was best to worship somewhere else. They also caused immeasurable suffering for Baugh and his family including all the requisite feelings of anger, resentment, fear and humiliation. Thankfully, a new elder board has seen fit to launch a healing effort.

Trish and I attended today's Sunday 11:00 a.m. service and witnessed a tearful, heartfelt apology to Ken Baugh and his wife Susan.

It was offered on behalf of the elder board by Matt Kern. With remarkable humility, Kern acknowledged in considerable detail the mistakes made by the elders, their mistreatment of Baugh, and even a broken promise he had made to Susan herself. In a touching moment, Kern even apologized for the manner in which Susan's story had been neglected during the past two years. She got an moving standing ovation from an unusually crowded church auditorium.

I expect that today's service will be remembered as a healing event which will provide a good example of Christian reconciliation. While I have never seen (or heard of) a church apologizing to their ex-pastor, I'm confident that the Christian tradition of reconciliation is not unusual at all.

The church arose after the brutal, unjust and illegal mistreatment of a man of God. Going back to St. Paul, the church's abiding strength has always been its ability to survive such moments without elders decapitating dissident followers or enraged followers decapitating irresponsible elders. Instead, Christians hug, hold hands, and shrug off our mistakes as the natural results of living in a dysfunctional family in a fallen world.

As Baugh pointed out, a 100 years from now we will all be dead and all of this will all be forgiven -- even the mistakes for which Baugh accepted responsibility.

Meanwhile, Baugh has gone on to bigger and better things. He is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Discipleship Training. He has also been honored with a new role, working with Rick Warren, to provide training to pastors from all over the world. This is a part-time position which will give church leaders around the world with access to his insight while giving Baugh the time and space he needs to complete his doctoral dissertation. This compassionate arrangement will be my lasting memory of God's grace regarding this unfortunate situation.

I had a brief opportunity to thank with Rick Warren for his efforts to protect Baugh during the worst moments of this debacle. "I've loved him," said Warren, "even before he was born."