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Beginning at the Beginning: Organizing Your Grant-Seeking Effort.
Getting the Direction Right: Managing Your Grant-Seeking Effort.
The Key to Success: Your Project.
Making Sense of It All: Project Organization and Outlining.
Putting in the Details: Fully Developing Your Project.
MANAGING THE FUNDED PROJECT.
The Basics of Managing a Funded Project.
Documentation: Keeping Records.
Managing Project Personnel.
Managing Events and Components.
Managing Project Finances.
Evaluation: The Basics.
Evaluation: The Process.
Evaluation: How to Create an Evaluation Plan.
Evaluation: Performing the Data Collection and Analysis.
Evaluation: How to Create an Evaluation Report.
DISSEMINATION AND CONTINUATION.
About the Disk.
Note: The Figures and/or Exhibits mentioned in this chaper do not appear on the web.PART I
Advance Work: Developing a Manageable ProjectChapter 1
Beginning at the Beginning:
Organizing Your Grant-Seeking Effort
Great is the art of beginning, . . .
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
To begin at the beginning will take us back to grant seeking. Most problems that occur in funded grant projects are best solved before you get the grant, and even before you apply for the grant. This takes us back to what happens before the application or proposal process. If your first thought is that nothing happens before we begin creating the proposal or grant application package, then we've come to the cause of many funded grant project problems, as well as the cause of much wasted time and effort in fruitless pursuit of grants you never had a real chance of winning in the first place.
The simplest, most effective, cheapest, and easiest way to fix problems is to avoid them. The place to start avoiding grant project problems is with the organization of your grant-seeking effort, which is our first topic. The guiding principles behind the organization of a grant-seeking effort are:
The Problem of Time
Over the last decade, we have spoken with thousands of people who pursue grants. Invariably the number one problem these people have is lack of time. The complaint is that there simply isn't enough time in the day to do all the things that need to be done to be an effective grant seeker. Most grant seekers work a full-time job in addition to their grant seeking. Also, there is the essential time for family and personal interests. Where exactly does the time come from to do all that needs doing? It comes from the multiplying effect of using a group of people working together as a team.
The principle is simple. If one person can afford two hours a week to dedicate to grant seeking, then five people working together can dedicate ten hours a week. Two hours a week is not sufficient for effective grant seeking, but ten hours a week may be. The idea is as old as time itself. One Stone Age hunter did not have a chance against a woolly mammoth, but a group of hunters working together toward a common goal had such good odds that the mammoths were hunted to extinction thousands of years ago.
The Grant-Seeking Team
The first and most obvious question in creating a grant-seeking team is: Who should be on the team? Different ideas may leap to mind, such as that we need people that occupy certain positions within the organization on the team, or that we need people with certain skills on the team. Both of these are valid criteria, but not the most important. We have found, over years of grant seeking, that while skills do play an important role, important enough that we discuss skills at length in the next section, and while position within the organization also plays an important part, the most important criteria for selection for the grant-seeking team is the type of person-- their attitude, their outlook, their personality.
Effective grant seekers are self-motivated. Everyone loves pats on the back and acknowledgment of a job well done, but a trait we have found common to good grant seekers is that they are motivated more by an inward drive than by outward rewards. This doesn't mean that we don't reward our grant-seeking team, but it means that the members of the team must be the type of people who find their reason for working hard within themselves, not from outside sources.
Effective grant seekers must have a well-developed sense of humor. You will run across much that is odd, strange, and even downright absurd in the pursuit of grants. The best way to handle the "Through the Looking Glass" world in which grant seekers often find themselves is to find the humor and laugh. Also, working together as a team is facilitated by the team members not taking themselves too seriously. The best way to deal with the inevitable stresses and strains put on the team is to laugh, and you need a sense of humor to laugh.
Effective grant seekers have a positive, can-do attitude and outlook. To use an old truism, good grant seekers must be able to recognize the difference between those things that they can change and those that they cannot. Work to change the things that can be changed, and leave alone the things that cannot be changed. Good grant seekers focus on what can be done, not what cannot be done. Good grant seekers look on the positive side of an issue, not the negative side. It isn't that a grant seeker must be a Pollyanna, but he or she must stay relentlessly positive. Change for the good is accomplished only by those with the positive attitude that change can be made real.
Effective grant seekers are innovative. They push the envelope. They see what could be. They are dreamers in the good sense of having the ability to visualize new and better ways to do what needs to be done. Albert Einstein once said that one of the definitions of insanity was to continue to do the same thing and expect different outcomes. Innovative thinkers see that principle clearly, and they want to do things differently.
Effective grant seekers are pushers. They are doers. They get things done. Instead of sitting on the sidelines complaining, the people who make good grant seekers pitch in and do something, even if sometimes what they do is wrong. They are people who would much rather occasionally ask for forgiveness than be constantly asking permission.
It has been said that the person who never fails has never tried very much. Effective grant seekers are people who are not afraid to fail. Good grant seekers fail a lot because they try a lot. To be good at grant seeking, a person must be able to handle failure. First, there are the great project ideas that no one else thinks are worth anything. Next there are all the proposals that get turned down. Good grant seekers fail half the time. That can be hard to handle, but effective grant seekers must be able to handle it.
Effective grant seekers draw their sense of worth from inside themselves, not from external sources. This is one of the main reasons that they can handle failure. The failure is not a reflection of the person, but, perhaps, a reflection of the idea or proposal. Or, the project simply may not have been selected because there were five great projects, the grant maker could only fund four, and yours was the fifth in line. No one failed, but it still may feel that way. This internalization of worth stands grant seekers in good stead, because they face much disappointment, and if they draw what they think of themselves only from external sources, they will be in trouble as grant seekers.
In many ways, effective grant seekers may be the "difficult" employees, the ones always running ahead and chafing at the bit, challenging authority, and questioning tradition. The same traits that can make an employee difficult can make that same person a great grant seeker. So then, our first set of criteria for members of our grant-seeking team are that the members have the following character traits:
Grant-Seeking Team Skills
Although certain character traits (such as those listed in Exhibit 1.1) are the most important criteria for persons chosen to be members of the grant-seeking team, they are not the only criteria. A group of skills are needed on the team also. Grant seeking involves many activities such as project design, funding source research, project development, proposal writing, proposal publishing, partnership building, marketing, public relations, and others. Successful accomplishment of all these activities takes a set of skills. These skills must be held by one or more members on the grant seeking team.
Someone, or perhaps several someones, must be effective and efficient researchers. In grant seeking, three general categories are researched: funding sources, verification of the problem, and justification of the solution. Finding funding sources is a research project in and of itself. Tracking down federal, foundation, corporate, and state and local funding sources takes time and skill. Specific and detailed directions for this research can be found in Grantseeker's Toolkit: A Comprehensive Guide to Finding Funding, the companion volume to this book. Research is necessary to prove that the problem you intend to solve actually exists locally, regionally, and nationally, dependent on the grantor's requirements. And, at times, it becomes necessary to cite research or examples that show that your proposed solution has a reasonable chance of success.
Grant-seeking team members need the skill of project development, which is the process of moving from a problem to a problem-solving action plan (project). Some of the subset of skills necessary to accomplish this are facilitating group sessions, outlining, creating goals and objectives, and developing project budgets.
It is absolutely necessary that someone on the team possess the skill of leading a team. And we do mean a team, not a committee. The purpose of this group of people is to get work done as a team, not talk about getting work done, as a committee almost always does. The leading attributes of a good team leader are patience and diplomacy.
Someone on the team needs the skill of coordination of effort. This person must be able to keep multiple people working on multiple tasks on track and on time to complete all the tasks in the right order and at the right time to finalize the grant application by deadline. It 's much like preparing a complicated dinner. One dish takes three times as long to prepare and cook as another, so different dishes must be started at different but appropriate times so all the dishes come out together to form a pleasing and appetizing complete meal.
Someone on the team needs the skill of administration. By this we mean the ability to organize and track information and resources. Keeping archives of past projects and proposals, setting up simple but effective means of tracking funding source research, project development, and proposal creation are part of the administrative responsibilities.
And last and least, someone on the team needs to be able to write simply and logically. Writing is the least of the skills, because almost anyone who can express themselves clearly and correctly in writing can write well enough to be effective at grant seeking. What is needed is the ability to write simple, short, direct, descriptive, well-organized sentences and paragraphs. In grant-seeking workshops we tell participants that grant proposals are NOT Faulkner's Sound and Fury, they are NOT Tolstoy's War and Peace, they ARE Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea.
You will find the Grant-Seeking Team Member Interview Checklist from Exhibit 1.2 on the disk that accompanies this book. The file name is 0102. doc. The form is to be printed and then filled in by hand during an interview or series of interviews with potential grant-seeking team members. Note that the personal attributes carry more weight than skills, and that personal attributes and skills carry more weight than experience. Experience with grant seeking is a tricky thing. Unfortunately, many people with experience have exactly the wrong type of experience. You want people who can learn the correct way, not people who may have to unlearn a series of bad habits.
Another list of skills exists. This list is of the skills that you absolutely, positively do not want team members to have. Here is a partial list of skills that are NOT needed on a grant-seeking team. In fact, if team members are truly good at the things on this list, your team's chances of success in grant seeking will go down in proportion as these skill levels go up.
If we cast these concepts positively rather than negatively they will come out like the following list. More importantly, your chances of success in grant seeking will go up as your skill level with these items goes up.
Grant-Seeking Team Resources
For the grant-seeking team to be successful, selecting the right kind of people as members and having those team members possess the right kinds of skills is not enough. The team must be given the resources they need to get the job done. By resources we mean tools. Artists cannot create their work without the proper tools. No carpenter can build a house without the proper tools. No doctor can treat patients without resources. No organization can feed the hungry or house the homeless without resources. No grant seeker can be successful without the tools of the trade. Most tools are concrete, actual things, but the first and perhaps most important tool is an abstract idea, that of time.
Team members must be given time in which to accomplish their tasks. Grant funds are not free. An organization will expend substantial time, money, and effort in the successful pursuit of grants. Perhaps the simplest, but certainly the most important resource that can be made available to the grant-seeking team is time: time to plan, meet, research, develop projects, analyze application guidelines, write proposals, and perhaps most importantly, time to think. Providing all the other needed resources and then failing to provide the time necessary to do the job and to use those resources effectively is a formula for failure. Once a person has been selected to be a grant-seeking team member, the organization must set aside part of that person's regular work time as dedicated to grant seeking. This takes a commitment on the part of the leaders of the organization, and this commitment is essential to the consistent success of a grant-seeking effort.
Office space with a physically separate and dedicated desk, filing cabinet, and chair must be provided to the grant-seeking team. This desk may not be shared by or with any other organizational purposes. It is not a person's desk that serves double duty. It is grant-seeking command central. It is a place where everything associated with grants comes tangibly together. The fact that this desk exists sends a powerful message throughout the organization that grant seeking is a priority, it has value, and it will be pursued with diligence and purpose in an ongoing, consistent, and aggressive way.
As in any other field, grant seeking has its own support literature. The grant-seeking team will need a selection of this literature: directories of funding sources, books about grant seeking, periodicals about grant seeking, and numerous other miscellaneous reference materials.
The grant-seeking team needs a computer. The uses to which the team will put this tool are many and varied. It will be used as a writing tool, a research tool, an accounting or budget tool, a communication tool, a drawing tool, a storing and sorting tool, and many other purposes large and small that it is impossible to foresee. Two issues of importance with respect to any computer purchase are compatibility and performance. The computer needs to be able to read files from other computers within the organization. The computer needs to be fast enough, with enough memory and disk storage, to handle all the jobs that it is expected to perform. This probably precludes the use of someone's castoff computer. The grant-seeking team needs and deserves a computer with the capacity at least equal to the one sitting on the administrator's or the executive secretary's desk. A high-speed modem is also essential. Much research can now be done on the Internet, and you will want to make your connection as fast as possible.
A computer doesn't work by itself. It needs software. The grant-seeking team requires at a minimum the following five types:
Additional application packages that might come in handy are programs for graphing and charting, publishing, contact management, and time management.
Two additional computer capabilities that are essential for effective grant seeking today are access to the Internet and an easy-to-use e-mail system. In practical terms this means that your organization must find an Internet provider, preferably one that also provides powerful e-mail capabilities. One shortcoming to look for with regard to e-mail service is a size limit on the files that you can attach and send along with an e-mail message. Once you start using e-mail, you will find it the easiest way to exchange documents. A person in another location can work on a part of the proposal and send it to you via e-mail as an attached file, that is, if your provider allows it. We have found the commercial online service of America Online (AOL) to be exemplary with regard to its e-mail. AOL has simply the best and easiest to use e-mail capabilities available on the open market. Any discussion of the Internet and e-mail is not complete without bringing up the issue of speed of communication. Money spent up front to purchase the fastest modem possible will repay substantial long-term dividends. If you scrimp in any area, don't make it this one. Buy the fastest modem you can find, not that you can afford. Whatever it is, spend the money. You will thank yourself in very short order.
Other resources are needed, for example, access to and the ability to use commercial delivery services such as Federal Express, United Parcel Service (UPS), and Airborne Express. The grant-seeking team needs a telephone on the grants command central desk. Team members must be able to make long distance calls from this telephone. It would be best to have two telephone lines, one for the computer modem, the other for the telephone. The team must be able to send and receive regular postal service mail. The team needs access to photocopying and a facsimile (fax) machine and access to office supplies such as paper, pens, staples, file folders, and other such day-to-day supplies.
The grant-seeking team needs a supply and material budget of its own from which it can purchase items that may be needed by the team but that are unavailable from normal organizational supply channels. The grant-seeking team needs a travel budget. Grantors hold meetings at which the grant maker explains how to apply for specific programs. These meetings are often known by the name "bidder's conference" even though there is no bidding involved in the grant application process. The origin of the name goes back to government contracts on which businesses and individuals did bid. Attendance at this type of meeting can greatly benefit an applicant, but you need a travel budget to allow attendance at such meetings.
In short, the grant-seeking team needs the same resources that any other important part of an organization receives. If an organization is serious and sincere about seeking grants, then similar time and material resources must be committed to the grant-seeking team as are given to such organizationally important functions as administration, marketing, sales, public relations, advertising, professional development, research, and development. The checklist found in Exhibit 1.3 (0103. doc) lists the resources needed for the grants team.
Grant-Seeking Team: A Vertical Slice
One important aspect of the makeup of the grant-seeking team is that all levels of the organization must be represented. The team should not consist of only those people who will do the work of grant seeking. The team needs membership from the highest levels possible of the organization. Two critical reasons exist for creating this vertical slice of an organization. One is to show, in a concrete organizational way, the commitment of the leadership of the organization to the grant-seeking effort. The other is so people in positions of authority and management come to understand the demands of grant seeking, and are therefore willing to commit the organization's time, money, and effort needed for success.
Once the grant-seeking team is established, equipped, and trained, it will begin to involve personnel from all parts and all levels of an organization. These other people must be involved in the overall grant-seeking effort. The details of this process are explained in Chapter 2, but for now let it suffice to say that even the multimember grant-seeking team cannot do the job alone. The team will draw on the knowledge, experience, and time of other members of the organization. To make this very important process work, the entire organization needs to know clearly and precisely that grant seeking is an important organizational priority and that all personnel are expected to participate. Without commitment from the highest levels, the grant-seeking team can expect to meet resistance to the idea that people other than team members are responsible for grant seeking.
It is only natural for the average person in an organization to feel that it is no longer his or her job to get involved in grant seeking once a grant-seeking team is established. Only direction from the highest levels can make it clear that all personnel are to be involved. By having high-ranking persons as members of the grant-seeking team, your organization's leaders will know what is needed and can offer the institutional support the grant-seeking team needs to be successful.
Grant-Seeking Team Training
Now, the best type of people to be team members are selected, the needed skills are present among the team members, and the necessary resources have been provided, but some organizations may take an extra step. The chances are that the team, while well-intentioned and highly motivated, lacks experience in grant seeking. An additional level of support is that the team can be trained and given support until it reaches the level of competence that would otherwise be gained through years of experience.
The basic concept is to send the team away, somewhere off site, to receive grant-seeking training. That the training is away from the office, school, hospital, or site in which the organization does its work is very important. Training conducted at a work site is always interrupted by the everyday exigencies of the job. But, if the team is not there, if they are in another city or state, the organization will get along without their presence for two or three days. And most importantly, the team will be undisturbed while learning a very complex, but not terribly difficult subject. The site could be as simple as a meeting room in a local hotel or convention complex, or a meeting room at the local library-- any place that is inconvenient and difficult for fellow staff members to interrupt.
Be sure to include all members of the grant-seeking team in training, including people from all levels of the organization. It is important that the people in administrative or leadership positions in your organization take part in the training.
It is important to get people in leadership positions to training sessions because they then can understand the intricacies of the process, how much must be done, how many tasks and activities must be accomplished. Once they understand this, they will be much more likely to provide the concrete support for the grant-seeking effort that it needs. It is easy for a leader to give verbal support and fail to give the support of time, personnel, and resources to make the effort successful. Once a leader understands what is involved, it is more likely that the leader will also follow up with material and concrete support.
The best method of training is to train first in the basics, then have the team spend several months in actual grant seeking, applying what they learned. After several months have passed, during which the team must have submitted several proposals, many organizations find it useful to train in advanced grant seeking. This advanced level of training is enhanced tremendously by the intervening months of practice and experience. The participants now have a wealth of real, not hypothetical, questions to which they want answers. Again, after the training, the team goes back to work, submitting proposals and applying what it has learned.
After another few months have passed, during which several more proposals are submitted, the team gets another round of training. This training should be on special topics such as project evaluation, project budgets, continuation strategies, publishing, and other detailed and specific subjects. Again, the intervening experience of team members will sharpen their appreciation of the training and will cause them to gain a great deal more from the training than if it was provided all at once.
There are several places to look for this training. In almost every state an organization exists that supports the nonprofit sector in that state. One of the functions of such an organization is to provide professional development for the staff of nonprofits, and one of the usual offerings in that professional development is grant seeking, usually incorrectly called "grant writing." Also, in many states, the foundations in the state have banded together and formed an association that works to make life easier for the foundations. One task of such an association is to help applicants do a better job with their proposals. They do this through training sessions. Check with other grant seekers and the Internet for training resources.
Grant-Seeking Team Support
Along the way, the team should be provided with support in the form of a consultant 's time. This consultant is a person with extensive, successful experience in grant seeking of the type that your organization is doing and in all aspects of grant seeking, not just proposal writing. It is much more important that the consultant be adept at all the aspects of project development and funding source research than it is that the consultant can write proposals. The topic of consultants brings up several important considerations. How do we find a good consultant? What determines whether a consultant is good? How does a consultant get paid and how much? What is the best way to use a consultant effectively? What should a consultant 's involvement be and how should it change over time?
The best way to find a good consultant is the same way you most effectively find out about just about anything-- word of mouth. Yes, you can scan the pages of the periodicals of the grant-seeking world. These periodicals contain advertisements, usually of the classified sort, in which consultants give you the opportunity to hire them. Yes, you can jump on the Internet and probably find hundreds if not thousands of people who will be glad to serve as your grant-seeking consultant. And yes, you can find an honest, experienced, conscientious, hard-working consultant using these methods, but our experience is that you will most likely find a person who has had success with one or two grant proposals and has decided to turn this success into a new career. Another caveat is that many grant consultants come from higher education, from academia. This is all well and good if your organization is higher education. But, if you are a museum, a K-12 school (public or private), a hospital, a rape crises center, a police department, a county, a city, or a United Way, the experience of the successful grant seeker from higher education may not transfer to your organization's grant seeking.
In short, the best way to find your consultant is to ask people you trust for their suggestions. This keeps it personal. Your friend will not want to stick you with a consultant who they know to be flawed. After all, it may adversely affect the relation between the two of you. Yes, you can still wind up with a dud, but the chances are less than if you pick a name out of a hat.
What determines whether a consultant is good comprises several things, including the answers to some questions. For example, one quick way to understand what a consultant has on his or her mind is to ask them how they want to be paid. The only completely ethical method is by the hour or by the job. Your potential consultant should be willing to work for an hourly rate. And the consultant should also be willing to cost out a job and give you a firm price for the work. Unless you change the scope of work in mid-project, this projected cost should not be exceeded.
A common, but unethical and indeed in some cases illegal, method for being paid that some consultants request is a percentage of grants won. It doesn't take much thought to realize that this isn't ethical. The budget of a project is for the expenses incurred during the running of the project, a project that does not start until the grant is awarded. The project budget is not for expenses incurred requesting the grant. From another angle, would you be willing to enter into the requested grant budget a line item called "grant-seeking consultant" or "proposal writer?" I suspect not. If not, then from where within the budget does the money come that you will pay the consultant? It can only come from funds meant for something else. This means that you misled the grantor when you submitted your budget. This is the biggest no-no in grant seeking. Never, under any circumstances, lie to a grantor.
There is one circumstance where paying a percentage is at least legal if not ethical. That is when you pay the percentage out of the operating funds of your organization, not from the grant. Again, it doesn't take much thought to realize that the organization probably doesn't have that kind of cash to spend. The ultimate intention of an organization is usually to replace the money spent on a consultant or writer with funds from the grant. This only makes the ethical problem once removed, but the same ethical problem nevertheless.
Another dodge by consultants is to place themselves in the grant-funded project as a well-paid consultant on some aspect of the project such as curriculum development, or research consultant, or some other equally nebulous position. If the consulting is actually performed and is truly necessary to the success of the project, then this may be just fine. If, however, the consultant position within the project is a cover-up for funneling money to the consultant, it is unethical and it may be illegal.
The one way of paying a consultant that is both legal and ethical is by the hour or by the job. A mutual agreement on rates must be obtained up front and preferably in writing. At the very least, insist that before beginning any work the consultant submit to you, in writing, over a signature, a firm commitment of an actual dollar amount that the job will cost. If the consultant cannot or will not submit such a bid, you are correct in thinking that either he or she does not have the experience to know what is involved in the job or does not want to be pinned down to an amount. Either way, you need a different consultant.
Let 's assume that we have found an experienced, ethical, and willing consultant. What do we look for next? The ultimate job of the best consultants is to work themselves out of a job. Consultants should be teaching as they go along. Their job is guidance in the process, to provide support and technical assistance. Over time, the consultant will have transferred much of his knowledge to members of your organization. What this means is that at the beginning of involvement with a consultant, the involvement will be large. The consultant will do much of the work, will spend many hours working with your staff and on your projects and proposals. As time goes by, say within a year to 18 months, depending on how hard your people work at learning, the role of the consultant should shift to answering questions from time to time and taking on particularly difficult assignments that the grant-seeking team doesn't have the time or experience to handle. In several years, you will be calling on the consultant only when something completely new comes up or when you simply don't have the time to do something yourself. The consultant will have worked him-or herself out of a job. But, word of mouth will have opened up other jobs. Organizations that need a consultant will have talked to you, and you will have told them about the person who has meant so much to your success. This process is why good and ethical consultants charge fair and clear rates for what they actually do by the hour or by the job and work themselves out of a job. These consultants never want for work, and this is the consultant you want working for you.
Your organization has created a grant-seeking team. The team is made up of the right type of people with the right set of skills. Your organization is committed to the grant-seeking process from the very top. Resources of time, equipment, space, and material have been committed. The team is being trained and supported by a good consultant. This is a lot, but it 's not enough.
The team needs direction. Effort without direction leads nowhere. If you don't care where you're going then any road will get you there. Grant seeking is a very real and very complex project that, like any project, needs direction and management. Chapter 2 discusses that direction and management.