marți, 8 februarie 2011

How Not to Write a (bad) Grant Proposal - Part 2

This really should have been Tip # 1, because it is what i would call "The Cardinal Rule of Asking for Grants," but I am not the most organized person on the planet and do not always think in a linear fashion, so here you go:

Tip # 2 - Before writing one single word of your proposal, check out the foundation and the guidelines for the program you are applying to.
It seems like common sense, but I don't know how many times I have gotten full proposals from organizations, and they end up being ineligible or uncompetitive because they are something we don't fund. Or with their proposal they send us stuff that we specifically tell them not to send.

But it is so easy these days to find out information!

Just go to a search engine and type the name of the foundation. Chances are you can find their webpage. On their webpage you are likely to find information for grantseekers. And if you can't find their webpage, you can find it (or their other contact information) over at the Foundation Center's Foundation Finder.

Read the webpage thoroughly, check out all the links on it. Most of the time the guidelines will be spelled out there in back and white. For example the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a section titled "For Grantseekers" and it gives you all you need to know. Then, if you still have a question you can call them and ask.

It is really easy. It will save you time from writing a proposal that is doomed for failure. You can use that time instead to send out proposals to foundations that are a good fit.

Just read the guideline. Please?

How Not to Write a Grant Proposal - Part 1

One of the semi-regular features I hope to keep including as this blog goes on are tips and tactics for people to keep in mind the next time they are working on a grant.

Tip #1 - Never ever insert clip art all throughout your proposal narrative. It is just annoying.

Pictures of your programs, projects? Fine. (if it fits within the guidelines, always read the guidelines!)
Clip art? No. It's cheap, cheesy and it makes it look like you are just trying to make your narrative look longer than it really is.

On Anonymity

I had a comment from beth encouraging me to expand on my explanation to Sean over at his blog Tactical Philanthropy (wow I actually have readers!) on why I write this blog unsigned and why I don't name my employer.

Here is what I said over there:
Back in the days when I was a fundraiser I made the mistake of mixing my work into my personal blogging. I was not disparaging my employer or anything like that. Just having *my* name and *my* views associated with *their* name simply because I worked for them (which was written in my profile) got me in trouble. Luckily just a smack on the hand and a request to remove their name from my profile, not anything worse. I learned my lesson and do not want to endanger my career like that again.

I'd love to sign my name to my writing, and I am proud of who I work for, but I am not sure they would see it that way, especially since I haven't even been here a year yet.

I think the foundation world is too conservative in their views on technology, on how transparent they should be, on how much they should engage with the world at large and their grantees, and maybe a bit too elitist to fully participate in the blogosphere.

My organization is going through some changes so I hope one day to be able to be myself online, not just "M'".

I am heading to my first CoF conference this weekend and made sure to add the "Foundations and the Morphing Media" session to the list of things to attend. I really want to hear the views of blogging amongst the foundation world. Maybe it will sway my decision to remain nameless.
Now keep in mind, my view of the foundation world consists of my work experience of less than a year and my time spent as a grantee. My writings are my personal views. Don's comment over at Tactical Philanthropy is spot on. My first priority is keeping my job. Like him, if you typed in my last name and the name of my foundation, it shows up near the top of a Google search, even higher if you use my first name.

I want this blog to be a safe place. Safe for me to be me. Safe for me to ask stupid questions because as Krista said on her blog "New Voices of Philanthropy", there really isn't a handbook on how to be a part of a foundation's program staff. So I am going to be honest in this blog. And I wouldn't want someone from my office, or one of our grantees, to read something here and be hurt/angry/etc. because they think that I could be talking about them. I want this to be a safe place for others, grantmakers and grantees to ask anything without worrying about retribution. I want grantseekers to ask questions. Giving them anonymity can help to mitigate the feelings of a power imbalance that can occur. I don't want grantseekers to not ask something because they are afraid of pissing off a certain funder.

I have also had the displeasure of being stalked before so giving my name and place of employment makes it real easy for someone to physically find me, and I don't go for that.

So take it for what you will. Heck, I'm just glad I have readers after having this up for less than a week.
Sean said...
I get your point of view and clarified my comments on my blog. I think it is fine for you to remain anonymous, I just think your employer should want you blogging, not be discouraging it.
M said...
I just don't think they understand how to use the internet at all. We have a website, and until recently it was just our guidelines, forms, and contact info. We've made progress by adding a monthly column from the president. A lot of the program and executive staff just don't understand computers. I've seriously had to sit some of them down and explain "how the internet works" and all kinds of little tech things. They are afraid of the changing technology. It's new and different to them. I've been participating in various online communities (BBS, listservs, forums, blogs) since 1995, it's just second nature to me. I've been trying to push them along via an intranet, which will finally be set up by the end of the month for me to beta test before letting the program staff have at it. Once they can see the benefits of knowledge sharing through technology *inside* of the organization, then maybe I can sell them on the benefits of using it publicly.
Mark Petersen said...
Hi M. Great to have you in the blogosphere!! I'm excited to find another foundation blogger ... just started my blog in March, so I'm not much ahead of you. I look forward to interactions. Know your voice is needed. Thanks for risking and getting out there, and BTW I think being just M for now is fine. I understand your concerns and you are right to remain discreet given your situation. Mark
Albert Ruesga said...
Welcome, M. So glad you joined the family of philanthropy bloggers! Blogging anonymously certainly gives you the option of speaking a little more freely, and I believe our sector can use a little more frank talk, not less. If you respect your confidentiality agreements, are merciful, and speak the truth, you should fare well. I look forward to reading your posts.