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U.S. Census Brings Hands-On Training to Albuquerque

June 8, 2017

From our nonprofit arm, The Grants Collective

A representative from the United States Census will be in Albuquerque on June 13, 2017 to provide hands-on training on the benefits and uses of Census data to anyone interested in learning more. Sponsored by The Grants Collective, the training will allow participants to learn how, when and why data is collected, how to navigate data, and where to find it by survey type; understand geographic terms and how they differ; and explore the new data tools and economic data tools the Census has available.

Census data is used by a wide variety of agencies and individuals for such purposes as business development, government analyses, local planning, the media, and more. The Grants Collective is a local non-profit organization dedicated to helping New Mexico non-profits find and apply for grant funding in order to deliver on their missions. Understanding how to use Census data to build a case or understand need can be an asset for a range of organizations. For instance, using Census data is important in applying for grants, especially to out-of-state funders and the federal government. The training will be suited for a range of audiences and sectors. Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop, as the training will be hands-on and interactive.

Two sessions are offered:

Census Basics 9:30 – 11:30am 

Learn how, when, and why data is collected, and where data can be found by surveys; understand the geography terms used by the Census Bureau and what you can find at the different levels; and learn how to use the American FactFinder.

Census Advanced Users 1:00 – 3:00 pm 

Learn new data tools the Census has available; explore the Census’ economic data tools, and learn what micro-data means to the Census Bureau.

We recommend you bring a laptop to fully participate in the training. 

For more information, contact Robert Nelson, Program Manager, at robert@thegrantscollective.org.

To register, visit http://bit.ly/CensusReg. The cost is $20 for one session or $35 for both. Both sessions will be held at The Grants Collective office at 901 Rio Grande Blvd. NW, Suite D-220, in Albuquerque.

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About the Trainer: Kimberly Davis represents the U.S. Census Bureau as a Data Dissemination Specialist. Kimberly joined the U.S. Census Bureau in 2008 to serve as a clerk for the Partnership and Data Services Program. During the 2010 Census, Kimberly worked in the Tribal and Government divisions of the Denver Regional Office Partnership Program assisting with outreach and marketing efforts. Currently, Kim lives in Denver, Colorado, and works in the Census’ Customer Liaison and Marketing Services Office, serving the states of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

Writing Your Needs Statement: Why Care?

June 6, 2017

The typical grant proposal has several sections: Needs Statement, Project Description, Goals and Objectives, Organizational Capacity, and Evaluation. By and large, most proposals fit this general framework, whether they are 50 page federal proposals, or a 2 page-letter of inquiry to a foundation. The needs statement usually opens the proposal and sets the stage for the rest of the document.

Honestly, I love writing the needs statement. There is something about balancing the research necessary with the requirement to make a funder care about the issue area, geography, or demographic you are trying to serve. A solid needs statement answers the question: “Why care?” It demonstrates to the funder that there is a problem that is important, significant, and urgent.

Perhaps just as importantly, the needs statement should also set the stage for your organization to address that problem. It should demonstrate to the funder that you understand the community, and begin to make the case for your organization’s ability to address that need. It is an opportunity to build the funder’s trust in your organization.

What components comprise a well-written needs statement? Consider incorporating the following information:

  • What is the problem? Describe the issue that your community or clients see. Outline steps that are currently being taken to address this problem. There are a variety of ways you can document the problem: national, state, or local reports; news articles; quotations from community stakeholders, political leaders, government agencies, etc.; Census data or other sources.[1] Note: The Grant Plant has developed a resource list handout with helpful sites; e-mail me to receive a copy.
  • Where is the problem happening? Is it nationwide? Statewide? Or maybe this problem is more pronounced in a certain city, area, or neighborhood? Make sure to convey a sense of place to your reader. Focus on the area in which your organization will be working, but also balance that with the significance of the problem at a larger scale, if applicable. You can use comparative statistics to demonstrate the significance of the problem in your area versus other areas of the state or nation.
  • Who is the target population? Use demographics – numbers, gender, age, race/ethnicity, and other significant descriptors to paint a picture for the reader about the people who are impacted by the problem.
  • When is it a problem? When did the problem start? Did this problem become significantly worse recently? Is this a critical time for the population? If the problem is addressed now, will it alleviate future problems down the road? Addressing some of these questions will help you build a sense of urgency around the issue.
  • What does it cost to the larger community? Here you can expand on the future ramifications if the problem is not addressed. You also have the opportunity to discuss actual or projected costs. For example, if we intervene now by providing effective after school tutoring, we save on future costs of remediation programs. There are research sources out there that can help quantify costs. One such source that I’ve used frequently is the Washington Institute of Public Policy, which provides a cost benefit analysis of programs across several sectors (e.g. juvenile justice, early childhood education, mental health, and more).

In the needs statement, it is important to use data that backs up the overall picture. Recognize that data and statistics are the most objective way to back up what you are trying to convey. However, be sure your sources meet the following standards: they are timely, unbiased, and reliable. Timely data demonstrates that you are on top of your field, as a reader will often question a source that is several years out of date. Generally, you will want to use unbiased data and avoid sources of research that support a certain viewpoint or agenda. And using reliable, verifiable sources helps establish your own credibility. It doesn’t do you any good to cite sources that the funder will discredit upon reading. One good example of this is Wikipedia. I love Wikipedia as a source of background information as I’m learning about a subject, but you have to be careful to not use this as credible information. Since anyone can post to Wikipedia, it is subject to having misinformation. A simple trick is to check the original sources at the bottom of wiki entries, and review those sites or articles, as many of these do meet the criteria for being reliable.

Also think through how you present data and statistics in the needs statement. Remember that these should support your case, and not be the only piece of the needs statement. Someone is reading this on the other end, and too many statistics can make your reader zone out! Think through your wording so you can convey the most impact. This can be as simple as changing a percentage into a ratio; for example, saying one-in-five children live in poverty, rather than 20.2%. Also consider using whitespace, tables, charts, and graphs as formatting allows in order to make the information easy to understand for your reader.

Finally, a common stumbling block to writing a strong needs statement is making the need about your organization rather than the problem in the community. For example:

  • Our organization needs additional literacy coaches in order to fulfill our mission.
  • We need a new curriculum for financial capability for Spanish speaking immigrants.
  • We need an emergency grant in order to keep our doors open.

Don’t do this! Instead, go back a few steps until you get to a need or problem in the community, that your internal situation can affect. Why are additional literacy coaches needed? If you’re having trouble teasing these apart, use the grant as a learning opportunity. Research will help you identify what the need of the community is versus the gaps in your agency. For example, the needs statement framing the problem that a literacy organization is trying to solve would be better as: Illiteracy is a significant problem in our community affecting XXX number of adults. This rate has been on the rise due to x, y, and z factors.

In conclusion, all of this discussion about the needs statement boils down to engaging the reader – answering questions like “why care?” and “so what?” These two fairly generic questions can be powerful tools in refining your needs statement. I ask them when looking to strengthen language or to dig deeper into root causes, implications of problems, and the general importance of what I’m writing about. Make sure you hook your reader into continuing on with your proposal, setting your agency up to be the organization that the funder will trust to address the problem in your community.

The needs statement can be a time-intensive undertaking, but when done right, it will help the funder understand your community and problem, care about it, and perhaps make a grant to your organization to work on the solution!

 

Contact: Erin Hielkema, Vice President. erin@thegrantplantnm.com

 

[1] Our partners at The Grants Collective are hosting a training by the Census on June 13, 2017. Register on Eventbrite.

Workspace—Making Grants.gov Applications A Little Less Stressful

April 21, 2017

Government grants are to grant writing as Albuquerque Rapid Transit construction is to Central Avenue. Great opportunity lies ahead—if only we can make it through the stress-inducing, blood pressure-raising experience of getting there. As grant writers and managers, we do not take Federal grants lightly. They represent a significant investment in time, and a not insignificant amount of sleep loss—wading through long instructions (often linked to multiple guides that must be cross-checked and coordinated), numerous forms, custom attachments, and the collaboration of many people, including those responsible for various facets of the program, budget, assessment, and reporting. And then there’s the submission process. It can be the final, cathartic step, followed by a champagne toast and wonderful dreams awaiting the notice of millions of dollars in funding. Or… alternatively… a gateway to horrific nightmares fraught with 11th hour site crashes, previously undiagnosed errors, receipt of an attachment that is missing critical information, or a glitch that won’t allow the package to submit. Ah yes, government grants. They provide access to critically-needed funding for our state, but getting there is definitely a journey.

The recent Workspace option offered by Grants.gov helps to make the journey just a bit easier. Before using it, I anticipated yet another layer in the online Grants.gov process. But it did prove helpful in simplifying application preparation among multiple contributors and reviewers. And importantly, it will make future applications more efficient. Following are a few notes highlighting some of the differences of Workspace as compared to a traditional package download.

  • Workspace is designed for collaboration. Rather than downloading a single application package, each form is a separate entity. Each of these can be worked on separately but simultaneously by different people. One person can download and complete the narrative, while another completes the budget. Each form provides an error check at the end, and will be listed as “PASSED” once all fields are filled in, or “IN PROGRESS” once viewed, but not fully complete. While a form is being worked on, the section may be locked, so another collaborator will not inadvertently work on the same form. It is unlocked once you upload it back to Grants.gov.
  • Grant progress is visible and transparent within the Workspace, with forms shown as “PASSED” or “IN PROGRESS.” Forms are available for preview by any participant at any time.
  • With some funding agencies such as NIH, the entire package, including attachments, can be seen by selecting the Grantor Image—the view the grant reviewer will access. This is a great tool for conducting a final review of the submission; looking at it in one long, linear package helps to highlight inconsistencies in areas such as titles and budget numbers.
  • Forms are REUSABLE for future grants! This promises to be a time-saving feature. Once a Workspace is set up, forms that match in name and version number (think “SF 424”—a form used in almost every application) may be either loaded from an earlier submission, or uploaded directly from your computer. The Workspace will automatically update the form’s cover sheet to reflect the current funding opportunity, while other fields will remain intact (and Biosketches and other attachments will stay attached). You simply edit field by field as needed.

Things to keep in mind when you create a Workspace:

  • If multiple people will access the Workspace, be sure you are registered as an organization applicant. Others within the organization can then be added to the workspace with specific roles. If you don’t want too many people to have access to the Workspace, individual forms may also be downloaded and emailed out to consortium members to complete and return for upload.
  • There are a number of different Workspace user roles. They must be approved by the organization’s EBiz Point of Contact (POC), a role designated when registering with SAM.gov. There can only be one EBiz POC for each DUNS. Once roles are approved, they will be visible in the Applicant Center Welcome Box in the upper left corner. Roles include the following:
    • Participant is any person given access to a Workspace. This role is able to download, complete, and upload forms.
    • The Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) submits the application on behalf of the organization; this role must be assigned in order to submit. The AOR automatically has a Manage Workspace role, as well, and can access EBiz POC functionalities with a valid MPIN (provided through SAM registration). The EBiz POC has access to all Workspace within an organization.
    • The Manage Workspace role allows a participant to create a Workspace, and may notify the AOR that an application is ready for submission. The person who creates the Workspace automatically becomes the Workspace Owner (ownership may be reassigned to a different individual). The Workspace Owner may manage other users’ access.
  • To create a Workspace, visit Grants.gov and log into the system. Once logged in, the Applicant Actions area provides a link to “Manage my Workspace.” Steps include:
    • Select grant. Select “Manage My Workspace,” then indicate the grant you wish to access by entering the opportunity number, title, CDFA, Workspace ID, or other identifier in a criteria field.
    • Add participants and assign roles. The EBiz Point of Contact (POC)—a person named during registration with SAM, often the CFO—will need to approve roles.

For additional information, grants.gov provides an online Workspace Overview, with numerous links to specific questions on assigning roles, reusing forms, and more. As you tackle your next Federal grant, consider using Workspace to avoid some of the typical grant preparation potholes. We would love to hear about your experience with it. Or better yet, bring The Grant Plant along for the journey!

Contact: Cecily Peterson, Resource Development Officer

Five Keys to Successfully Partnering with a Grants Consultant

March 30, 2017

 

Many years ago, probably about a decade, Erin and I went to two meetings on the same day with prospective clients of TGP. Afterwards, we remarked on how different those meetings were. At one, we were embraced as the newest member of the family, and at the other, we were met with a big ego and a sense of skepticism. We discussed in the car the differences between the two, but did not listen to our sixth sense (that was speaking loud and clear) about not taking on the second client.

Sure enough, those two contracts worked out completely differently. One of them became a long-time client and the other one was fraught with miscommunication, unrealistic expectations, and a glimpse into infighting among the client’s staff. Guess which was which? The latter relationship dissolved fairly quickly, once the development director threw us under the bus to save face with her boss…but later contacted us when she subsequently worked for another client and excusing that behavior as, “well, you know how it was to work for her.” (We even had to remove Oxford commas – a TGP treasure – and comp the time spent to make said edits.)

Over the years, our ears have learned to perk up (or down) when we get red flags during an initial exploratory meeting. That sixth sense is important. We understand due diligence, and that’s not what I’m talking about here. An ears-perk-down moment happens when we realize that if we take on a new contract, the relationship might become high maintenance because it could become purely about the transaction, which is not the most favorable environment for a high-impact grants office. The most favorable environment is a high-trust, forthcoming relationship.

This got me to thinking, what do our ideal clients have in common?

  1. They trust us. In all grant proposals we’ve been part of to date, the more information we have, the better. And the more we are a trusted partner, the better it is for all of us.

  1. They respond to information requests in a timely manner and adhere to an agreed-upon delivery schedule. We have experienced several times in which requests for information have gone ignored, or in more comical instances, we receive a reply but the reply doesn’t actually answer the question or get us further in our quest for information. The phrase, “I like cheeseburgers” is our code-phrase for “well, that didn’t answer the question.” Cheeseburgers are especially frustrating if we are not feeling valued as a trusted partner.
  1. They give credit where it’s due. This doesn’t mean that we get credit for grant awards; after all, we aren’t the ones doing the work that’s being written about. But sometimes, we are the ones figuring out the program logistics, researching best practices, creating slideshows that exhibit an enhanced level of professionalism for site visits, identifying and making connections with program partners, etc. We always appreciate the pat on the back when our clients email their stakeholders, thanking us for whatever role we played in securing that particular grant.

 

  1. They understand our role. Our role is not to win the grant award. It is to present the best case for funding possible. Often, we can get a client to the next step – the site visit, the presentation, the due diligence – but then it’s up to them. We do what we can, but ultimately, it’s their financials, it’s their presentation, it’s their choice on how to present themselves. When we get the client to that next step, and then it doesn’t work out, our ideal client understands that we did the legwork to get them there and the rest was up to them. Or even that the funder had a difficult decision to make, in a world of limited resources. It may have been the best written proposal, but the funding was given to a different organization for one of a variety of reasons (focus area, geographic preferences, board president’s pet project, etc.)

  1. They take us with them. As we all know, the nonprofit sector has a lot of turnover, especially among human services providers. This is a natural reaction to compassion fatigue. However, most of them stay within the sector, perhaps moving laterally to another organization that relieves some of that weight held too long over one’s shoulders to improve lives, or moving vertically into more of a management or leadership role with another organization. We have worked with some of our ideal clients for more than a decade, not because of the organization, but because of the person at its helm taking us with them when they move onwards and upwards. This is when we know, really know, that we’ve hit that trusting relationship we all crave.

Yes, we track return on investment, grants outcomes, and average award size. (We also track type of funder, location of funder, request versus award amount, and other quantifiers that are on the grant maker versus grant seeker side.) Those quantifiers are in addition to our qualifiers – working in partnerships, in trusting relationships, and as friends – that create grounds for success.

Thank you to our clients who have become trusted partners and friends, as we work through this process together of improving the quality of life for New Mexico residents.

 

With appreciation,

Tara Gohr, President/CEO

tara@thegrantplantnm.com

Change has Come to Washington: What are the Possible Impacts on the Grant Funding Landscape?

March 13, 2017

PART 1: Federal Grantmaking and Budgeting Processes

By Aly Sanchez

We have been getting a lot of questions about what to expect over the next months and years when it comes to federal grant and contract funding streams. We have a change candidate elected to the White House and we have same-party majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. This creates the potential for a more dynamic grant landscape than we have had in a long time. As countervailing forces, we have the processes, power division, and overall heft of the federal government.

Covering this topic, even at a basic level is complex, so we are breaking content into a four-part series. This first article is a refresher on federal grantmaking and budgeting. Subsequent articles will detail anticipated shifts in federal funding, how existing funding impacts New Mexico, and how government and nonprofit agencies may want to adapt their grants approach.

How is a grant born?

To understand the potential changes in the grant landscape, we first need to understand how grants are created. In part this depends on the grant type (formula, block, program, or entitlement) and the general way it’s funded (via mandatory or discretionary spending). We’re going to focus on the type that are awarded through open competitions.[1] Those are what most of us think of when it comes to seeking federal funds directly from the federal government by applying to a call for proposals. Most competitive awards are program grants funded through federal discretionary spending, which is determined through annual spending budgets.[2] Discretionary funding totaled $1.2 trillion in FY 2016.[3]

Competitive awards from discretionary funds (also known as project grants) come in two flavors: grants and cooperative agreements. As they are similar, we’ll simply use the term grants to describe both.

Grant creation and policy development is governed by the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act of 1977.[4] The basic process for establishing a new grant is that Congress develops and passes legislation such as laws, regulations, and budget appropriations to establish a grant program. The President and executive branch are then able to massage the implementation by issuing Executive Orders (EOs) and other official guidance. That guidance must fit within the legislative framework and purpose. Next, the administering agency (e.g., the Department of Health and Human Services) creates administrative policies and procedures related to the grant process, grantee expectations, and for their own agency, as needed, to support the grant.

The point when a grant is really “born” is the next step, when it appears in the Federal Register. The Federal Register is the daily journal and official record of the federal government. Besides posting grants (which fall under “notices”), the register issues proposed rules, enacted rules, presidential documents, notices requesting public comment, and documents available for public inspection.

This register listing does not always guarantee that awards are paid out. A key point to understand is the difference between authorization and appropriation of discretionary spending. A discretionary grant program that is authorized has legislation backing it up but the piggy bank is empty until funds are appropriated.

Authorization laws can set out specific amounts of appropriated funds and the authority for Congress to appropriate funds. The establishing authorization addresses timelines, which can be for specific fiscal years, be set permanently, be subject to periodic renewal, or remain in place until changed by Congress.

The funding appropriation is when a grant program gets funded. There is typically a long timeline for developing grant instructions, holding open grant submission cycles, coordinating federal reviews and reviewers, and ultimately determining a portfolio awarded proposals. Because budgets are typically last minute and often don’t cover the full fiscal year, federal agencies often have to release calls for proposals without having the funding in hand.

While it’s rare, we have worked on a couple of federal grants for clients that were issued, held submission cycles, then didn’t get funds appropriated. After the heavy lift of preparing a federal grant, applicants were informed that no awards would be made. This is a real, big, ugly bummer.

How does that budget appropriation happen?

The federal fiscal year runs from October 1 and ends September 30 of the following calendar year. The discretionary spending that fuels most grants is part of annual spending approved by Congress through the budget process. There is a lot of ink explaining how this happens. We like this simple but informative infographic, “A guide to the federal budget process,” from the Washington Post.

Under current budget law, the President must submit a budget to Congress for the upcoming fiscal year between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February. This hasn’t happened yet, but that’s not unusual: incoming presidents are cut some slack and the submission can also sometimes be delayed by negotiations. The White House has said that the presidents Fiscal Year 2018 budget will be released this Thursday (March 16).

The President’s budget then goes to the Appropriation Committees of the House and the Senate. It also goes to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO); which analyzes short and long term costs of the budget proposal against a baseline budget representing a scenario where spending and revenue are held at current rates and projects as if no new legislation takes effect.

This is usually complete in March, when—CBO analyses in hand—the 12 budget appropriation subcommittees begin their work in earnest. You see, the federal budget is not a single budget. There are 12 budgets, some/all/none of which might get passed. Each is developed by an Appropriation Subcommittee with a specific spending domain (e.g., Defense). Well, there are actually 24 budgets and subcommittees as both the House and Senate develop their own versions.

Getting budgets passed involves a lot of back and forth resolutions, reconciliations, and other opportunities for delay and disarray with the possible, but frankly improbable, outcome that we get a normal full budget passed before the new fiscal year.

This requires that the 12 budget subcommittees of Congress and the 12 budget subcommittees of the Senate agree on 12 appropriations bills, pass those through both chambers, and get the President’s signature on each before October 1.

What is typical these days is that some of the 12 bills get passed before the start of the fiscal year. For areas without passed appropriations, Congress can enact a continuing resolution, to temporarily fund operations or shut down that particular area of government spending.

What About the Current Fiscal Year Budget?

The US federal government did not pass the 12 appropriation bills constituting the regular, full budget for FY2017. This is not a troubling development—or at least not a new troubling development—Congress has only managed to do so four times in the last 40 years.

Instead, the 114th Congress (which finished in early January) passed a continuing resolution extending funding at prior years’ levels through December 9, 2016. When that deadline loomed, they passed another continuing resolution that extends funding of the government through April 28, 2017.

The second resolution was passed after the election and is set to expire before the fiscal year ends, based on the desire by the Trump administration to have some say over current fiscal year spending. The President’s input and the will of the GOP majorities could include some changes to FY2017 grants funding but so far there are not indications of significant grants changes during the remainder of FY2017.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2: Expected and Potential Shifts in Federal Grant Spending

Contact: Aly Sanchez, Director of Projects, aly@thegrantplantnm.com

[1] The Federal government also makes formula funding awards, which are noncompetitive funds based on a money-per-person/service/match formula, and entitlement grants.

[2] There are some important block grants that come up for governments and non-profits like Community Development Block Grants, AmeriCorps funding, and various housing, medical, and childcare programs.

[3] The other top level spending areas are mandatory spending (determined by legislated obligation) and net interest costs on debt.

[4] The act text can be accessed at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-92/pdf/STATUTE-92-Pg3.pdf but Grants.Gov has an easier to digest summary at https://www.grants.gov/vi/web/grants/learn-grants/grant-policies.html.

Details, Details, Don’t Bother Me with the Details: Why Program Design Really Does Matter

November 2, 2016

According to the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, “the devil is in the detail” refers to the fine print, or “catch,” hidden in the minutiae of something. This concept of caring about the particulars has a number of variants, such as “god is in the detail,” meaning whatever you do, be sure to do it thoroughly because details do matter![1]

In grant writing and the nonprofit world, details are especially important. If you don’t follow instructions you will not be funded, and if your program does not perform well or do what it is created to do, you will struggle to support it. When it comes to designing programs and proposals, the details are paramount. When proposing funding for a program, be it existing or new, you need to build a proposal that navigates a complex system of interests that includes your organizational mission, partner missions, and funder priorities. It can be very tempting to apply for large grants without taking the time to assess organizational fit, capacity, and funder priorities. But, don’t chase the money! If a program doesn’t align extremely well with what you do and/or want to do, it will be a waste of time. Designing a new program that is compelling, useful, and worthy of funding involves several complex considerations, which I discuss below.

Partnerships – Increasingly, funders are looking for programs that are collaborative and leverage existing resources to serve your clients; often, it is not enough to simply do a good job yourself without leveraging other resources for community impact. Strong partnerships can be an amazing resource, but they can also complicate program design and implementation with various priorities and expertise. Competitiveness will often require your organization to forge new partnerships (or take existing relationships in new directions) with individuals, communities, corporations, evaluators, and other nonprofits. Because these relationships are meant to be enduring, it is important to carefully select partners that are vital to your work, complement weak areas, and can augment the success of your program and organization. Collaborate strategically!

Alignment – A strong program should align with your organization’s mission, values, and core competencies, as well as with your partner and funder priorities. Your vision – the “big picture” – should be unifying without changing dramatically over time. Avoid getting into projects or pursuing grants that force you to shift your objectives, or those which cannot be reasonably achieved. This is called mission creep, and can lead to trying to do too much without doing it well! No matter how large the award amounts, do your research and do not apply for grants that do not match your organization’s central activities and your clients’ needs. Keep in mind during the brainstorming and design process that, if funded, your organization will be responsible for implementing your new program. Do you believe you have what it takes to be successful?

Goals, Outputs, and Outcomes – A strong program will be coherent and complete, with fully-realized goals and SMART objectives, clear inputs and outputs, measurable outcomes, and achievable timelines. Goals are the overarching aims of your project, and should lend themselves to your vision. SMART objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Oriented, and Time-Bound. Inputs and outputs answer the question, “What is my organization able and willing to commit to this project (time, money, staffing, facilities, equipment, etc.) and what will it produce (goods, services, an event, etc.)?” Finally, outcomes are changes in attitudes, perceptions, knowledge, skills, and/or behavior that come about as the result of a project. These are critical because they are, ultimately, the metrics that will help you determine whether a program is successful, and you will be bound to them. Thinking through these elements thoroughly at the start of the planning phase will aid your organization in program design, implementation, and getting all partners on the same page early on.

Visual aids – Visual aids are important for any successful design and can help you plan out your program by visually representing it. A logic model can aid you in thinking through goals and objectives, while a timeline can help you think about what is reasonable to achieve. An organizational chart or workplan can show who is doing what. And let’s not forget budgets! The budget is a critical tool to nail down as early as possible, as it helps all partners understand your program’s scope within the award limits. If you can’t visually represent your program in one page or less, it hasn’t been thought through well enough to execute! Visual aids also strengthen proposals by showing reviewers an overview of your program. Once you’ve been funded, these tools can be useful for marketing and recruitment.

Famous designer Charles Eames once said, “The details are not the details, they make the product just like the details make the architecture. The gauge of the wire, the selection of the wood, the finish of the castings — the connections, the connections, the connections. It will be in the end these details that provide service to the customers, and give the product its life.”[2] Eames was speaking about high-end furniture design, while I am speaking about high-end program design, but the sentiment is the same! The details give the program its life and strength. Quality grant writing cannot make up for a lack of a solid program design. Being strategic, thinking through each element carefully, and staying true to your mission and vision will help guide your organization through the proposal process and beyond. In program design and grant writing, either the devil is in the detail or the design is in the detail – don’t let them become one and the same!

 

Contact: Melissa Leonard, Resource Development Officer, melissa@thegrantplantnm.com

[1] Titelman, Gregory. Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings. Random House Reference, 1996.

[2] Eames, Charles. ECM. Eames Office, 1961.

Open House October 7!

September 19, 2016

Mark your calendar! TGP is celebrating its new office space and the launch of The Grants Collective.

openhouseinvite10-7-16

Please join us for champagne and snacks, mingle with Team TGP and our client base, meet the fellows in the Collective’s first cohort of the Talent Academy, and get a sneak peek at the Cooperative Network we’re rolling out to better connect the nonprofit community in New Mexico. Please invite your colleagues and drop in anytime between 4-6PM. We look forward to celebrating with you!

Call 505-226-0171 or email with any questions. We’d love to know if you’re able to make it, but no RSVP is required.

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