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New Mexico COVID-19 Relief Bill

December 1, 2020
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The New Mexico State Legislature passed a COVID-19 relief bill on November 24, 2020 that was made available through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The bill is a general appropriations bill, which means that funds will be available immediately. Funding from the bill is expected to provide timely support to residents and businesses and will also provide funds to assist food banks, virus testing, and contact tracing efforts. A total of $100 million in grants will be available. Grants are expected to range up to $50,000, and will be made to small businesses and nonprofits (from sole-proprietorships up to 100 employees). Grant priorities include geographic dispersion as well as to support hospitality and leisure businesses and businesses that are experiencing severe economic impact from the public health orders related to the COVID health emergency. The New Mexico Finance Authority will administer the grants to small businesses and nonprofits through the CARES Continuity Grant program. The guidelines and application are in the process of being created and it is expected that the application will open around December 7. Entities interested in grants to businesses and nonprofits may:

The bill also includes funding that will provide support for residents, food, banks, and the homeless, as follows: 

  • $194 million to provide $1,200 in compensation benefits to individuals who are or were eligible for benefits for unemployment from the federal pandemic unemployment assistance program, pandemic emergency unemployment compensation program, or federal-state extended benefits or trade readjustment allowance program.
  • $5 million to provide assistance of up to $750 per household to low-income state residents who did not previously receive an economic impact payment stemming from the CARES Act. Eligibility for this round of support includes dependents like children and the elderly, as well as immigrants in the country who were not eligible for the federal stimulus payment.
  • $15 million in assistance to contract for services to provide emergency housing assistance and assistance for the homeless.
  • $5 million in assistance to contract for services to provide emergency food bank services in the state.

Deadline: To be determined.

Contact: Wendy McCoy, Resource Development Officer II, wendy@thegrantplantnm.com

Research Resources: Go-Tos for Grant Seekers in Microfinance, Community Lending, and Business Development

November 6, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States stretches into its ninth month, small businesses continue to feel the fallout as consumers have less spending money and public health restrictions on indoor dining and other activities limit revenue opportunities. Unfortunately, due to historic disparities in business development resources, COVID-19 is imperiling some businesses much more others. According to a McKinsey & Company report, minority-owned small businesses in particular “tend to face underlying issues that make it harder to run and scale successfully, and they are more likely to be concentrated in the industries most immediately affected by the pandemic.” Three of the major underlying issues that minority-owned businesses face are:

  1. Generational wealth gaps that result in their businesses starting out with less capital than White-owned businesses; 
  2. Unequal access to formal business training opportunities and peer networks; and 
  3. Barriers to mainstream credit, which relies on traditional indicators of “creditworthiness” that exclude people with lower incomes and assets.

This current system also has an enduring problem with racist redlining—meaning people of color are often denied credit even when they meet the same qualification thresholds as their White peers. Women entrepreneurs face similar barriers—historical pay gaps that result in less starting capital, less access to credit (and venture capital!), and less access to formal and informal business development opportunities. Women are similarly concentrated in COVID-impacted industries like healthcare, retail, and hospitality.

Although the pandemic has certainly made business disparities more dire, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), credit unions, and other mission-driven lenders have been working for a long time to fill these gaps in lending and level the playing field for entrepreneurs. This means that there is a rich funding landscape for grant seekers working in microfinance, community lending, and business development programs targeted at minority, women, low-income, and other entrepreneurs who have been historically sidelined. Even better, this lending landscape is now bolstered with COVID-19 funding opportunities. Major funders include the CDFI Fund of the U.S. Department of Treasury, the Small Business Administration, the Minority Business Development Agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Credit Union Administration, and large banks (Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America), along with an array of national and local private foundations. (To keep an eye on pandemic-response funding opportunities, check out The Grant Plant’s COVID-19 Funding Resource Center.)

In order to be competitive for these opportunities, you not only need to have a strong, results-driven program to pitch—you also need to show that you understand entrepreneurial challenges and opportunities (nationally and in your state), systemic inequities, and which specific gaps your program will help fill (e.g., specialized loan products, technical assistance, business incubation and mentorship connections for certain target populations). Although by no means an exhaustive list, below is a round-up of some go-to research resources that can help you craft a compelling need statement that sets the stage for your proposed solution:  

The Aspen Institute spearheads a variety of initiatives designed to promote a “free, just, and equitable society,” including several programs focusing on economic development, business ownership, and finance. Its publications page is a rich resource for finding data on disparities in business lending, opportunity, and outcomes. One of the most compelling research reports to come out of the institute in recent years is its 2017 Unleashing Latino-Owned Business Potential, which documents the persistent opportunity gaps that prevent Latino-owned businesses from scaling at proportional rates—and what that means for our economy as a whole. 

The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy features important research reports and fact sheets, including state Small Business Profiles that show how many small businesses are in a state, how many jobs they create, dominant industries, and how many businesses are owned by women and people of color. They also publish special reports such as Black Business Owners Hit Hard By Pandemic and Minority-Owned Employer Businesses and their Credit Market Experiences in 2017 that demonstrate the need for proactive interventions. 

Research reports published by the National Women’s Business Council highlight the challenges and opportunities for rural, veteran, millennial, Hispanic, and other women entrepreneur groups, as well as women’s representation in business incubators and other development opportunities. Its 2018 Understanding the Landscape: Access to Capital for Women Entrepreneurs is a thorough literature review showing that women business owners face across-the-board challenges to raising start-up and growth capital, have fewer institutional resource connections, and face systemic bias that causes lenders and investors to view them as “less credible.” The Council also publishes fact sheets on women business owners categorized by ethnicity, age, industry, veteran status, and more. 

In 2017, the the University of Arizona Native Nations Institute published the comprehensive Access to Capital and Credit in Native Communities: A Data Review, which details the barriers Native Americans face related to geographical proximity to financial institutions, credit scores, sourcing public and private capital, and land trust status. The report notes that “Native business owners appear less likely than business owners overall to obtain financing from banks” and that while Native CDFIs are an important presence filling this gap, “demand for Native CDFI lending . . . exceeds the sector’s capacity.” The review ultimately points to a need for much more funding going to CDFIs that serve Native American entrepreneurs.

Prosperity Now offers a plethora of resources to grant seekers looking for information on wealth and income inequality, business disparities, policy recommendations, and more—they also have a growing COVID-19 resource and research center, which includes a brief outlining the “Cascading Impact of COVID-19 on Microbusinesses and the U.S. Economy.” One of its most useful tools is the Prosperity Now Scorecard, which you can filter by location or issue area. For example, when I filter by the issue area Businesses & JobsBusiness Value by Race, I see the summary, “Not only do workers of color own businesses at a lower rate than White workers, the value of businesses owned by workers of color is generally far less than that of businesses with White owners,” followed by state-by-state data on business values by race. (You can do the same thing for gender, and you’ll see similar results—unfortunately.)

The CDFI Fund has a very handy mapping tool[1] that you can use to determine if your program service areas fall within Qualified Opportunity Zones and/or New Markets Tax Credit Zones. All you have to do is enter an address and the tool will zoom in and show you OZ and NMTC zone status (by census tract), as well as that area’s population, median income, poverty rate, and unemployment rate. Why is this important? Major funders (including the CDFI Fund and other government agencies) typically want grant seekers to show that their lending and business development programs are serving entrepreneurs in areas that the federal government has qualified as “economically distressed.” The SBA has its own version of this in the form of HUBZones—“historically underutilized business zones”—and you can find out if your service area falls into a HUBZone here.

The Asset Funders Network publishes reports on a wide range of income and wealth-building topics, including Employment & Entrepreneurship. Relevant publications include Building Assets through Microbusiness, Forging a Successful Business Formation Path for Returning CitizensPrison to Proprietor: Entrepreneurship as a Re-Entry Strategy, and others that highlight the effectiveness of business ownership as a pathway to financial stability and prosperity—and why it’s so important to equalize access. For example, its 2019 Unlocking Assets: Building Women’s Wealth through Business Ownership “explores ways business ownership can serve as a wealth-building tool for women, explains the systemic barriers impeding women’s ability to build wealth through business ownership, and suggests ways grant makers, policy advocates, and practitioners can intentionally promote wealth-building by entrepreneurial women through business ownership.”

Similar to the Asset Funders Network, the Association for Enterprise Opportunity publishes reports on systemic hurdles for entrepreneurs, their contributions to the U.S. economy, and best practices for supporting entrepreneurs in succeeding in their business. Its publications include big-picture reports like Bigger Than You Think: The Economic Impact of Microbusinesses in the United StatesMicro Capital Task Force: Moving Money to Main Street, and The Tapestry of Black Business Ownership in America: Untapped Opportunities for Success

The latter publication eloquently explains how the stark disparities for Black business ownership came to be. It describes “three major persistent barriers . . . the Wealth Gap, the Credit Gap, and the Trust Gap” and why it’s so important that we address these disparities: “Black business owners are wealthier than their peers who do not own businesses, and business ownership creates new wealth faster compared to wage employment. At the same time, small businesses tend to hire from the community, creating jobs for neighborhood residents. Therefore, opportunities for Black entrepreneurs to succeed are critical for economic empowerment in Black communities.” Just as important, the report dispels long-standing, biased myths that perpetuate lack of investment in black entrepreneurs, showing that “the entrepreneurial spirit remains robust in the Black community. In fact, Black business owners are similar to other business owners in terms of vision, passion, and a desire for economic independence.”

This last resource brings us to a critical consideration when framing the problems surrounding unequal access to business development, capital, and wealth-building opportunities: it is very easy to fall into a solely “deficit-based” framework for describing why funders need to invest in programs that equalize access. This can have the unintended effect of portraying impacted populations as “victims” or “burdens,” rather than resilient communities who would unleash a whole new world of potential with the proper resources. To that end, our next blog post will pick up this thread and give a primer on using “asset-based” frameworks in grant writing—focusing on ingenuity, opportunities, and strengths—and how they can be harnessed into impactful solutions.     

Contact: Marie Landau, Resource Development Officer II, marie@thegrantplantnm.com


[1] This map currently requires that your internet browser allows the site to run the most recent version of Adobe Flash Player, which is being discontinued at the end of 2020. Keep an eye on the CDFI Fund’s main site or subscribe to their mailing list to keep tabs on what may change with the mapping tool. 

Soup for the Soul: How Good Grant Proposals Are Like Good Books

October 8, 2020

Here in New Mexico the weather is getting crisp, the earthy aroma of green chile still hangs in the air, and the trees look like they’ve been touched by Midas. That’s right, people: it’s soup weather. And as I settle down to make my favorite curried butternut squash soup recipe, I am reminded of those Chicken Soup for the Soul books that were popular in the ’90s. According to ChickenSoup.com, over 250 Chicken Soup books have been published to date, all featuring true, inspirational stories about ordinary people.

It’s no wonder why the Chicken Soup books have been so successful. People find comfort in well-told stories—in watching others battle and overcome the struggles that make us human.  

Why shouldn’t grant proposals give us that same warm, cozy feeling? Sure, we want our reviewers to know the facts, understand the challenges at hand, and see the data that proves it all. But we also want them to feel—that their funding will make a difference, that there’s hope for a better world, and that the work described in the proposal can help get us there. After working through proposal after proposal, most grant reviewers are probably hungry for an engrossing story. Like good books, engaging proposals will have a compelling opening, a consistent narrative, and plenty of success stories. (We’ve written a couple blogs on this topic already. Check out Writing Something Worth Reading and How Can Hollywood Help You Write a Winning Proposal.)

If effective grant proposals are like good books, let’s all take a moment to grab our proverbial cups of soup and cozy up to some of the greatest authors of all time. As you read, keep in mind that, like good authors, good grant writers are also adept at shifting their writing voice to appeal to different audiences. (Is the funder innovative or traditional? Heartfelt or scientific?) Not all styles will work for all reviewers, and many proposals will include a mixture. When you sit down to write your next grant proposal, consider which writer’s voice(s) would be most effective. Or, in clickbait terms: Which legendary author are you?

The Anaya—A born storyteller, you paint a vivid picture of the communities and people at the heart of your mission. Your proposal is rich with stories, quotations, client testimonials, and anecdotes, shining with pride for local culture. A champion of the Bildungsroman (coming-of-age novel), you identify the root causes of systemic issues and present a clear, narrative progression from well-articulated challenge to fitting solution.

The Atwood—Unafraid of a little dystopia, you describe the horrors that will ensue if funding is not received and current conditions persist. Atwoodians live by the philosophy, “If you’re going to speak truth to power, make sure it’s the truth” (actual Atwood quote from a recent Guardian article). You are willing to dive boldly into the taboo to articulate complex issues and discuss uncomfortable topics.

The Bronte­­—A fan of the happy ending, you illuminate the impact of your program and how it will make the world a better place. You address your dear reader directly and take them into your confidence, giving them an insider’s view and showing the difference that their investment could make. Believing in a brighter future, you use words like “inspire,” “innovate,” and “cutting-edge.”

The Capote­—You carefully evaluate those who are most affected by your work and always do your research. Knowing that clues can make or break a case, you thoughtfully present all of the evidence and describe a logical solution. You excel in the realm of details, diagrams, data, and best practices.

The Hemingway­—You are on a strict word limit. You are not unfolding a beautiful flower for the reviewer—you are shooting a lion, and the shot is good. The Papa of pithiness, you state the problem and describe your solution in crisp, unadulterated prose. (If you really want to write like Hemingway, check out www.hemingwayapp.com).

The Morrison­­­—You boldly tackle issues of race, injustice, and inequality with grace, artistry, and finesse. Dabbling in deeper meanings, you describe why your project or organization is fundamentally important and how it contributes to the field. You understand, appreciate, and communicate your own value and candidly describe any obstacles standing in your way.

The Twain­—Sometimes it’s ok to be playful. Your proposal may incorporate pictures, videos, or anecdotes. Twainians are highly perceptive, finding systemic ironies and calling out problems that others may not see. They are also clever, leveraging ingenious solutions and partnerships to provide added value.

Grant writers should be open to invoking all the creativity of the masters when it makes for a more compelling argument. In practice, though, sometimes grant writing is more about composing a straightforward proposal within the limits of time, word space, and available resources—and that’s ok, too. The beauty of grant writing is that, while it can feed our literary soul, funding proposals serve a much more tangible purpose: of actually feeding people, providing housing, creating access to health care, supporting art and education, and transforming people’s lives.

In the midst of a global pandemic and our current political climate, the world needs more stellar grant writers putting their proposals out there and securing funding for the groundbreaking solutions that they undoubtedly have. The world also needs more soup. If the onset of colder weather has left you hankering for a cuppa (cup of soup, that is), check out that curried squash soup recipe here. You won’t regret it.

Contact: Laurel Meister Schmuck, Resource Development Officer, laurel@thegrantplantnm.com

Entering Grant Writing: How to Be Successful in a Competitive Field

September 24, 2020

At The Grant Plant, we are fortunate to do work that makes a difference in our community every day. That’s just one of the benefits of being in the grant writing field—there are many! For example, we have the opportunity to work with leaders who are passionate about problem-solving and making life better for others. Grant writing is also a wonderful way to learn new things. It’s almost like taking a mini college crash course. As we don’t specialize in any one sector, we have had the opportunity to write about everything from STEM education to social services to minority business development to the arts economy. Finally, grant writing is also a form of economic development. By bringing money into New Mexico from outside the state, we are contributing to the large-scale revitalization of our economy while also funding much-needed services.

We’re often asked how one can get into grant writing. It’s an intriguing career for many, especially those who have a natural bent toward writing, learning, and community-mindedness. In response, this article outlines some of the ABCs of grants, the grant writing process, and the characteristics and skillsets of strong grant writers in an effort to help inform those who are interested in the field.

First, understand the basics. There are many misconceptions about grants, including that they are “free money,” can fund personal ambitions, and that they are there for the taking. Often, those not well-versed in the field might think that a new organization can get a grant fairly easily from a large foundation or from a celebrity (think the Gates Foundation, or Oprah Winfrey). In reality, grants are funding sources, that, while generally non-repayable, are based on a contract between a funder and a not-for-profit agency for an agreed-upon set of services or work. They are often meant to solve problems or build on opportunities. Grants are generally made by both the government or philanthropic sectors. The government codifies its grant programs, which are created by legislation, into the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). Private funders typically set the priorities of their organization—which may be written into their articles of incorporation or by-laws, or decided on by the board of directors—and use these priorities to guide their funding decisions. Typically, grants are opportunities that not-for-profit entities[1] apply for—and that’s where the grant writer comes in. Grants can range from small ($500-$1,000) to multimillion-dollar opportunities. Applications might be openly solicited, or closed and by invitation only. Often, they are made as the result of a personal relationship with a philanthropic organization. Other funders issue open RFPs and any qualifying organization can apply.

It is important to know that grants are not quick funding sources. They often take months to come in. At The Grant Plant, our annual report usually comes out in September or October as we must wait for grant award notifications to slowly trickle in, months after the submission of applications from the previous calendar year. So, if a not-for-profit organization is looking to grants as a stop-gap measure, or looking to fund programs that are launching imminently, grants are usually not the best source for funding. Further, they are often not long-term funding sources. Many funders provide one- or two-year grants and expect not-for-profit organizations to find other sources of funding to sustain their programs. (Enter: The Sustainability Myth and the Nonprofit Starvation Cycle which are weighty topics and fraught with the challenges inherent in the nonprofit sector; while not by any means ideal, as a result of the temporary nature of grant funding, it is important that not-for-profits round out their funding with earned income streams, fundraisers, contracts, etc., not relying solely on grants for operating support.) Finally, grants are highly competitive. It is not unusual for only the top 1-2% of submissions for a grant opportunity to be successful. For example, we’ve had multiple instances where an award notification indicated a proposal was one of only a handful selected for funding from hundreds of other submissions.

If I’m interested in learning to apply for grant funding, where do I start? At The Grant Plant, we believe that grant success lives and dies with prospecting. It is important for a successful grant writer to have a solid understanding of how to identify potential funders that match with a not-for-profit organization’s mission. There are a number of tools out there to help identify which potential funders are aligned and have the capacity to give to your organization. Locally, we recommend Pivotal New Mexico, which maintains a funding database and provides on-the-ground expertise in grant seeking, as well as our own website, which lists high-interest grants that have been screened for NM-eligibility, and also catalogs COVID-related opportunities—a current priority for not-for-profit organizations and funders alike. On a broader scale, many organizations benefit from a subscription to Foundation Center (which is pricey, but may also be used for free at the Albuquerque Main Library), GrantStation, GrantScape, GuideStar, or any other number of resources that help you access rich data about potential funders.

When using these tools, we recommend that you look at potential funders with a lens for alignment and capacity. How much money do they have, and what is their typical grant size? Are their stated priorities aligned with mine? Have they given to similar organizations? Have they made grants in my geographic area? Don’t “wag the dog by the tail,” or in other words, don’t allow the potential availability of funding to change the strategic priorities of your organization. There is often the temptation to chase money, but it is our experience that the most successful grant recipients stick to mission-aligned opportunities.

Keep a calendar and schedule time for writing the grant. Monitor websites and listservs so you don’t miss out on opportunities, and try to plan months ahead, so that by the time your organization needs funding, grant money is already in-hand or soon to be in-hand.

Next, write the proposal. Creative + Technical Writing = Grant Writing. A skilled grant writer tells a story that is scored against a rubric for the maximum number of points. You’ll want to know your audience, and be able to tell the most compelling story about your organization and its programs that are tailored to the interests of that funder. For example, efforts to revitalize the downtown scene in a rural area can be proposed as small business development, delivering arts experiences, or rural economic activity, depending on the focus of the work and the funder.

Grant writing is different than a lot of other forms of writing. A few points of distinction include:

  • It is usually scored based on a rubric
  • There are page, word, or character limits, often delineated by section or question
  • There are usually complicated directions, with Requests for Proposals (RFPs) numbering anywhere from a few pages to more than 100 pages, and these directions must be followed “to the T” or your proposal could be rejected without even undergoing review
  • It needs to be a convincing case for your organization as a potential investee
  • It is future-focused; unlike academia or the media, it does not report on past efforts (at least not solely)—rather, it is a plan for the future to the extent that it can be imagined
  • It tends to follow a set structure that includes a need statement, program plan, goals/objectives, evaluation plan, and organizational capacity/expertise

Want to be a grant writer? We have found that there is a common set of characteristics that successful grant writers share. Some of these include:

  • Impeccable writing
  • Critical and strategic thinking skills
  • Ability to see the forest and the trees
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Results-oriented
  • Discerning
  • Superior organizing skills
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Competitive spirit
  • Loves challenges
  • Displays a relentless pursuit of perfection
  • Is able to move a work product forward in the absence of complete information (remember, you are writing about the future, so there is a level of ambiguity and best guesses involved)
  • Ability to maintain grace and humor in deadline-driven situations

It’s also helpful to have an understanding of the nonprofit sector as a whole, not-for-profit funding models, and budgeting, as well as basic graphic design/layout skills.

If that sounds like you and you want to make a difference in your own community, there are a number of ways to get started as a grant writer. If you’re a newbie, try volunteering at a nonprofit organization and assisting with their grant writing efforts, attend networking events (when they’re again available), and find related webinars. Impact & Coffee, which highlights local nonprofit organizations, is a great place to learn more about the sector locally (and is all online now during COVID). The University of New Mexico Continuing Education program has a grant writing course, the Center for Nonprofit Excellence holds workshops, and Candid has classes online. One of the best intro books to grant writing is (seriously) Grant Writing for Dummies, which was written by Bev Browning, a celebrity among the grant writing circle.

If you have some experience in the field, check out the Center for Nonprofit Excellence’s job board, which often includes positions for grant writing; monitor job sites such as ZipRecruiter, Indeed, or LinkedIn for grant writing positions; or look through GuideStar or other online data to identify nonprofits with larger budgets. These organizations often either outsource grant writing or have a staff position and might be a source of employment. The national Grant Professionals Association(GPA) also has a job board. Consider enrolling in Pivotal New Mexico’s Talent Academy, which is meant to upskill existing grant writers with the next level of training.

Finally, a few caveats. There is a lot of pressure working in the grant-seeking field as it falls in the nexus of time (i.e., deadlines) and money. It is hard to predict what is coming up; while there is some stability in annual deadlines, a new opportunity might arise that requires re-prioritization of your workload in order to meet the deadline. Also, if you are freelancing, the not-for-profit organizations that hire you need to recognize that they have to spend money to make money, and that there is no guarantee of a grant award even if you produce a high-quality proposal.

One of the most frequently asked questions we get is whether we will work for a percentage of the award. The answer is no: it is considered against the GPA code of ethics[2] because grant makers are funding an organization to do the work promised in the proposal, not provide payment for work already completed. Further, there are numerous factors that go into the consideration of a grant award, only one of which is proposal quality. For example, the geographic distribution or certain populations served within the proposed scope of work, the organization’s past track record and its financial solvency, or a personal relationship on the part of the funder and a different applicant will all be determining factors when funders decide who gets awarded and who does not.

Working for a percentage of the award becomes tricky as well when you are considering (for example) a fee of 10% of the award amount. For a $50,000 grant, is a $5,000 payment reasonable? (Maybe, depending on the complexity.) For a $1,000,000 grant, is $100,000 reasonable? (Probably not.) Further, if an organization cannot pay for you to write their grants, they are probably not positioned well to get a grant to begin with. Ultimately, the grant writer put in the work, and should get paid for a quality product.

We’d love to hear from you if you are entering the grant writing field, or if you are an experienced professional. What tips do you have to share? What were the biggest stumbling blocks to entering the field? What do you find most rewarding? As grant writers, we are able to advance the good work happening in our communities by helping to fund it. It’s an important role, and one that can be very rewarding both personally and professionally.

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

 

[1] “Not-for-profit” entities can include nonprofit organizations as well as local and state government, who are also often grant seekers. In this article, “not-for-profit” is used when speaking of all these types of agencies, whereas “nonprofit” is used when speaking specifically of private organizations with tax exemption.

[2] GPA statement “in response to a Request for Proposal requesting grant writing services for a percentage of the grant award: …The funder is awarding dollars based on several variables, including the community need, the efficacy of the project, and the organization’s capacity to implement, deliver, monitor, and sustain the project. The funder is not awarding funds based entirely on the expertise of the grant proposal developer.” See: https://grantprofessionals.org/general/custom.asp?page=ethics.

Traditional Knowledge Reclaimed: Indigenizing Wins for the Native and Nonprofit Community

August 27, 2020

As a modern-day Native American champion working in our local nonprofit community, I keep up with trends in writing concepts, program design, and buzzwords. Our current social, environmental, and economic climate is shifting toward the discourse of diversity, equity, and inclusion for Indigenous Peoples. Traditional knowledge is a buzzword frequently used to describe an old way of thinking that remains relevant in our modern day. I’ve also recently heard Indigenous used in the form of a verb—to Indigenize. But what do these terms really mean? For Indigenous Peoples, traditional knowledge and the Indigenous perspective it informs is not a buzzword; it is a way of thinking that has survived the test of time. Could your nonprofit program benefit from the wisdom traditional knowledge shares? Can the Indigenous perspective enhance your program design and service outreach in our local community? Here is some information to help inform your use of traditional knowledge to enhance the impact of your nonprofit in our community.

Traditional Knowledge: Local nonprofits work to make change at both the individual and communal levels. Traditional knowledge is based in the communal mindset that considers a wider perspective of change. Traditional knowledge accounts for society as a whole, looking at the impact of all individuals in a community. It entertains the idea of “it takes an entire village to raise a child,” meaning that the entire community of people have an essential role in raising a child in a safe and healthy environment. For Native Americans, traditional knowledge values community over individualism, whereas American or Western knowledge typically emphasizes the individualistic form of thinking that supports change in the singular form. Traditional knowledge supports the impact of many forms of change in the community as a whole. I invite you to explore how an integrated, communal approach can benefit your programs or services, especially those that work with Indigenous populations. Imagine the valuable impact you can make by adapting your services to focus on serving the whole community rather than just one person at a time.

Seven Generations Model: Traditional knowledge looks forward and back by using a seven-generation model to measure time. Native Americans inherently believe the negative and positive impacts of the present day will affect the next seven generations. Historical trauma exists among Native Americans because of the trauma imposed on previous generations. Recent generational traumas include forced removal and loss of lands, termination policies that sought to eliminate the “Indian problem,” and the cultural assimilation imposed by the boarding school system. Unfortunately, past traumas can reoccur in the present-day lives of Native Americans. Historical trauma persists due to a lack of understanding of Native American cultures, the continued stereotyping, and systemic racism that persists in any number of ways for people of color. The “American dream” promotes the idea that anyone—individual—can change their life with enough determination. However, this thinking fails to consider the historical trauma inflicted on Indigenous societies and how that has resulted in the current conditions seen in Indigenous communities. Native Americans do not see these conditions as a result of individual issues, but rather the communal impact of social issues that requires a wider scope of change, across multiple generations to make a difference.

Gratitude: Honoring our elders and those who came before us are concepts highly practiced in Native communities. For example, Native Americans honor their elders by thanking them and the people who have paved the way for present day achievements. The usual practice for Indigenous Peoples is to give gratitude or prayer in their native language at the beginning of any gathering of people or meeting. This Indigenous tradition honors the past and looks forward to the future. Showing gratitude through prayer at the start of a meeting is a beneficial way to show honor. Nonprofits could adopt this traditional practice, whether it is in the form of prayer or thanksgiving. Taking a moment at the beginning of your meeting to honor your history and the people who came before you remind us of why we are doing this work, which empowers providers with a sense of purpose and uplifts staff.

Cyclical Thinking: Another form of Indigenization that can benefit your nonprofit program is to apply solutions that expand the relationship between time and space. Indigenous thinking is cyclical and non-linear. What cycles—or rhythms—of service does your organization use? How can you improve or expand the impact of your services within its defined cycle or rhythm? The Indigenous perspective seeks to define a rhythmic pattern in a place of a standard progressive sequence. For example, most Americans use the nuclear family structure to describe the growth process of children into adulthood. This process is singular and linear going from one stage to the next, whereas the Indigenous perspective describes the family structure in a continuous circle. It places the very old and the very young in symbiotic opposition where one relies on the other at both the beginning and end of life. These are two very different models of the family structure.

For integrating this idea into the nonprofit setting, you can look at the trends and models that your program data reveals to help define the cycles of your organization’s long-term impacts. How does the beginning of a project inform and support the end or revision of the project? What does it lead to next? If we apply traditional knowledge, which values the communal over the individual, then what kind of communal impact are your services making? Indigenizing your services involves a collective thought process versus an individualistic viewpoint; it considers everyone’s perspective as part of a whole, and the whole is then defined by its cycle. How could you Indigenize your services to make a more significant impact in the community or population you serve?

Some questions to help Indigenize your program include: What individuals paved the road for you? How can you honor those that made your current work possible? Who has helped you to reach your goals? How can you expand the communal reach of your services? How can you honor the past in recognition of the present?

It is an understatement to say that Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives have not always been acknowledged or honored. Given the current social, environmental, and economic shift our country is in, it is critical to work to understand and honor the value of traditional knowledge and the opportunities it offers for our cultural evolution. I challenge you to engage traditional knowledge and to incorporate the Indigenous perspective into your nonprofit program design. Consider the thought process of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Seek ways to empower Indigenous People by including them in the decision-making process and respecting their diversity in language and culture. Acknowledge that traditional knowledge makes a valuable contribution to our communities and can improve program design and service outreach for our local nonprofits.

In closing, I give you some seeds of traditional knowledge and hope they help you and your nonprofit services grow.

  • Wealth is not measured in dollars; the most valuable things in life cannot be purchased.
  • After the last tree has been cut down, we will discover that we cannot eat money.
  • Ever heard the story of the good wolf and the bad wolf? Which one are you feeding?
  • In order to get something, try giving something. The practice of regular, selfless giving is its own reward.
  • We do not own the land; we borrow it from our children.
  • Water is life, water is sacred, honor our waterways.

I encourage your comments and welcome any added discussion to explore the Indigenous perspective.

Contact: Deanna Aquiar, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Resource Development Officer, deanna@thegrantplantnm.com
with Tyanne Benallie, Diné, Resource Development Officer, tyanne@thegrantplantnm.com

Write a Proposal with Grant Management in Mind (a.k.a. Learning the Hard Way)

August 19, 2020

You write a beautiful proposal. The award notification comes in. Congratulations! This funding is so needed!

And then. . .

The annual report.

How did your proposal stand up against the test of time . . . and measurable objectives?

It’s one thing to write a grant proposal that meets the priorities a funder lays out in their Request for Proposals. But come reporting time, how did the actual work match up to the proposal?

As a grant writer, you may not be the one executing a project or program. It is disconcerting to get to the point of writing the annual report, and then learn that staff didn’t run the program like the proposal stated. Maybe the work that needed to happen was different than the proposal laid out. Objectives and outcomes may be hard to pin down. Or funds may have not been spent as described.

So what can you do to ensure that a proposal sets up the organization for successful implementation? Here are a few questions to consider up-front to save yourself a scramble at reporting time:

What is this grant for? Start with the budget and the metrics. What is the money really needed for? What will support your organization’s priorities? This should be work you are already doing, or are primed to be doing—work that a little more money can help you do even better or bigger. Or funding to help meet a demonstrated need that the organization has not been able to meet due to financial constraints. Make sure that even busy teams review this basic budget and metric information prior to submission to ensure the funding request is aligned with the actual work and needs.

Do we have time to do this? Ensure the capacity is in place to implement the project.

  • Is the staff already onboard? Make sure they have the time and interest to take on the extra work that comes with an award. And most importantly—make sure they know they will play an important part in this proposal. Give them the opportunity to weigh in on what the work and objectives will look like. Instill ownership from the get-go, so that an award is a celebration for all, rather than another To-Do added to everyone’s overwhelmed inboxes.
  • Do you need to hire someone to support the grant and oversee the work? Make sure a living wage is written into the proposal (or otherwise planned for), and draft a job position to submit with the application if required, and to have at the ready to support post-award implementation. Once funded, this will set you up to begin recruiting and hiring quickly. If you are receiving a 12–24 month award, a hiring stage that takes 6-9 months will really set you back. Have a plan to make sure someone is available to lead the work from the start, and then train the new employee, as needed. Also consider (and be transparent about) the sustainability of the position, and if this is a grant-term contract position or a permanent addition.
  • If you’re requesting funding for a consultant, do you need to put the request out to bid prior to moving ahead? If hiring staff, what are organizational requirements for posting a listing? Make sure you are aware of any required processes (organizational and federal).

How do I show that? Choose metrics that set you up to win. This doesn’t just mean choose goals and objectives that align with the funder. It means you need to work with your team to identify objectives you really want to pursue. Metrics that move your mission-aligned work forward. And importantly, measurements that you are able to gather when report time comes (and along the way to track your progress), without adding significant burden to anyone’s time. If you’re tracking the number of outreach events you attend, then it’s great to set a goal of attending two more over the year. But don’t sign up for impacting an additional 500 people if you do not have a method to actually count these people. And if you commit to a new method—such as surveying a group to assess the outcomes—be sure to bring that up at the time of the official grant launch so people can plan ahead and work it into the schedule. A metric that truly helps is one that you can use consistently throughout a project to track progress, and inform your decisions and revisions. Metrics collected merely for the sake of the report will make everyone grumpy and may not actually improve your work.

How involved will the reporting be? When possible, look at the report before you write the proposal. You can learn a lot about the funder’s priorities by looking at how they structure their report. Federal grants are much more black and white than a private foundation, which may be interested in learning with its grantees. Does the report seem open to hearing about challenges and growth during the funding period, or is the emphasis on outputs and outcomes, and demonstrating that the funded work was completed as planned? What must be reported in tables or forms? Understanding this may help you decide how to write out your objectives, or report on numbers. For example, federal grants often use a 524B Status Report for the Annual Performance Report. This format requires you to have an overall goal, followed by 1–3 measurable objectives. If you write your proposed metrics in this same format, it makes reporting MUCH simpler and cleaner. And it also helps you to limit your objectives—for example, five goals, each supported with three performance measures, multiplies into an overwhelming number of 15 different metrics that you need to report on). The ultimate goal, as a grant writer, is to make sure that the funding—and reporting—moves your work forward, rather than shackling you to data hunting and busywork.

Who’s responsible for that? Officially launch your grant. After securing staff buy-in during the proposal-writing phase, be sure to bring the team together once an award is made, to celebrate and make sure everyone is familiar with the goals, budget, and reporting needs from the start. Build ownership in the work by making sure everyone understands their role within the grant, and how it integrates with their daily work. Engage all stakeholders in creating or reviewing the action plan and timeline, and develop a schedule for meetings to keep the work aligned and on track. If there are funder meetings, who will attend? Make sure everyone knows what reports to anticipate, who will write them, what metrics need to be tracked, and how they will be tracked.

What is this grant for again? Create a grant summary. Post-funding, create a 1–2 page summary as a reference document, with the grant award number, funder contact information, the amount of award, the grant team and roles, report deadlines, a short overview of the purpose of the grant, the approved goals and objectives, and the budget. Make sure everyone on the grant team and in organizational leadership receives a copy, and knows where to access the file.

Where’d that number come from? Along the way, document, document, document. From proposal creation until grant closeout, keep records of your data and grant communications. The funder may have additional questions for you about the proposal. Staff may wonder how you came up with a figure. The annual auditor may have questions. Always keep copies (digital or hard copy) of information that directly impacts the proposal writing and reporting. This means to be sure to keep any website price lists and email quotes used to develop budgets. Keep citations for any resources or data listed so you can easily re-create it. If you request bids for consultants or products, document all responses. Save emails with funders and consultants. And if you have a phone call with a funder, follow up with an email summary to the funder highlighting the discussion. This ensures that you and the funder are on the same page, and illustrates to an auditor or future Program Officer at the foundation/agency that you are carefully stewarding your funding, and that any modifications are approved (this is a big one: one grant we manage has had five Program Officers over four years!).

***

Full disclosure—I really like writing grant reports. Like a test in school, report time is when you see what the proposal had right—and wrong. The reporting process helps to strengthen proposal-writing skills and deepens understanding of the work. It is a great feeling of accomplishment when a report goes smoothly—the data is available, the team has learnings and anecdotes to provide, the metrics are showing progress of a program or process, and the budget is being spent on schedule. And alternatively—and more typically—reports provide time to engage the team in reflecting on the funding’s impact, realigning the work where needed, determining if any budget modifications are required, and offering the chance to tease out lessons learned. Reporting gives the whole team the opportunity to concretely see the difference they are making. And it provides the opportunity to share with the funder real-life stories that reinforce just why the work is so crucial, and how future funding can best support the ongoing needs.

Writing a winning proposal is just the beginning.

What grant management lessons have you learned along the way? Please share! Aly Sanchez and I will present a workshop on Managing a Grant with Confidence, Compliance, and Capacity at the Grant Professional Association (GPA) annual (virtual) conference in November 2020. We’d love to include any of your experiences as we put this online presentation together. Email us at cecily@thegrantplantnm.com.

Meet Pivotal New Mexico

June 4, 2020

We are excited to share that this week our partner, The Grants Collective, formally changed its name to Pivotal New Mexico.

Back in 2013, The Grant Plant was mired in deep community conversations with partners throughout Albuquerque and New Mexico. We were trying to find ways to accommodate the various requests for education and training that we received– internships, fellowships, job shadowing, workshops – while also playing into the macro view of doing our part to bring more money in from outside of the state while making grant seeking more effective and efficient through collaborative relationships among nonprofit organizations.

By 2015, we had formed a separate 501(c)(3) organization, The Grants Collective. We specifically chose to include the word Grant in the title because we knew that was where our expertise lies. The word Collective was chosen because of the collaborative nature of our programming. Over the course of the next year, we launched the Talent Academy for grant professionals to address gaps in education and training and the Cooperative Network to improve shared knowledge and efficiencies in the field.

We had an idea for another program, which we called the Impact Fund. This fund was designed to give organizations and initiatives access to experts to make their grant proposals stronger – think economists and researchers, evaluators, financial analysts, subject matter experts – and thus more competitive for large, game-changing grants. Imagine our delight when one of our founding board members, Terry Brunner, was exiting the Obama administration as state director of USDA Rural Development and founded Grow New Mexico with just that purpose! In 2017, Grow became a project fiscally housed under The Grants Collective with Terry as its director, and all three of our organizations co-located in a beautiful plaza near Sawmill and Old Town.

The ensuing years taught us – even though we had been in the grants world for more than a decade – that the field was fraught with inequities and barriers to funding in ways we hadn’t known. As much as we received accolades for the work we were doing, how we came to view the nonprofit field and social and public sectors was transformative. Iterating as we went, we began retooling programs to have a deeper impact and broader scale.

By 2019, Erin and I felt that we had stood up the programs we had wanted to and felt called back to our roots in family business, while meanwhile Terry was building Grow into a statewide organization. With leadership from our board of directors, The Grants Collective and Grow merged in mid-2019 with Terry as its CEO, and Erin and I transitioned back to full-time work at TGP.

The announcement of the name change to Pivotal New Mexico is especially poignant for us. When we think about what we were seeking to create in 2013, and what we learned along our journey in The Grants Collective, it is clear that the turning point for organizations is when people become deeply engaged in investing in themselves and their people. For us, the name “Pivotal” hearkens back to the many days we spent imagining what the future could look like, a New Mexico on a trajectory toward prosperity. Pivotal has demonstrated time and again that its work truly builds capacity and becomes a turning point for organizations toward greater sustainability and growth.

We couldn’t be prouder of Pivotal as it continues its role as the point of impact for New Mexico.

 

Contact: Tara Gohr, President/CEO, tara@thegrantplantnm.com.

Should You Really Apply for that Grant?

April 17, 2020

We’re expecting a series of federal and state Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to be released with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in the wake of COVID-19. To get prepared, we dusted off an oldie-but-goodie article Aly wrote a few years ago. Enjoy!

We get asked all the time to decipher Big Scary RFPs.

Many people approach these in a manner resembling the advice about how to eat an elephant (one bite at a time): starting at page one and reading to the end. While a fine approach for shorter guidelines, it’s more effective to think of your approach to large RFPs like a series of gates.

The lesson in processing content for large RFPs is to understand your goal. Your goal is not to read the RFP. If anything, you may want to avoid it. Think strategically—your real goal is to efficiently assess whether to apply.

At each gate, decide whether to move forward, determining whether the opportunity remains viable.

Gate 1: What are the timelines?

Is the deadline in the future, not the past? Did you miss a mandatory pre-proposal workshop? When are awards made? What is the project period? Get a general feel for timeframes.

Gate 2: Roughly, what is this opportunity?

Leave the RFP alone for a minute and check if an accompanying summary was issued. Find out what the awards will be like (size and number), judging if that fits your organization and programming and whether smaller awards are worth the work required.

Gate 3: Are you really eligible?

Determine whether you’re a suitable applicant. Locate the eligibility section and read it thoroughly. If you’re unsure, find answers before moving on. Look for geographic restrictions, IRS classifications, entity types, prior grantee status, licensing or other recognitions, and programming/constituent characteristics.

Things get ad hoc from here. If you’re still in the running, flip to the Table of Contents to see what makes the most sense to check next – thinking about where you are most likely to rule out the opportunity. A typical progression:

Gate 4: Can (and should) you meet project/performance requirements?

This information can be organized under various headers (Performance Components, Technical Requirements, Mandatory Specifications, etc.), but the idea is to find out what the minimal requirements are. Can you do what you must? And does that make sense for your organization?

Gate 5: Is the financial structure tenable?

Next, head to the budget section and check for deal-breakers. Look for allowable uses of funds—if your project is a building and construction isn’t allowed, the RFP doesn’t fit. Check for match requirements or contribution portion limitations. There may be requirements like a history of audited financials or minimum/maximum annual budgets. If the funds aren’t paid upfront, will reimbursement or phased funding work?

Gate 6: Can you successfully prepare the proposal?

Can you put together a complete and compliant application by the deadline? Look for a table (usually early in the RFP) or checklist (usually in the back) summarizing the proposal elements. In addition to feeling out workload, find problematic elements—anything you can’t fulfill or that will be difficult to successfully prepare.

Gate 7: Will your proposal be competitive?

Now you understand the top-level needs of the grantor and grant. Next look for review criteria. Will your organization, your work, and your proposal do reasonably well considering their scoring system?

Now What?

If you’ve passed the seven gates, that’s good news! The bad news: now you actually have to read the RFP – all of it.

How is this efficient? Because often, you will save time by ruling it out. By leaving behind the RFPs that you shouldn’t work on, you have more time to respond to those you should. And if it does fit, you’ll find critical information, get an idea of the general landscape for the opportunity, and prioritize difficult areas as you begin.

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Aly Sanchez has 23 years of grant writing experience including planning, request preparation, and reporting assistance for complex private, state, and federal awards (e.g., CDC, CMS, DOL, OJJDP). She is Director of Strategy and Organizational Development for The Grant Plant, Inc. Based in Albuquerque, NM, TGP provides superior and affordable resource development services for organizations to enhance the quality of life in communities served. TGP has written proposals funding more than $150M since 2003, with an ROI of 6,500%.

 

Updates on Emergency and Other Funds for COVID-19 Relief

April 11, 2020

This week has been a whirlwind as nonprofits and funders alike address the impact COVID-19 has on our health, the economy, and our community. We’re witnessing an unprecedented response from both government and philanthropy. We started maintaining a list of COVID-19 related grant opportunities for which New Mexico nonprofits are eligible just over two weeks ago; this list has since grown to 37 grant opportunities for organizations. Yesterday, we started adding individual relief funds that might benefit our friends and partners in arts organizations in particular.

In our state, which already faces health disparities, has a high poverty rate, and barriers to service (especially in rural communities), it will be critical to be proactive in accessing available funding. Some highlights of out-of-state funding that we encourage you to share with organizations in New Mexico to help our state access some of these relief funds include:

We continue to encourage you to email us if you know of an opportunity that would benefit New Mexico agencies and people for inclusion on this growing list.

The Grant Plant wishes all our clients, partners, and friends health and wellness now, and in the times ahead.

Time Management Tips: Work Smarter in Any Environment

April 2, 2020

Work efficiently and make the most of the workday!

Effective time management is a key strategy to work and life success. Currently, with many people trying to learn to work effectively from home due to the recent COVID-19 health pandemic, time management has become more challenging for many people. A complicating factor in developing an effective strategy is that there is no single recipe for success. Every person is unique—with differing personalities, job responsibilities, personal commitments, and goals—and all of these factors need to be considered when developing a time management strategy.

To help develop a personalized time management strategy, it is important to recognize your own working style and identify approaches that best amplify your working efficiency. This is a learning process that will take trial and error. It is helpful to learn about strategies that work for others and then choose and test out ones that are of interest to see if they will also work for you.

The Grant Plant is comprised of a team of grant writers who have experience with managing multiple deadlines, collaborating with partner organizations to complete projects, and working both in-office and remotely (some of us with over 17 years of work-from-home experience). Over the years, we have become well aware of the importance of effective time management. Recently, we had a constructive discussion about time management strategies that resulted in some useful key takeaways. I am sharing these today in the hopes that they may provide you with some new ideas to improve your own time management approach.

Assess weekly workload

  • Plan: At the start of each week, review your workload to see what is on your plate for the entire week. Screen and review new projects as they come during the week to assess time commitments and work requirements. It is possible the work plan for the week will have to be adjusted due to new, time-sensitive projects.
  • Review project requirements: Note project deadlines and time estimates and make sure you are in agreement and in tune with what is required. Potential strategies include reviewing work product requirements and building templates and determining what information is on hand and what is needed.
  • Collaborate: Communicate with your co-workers, as needed. Discuss potential issues with projects with similar deadlines or projects that may take longer than what is estimated.
  • Ask for help: Consider delegating tasks that you will not be able to complete in the required time.

 

Prioritize workload

Potential strategies/considerations include:

  • Deadlines: The sooner the deadline, the more urgent the project. Deadlines always need to be taken into consideration and will sometimes be the driving force behind prioritization. Learn to manage projects with close deadlines (consider importance, complexity, size, and other points below to help prioritize).
  • Importance: Projects with high importance should be prioritized before other work tasks.
  • Complexity: Consider how much brainpower the project will require and whether high complexity will impact the length of time it takes to complete the project.
  • Size: Will the work take a long time to complete or is it a quick turnaround?
  • Project background: Is all the information on-hand to complete the project? If there is information needed, it is best to get requests out for this information right away to get the process moving. Set the questions to partners in motion and then move on to another project.
  • Project partners: Get to know your clients and other partners who you work with on projects. Some partners will be immediately responsive and others may be harder to get information from. Set in motion communications with slow-responding partners and move on to another project. Also consider how much collaboration is required. Having a number of collaborators may make projects go slower because it requires relying on other people and their schedules.
  • Play to your personality: Prioritization will, in some part, be up to the individual – some people may tend to knock out the small/easy projects first, while others will choose to try and tackle the complex project that may require deep thinking.
  • Be selective: A good rule of thumb is about three daily priorities. If you have too many, you may find you get less done. Fit smaller items around these priorities.

 

Identify beneficial tools, methods, and motivational prompts

Although entirely personal, these approaches can potentially help with keeping track of project workload, spur motivation, and provide a sense of achievement.

  • Planners, calendars, notebooks: Write tasks and their associated target dates for completion in the product of your choice (daily/weekly/monthly planner, notebook, online calendar, etc.). In addition to writing down all tasks, break this down further and write out all tasks for the week or even for the day. Circle deadlines or important completion points, indicate who you are working with for each project, cross off tasks as completed, and carry over to next day tasks that are not completed.
  • Post it notes: Use post it notes to write out and show daily or weekly tasks. Post in a strategic location as a point of motivation.
  • Time blocking: Develop an ideal workweek schedule. Consider setting up meetings on specific days or at specific times (e.g., meetings on Mondays and Wednesdays only or only in mornings), save some days to complete desk/computer work, establish times when no one can disturb you so you can focus on priority/deep thinking projects (e.g., turn email off, post “do not disturb” if in office).
  • Create personal deadlines: Create your own deadlines for smaller project sections to keep projects on track and feel accomplished. This may also help with project planning by phasing projects around internal deadlines.
  • Recharge and refresh: Identify a method mid-day to keep up mental agility and motivation. This will look different for different people – a mid-day workout, a walk outside, an out of office lunch.

 

Work efficiently

  • Work simultaneously on projects: Consider working on a few projects at once. Switch between projects for a brain shift. This may be necessary at times to make sure a project is moving to meet deadlines (e.g., send out questions to obtain required information for a project).
  • Focus intently on one project: Block time to focus on a project that requires deep thought. Recognize that sometimes it may be more beneficial to just hunker down and knock out intense projects.
  • Complete tasks at hand: Make a goal to finish one complete sub-part of a project before moving to your next project or before stopping for the day (e.g., complete one section of a document you are working on, finish email responsibilities). Don’t stop in the middle of a task that will require you to re-familiarize yourself with the project again.
  • Maximize optimal thinking times: Recognize the times when you can focus and think the best and designate these times for harder tasks. For some, this may be to plan the day to make easier tasks at the end of the day when they are tired, or to do harder tasks during uninterrupted time periods (e.g., time blocked for deep thinking).
  • Move a project forward with what information you have: While waiting on information to come in, complete as much of the project that is as possible (e.g., develop the template, fill in the answers you can). This will help you to become familiar with the project and help develop a structure to build off of efficiently when info comes in. Prepare so you will be able to “hit the ground running.”
  • Manage emails and social media: Determine an approach to managing email and social media responsibilities. Designate specific times to check email (e.g, morning, mid-day, and end of day) or tend to these as they come in. Emails can be a distraction but also may sometimes need to be monitored for important, timely information.
  • Make sure meetings are efficient: Focus on the tasks at hand and try and keep meeting participants discussing these matters. Strive to identify and assign actionable, compatible tasks to participants that will move the work forward. Be conscious of time and don’t let meetings drag on for too long.

 

Regroup at end of day

  • Be flexible: Accept the fact that you often will not finish everything you had hoped to finish. Be flexible and forgiving with yourself, as long as you are doing your best!
  • Set up for success: Write out tasks that still need to be completed during the next workday. Note progress or tips that will help you be able to jump back into the project without having to take too much time to remember where to re-initiate your work or what the project is about.
  • Prioritize: Note any priority first-of-the day actions that are time-sensitive and require your immediate attention.
  • Regroup: Relax and enjoy your off-work time. Turn off any work-related concerns until the next workday.

 

I hope these time management tips and strategies will prove as useful to you as they have to our team at The Grant Plant. Time management is a continual learning process. Your approach should be flexible and grow with you as your responsibilities and life situations change. If you have any additional time management strategies that you use, please feel free to share with us—we would love to hear your unique and effective ideas!

 

Contact: Wendy McCoy, Resource Development Officer II, wendy@thegrantplantnm.com

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