Learning With Precision NPO Solutions

At the start of my internship at Precision NPO I had very little knowledge of grants, aside from the state grant I received for school. I had a vague idea of what grants were and what their purpose was. I had no idea the processes involved in searching for and applying for grants. To be honest, I thought the whole process couldn’t be that difficult. I had assumed that the initial research and gathering of evidence would be pretty simple. I figured the actual writing of the narrative would be the most difficult part. My time a Precision NPO would teach me otherwise. The process of locating and applying for a grant is beyond complex on the federal level. It can be equally as challenging on a foundation level, if you do not know what you’re doing.

For starters, searching through the internet to locate grants, such as the online database known as grants.gov, is no easy task. This requires a lot of time, dedication, imagination, and attention to detail. Then, as if that process isn’t difficult enough, you really need to know the right people to move forward, specifically on the foundation level. If you can’t get a contact on the board your letter of intent is virtually useless. All of this goes on before you even begin to apply for the grant. The next stages involve collecting the right evidence to prove why you deserve this money and making it say what they want to hear. This process involves collecting tons of paperwork and data. Without proper organization and laser focus this process can easily become a circus. The federal grant process requires teamwork and good communication. Through my experience I was able to see how vital this really is.

I went into this thinking it would be challenging but believing that grants were an appropriate way to distribute funding. But my experiences have altered my stance on this a bit. I found that this process was by no means easy, or even doable for some people. For instance, some of the clients we worked with would have never been able to navigate this process on their own. Schools and nonprofits that are so desperately in need of funding do not have the time or resources to dedicate to applying for grants. I also discovered, for smaller non-profits, if there is not a clear outline and strategic plan in place there is little chance of success. I still believe grants can be a great competitive way to offer funding, but perhaps the process should be redesigned to ensure fair competition. By making the process less strict, or by offering assistance free of cost, we may be able to tackle this problem. I am not sure exactly what is needed but I look forward to influencing the ever evolving world of grants. It will be interesting to see what the future hold for grants.

Dr. Shawn White Mural

Dr. Shawn White and I worked closely during his time with the University of Pennsylvania’s HIV Vaccine Trials Network Community Advisory Board.  He was completing his dissertation, as I was serving in my post graduate work program.  Day and night over the course of two months we worked to create increased buy-in and movement for social change in delivering interventions to the most deserving populations of Philadelphia.

I recently learned of his passing, but I wanted share his legacy of change and hope for tomorrow.  We all have the capacity for good in our hearts, and that yearning, we must pursue.

I recognize in those years, far too much of time went spent on work and not on relationships.  I have only begun to hear of all of Dr. White’s amazing work and musical talent.

Dr. White serves a model for social good.

His memory also serves as a lesson to focus not only facts but people. Let us be people and let us be people together.

 

Shawn White’s Bio

 

Photo Credit to the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program more available here.

Technology Grants for Schools: The 11th Hour Crunch!


RUS DLT 2015 is well underway, we are nearly a week out before submitting to USDA.  The RUS grant is a distance learning and telemedicine equipment grant. For this opportunity, USDA is creating huge networks to reach students and patients in rural communities. On this stretch, I’ve been assisting numerous projects reach their goal of funding for up to $500,000 each.

“I’m a week from submission! AH! How can it be possible, when is the bottom dropping out, who do we need to follow up with? Don’t freak out, whatever you do don’t freak out”–Grant writer minds across the nation today.

 

 

The ebb and flow of grants is always a bit heinous.  You’ll have no work, then all of the work, people to nag, partners to pull.  How do you keep a level head amidst the chaos, the calls, and the constant email flood of disorganized paperwork? The response may seem simple–plan ahead, build a great and flexible team, and track task lists with due dates, delegation, and OF COURSE padded time lines.

–But Alejandra—this is where we are should’ve could’ve would’ve isn’t going to help right now.

Tips for Sanity in the 11th Hour:

 

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-Quiet the Distraction-  shut down your wifi, hone in one task, put your head down and complete it –check it off the list.  It’s empowering to see yourself wade through the to dos!

-Self Care- I don’t have time for that! Well make time.  Shut off the computer, take a bath, remove yourself going for a run or a walk. When it’s all creeping up this will allow to you to refocus.  Eating, sleeping, exercising—you cannot stop just because a deadline is approaching.  This will provide you the energy you need to keep it moving.

-Breathing, Posture, Lighting- I take 5 minutes every few hours while in deep concentration or review to sit back check my posture and breathe deeply looking away from the computer.  I like to pry myself from the hunched over chair and out of my grant’s cave (dim lighting to prevent eye strain) stretch my arms up and back to adjust my posture and keep  me from fatigue.  Try it, it will help when you are at your wits end!  You can even say a mantra like “This is going to fund, and this is worth it”

Best of luck to all of you at the end of RUS season!!! Or any application for that matter!  Feel like you need some help for next year?  Feel free to reach out, Precision Solutions has got what it takes to alleviate the headache! Contact Us today!

 

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Solidifying Partners Pre-Application

How do we get people to buy-in?  Grant partnerships can be the highlight or crux for any proposal.   To solidify your partnerships, you need to gain consensus.

 

Gaining Consensus in 6 steps:

1. Network in your community:  Find people that you know to make a good fit.  Join your local business association and meet new folks.  With the fiscal climate changing everyone wants in, especially if you are going to be the lead–grants take some paperwork, so if they’re your friends it will help.

2. The Pitch:  You’re selling this opportunity, so go for it.  Talk about all of the transformative capabilities your proposal has! Thousands of dollars to be re-allocated to their budget, sustaining a workforce–illustrate these highlights while ensuring your partners that you’ve got the rest covered for a seamless process.  Assurance for the process is key. Also, know your grant and its reporting inside and out.  No one wants an audit.  If you’re the lead, hype up your grant experience and capacity for reporting; take the load off your partners if you want it to work.

3. Seamless Process:  You’ll be needing a smooth process to get everything completed!  Make a task list, build a template, and delegate.  Slot weekly check-in calls to ensure fluid communication and make every partner responsible to the group–not just you.  All paperwork you are sending should delineate clear instructions, and provide a template filled in nearly completely for every person.  The easier the task, the faster the return. Supply participation letter templates with a grant overview and tasks well in advance and ensure a padded timeline for delivery. Listen in for those who may be getting frustrated, and meet with them offline to assist in the process or provide further explanation.

–Be sensitive, not personal, for many this process is new–decisions will have to be made but circling back to the original purpose of the grant will help to reorient the group.

4. Submission: If time avails, supply a draft to the partners to solidify the application process in advance to work out any issue they may have.  This will illustrate the work your team has completed and the value your partners have.  Providing some ownership in the process will continue to hold them. Submit and supply final drafts/overviews where appropriate to your counterparts

5. Maintenance Calls:  Check in with them during the down time for review.  Federal grants can take up to 90 days for the decision process.  Staff can change in the blink of an eye.  Once the award shows up, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel.  Call or mass email your group as a status update–“Should hear word in a week, just checking in and keeping everyone in the loop”  Perhaps provide status updates regarding your preparations for job postings for your new project, new policy announcements, MOU updates etc.

6. Award Announcement: Celebrate if possible have a kick-off meeting with food or champagne! Fun is allowed and should be encouraged.  Follow up with an Memorandum of Understanding and finalized contracts to secure your next steps–many times these are in conjunction with the grant.  This MOU draft should be in their hands before application so that the terms are understood.

Overall, breathe.  Partners may come and they may go.  Grants are not so much about forcing a round peg into a square hole–rather be creative, flexible, and sensitive to meet everyone’s needs with in the confines of the grant stipulations.  Need help to problem solve or more hands on deck?  Contact Precision NPO Solutions today!

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