3 Tips for Shrinking Expectations Canyon

Expectations Canyon is that place between a grant writer’s expectations for how a project should progress and a client’s idea of how a project should progress. Sometimes is as big as the Grand Canyon and other times it’s as small as the little holding pond across town from my house, but it’s always there. The smaller that gap is, the easier the project will go.
Organizations that hire a grant writer usually have the mistaken belief that they have hired someone to do it all so they don’t have to do any more work, which is not the case at all. Grant writers often hold the mistaken belief that every client will assume responsibility for the project and stay involved, providing all the information and support necessary. Can you see the canyon now?
Here are some tips for minimizing the gap:

 Make sure that all roles and responsibilities are in writing.  Don’t assume that just because you talked about something that anyone will remember it, especially if it gives them a task.

 Include a timeline in your responsibilities document.  Some tasks can’t be completed until other have been completed first. You’ll save a lot of time if these are identified right away.

Communicate often.  Even if everything is going well, make sure you touch base frequently to review exactly where you both are on the responsibility list.
If you follow these simple tips, Expectations Canyon will shrink to a manageable size and you’ll be walking together toward success.
Published by Creative Resources & Research http://grantgoddess.com

Fighting to Avoid Change

I had an evaluation contract recently to evaluate an organization’s safe schools programs. My job was to evaluate the degree to which they were achieving their identified objectives and implementing their program as designed.

The bottom line is that they were neither achieving objectives nor implementing their program as designed. Every time the project director tried to do something she was supposed to do, she was foiled by upper administration. They said they wanted change, but they did everything in their power to stop change. So, the project director stayed busy doing other things – good things – while staying away from any controversy that might affect her job.

Halfway through their 4-year grant period, they were subject to a federal monitoring visit because of a clash between the grant’s lead partners and the dysfunctional administration of the grantee (my client). I was asked to share results.  I did. I said they were neither achieving objectives nor implementing the program as designed.

Until that moment, I had no idea how far people would go to cover their tracks and avoid change. The administration rose up and started pointing at all the wonderful things they were doing. I made that the point that those activities were, indeed, wonderful, but they would not do a thing to get them closer to achieving their objectives. I also reminded them that they selected the activities that they put in their grant because they were evidence-based practices that would likely lead to positive changes in the areas targeted by their objectives.

Things got ugly. Soon, fingers started pointing at the evaluation as the culprit.  That perplexed me because the evaluation had no role in implementation at all.  How could it possibly be our fault that they were not doing what they had agreed to do?

But they were persistent and brutal.

They asked for (and were granted) permission to change some of their objectives to say simply that they were successful at doing what they were doing.

Six months later, when it came time to contract for another year, I declined and walked away. Clearly, the administration was more interested in avoiding change than making their schools any safer. I know that sounds harsh, and I know that those administrators would never, ever admit to such a thing.  Maybe they don’t even realize what they are doing, but avoiding accountability is avoiding change and fighting to keep the status quo. I couldn’t be part of that anymore.

The result?

They hired another evaluator, presumably one who they hope will tell them what they want to hear.

And now, at the end of the grant period, the schools are no safer than they were before the grant was written, nothing has really changed in the infrastructure of the organization that can reasonably be expected to make their schools safer, and there is even more gang activity (and it’s more violent) in the community than there was before.

Millions of federal dollars were spent and nothing significant has changed.


Because it’s human nature for people to avoid change and, if their jobs may be affected in any way, they will fight to avoid it. The status quo, the “way things have always been done,” is a very powerful force. Clearly, throwing money at it is not the key to change. Don’t get me wrong. Financial resources may be necessary for change, but they are not the most important part.

The most important part is buy-in, and not just the buy-in of your collaborative partners, although that is very important.  Often, the buy-in you need most to make anything real happen is on the part of people you didn’t even think to bring to the table.

So, as you are thinking about applying for a collaborative grant, ask yourself, “If we get this grant, who could really sabotage our efforts and cause us to fail?” That is who also needs to be at the table from the beginning.

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Communication Matters

We’re installing some new phone lines at the office.  Actually, we’re switching out a bunch of expensive ones for some less expensive analog lines.  Yes, some people are really going back to analog.

Anyway, I started the process last April., and here we are today – 8 months later – with a technician here hooking things up. Hopefully, everything will work properly. Normally, I would assume hat it would, but not this time.  Why?  Because communication has been so bad.

The different technicians only know about their piece of the project and they come from different companies.  The only person who apparently is supposed to know the whole project is a project coordinator who is conveniently unreachable today, the day when everything was supposed to be coming together.

Each technician asks me questions and I have no answers.  Has XYZ happened yet? I don’t know. Who’s bringing and installing the modem?  I have no clue.

I’m frustrated. Very frustrated.

It hit me a moment ago, though, that I have experienced this exact same feeling before. I have something to accomplish.  It’s my responsibility. No one is going to do it for me. But I don’t have all the information I need to make it happen.

This is exactly the same frustration I feel in my grant writing world when a client hasn’t given me the information I need to complete their proposal. I want to do my job.  I really want to complete my task so I can move on to other things, but I’m stuck. I’m stuck waiting for someone else to do their job. They may not think it’s that important, but it’s important to me.  It’s the one thing standing between me and success.

The lesson from this for me is that communication really does matter. When someone else needs information from me, I need to be mindful of that and respond accordingly.

We’re all connected in many ways. Information flows between and among us and when it’s flowing, things are good.  When it stops flowing, someone can’t do their job and it’s frustrating.

Let’s all do our part to keep it flowing.


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Resources for Safe Schools

In the aftermath of the school shooting in Connecticut, I thought it would be a good idea to share some safe school resources.  There are many out there. This is just a sampling.

The National Alliance for Safe Schools is a non-profit corporation founded in 1977 to provide resources, training, and expert advice on school safety.

California Department of Education Safe Schools Resources – This is the landing page for resources highlighted by the California Department of Education for Crisis Preparedness, Violence Prevention, and Safe School Environment.

Safe Schools/Healthy Students – This site is not only for SSS/HS grantees. It’s a wonderful collection of resources for promoting a safe school environment. In response to the Newtown tragedy, a large collection of resources for helping children deal with tragedy have been posted on the home page.  Click on the “Resources” tab for resources targeted toward violence prevention and developing a safe school environment.

The National School Safety Center was founded by Presidential Mandate by Ronald Reagan in 1984 but it functions now as a non-profit organization devoted to the prevention of school crime and violence.

School Safety Partners has been supporting schools in developing community partnerships to prevent and respond to school violence since 2008.  Make sure your speakers are off or tuned down when you go to this site unless you want to hear the annoying little video that autoplays whenever the page is loaded.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the video, just that you may not everyone around you to hear it.

This should get you started.  I’ll post more resources in the coming days.


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What Can You Say?

Our thoughts and prayers are with the town of Newtown as they continue to walk through the difficult days ahead. There really aren’t words to express our sorrow for what they are all going through, and there is certainly no way to appropriately link the tragedy to a grant-related topic at this time. That will come later. For now, we’ll mourn with them and look toward the furture.

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Steps to Recovery

I’m not referring to another 12-step treatment program. No, I’m talking about the steps to recovering from a multi-grant deadline. Those deadlines are exhausting. Long hours, too much stress, not enough sleep – it can ruin even the best attitude.

I had one of those deadlines recently.  It left me exhausted and definitely in need of recovery.  Here are my steps for multi-grant recovery:

Step 1:  Walk away – Don’t clean up your desk. Don’t start the next project right away.  Just walk away.  Give yourself the time and space you’ll need to recover.

Step 2: Reassess your health – If you haven’t been eating well, start eating well.  Drink some water. Get some exercise.  You have probably been chained to your desk.  You need to move a bit, but first…..

Step 3: Get some sleep  – Remember what uninterrupted sleep is? Do you remember your last full night of sleep?  It was about a month ago, most likely.

Step 4: Reintroduce yourself to your family.  If they don’t recognize you, don’t be alarmed.  That is perfectly normal. As soon as you recapture control of the TV remote, it will come back to them.

Step 5: If you can, don’t even think about work for a day or two (or more) – Give yourself a complete rest. Your brain has been working harder than any other part of you.  A full rest means giving yourself a break from thinking about grant stuff.

Step 6: Do something that you really enjoy.  If you like to read trashy romance novels, do it.  If you like to shop, go for it (within reason, of course). Give yourself the gift of time just for you since you gave up so much of your time recently to your work.

The point here is that some recovery is really necessary after an intense project. Remember, your career is a marathon, not a sprint.

What do you do to recovery after an intense deadline?


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My Desk

You can learn a lot about a person from her desk, and I’m not just talking about whether it’s a neat desk or a messy desk. I’m talking about what is actually on the desk.

Here’s what is on mine right at this moment:
  • Two cell phones charging – Personal and business phones, but my personal cell is used more for business than the business one.  Go figure.
  • Headset and microphone -To use with my Dragon Naturally Speaking software, which I can’t use right now.
  • Flier and information for Dragon Naturally Speaking software – I downloaded version 12, but it won’t install. Ugh.  Don’t you hate it when that happens?
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers RFPs – Both the elementary/middle school and ASSETs versions, for California, if course. The FAQs are printed out, too. Together, they make a pile of paper about two inches thick, all of which must be read before I can move forward with the training workshops and actually grant writing I’ll be doing. Come to think of it, I think I do just about as much reading as writing in my work. That was never mentioned to me before I started this journey.
  • An article a colleague printed for me called, “50 Grammatical Mistakes to Avoid.” – I think I’ve already made about 6 in this post.  They are technically not necessarily mistakes, but bad writing habits to avoid. And I just indulged in three of them in that last sentence.
  • A pile of bills and insurance documents – No explanation is needed. Those are just no fun all around.
  • Paperwork for a couple of different evaluation projects – I keep telling myself that if I keep them on my desk I won’t forget about them and I can work on them a little every day. Well, I don’t forget about them, of course, but they end up just getting in the way when I’m trying to finish up other projects. Do I move them?  Of course not.
  • My notebooks – I have a notebook that I use for all my notes on all projects. I started doing this years ago when my memory started become a little less reliable than it used to be. When I change to a new notebook, I carry around the old and the new for awhile so I can refer to notes in the old one until I don’t need to anymore.  Then the old one is stored with the other old notebooks. Right now, I’m still working from two.
  • A six inch high pile of scrap paper – Anything that is printed on only one side that I don’t need anymore becomes scrap paper. 
  • Two half full bottles of water – I almost wrote half empty, but you know what that would say about me, right?
  • A pile of other business-related projects that are in-process – I won’t tell you how many, but it’s a lot.
  • A desk fan – There are times when I am warm, usually when no one else is, and the little fan comes in very handy. It’s a “woman of certain age” thing.
  • Hand lotion – Because sometimes you just need it.
  • Two staplers -I have no idea why I have two staplers, but I do.
  • My 2012 Knitting Calendar – It’s one of those perpetual calendars.  Each day has a new item to print, along with the pattern for it. Some of the patterns in it are really cute and I have already made a few.  As for some of the others, let me just say that just because something can be made, doesn’t mean that it should be.
Beyond that, it’s just pens, pencils, and miscellaneous other stationery supplies.
So, what does my desk say about me?
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