Thursday, March 6, 2014

Grants are noble business plans

Grants are noble business plans to achieve goals and objectives.

According to a report from the Foundation Center, private trusts and foundations in the US remit in excess of 88,000 grant requests annually and disperse in excess of $40 billion in grant funding every year. Add to that total grants from government entities and educational institutions, and it’s easy to see that grant funding contributes to the common good both in terms of money and opportunity.

I was reflecting on my upon my experiences writing grants working as both a contract writer and a non-profit administrator, inspired by a recent email from my college professor Earl Robinson.

Here are my insights on what to know when looking for outside grant funding:
  • As with any business plan, a grant should clearly define the reason why and explain the process in definite, achievable steps. If one was writing a business plan for a commercial/for profit business, it would include all aspects of the operation – administration, manufacturing, marketing and sales, distribution. Your noble business plan must include how similar elements are covered – administration, program services, public outreach and metrics on how to measure the program’s effectiveness. One grant I once read was more of an editorial on why the idea was so noble, but offered scant few details about how the funding would support the group’s work, how the organization was going to deliver on the promises or how this program would make a difference.  I was not surprised to hear that several funding sources all took a pass on the idea, despite the author’s hard work and best intent. 
  • A single solitary grant funder cannot and should not be the only source for funding for your idea.  Most grant funders I’ve spoken with like to see a coalition of resources come together to achieve the project or goal. The idea is best summed up in the old adage about putting all one’s eggs in one basket. Because budgets can change in the midst of a fiscal year, the diversification of revenue streams will insure that a program can survive should something happen to one source.
  • Don’t ever waste anyone’s time without doing proper due diligence on what the donor looks for from their grant requester. If there are specific criteria, always use it as the template to write the document and the check list before submitting your grant. Some grant funders like to fund programs directly, but prefer to avoid paying administrative costs. Some grant funders have geographic boundaries or mandates to target specific groups or areas of interests. Learn how a grant funding source works by reading an organization’s annual reports.
  • Grand funding resources and the people who with for them are often a community on to themselves. Heads of different foundations, alliances, organizations and institutions are often colleagues, peers and friends. Don’t ever condemn, criticize or complain around a failed grant attempt, because you don’t know who knows who. Look at the grant submission process as a learning experience on how to apply, not a judgment on the merits of your idea. 
  • If using the services of a professional from outside of the organization to write the grant, never tie payment to the grant writer to funding the project. Paying the grant writer is an administrative and business development expense of the operation, similar to paying electricity, copy paper or program materials. A professional deserves to be paid for their expertise, time and services. Budget the expense to pay at market place rates and have the money in place willing to invest before you ask someone. 
Grants provide needed funding for worthwhile projects and organizations. The key to writing a successful grant is to have the match of right idea, right grant funder, and providing a quality explanation which empowers both the donor and the recipients to achieve their noble business goals.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Stop thinking outside the box - Stuff that box as full as you can.

Stop using the worn out cliché ‘thinking outside the box.’  When dealing in business with clients, co-workers, and prospects, commit to stuffing their box as full as you can. Show them you can totally handle their needs and problems better than anyone else can.

Focus your attention on creating and demonstrating an effective personal solution that leaves no room whatsoever for questions, doubt, debate or uncertainty.  Don’t come up with some ultra-creative solution that clouds their judgment, casts doubt or distracts them from their goal.  Feel free to bring to their problems your solutions using use new ideas and innovation. Build on the success and good feeling from past performance.  Ultimately, you need to take their box that surrounds their needs and stuff it as full of your solutions as effectively as you possibly can.

As you would fill their box for shipping, make your solution seem air tight without any gaps, waste or excess room. Don’t let the possibility for uncertainty, doubt, or differences in personality take the place of presenting an effective answer that delivers precisely what your decision maker ultimately wants based upon your competence, effectiveness and ability to execute. Deliver a better idea by giving your audience the peace of mind solutions for which they asked.

Leave no room for doubt, by stuffing their box as full as you can.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Four ways YOU are killing LinkedIn

LinkedIn has always been the social media platform of choice for business professionals. This platform's users are often those who wouldn't ever consider composing a tweet or making a like. Yet, there are an over-abundance of short sighted users who are accelerating the death nail for this platform. How? Here are the four ways you (or too many others) are killing LinkedIn:

In order for me to be a LION; let’s connect. – More connections aren't better connections. While I consider myself a LinkedIn Open Networker, I don't consider myself another just number. Read my profile and have a reason you want to connect. Any reason is better than none whatsoever.

I’ll just connect and hope you figure out a reason why this matters. Of the almost 5,000 people with whom I’m connected, the overwhelming of them have just asked me to add them and stopped there. If you want to add me in a professional context, have a professional reason to do so. Do you want to use my service, have me as a mentor, get a quote or bid, or looking for something I have or do? If so, let's connect. If not, let's not.

You don’t have a clue what I do, but I want for you to rate me. – The ultimate LinkedIn Spam. People who have connected with you want for you to rate them, and you know their name and picture … and that’s about it. Stop signing up for this junk generating spam source. Tell your ego that it needs to ask people who can say real things versus bland, self-serving praise.

I do this for a living, and you should switch to me. This request is all features and little to no benefits. I usually get it as requests for using offshore talent, IT services, app development and other emerging technologies. It’s usually a short and succinct note that has all the pizazz of a classified ad. It is usually devoid of any reasons to do business, short of 'here I am.'

LinkedIn is a tool that can expand relationships beyond markets, industries and buying patterns. Done right, it opens doors. Done wrong, it generates annoyance, suspicion and apathy.  Don't kill the platform because you think it’s like other platforms  – Use a professional site in a professional way. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

News that's not outrageous, but mock-rageous.

Rupert Murdoch is reported to have said that "News is Free, But Journalism Costs Money."  If press releases and tabloid reports of the comings and goings and flashings and showings of twenty-somethings is what now constitutes news, we have definitely gone broke.

I am publically calling out celebu-tants, reality TV personalities, high image recording artists of various degrees of talent, shock jocks, bloggers and all nature of people who believe that being totally outrageous and self serving is the key to your success. I will not fill space here with their names. You know the people about whom I'm writing. Talking about their sexual escapades, party habits, anti-social behavior and poor fills all manor of websites, TV shows, tabloids and any other communications methods.

You are not outrageous. I deem you as mock-rageous. We live in a time where we have to stop pretending that we can fill our minds with all this mock-ragious behavior, and we need to put our thoughts about solving problems that can aid us all.
Outrageous is when gas prices go up 30 cents in a week because we can't build a secure networks of pipelines that don't rupture and leak every six months. Outrageous is making our food with less and less nutritional ingredients and more and more chemicals because we think that this will make it last on the shelf an extra few months. Outrageous is forgetting how far we have come with research, technology and invention in just the last 100 years, and then not challenging ourselves that we have so much further to go.

We need to focus our thoughts and actions towards solving real problems. I challenge you to invent something, write or draw something, re-engineer a process you use or dare to do something  absolutely different.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Words of Advice for Jim Caldwell, New Detroit Lions Coach

The Detroit Lions have hired Jim Caldwell as their next head coach.
1) Your best friend Tony Dungy used the term "Same Old Lions." Use this at the fulcrum for cultural change that your bosses want.
2) Teach QB Matt Stafford how to grow up from being a cap backwards wearing "I don't want to work with a QB guru" young man in to a mature leader of men.
3) Acknowledge the Curse of Bobby Layne and all the pent up anger against your team's owner. We don't need a carpetbagger for another five years.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Catch me on DaddyBlogger this Mon Jan 6th.

I am honored and delighted to be the guest on the Google Hangout for Daddy Blogger site. Looking forward to talking with Ricky Shetty about my takes on being a dad and the hard earned wisdom I can pay forward. For more information on this: