Monthly Archives: November 2009

Health Care Reform Means Green Grass & High Tides for Grant Writers

One of the great ’70s arena anthem songs was the Outlaws’ Green Grass & High Tides, or as it was often misheard, “Green Grass & High Times Forever.” It seems that whichever health care reform bill staggers across the Congressional finish line will make it Green Grass & High Tides for grant writers, since all versions contain lots of hidden grant nuggets. I’m too busy writing proposals for such fun-filled RFPs as HRSA’s Nurse Education, Practice and Retention (NEPR) Program and SAMHSA’s Offender Reentry Program to flyspeck a couple of 2,000 page health care bills looking for prospective grant programs. Fortunately, I came across “Numerous Grant Programs Fatten Cost of Health Care Reform,” which does the heavy lifting for me. Here are some of the new grant programs that may burst forth in 2010:

  • Demonstration Program to Promote Access for Medicare Beneficiaries With Limited English Proficiency (LEP): Section 1222 of the House bill would create three-year grants for nonprofits to offer interpreter services to help LEP residents communicate with medical providers. This is clearly aimed at Section 330 community and rural health centers that provide Medicaid services, often for LEP populations. We work for lots of Section 330 providers, so we love this program concept.
  • Early Childhood Home Visitation Program: Section 2951 of the Senate bill would authorize grants to nonprofits for early childhood visitation programs. The programs would be aimed at improving maternal and newborn health, preventing child injuries and abuse,improving school performance, reducing domestic violence, and improving family economic self-sufficiency. There is $1.5 billion for this gem over five years. We’ve written tons of proposals over the years for similar programs, which are usually called “demonstration homemaker” services. I’ve never seen any data that suggests that such programs work, but they are great ways of employing lots of low-skill workers, usually low-income women, to go into the homes of other low-income women and tell them how to fold their laundry. This ever popular family support service already exists in most American communities. Since Senators must know this, I can only assume that the program will be “walkin’ around money” for the thousands of nonprofits that provide family supportive services through contracts with city, county and state agencies.
  • Grants to Promote Positive Health Behaviors and Outcomes: Section 2530 in the House bill authorizes the award of grants to promote healthy behaviors in medically underserved areas, including education about the risks associated with poor nutrition, tobacco use, lack of exercise and other health problems. I could list about 25 existing federal program that already do this, but the nice part about the federal trough is that there is always room for one more program.
  • Healthy Teen Initiative Program to Reduce Teen Pregnancy: Section 2526 of the House bill establishes a new program to provide $150 million in grants for schools, non-profits and other groups for educational programs to reduce teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The feds have been funding various teen pregnancy and STD prevention programs for the past 35 years, vacillating between sex education and abstinence approaches, depending on which party controls Congress. We write teen pregnancy prevention programs regularly, so I am very familiar with the data and have yet to see any evidence that such programs do anything except keep armies of earnest, newly minted college grads employed as health educators.

I could go on, but I think readers will get the idea that there are dozens of new grant horses being saddled up in the health reform effort, as well as other emerging federal legislation. I recently wrote about a huge new education program named i3, in Same As It Ever Was: Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), Student Support Services (SSS), TRIO, and More to Come and am tickled to learn that new health related programs are not far behind. If your organization does job training, not education or health services, and you’re feeling left out of the party, not to worry, Congress feels your pain. The LA Times reports that Democrats Work On Multibillion-dollar Jobs Package, so your time is nigh.

I’m hoping for a resurrection of the Nixon-era Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), which was perhaps the all time best grant program for nonprofit and public agencies, since all it did was provide money to hire people. I wrote many funded CETA proposals in the ’70s and knew lots of unemployed liberal arts grads who entered the government/nonprofit world through CETA slots and clawed their way into permanent jobs, including the holy grail of civil service status. Unlike the Stimulus Bill, it was easy to count jobs created by CETA, as grantees just had to count new noses around the conference table.

For the past year or so, I’ve written many posts on how this is the best time ever to go after grants and the hits keep on coming. Seliger + Associates stands ready to shoulder the burden of writing proposals for the newest crop of federal grants, which indeed seem to be the same as they ever were.

November 2009 Links: Governments, Foundations, Data, Broadband, Cities, and More

* US charities expecting lean holiday. This makes writing proposals even more important, as Isaac explained way back during 2008 in “Market Tanks, Donors Disappear, Corporate Givers Vanish: Not to Worry, This is a Great Time to Write Proposals.”

* How government policy defeats itself, with California as an example. That’s my title for the article, anyway; the NYTimes dubs it, “California’s Zigzag on Welfare Rules Worries Experts.”

* What’s Wrong With Charitable Giving—and How to Fix It.

* Recession Drives Surge in Youth Runaways according to Ian Urbina the New York Times. As Isaac said in a note to Urbina: “I loved the subject article, which reads just like one of our grant proposals . . . lots of anecdotes, a few well chosen, but meaningless, statistics from dubious sources, and an entirely specious argument. You would make a great grant writer.”

The article says things like, “Over the past two years, government officials and experts have seen an increasing number of children leave home for life on the streets, including many under 13.” Compare this to our advice in The Worse it is, the Better it is: Your Grant Story Needs to Get the Money and Finding and Using Phantom Data.

(Urbina should’ve referenced Charles Bock’s Beautiful Children, which covers this topic from the perspective of the economic boom times.)

* America can’t be the world’s tech leader without immigration reforms.

* Another round of broadband stimulus money should be coming soon.

* Why newspapers are important, part 10,122: “Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost to Health.” Few if any bloggers would go into anywhere near the depth Charles Duhigg does and can.

* Want 50Mbps Internet in your town? Threaten to roll out your own. This is from Ars Technica:

ISPs may not act for years on local complaints about slow Internet—but when a town rolls out its own solution, it’s amazing how fast the incumbents can deploy fiber, cut prices, and run to the legislature.

* The worst kind of good news on AIDS.

* The WSJ predicts “The Next Youth-Magnet Cities,” where D.C. ties for first with Seattle. No mention of Tucson on the list.

* Why are some cities more entrepreneurial than others?

* From the New York Times (and linked to by virtually every blog): Chicago’s [Olympic 2016] Loss: Is Passport Control to Blame? The thrust of the answer: at least in part. America’s immigration process is screwed up, and so is its border control, which manages to combine ineffectiveness with invasiveness.

* The Books of Brin—that’s Sergey Brin of Google fame.

* * Computers are less effective at improving developing world education than other, simpler measures, like de-worming.

* The bookcase staircase is very cool.

* A Brief History of Sex Ed in America. Notice how this relates to our post on the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) program.

* On helping students to finish college in four years. Given how few students do finish in four, this is of major consequence for economic health.

* Japan shows that knowledge is power.

* Those who would sacrifice property rights to development end up with neither.

* 15 Things Worth Knowing About Coffee. This comes in visual form.

* Learn your damn homophones.

* Hard-Hit Factory Towns Slow to See Relief From Stimulus.

* Ryan Vent on Libertarians and their “transportation blindspot.”

PSST! Listen, Do You Want to Know a Secret? Do you Promise Not to Tell?* Here’s How to Write Foundation Proposals

Hey you!! That’s right, you! The nonprofit Executive Director lurking in the back. Confused about how to write foundation proposals? I shouldn’t really do this, but, just between me and you, and if you promise not to tell anyone, I’ll let you in on some of the secrets of writing foundation proposals.

Many nonprofit folks, and particularly the “True Believers” I wrote about in True Believers and Grant Writing: Two Cautionary Tales, are hopelessly confused about getting foundation funds and writing foundation proposals. There are basically two ways to get access to foundation funds: the fairy tale way and the hard work way. In the fairy tale world, the nonprofit person (e.g., Executive Director, President, Founder, what have you) cozies up to the foundation representative (ideally, Bill Gates) and breathlessly describes how their new organization will bring instant water to thirsty parts of the world (just add liquid!) or a similar idea. Mr. Gates will be so impressed that he will reach into his Tom Bihn Manpurse**, pull out a checkbook, wad of cash or debit card (depending on the age of the dreamer), and the funding is accomplished.

We call this kind of approach to getting foundation grants “relationship funding” because it depends on the nonprofit developing a relationship with the funder. While this can work, it takes a lot of time and luck. Also, very few folks actually know foundation reps. Any of you nonprofit folks out there play Bunco with Oprah? I didn’t think so. Being serious, most foundations either hide behind an accountant/lawyer/flak catcher type, who you can’t develop a relationship with because there is no one to develop it with, or have a staff, whose job is partially to make potential applicants feel like they’re special (similar to the role of the field deputy in your congressperson’s district office) without actually making any commitments.

People ask us all the time if we have “special relationships” with funders, which always makes me laugh. Let’s say I regularly play bridge with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Why would I use my influence on your project, as opposed to the dozens of other projects we work on in a given year or for a project dear to my stone-like heart? In other words, even if we had influence, which we don’t, why would we rent it? So, if any would-be grant writer tells you they have special influence, walk away quickly, as they are likely an amateur. Putting it in Entourage terms, if you want to get into the hottest club in LA, it helps to know Vince, not Drama. When callers ask about developing relationships with funders, I always suggest that they criss-cross the US flying first class in hopes of sitting next to Bill or Oprah. They probably actually probably fly in private jets, but you get the idea.

If developing relationships with foundations is pretty much a fairy tale exercise, how do nonprofits get foundation grants? Here’s the really bad news: through hard work. The task starts with deciding what you’re trying to fund. In the foundation world, there are essentially the following four funding types:

  • Start-Up Grant: This one is for new organizations. The challenge is that you have to convince the foundation that your organization can actually do something, because presumably nothing has yet been done so far other than to identify a problem. But all organizations have to start somewhere, so if you need start-up funds, go for it.
  • Capital Grant: Favored by Boys & Girls Clubs, religious organizations, etc., this means you want to build a building, buy a van fleet or the like. Lots of foundations love capital grants because they can put their name on the project, and they’re easy to evaluate. Either the building is built or it isn’t. In the case of the largest foundation in the world, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, they decided to give themselves an enormous capital grant to build a 12-acre “campus”—or maybe Taj Mahal is more appropriate—in downtown Seattle. Personally, I think it would be better if they simply bought a couple of the hundreds of vacant and abandoned office buildings in Detroit or Flint, but where’s the fun in that?
  • Operating Funds: This means you’re seeking funds for everything done by the nonprofit—the organization is already doing lots of great things but needs more money to do them. From the foundation’s perspective, this is a bit like feeding a stray cat, as they know you will be back for more. But many foundations like operations projects because they recognize that established organizations have to have enough money to keep the lights on.
  • Special Project/Program Development: Let’s say your organization provides supportive services to Cyclopes. A special project could be to conduct outreach to work with left-handed Cyclopes. Foundations often like funding the development of special projects, particularly if you can link the project to some emerging crisis. If you were going to fund Project NUTRIA, as we described it in an earlier post, you would pitch it as a special project.

Keep in mind that not every foundation will fund all of these four project types—a foundation that funds capital grants may love your charitable purpose but not be interested in supporting operations. While we think it is best to settle on a project type before doing research to find funders, it can be done the other way around by finding the funders first and bending your concept to meet the type of projects they will fund.

Once you’ve crystallized your concept, it’s time to do the research into what foundations might fund you. More or less, foundations use the following filters—the details of which are usually specified somewhere in their guidelines—to funnel applications:

  • Geography: While some foundations fund nationally, most foundations fund in a specific place or region (e.g., Owatonna, MN, Southern California, etc.), or my personal favorite, “areas of company operations.” Let’s see, where does Wal-Mart not operate? Chicago, Boston, and one or two other places. Keep in mind that a foundation that funds in Poughkeepsie is unlikely to fund a project in Ashtabula, no matter how much they care about your cause.
  • Charitable Purpose: Some foundations want to help at-risk youth, some are interested in health issues and a very few just want to do something good, whatever that means. It is critical that you find funders who care about what you care about. True Believers often stumble on this filter because they cannot believe that anybody fails to share their passion. Also, try to avoid embarrassing mistakes: if your organization approaches at-risk youth services from an evangelical Christian perspective, a foundation that talks about Jewish philanthropic giving on their website is not likely to fund you, so save the postage.
  • How The Grant Will be Used: See the project concept discussion above. If you’ve managed to find a foundation that wants to fund Cyclops services in Owatonna and you want to build transitional housing for homeless Cyclops, make sure the foundation will fund a capital campaign before you send in the proposal.

Now, it’s time for letting you in on the really big foundation grant writing secret, or as is said in the TV biz The Reveal: How to organize an initial foundation proposal. Unless directed otherwise by the guidelines, we format them as five-page, single spaced letters. Why five pages? Because foundations almost never want a longer proposal and often want a one to three page letter of inquiry. We call the initial submission narratives “foundation letter proposals” and here’s how to organize them:

  • Date, address block and salutation.
  • Introduction paragraph, that includes the ever popular “five w’s and the h.”
  • Goal and objectives. See this post for help in writing these: The Goal of Writing Objectives is to Achieve Positive Outcomes (Say What?).
  • Background on the problem or a needs assessment. Don’t use too many citations, since, unlike government proposals, in foundation proposals you’re aiming for the heart, not the head.
  • Program description. Make this count, because this is where you tell the funder what you plan to do and how the money will be spent.
  • Timeline. We usually do these as a simple double column table.
  • Evaluation plan (a paragraph will do).
  • Staffing plan and budget request. A few sentences, along with a simple attached line item budget/budget justification in Excel will get the job done.
  • Background on the organization. Who are you, and why are you qualified?
  • Acknowledgment. A short paragraph on how you will acknowledge the grant: press releases, name on the building, larger than life statues of Bill and Melinda astride white chargers in front of the building, etc.
  • Summary paragraph.

I know this is pretty much the same as learning how to write a five-paragraph theme, as Miss Cruikshank taught me in eighth grade English at Sandburg Junior High, now Middle School when dinosaurs walked the earth, but writing foundation proposals is really not that complicated—like golf, all you have to do is hit that little ball 400 yards into the tin cup 18 times in less than five strokes a hole. No problem. Of course, it helps to be Tiger Woods, and in writing foundation proposals, it’s a lot easier to simply hire Seliger + Associates. But now you know the secrets, so get busy and write.

* This is a steal from the lyrics of charming, but somewhat forgotten Beatles tune, Do You Want To Know a Secret that I liked about the time I was in Miss Cruikshank’s class.

** This reference is designed to poke fun at Jake, who carries his Tom Bihn Messenger Bag everywhere, stuffed with a laptop, books, tupperware containers with fried tofu remains and assorted other items he can’t be without. While I am way too old for a manpurse, Jake did get me to buy this Tom Bihn Laptop Bag in a particularly annoying shade of avocado green.

Adventures in The Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP), Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), and Figuring Out Where to Start the Narrative

Although this might not seem like it should be a problem, figuring out where to start the narrative section of a proposal can sometimes be difficult: do you write to the evaluation criteria, to something labeled “narrative,” or to a series of text boxes? Federal programs are particularly fond of hiding the salami, as anyone who has had the misfortune of sitting down with a freshly issued, complex RFP can attest.

Novice grant writers often start writing to the wrong section, and Isaac described one example of this occurrence in Professional Grant Writer At Work: Don’t Try Writing A Transportation Electrification Proposal At Home. As he said, “The problem is that [review] criteria are invariably hidden somewhere in the bowels of the RFP and may or may not be referenced in the RFP completion instructions.”

You can see a particularly pernicious example of this in the Broadband Initiatives Program, whose application guide is available at the link. Oh, and you can also read the NOFA that was included in the Federal Register.

There are a few different areas within the NOFA and application guidance you could conceivably respond to. Check out page 16 of the NOFA, which says, “1. BIP Infrastructure Projects. a. General.” It has some point totals, which we usually write against when dealing with, say, YouthBuild. In the case of BIP, however, that would be logical, but wrong, because the application guide has more detailed instructions. If you look in it, you’ll be tempted by page 8 (though it’s labeled “7” in the hard copy) because it has scoring criteria similar but not identical to what’s in the NOFA.

Confused yet? Me too. But if you keep looking, you’ll find that the the place you actually want to start is page 14 (which is labeled 13) in the guidance, which says “Executive Summary.” As far as I know, however, no part of the NOFA or the application guidance actually come right and say, “write to the questions/criteria starting on page 14, which is actually labeled page 13 in the hard copy!” If you don’t take the time to study both the application guide and the NOFA, you could end up with an incomplete and totally wrong application on which you’ve spent dozens of work hours.

There’s another amusing part of the BIP NOFA, which has implications for this and other programs. It says, “Describe the methodology, source of data, and analytical approaches used to determine whether the proposed funded service areas are classified as “unserved,” ”underserved,” or for BIP, at least 75% rural.” But the NOFA already describes what “unserved” and “underserved” mean on page 7:

Specifically, a proposed funded service area may qualify as underserved for last mile projects if at least one of the following factors is met, though the presumption will be that more than one factor is present: 1. No more than 50 percent of the households in the proposed funded service area have access to facilities-based, terrestrial broadband service at greater than the minimum broadband transmission speed (set forth in the definition of broadband above); 2. No fixed or mobile broadband service provider advertises broadband transmission speeds of at least three megabits per second (‘‘mbps’’) downstream in the proposed funded service area […]

And it goes on from there. The most obvious maneuver to answer this question is to copy the exact language from the NOFA and spit it back in the response. They’ve given you the answer: you just have to use it. This isn’t a college exam, where you get extra credit for creativity; you get extra credit for staying in the lines. Save your imaginative powers for writing novels or composing software—in many grant writing exercises, imaginative powers will be wasted and possibly harmful, because your job is often to stack one two by four on top of another two by four to build the application following the RFP blueprints. The only question is where you need to build your foundation, and that’s what I’ve tried to answer in this post; the foundation issue will have to wait for another.

Oh, and the best part of all this: the narrative section for our client turned out to be around 30 pages long. The application guide is 72 pages long. I would propose a test of an RFP: if it takes longer to explain how to apply to a program than to describe what the applicant will actually do, the RFP writer has failed in some significant way.

Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) is the same as it ever was

As grant writers, we usually don’t pay much attention to new grant programs as they move through the regulation writing process, since we are focused on writing proposals, not the policy minutia of federal regs. A caller last week, however, got me to look at the birthing of the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), and I fell in love with this cute little grant puppy, eyes closed and all.

I immediately liked the fact that a lower case “i” is used in the name, which leads me to believe that perhaps archey the cockroach of archey and mehitabel fame, who jumped from the top of a typewriter to write his stories and couldn’t use the shift key, was involved in the development of the program. Part of the almost already forgotten American Recovery and Relief Act (ARRA, or otherwise known as the Stimulus Bill), i3 will offer up $650 million to “start or expand research-based innovative programs that help close the achievement gap and improve outcomes for students.” This is music to a grant writer’s ears because we could make just about any education project concept work for this nebulous description. Even better, both Local Education Agencies (“LEAs” = school districts in FedSpeak) and nonprofits are eligible.

This is just the latest in a long series of Department of Education grant programs that purport to do more or less the same thing, with few discernible results. i3 projects are supposed to:

  • improve K-12 achievement and close achievement gaps;
  • decrease dropout rates;
  • increase high school graduation rates; and
  • improve teacher and school leader effectiveness.

If there are any “research-based” strategies to accomplish any of the above, let me know, because in 38 years of writing endless Department of Education proposals, I’m not aware of them. If you think I am just a cynical grizzled grant writer, take a gander at the first four of the eight goals for the definitely forgotten Goals 2000: Educate America Act, which was passed in 1994 with much folderol:

By the Year 2000 –

  • All children in America will start school ready to learn.
  • The high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent.
  • All students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter including English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics an government, economics, the arts, history, and geography, and every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our nation’s modern economy.
  • United States students will be first in the world in mathematics and science achievement.

While Goals 2000 didn’t achieve any of its goals, or much of anything else in the real world for that matter, we wrote lots of funded Goals 2000 proposals and look forward to a target rich environment when the i3 RFP is published this winter. Perhaps archey should have named this effort “goals2010imeangoals2020imeandgoals2030” instead, or for that matter, g2. Attention school district and education-oriented nonprofits: as the Captain of the U-Boot in Das Boot said, “Good Hunting.”

While Secretary Duncan announced i3, and to paraphrase Joni Mitchell in a “Free Man in Paris” the rest of the Department of Education “grantmaker machinery behind the popular program” continues to rumble on. A case in point is the Student Support Services (SSS) program, for which a RFP was recently issued with a due date of December 14. There is $268 million available for SSS, but no fanfare from Secretary Duncan.

Why? It’s simple–nobody pays attention to the old dog when a new puppy appears. SSS is one of the seven “TRIO” programs that fund various initiatives to “assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to postbaccalaureate programs.” We’ve written lots of funded TRIO grants over the years. Some TRIO programs, like SSS, are aimed at college students, while others, like Talent Search and Upward Bound, focus on middle and high school students. Hmmm, methinks I could write an i3 proposal that mimics a TRIO proposal without the Department of Education figuring it out.

The reason that SSS causes little excitement, despite the enormous amount of money available, is that it’s been around since the Johnson administration! Everyone is rushing around to pat the i3 puppy on the head, while the old dog SSS barely gets noticed. At Seliger + Associates, however, we love all Department of Education dogs equally and are carefully grooming proposals for our SSS clients while we wait for i3 to be whelped.

I could go on with other Department of Education programs that have more or less the same purpose as i3 (e.g., Title I, Title III, No Child Left Behind, Smaller Learning Communities, Partnership Academies), but you get the idea. Regardless of the likely failure of this latest education reform effort, i3 is another great example of why this is such a wonderful time for grant writing, as I’ve been writing about in various blog posts since the Great Recession started a year ago. Given the various youth and other recession-based horror stories I cited recently in There’s Something Happening Here, But You Don’t Know What It Is, Do You Mr. Jones?, you can be assured that many more grant programs are gestating as I write this. The time to plan (or apply) is now, so that your public agency or nonprofit organization can swoop in. As the Talking Heads put it in “Once in a Lifetime”, for the Department of Education and other federal agencies, it’s “same as it ever was.”

Seliger + Associates writes a $2.5 million, funded Department of Energy (DOE) Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) proposal

A $2.5 million Department of Energy Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) proposal we wrote for an electric utility company was funded last week, and, while we write lots of funded proposals, this one was especially gratifying. Faithful readers will remember that last April I wrote No Experience, No Problem: Why Writing a Department of Energy (DOE) Proposal Is Not Hard For A Good Grant Writer; I wrote it because I was constantly explaining to callers who’d been overcome with Stimulus Bill Fever that Seliger + Associates can write almost any DOE proposal, even though we’d never written one and didn’t have any technical background in energy-related project concepts.

The SGIG program came along with $4 billion to enable electric utilities to add whiz bang features to their distribution systems. The enormous amount of money, along with the the media Stimulus Bill hype, produced a flood of callers. Most were inventors, start-up companies, quick-buck artists and dreamers, but among the assorted flotsam and jetsam were calls from three qualified SGIG applicants—electric utility companies.

All three had more or less the same reaction to my pitch: “Since you’re just a general purpose grant writing firm and don’t have electrical engineers on staff, what makes you think you can write a SGIG proposal?” My response became: read the above blog post and accept at face value my observation that, in almost 17 years of being in business, we’d never run across a topic we couldn’t write to, assuming we’re provided with technical content, fava beans* and a fine Chianti (the last two are a test to see if you’re paying attention: they actually come from Hannibal Lector discussing how to enjoy liver). Basically, I said the same thing I often tell potential clients: hiring us is a lot like Demi Moore in Ghost being advised by Whoopi Goldberg—if you want to see Patrick Swayze again, you’re going to have to believe. Similarly, the client has to suspend their own preconceptions, which are usually misconceptions, about grant writing, to believe we can write on any topic for any funder.

Two of the qualified SGIG callers did not “believe” and presumably kept searching in the forest for the perfect, but ephemeral, grant writing “unicorn” I described in my original post. One caller became our sole SGIG client for this funding round. The application process culminated in a finely crafted proposal that went in on the deadline day. Flash forward to this week, when I took a small break from toiling over a hot Los Angeles County Area Agency on Aging Supportive Services Program (SSP) proposal to check to see if space aliens had landed on the White House lawn or what have you. President Obama was off somewhere announcing the SGIG awards, so I immediately found the DOE press release to see which applications were funded and saw the proposal we wrote.** I also checked for the other two utility companies, which were not on the list. Perhaps they never found their unicorn, or the unicorn they found turned out be be just a pony with a party hat.

Score one for our general purpose grant writing approach. Still, the writing process for the SGIG was complicated by the fact our client, an electric utility, had never submitted a federal proposal but had lots of bright and talented staff and consultants, so we were endlessly explaining and defending the “Seliger method” for writing proposals. Fortunately for the client, who paid us on hourly basis, we could simply say, read blog post x, rather than forcing us to tediously explaining why we were doing what we were doing or not doing at $200/hour.

I would like to share more about the proposal, but I can’t because we signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). I think, however, that the proposal was funded because of a “national security” argument we developed that the client had not considered. Once again, to paraphrase what I wrote last May in another post on writing DOE and similar high-tech proposals, Professional Grant Writer at Work: Don’t Try This At Home, Seliger + Associates is tanned, fit, relaxed and ready. Now that a DOE proposal we wrote has been funded, we could always claim to be “experts,” but we’ll just keep on keepin’ on as general purpose grant writers to get our clients “tangled up in green.”

* I love to cook, and when Jake and his siblings were little kids, I got it in my head to make fresh fava beans a few times. This exhausting process involves shelling, blanching, and peeling before one gets around to the actual cooking. Like other tasty but enervating recipes I’ve tried over the years (e.g., mousaaka, chili rellenos, etc.), if you get in the mood to make fava beans, lie down until the feeling passes and take yourself to a fine Italian restaurant, like Angelini Osteria in West Hollywood or Vivace and its sister Vivace Pizzeria in Tucson.

** As is often the case, our client forgot to let us know that the SGIG proposal we wrote was funded, so I had to dig around to find out. I know the client knew because federal funding agencies always send an award letter to the applicant and almost always lets their congressperson know about the grant before the press release is sent out. This is why the applicant’s congressional district number is required on the SF424. I am used to clients forgetting who wrote their funded proposals and, as pros, we do not need “attaboys.”

The Latest Outfit Promising Something for Nothing: Aimfar

You might think that, given our tendency to mock various scams and time wasters in the grant world (see, for example, here and here), people would stop sending us spam with outlandish promises in it. Alas, that’s not the case, since we recently received a message from Jacqueline Ruth Turco of “Aimfar,” which says, “Let us write your non profit clients a grant. At least 75% of your non profit clients will qualify for and receive a grant.” Aside from the awkward or nonstandard English, this message is bizarre because it doesn’t identify the purported funding agency.

A quick reminder: grants are usually made by government agencies at various levels (federal, state, local) or foundations/corporate giving sources to nonprofit or public agencies. If you receive e-mails promising something for nothing that don’t even a) identify the entity offering you money or b) why that entity might offer you money, it’s likely a scam of some sort. At the moment, Aimfar’s “About” page talks about micro loans, not grants, and it’s not obvious what exactly they do, which is another bad sign in the grant world. You might notice that if you go to the Seliger + Associates services page, we list the stuff we do: write proposals, edit proposals, grant research, and so forth. If you go to Aimfar’s page, it’s difficult to say exactly what they do aside from spamming us and presumably others as well.