Posted on Leave a comment

California Issues An RFA for the 21st CCLC Program, Illustrating Why You Should Remember Old Grant Programs

As we’ve written before, grant availability moves in waves, with funding rising to meet new challenges. For example, the advent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan caused a host of nonprofits to spring up and provide support to wounded veterans. Funders, particularly foundations, rushed to offer significant grants. With the wars winding down, it is getting harder for such nonprofits to claim urgency and foundations are likely moving on to address emerging problems.

In the government funding world, however, things are different. Congress is always ready to create new programs, such as the huge Health Navigators program and dozens of other healthcare-related discretionary grant programs created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”), but it behooves nonprofits not to forget about long-standing programs. They may seem to be buried in the background as zombie grant programs, but they often retain significant funding. With the de facto replacement of federal budgets by continuing resolutions in recent years, most discretionary programs are refunded year after year, with cost of living increases.*

For an example of an old program that has lots of money and remains relevant to provide needed services, check out 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLCs). It’s been around since the days of Columbine but remains one of the best ways of funding after school enrichment activities. Since there has been no reduction in school shootings, bullying, and disappointing educational outcomes in general, after school programming should be of interest to nonprofits and schools. We wrote extensively about the 21st CCLC program as an illustration of federal pass-through funding two years ago and since then nothing has changed.

California just issued Requests for Applications (RFA) for its 21st CCLC Program for Elementary and Middle Schools, along with the 21st Century High School ASSETs program. There’s $36,000,000 up for grabs, Pay attention even in you’re not in California, since 21st CCLC is a federal pass-through program and funding exists in every state. If your agency is at all interested in after school programming, it’s a good idea to check with your state department of education to figure out when you can apply. A nice aspect of 21st CCLC grants is that they’re for five-year projects, so if you get a grant, you’ll be operating the project for a fair amount of time.

* There is the minor annoyance of budget sequestration, which may have some impact on discretionary grant programs but so far hasn’t been discernible to us. Besides which, it looks like the Republicans in Congress will probably trade sequestration cuts for entitlement reform in the upcoming budget negotiations. No one knows the future, but this is one plausible future.

Posted on Leave a comment

A Great, Quiet Keyboard: The Matias Quiet Pro

Faithful readers will know that those of us who toil in the grant writing fields at Seliger + Associates are very picky about our office equipment. As writers, we’re particularly fussy about keyboards. Unlike U2, I finally found what I’m looking for, as least with respect to (free proposal phrase here) to keyboards. It’s the Matias Quiet Pro. Here it is, in black and silver Mac livery:

Matias Tactile Pro Quiet

For those of you still computing in the dark ages, this gem is also appropriately available for PCs in funereal black.

Over the years, I went through about a dozen keyboards, all of which were mushy, clunky, ugly or all three—like this old-world Apple keyboard. About five years ago, based on the sage wisdom of Jake*, I looked for a mechanical keyboard. Unlike the typical cheap PC keyboards—which have a membrane system underneath all the keys, or rubber domes that grow brittle with age—mechanical keyboards have individual switches under each individual key. There are various kinds of switches, analogous to different quark flavors, but all mechanical keyboards provide a solid clicking sensation when you type. For those of us who spend hours typing, this is sublime. And, unlike membrane and rubber-dome keyboards, mechanical keyboards are durable.

Five years ago I bought a Matias Tactile Pro, on which I clicked away happily until I dumped a cup of coffee on it last week. Not surprisingly, the Tactile Pro gacked, particularly the spacebar. So I used a trusty butter knife** to pop off the spacebar, which ruined the keyboard. The Matias website, however, showed that they’ve produced new models, including the exquisite Quite Pro.

The main problem with using mechanical keyboards, like the Tactile Pro, is noise. They sound like a popcorn maker. Since I usually wear too-cool-for-school Parrot Zik bluetooth noise canceling headphones listening to music at high volume when I write, and since I don’t share an office, this wasn’t much of a problem.

The exception is when I was wearing my Jabra Soundtube wireless telephone headset to scope projects with clients and they wondered why there’s a machine gun sound in the background, despite the fact that I’m based in Santa Monica and not Afghanistan.

The Quiet Pro somehow solves the noise problem, yielding a satisfying tactile feel, without loud clicks. This is easily the best keyboard I’ve ever had. Matias is also a terrific company. Headquartered in the Great Frozen North of Canada, their tech support and responsiveness are first rate. When you call, a live, friendly and interested person answers, which is a rare experience with computer products.

A couple of years into my original Tactile Pro usage, I got a stuck key. I called Matias, and a replacement keyboard was sent overnight, even though the official one-year warranty period had expired (try that with Apple). Last week, when I told the Matias rep about the spilled coffee/butter knife fiasco, I got a chuckle and a 25% loyalty discount on the new Quiet Pro. Matias is great. Joe Bob says check it out.

* Jake should really not be trusted for keyboard advice, since he uses an extremely odd and alien-looking bowl-shaped keyboard called a “Kinesis Advantage“. Watching Jake type on this device is disturbing and possibly a crime against humanity. Of course, he also has a standing desk and wears Vibram Fivefingers shoes, which are equally disturbing (to those of us with conventional minds), or, to be charitable, eccentric.

** I keep a butter knife in a pencil cup on my desk for such purposes. It was purloined by a college roommate of mine about 43 years ago. He was a busboy at the long-closed ritzy Flame Room at the flagship Radisson Hotel next to Dayton’s Department Store in Downtown Minneapolis. As a poor kid growing up in Minneapolis, I never went to the Flame Room, home of the “Golden Strings,” but I treasure this small remembrance, which is embossed with “Flame Room.” If I had only stayed roommates with this guy, I’d probably have had a service for eight, as he boosted silverware for all of his starving college buddies.