Monthly Archives: February 2016

Seliger’s Quick Guide to Developing Grant Proposal Outreach Plans

Most grant proposals involve describing the way in which clients from the target population/target area will be made aware of the new service/program and encouraged to participate (and some programs, like the Street Outreach Program, are composed entirely of outreach). This is usually referred to as the “outreach campaign,” which is a key aspect of any grant proposal, since the funder must believe that the applicant can actually find and engage clients.

If the funder doesn’t believe the applicant can find and engage clients, the proposal will likely lose enough points to miss the funding threshold. Not every proposal needs an outreach effort: some programs will have a captive client input stream, like ex-offenders being released from a specific correctional facility, court-referred families involved in child neglect issues, etc.

RFPs that mandate  outreach plans have always seemed like an odd requirement, since they’re almost always the same, and they usually include:

  • If the budget is large enough, hire one or more dedicated Outreach Workers. Be careful, however, about the position name—don’t use Community Outreach Workers (“COW”s), particularly for a program reaching female clients. Don’t use Peer Outwork Workers (“POWs”) for a program reaching veterans. One neat trick in a tight budget is to create a position called Outreach/Intake Specialist to handle both the outreach effort and client intake.
  • Since it’s important that outreach staff actually relate to the target population, make these “non-professional” positions to be filled by peers with the street cred/life experience to relate to the target population. For example, in conducting outreach to engage at-risk youth in danger of gang involvement, propose hiring ex-gang bangers in the same age range or slightly older than the target population. For peer staff, propose FTE (full-time equivalent) hourly positions.*
  • Traditional outreach strategies include conducting street-based outreach wherever the target population is likely to be found (e.g., public housing developments**, parks, community centers, liquor store parking lots, etc.); sending press releases to local print media; making staff available for appearances on local radio/TV programs; making presentations to service providers, schools, churches, etc.; snail mail mailers; distributing flyers and posters throughout the target area; social media / smartphone-based outreach; and so on.Sometimes it may make sense to lease a van for street-based outreach, with project name/logos on the sides and equipped with literature and other program specific stuff (e.g., emergency food and clothing for outreach to the homeless, rapid HIV test kits for outreach to injection drug users, etc.). If you want to take the time tunnel back to the ’70s, you can propose using the van for pop-up street theater presentations at community celebrations, health fairs and the like.
  • Digital-age outreach strategies should, as noted above, focus on social media. Use FaceBook, SnapChat, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp and text/email blasts. There is no digital divide; virtually every American has a smartphone or, at the least a “lifeline phone,” which are often referred to on the street as an “Obama phone.”
  • Always state that outreach services will be culturally and linguistically appropriate.

* There are 2,080 person hours in a work year, so one hourly FTE @ $20/hour = $40,160 for budgeting purposes.

** Even though anyone who grew up in or near (like I did) a public housing project call them “the projects,” in grant writing, never use the term “projects, ” call them “public housing developments.”

Links: Claims about program participants, nonprofit life cycles, building better cities, power production, electric cars, and more!

* The title is awful, but: “Tell the truth about benefit claimants and the left shuts you down: How neuro­biologist Dr Adam Perkins became a victim of the new McCarthyism.” Example: “Over the past five years, he has accumulated a mass of evidence about the personalities of welfare claimants and concluded that individuals with aggressive, rule-breaking and anti-social tendencies — what he calls the ‘employment–resistant personality profile’ — are over-represented among benefit recipients.” Key word: “Claims.” Don’t cite his work in proposals.

* “The Nonprofit’s Grant Writing Life Cycle: No Matter Where You’re Going, There You Are.”

* “The poor are better off when we build more housing for the rich,” an under-appreciated point—but when most people talk about affordable housing, they’re actually trying to signal how much they care, rather than understanding and then solving the problem. See also my (policy wonk) post, “Do millennials have a future in Seattle? Do millennials have a future in any superstar cities?

* An incredible comment from someone who read “Why you should become a nurse or physicians assistant instead of a doctor: the underrated perils of medical school.”

* NASA: “Coal and Gas are Far More Harmful than Nuclear Power.” But, nuclear remains a pretty complicated way to boil water to make steam.

* Why clean energy is now expanding even when fossil fuels are cheap.

* Why online mattress companies proliferate; the title is mind because the title of the original is too stupid to repeat.

* “He taught me that it’s much better to face harsh reality than to close your eyes to it. Once you are aware of the dangers, your chances of survival are much better if you take some risks than if you meekly follow the crowd. That is why I trained myself to look at the dark side.” That’s from a fascinating interview on Europe with George Soros.

* “Seattle Transit Tunneling Is Going Great, and The People Want More.” Headlines like this are rarely seen! Not every large-scale construction project is a total boondoggle.

* “A Tesla in Every Garage? Not So Fast.” Note that this is from an engineering professional association and is written by a historian. The headline is slightly deceptive (“battery electric vehicles represent a more thorough upsetting of the existing order of things than Musk and his acolytes might like to admit” appears in the body) but the discussion is good.

* “From liquid air to supercapacitors, energy storage is finally poised for a breakthrough.” An important story. Also: “Welsh home installs UK’s first Tesla Powerwall storage battery. And: Solar + Storage, another key piece in the energy infrastructure puzzle.

* If you lease a car today, Tesla will allegedly have an autonomous car by the time that lease expires. Isaac, however, likes to say that he doesn’t see the point of an autonomous car unless you can have a cocktail and read the Sunday NYT while being in the “driver’s seat.”

* How GM Beat Tesla to the First True Mass-Market Electric Car.

* William Gibson: How I Wrote Neuromancer.

* “The Sexual Misery of the Arab World,” also an under-appreciated point.

New grant wave forming for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

A new grant wave is forming. An unexpected and shocking epidemic of heroin and prescription opioid addiction has erupted across America and the federal response is going to be a huge increase in funding for treatment and related services.

We’ve already seen signs of the grant wave in HRSA’s Substance Abuse Service Expansion program, which was designed to focus on “Medication-assisted Treatment in opioid use disorders.” Last week, the Obama Administration proposed a new $1 billion heroin treatment initiative involving pass-through grants to the states, which will in turn issue RFPs to local treatment providers, most of which will be nonprofits.

The new Obama initiative is to fund more medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Unlike the old methadone approach, MAT combines behavioral therapy with more modern medications to treat substance abuse disorders. While the Obama initiative is clearly aimed at treatment providers, peripheral grants are sure to become available for ancillary services like outreach, engagement, education and case management, most of which can be implemented by virtually any human services nonprofit.

Unlike many of President Obama’s proposals, the MAT grant initiative is likely to gain strong and quick bipartisan support in Congress, because vast stretches of rural America, as well as many suburbs and cities, are being overwhelmed by heroin, prescription opioid addiction, and concomitant ODs, often in the seemingly most unlikely of places. This includes over 400 ODs in New Hampshire in 2015. This bucolic state is not usually associated with a 22-year old woman overdosing in a squalid Nashua alley.

Listen to this heart-wrenching NRP story about how a middle aged and middle class New Hampshire makeup artist’s step daughter died. The makeup artist specializes in “painting” the presidential candidates that inundate NH every four years; she’s made-up everyone from Bernie Sanders to Mario Rubio this year. Each candidate has gotten an earful of the the addiction/OD crisis while captive in her chair.

In addition, almost every Democratic and Republican presidential candidate, with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton, seems to have been personally touched by the addiction and/or OD of a child, another relative, or a friend. It’s like Traffic writ large. Carly Fiorina and Chris Cristie regularly tell OD anecdotes as part of the their stump speeches, while Bernie and the now-out-of-the-race Rand Paul take a libertarian stand that prefers treatment over legal sanctions regarding substance abuse disorders.

When Bernie and Rand somehow agree on a major domestic policy issue, you know that the problem transcends politics. The US long-ago lost its 40-year “War on Drugs.” After over four decades of draconian law enforcement and incarceration that disproportionately affects communities of color, the net result is that heroin is actually cheaper than ever—the Washington Post reports that a bag of heroin costs less than a pack of cigarettes in much of America! High cigarette taxes are part of the reason, but heroin is not taxed. Taken together, these trends point to the need for nonprofits to be nimble enough to catch this cresting grant tsunami.

The Distinction Between Services Offered Now and Services Later, Illustrated by the HRSA Oral Health Service Expansion (OHSE) Program

When you’re writing a proposal for a grant intended to expand an existing program or service, it is extremely, ridiculously important to distinguish between what your organization is currently doing and what it’ll be doing with the new money. Failure to do so means that a) you raise the specter of supplantation, b) you sound like you don’t need the money because you’re already offering the services, and c) someone with a better grant story will get the money. Applying for a grant leads to a binary outcome—either you get the grant or you don’t. There are no half grants.

Let’s use HRSA’s Oral Health Service Expansion (OHSE) Program as an example. As the name of the program implies, OHSE is designed to provide additional dental services to underserved low-income patients.* A good OHSE proposal describes what, if anything, the applicant is currently doing with respect to oral health services (e.g., no services, pediatric only, pregnant women only, Medicaid only, etc.), and then describes what will be done differently. The applicant should say what additional services will be offered (e.g., sealants for children, dentures, etc.), and show how the dental patient population will be expanded. The applicant might serve additional existing FQHC medical patients, other service area residents, left-handed one-eyed cyclops, and so on.

A reasonable expansion might be as simple as saying, “The Toppenish Community Health Center currently serves 2,000 patients with 4,000 dental visits annually. The OHSE grant will allow TCHC to serve 3,000 high-risk patients, including at least ten cyclops.” What the organization can’t do, however, is claim that the CHC already serves 2,000 patients, and the grant will allow the CHC to keep serving those patients with more or less the same services. Patients have to be served in either greater number or greater services, or both.

Many  FQHCs that seek OHSE grants will also have long waiting lists, which can be used to bolster need: If the current waiting list for a new dental appointment is six months, that indicates a severe shortage of oral health service capacity. It doesn’t held your proposal to say proudly that the CHC’s wait time for a new dental patient is two days.

In short, applicants shouldn’t ever write or imply that they won’t actually serve more patients, or a larger area, or provide additional services. This may seem obvious, but we’ve seen proposals written by others that fail to remember this rule and that are primarily boasts about how much they’re already doing. That flaw won’t always be fatal—the funder may just want to fund that particular applicant or that particular service area—but it should still be avoided.


* Fun fact: Some dentists prefer the term “oral cavity” rather than “mouth.” I’m not sure why, since to me the former term sounds vaguely pornographic, and the latter term sounds normal.