Tag Archives: Objectives

January 2010 Links: Foundation Giving, Weatherization, Science, Borders, and More

* Drop in Foundation Giving May Be Steeper than Anticipated. Those of you who want a piece of the action should read Isaac’s post PSST! Listen, Do You Want to Know a Secret? Do you Promise Not to Tell?* Here’s How to Write Foundation Proposals.

* You’ve gotta love the convoluted program titles used by the feds, or, in this case, the Department of Energy, which is offering “Recovery Act – Weatherization Assistance Program Training Centers And Programs grants.”

Whoever wrote the RFP also conflates goals and objectives. They should read Isaac’s post “The Goal of Writing Objectives is to Achieve Positive Outcomes (Say What?),” which is much clearer than its intentionally verbose title.

* It turns out that microfinance isn’t a silver bullet. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, microfinance involves making very small loans to very poor people in developing countries; Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank won a Nobel Peace Prize for inventing and/or popularizing the practice.

* One person wrote us an e-mail we responded to, and in a follow-up he said:

Thanks for the info, and I look forward to reading the blog post. I’ve learned more about grants and grant writing from reading your blog than I did earning my B.S. in Emergency Admin. and Planning.

Now that’s a compliment! Depressingly enough, the last section is probably true.

* Along the same lines as above, but from a Tweet: “Not to send business elsewhere, but I highly recommend this #grant newsletter: https://seliger.com/ #foundations.”

* Megan McArdle says that jobs programs don’t work from a macroeconomic perspective:

Even if you could surmount union opposition, the federal government has an ever-increasing thicket of red tape that makes such a thing impractical. It takes months to get hired for a job with the federal government. It takes months to ramp up a new program. By the time you’d gotten your NWPA through Congress over strenuous union objections, appointed someone to head it, set up the funding and hiring procedures, and actually hired people, it would be 2011. Maybe 2012. Perhaps you could waive all the civil service and associated procedure surrounding federal hiring, but I don’t see how.

* Grants.gov will close for four days in February. When is the last time Amazon.com intentionally closed at all?

* Terrorists hurt America most by making it close its borders. In other words, the United States is doing more harm through its reaction to terrorism than the terrorism itself has done, in part because terrorism is highly visible, reported, and immediately obvious while the effects of making border crossing more difficult are diffuse and too seldom discussed.

* For Elderly in Rural Areas, Times Are Distinctly Harder. Do you suppose the reporter has seen or read The Last Picture Show?

* “[…] neither private or public sector efforts are going to take a significant bite out of the digital divide in the foreseeable future.” Sounds like a call for more grant programs. The only really awesome municipal broadband I’ve seen is in Monticello, Minnesota.

* “[Prostitution] involves a good or service (or whatever you want to call it) — sex — which, when undertaken for free by consenting adults is legal but which becomes illegal when money changes hands. Can you think of other goods and services that share this trait?

Me neither.

* In Latino Gardens, Vegetables, Good Health and Savings Flourish.

* Remember: If you apply for a grant program, you might actually win and then have to run said program. This comes up by way of “In Race for U.S. School Grants Is a Fear of Winning:” “One major concern is that should Illinois succeed in the national competition for Race to the Top money, it might not have the ability to finance the long-term costs of any new programs once the federal money has been spent.”

* Prohibition: A Cautionary Tale.

* Prisons or colleges? California “chooses” prisons because of structural issues relating to prison guards’ unions, politics, and laws, all of which interact with one another to produce a nasty outcome. See how at the link.

* Why public domain works matter.

* U.S. Keeps Science Lead, But Other Countries Gain. Compare this to Neal Stephenson’s excellent piece in the New York Times, “Turn On, Tune In, Veg Out.”

* According to the New York Times: The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to protect homeowners from foreclosure has been widely pronounced a disappointment, and some economists and real estate experts now contend it has done more harm than good. They’re referring to the Making Home Affordable program.

* Why you should use the revolving doors.

* How China wrecked the Copenhagen talks. See also James Fallows’ excellent commentary.

* Manzi’s error: economic growth rate differences between America and Europe are almost entirely explained by population growth rate differences.

* “15th Century Greenland has something in common with IBM in 1980: a belief that historically successful behavior will succeed in the future.”

* A crime theory demolished (or at least altered):

The recession of 2008-09 has undercut one of the most destructive social theories that came out of the 1960s: the idea that the root cause of crime lies in income inequality and social injustice. As the economy started shedding jobs in 2008, criminologists and pundits predicted that crime would shoot up, since poverty, as the “root causes” theory holds, begets criminals. Instead, the opposite happened. Over seven million lost jobs later, crime has plummeted to its lowest level since the early 1960s. The consequences of this drop for how we think about social order are significant.

* News from Seattle: Rainier Beach High School anti-drug mentor also a dealer, police allege.

Now it’s time for the rest of the story

Faithful readers will recall my post on the perils of last minute changes to proposal concepts in “Stay the Course: Don’t Change Horses (or Concepts) in the Middle of the Stream (or Proposal Writing).” But, as Paul Harvey likes to say, now it’s time for the rest of the story. . .

Just after I’d written “Stay the Course,” the public-sector client who was the subject of this sad tale of woe called to breathlessly say that HUD funded the proposal for $3 million! Despite the unnecessary drama resulting from last minute changes that caused the proposal to be submitted at 11:59 PM on the due date, the outcome was great, illustrating the difference between process and outcome objectives that I covered in “The Goal of Writing Objectives is to Achieve Positive Outcomes (Say What?).”

Plus, our client didn’t even know that HUD had received the proposal until two weeks before the funding notification. She didn’t receive the sequence of emails from grants.gov confirming receipt; calls and emails to grants.gov (and HUD) generated responses along the lines of, “we can’t find any record of it.”*

This went on for months. It also turned out that there were problems with other applicants that day at grants.gov, so HUD re-opened the competition to allow affected applicants to re-submit. Our client called the HUD Program Officer to discuss the re-submission process, at which point she was quickly told, “You don’t have to, we have your proposal and it’s already scored.” Two weeks later, she got a call from her congressman letting her know she’s been funded.

I’m not sure what the moral to this story may be, other than proposal writing is stressful enough without amping it via last-minute changes. The story does reveal the chaotic nature of the grant review process, as well as the general uninterest most bureaucrats show toward the programs they run and their “customers” (grant applicants).

If anyone at grants.gov or HUD cared, they could’ve done the research necessary to reassure our client that the proposal was received, instead of providing the slow psychological torture of bureaucratic indifference.** I could’ve helped our client solve this problem if she’d called me, because a quick phone call to her congressman’s field deputy who is the HUD liaison would’ve lit a fire under the bureaucrats’ rear ends sufficient to raise even the most slack-jawed HUD staffer from their stupor long enough to get to the bottom of this exercise in absurdity.


* Faithful readers will remember how fantastically unhelpful bureaucrats can be.

** For an exquisite study in psychological torture, read Ian Fleming’s most unusual James Bond story, “Quantum of Solace”, which is not to be confused with the eponymous movie that merely shares the title.