mommyverbs

Engaging Each Day with Action Words

Grant. — What the RFP doesn’t tell you…

on March 23, 2013

If you have never had the chance to participate in the writing of a federal grant, you are missing out. I don’t always have a competitive streak, however, when I apply for funding that can make things happen, I intend to win. 

In case you haven’t heard, money is tight in the education world.  School systems and teachers across the country are getting ready to resort to bake sales in order to make things happen for students everyday.  But, before we all go out and buy our organic coconut sugar and flour to start making those cupcakes from scratch, we do still hold out for the chance to apply for and win a competitive grant with dollar signs attached.

During my career in education, I’ve gone through this process a few times and I’m proud to say I have what I would call a decent track record of awards. I am also very lucky to say that I have had incredible writing partners along the way. And I’m thrilled to say that while is a TON of work, we still always manage to have some fun.

In case you have not experienced this, I’ll fill you in on some of the behind the scenes, just for fun. It is a long process with many steps that begins with just finding out what kind of funding might be available. Then you wait. You can start gathering your team and thinking about what you might like to do if you were the recipient of the grant.

When the RFP (Request For Proposals) is actually released, it is like the gun at the starting line.  GO! The RFP includes the deadlines and requirements and formats and instructions.  Sometimes they are clear, sometimes you wonder if the authors have been smoking something while writing this ‘don’t use drugs’ grant proposal.  Just sayin’. If you are really lucky, you have someone on the team who will painstakingly read the entire RFP and highlight all of the details that are so important about getting this right. Really, it comes down to the random hoops you must jump through in order to be considered for funding.

The writing process starts with a calendar comparison in order to set multiple dates for brainstorming and planning.  Once the team is assembled, jobs are assigned–action plans, logic models, organizational charts, data collection, evaluation plans, multiple forms, intent to apply registrations, budget narrative and justifications, job descriptions, resume’s, partner letters…. It is a LOT.

But the most important part of the grant writing process is to assemble a team that can LAUGH.

On Friday, we just submitted a federal grant application.  My summary of the project is this: “It will give us some money to do some good things in the community.” That pretty much says it all. We had a great team for this grant project. Everyone pitched in and did their jobs. Whether it was writing or editing or running around getting letters signed, which may or may not have included some arts and crafts projects, everyone did their part.

When it comes down to the actual submission part,  you would think that would be the easy part. However, I guarantee you, this is when the action really happens.  No matter how well prepared you are, something will happen. It always does, so it is vital that you don’t try to do this on your own.

For this one, there were three of us. We started by discussing the unjust email we received. Yes, it appears that the secure registration site was not so secure after all and someone hacked into it, revealing personal information (and bank accounts!) of those already registered. YIKES is right! So, they extended the deadline, giving folks another week to submit.  That’s not fair, we concluded! Alas, we were ready to move on, so we continued with our plan.  Of course, one of our team is 39 weeks pregnant, so the clock was ticking in more ways than one!

It is vitally important to have a member of the team who remembers to bring coffee and one who can also go out and retrieve food without a lot of directions.  By this point in the grant process, no one is capable of making decisions anymore, we having someone who can decide what everyone might like to eat and show up with it=a major WIN!

Beyond the security breach, other random things happen at the last minute. We clicked on an icon to learn more about something called a Burden Statement, which opened up a window on our screen that couldn’t be closed. It took all three of us about 20 minutes to reset the orientation on the monitor just to find the close button. That turned into a real burden alright.

The online registration application packet will freeze, causing you to have to close and reopen the document several times. Or when you try to PDF your 40+ pages of attachments, you learn that the machine isn’t working as it should and sometimes skips pages. Or you can’t find the file that you need to upload. Or the directions are so absurd that you find yourself completing a checklist that requires you to predict the future before you can include it. Which can cause you to laugh hysterically and begin singing songs about time warps.

Or when the federal government gives directions that include telling you where you are supposed to attach the attachments that read like this:

attach

Just make sure that you attach the “Other Attachment” attachments by using one of the attachment buttons to be sure your “Other Attachments” are indeed attached.

And when we finally made it to the Submit and Save button, we held our breath a little bit, all put our fingers on the mouse and on the count of three, clicked the button.

I am familiar with the anti-climatic feeling that can happen, however this time, a screen like this appeared which, in all of the drama and adrenaline, made an involuntary “WTF!?” come out of my mouth:

pushpin

A screen with 4 point font popped up and we had to scroll back and forth to understand that we were then supposed to click on the tiny, stupid-looking pushpin clip art that seemed to want to talk to us because it had a tiny, stupid-looking speech bubble next to it.  You would think if the government is going to sponsor a potential million dollar grant, they could afford a slightly better looking piece of clip art to let you know about the submission confirmation notification. But then again, maybe not.

Needless to say, as punchy as we all were at this point, we enjoyed another few laughs about this.

All in all, it is a competitive grant, so many teams across the nation are doing just what we did on Friday.

I can’t guarantee that we will win; however, I can guarantee with 100% certainty that no one can…

Put the FUN in funding like we can!

Thanks TEAM!  Until August when we find out ….

desk

(This post is dedicated to “Baby DFC”… who spent the last few months in utero, hearing way too much about action plans and budget narratives.  🙂 Sending good vibes to you and your Momma, for the exciting day — especially since it is coming two days earlier than everyone planned!) 
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10 responses to “Grant. — What the RFP doesn’t tell you…

  1. Bethany says:

    Love. I love this blog, I love you, I love this team, I love the “fun” in funding, and I LOVE that I got to be a small part of it. Thanks for this fabulousness. Can’t wait until August. I appreciate all your hard work 🙂

  2. […] Grant. — What the RFP doesn’t tell you… | mommyverbs […]

  3. Jan says:

    Good luck team!!!!

  4. dbennett@mcps.org says:

    You guys are awesome! You all are winners either way! 🙂

  5. […] Grant. — What the RFP doesn’t tell you… | mommyverbs […]

  6. ldwillia says:

    I don’t know how the general public will take to this blog, but I for one found it to be hysterical and awesome! Made my day! Thinking maybe we should submit the text of this blog as an “Other Attachment Attachment.”

  7. Dana says:

    Love it! As grumbly and as “over it” as I was during parts of this journey, I think I may be going through DFC withdrawal. Or, more likely, L and S withdrawal. Good thing I’ll have a little distraction this week to fill the void. Delaney Francis Channing thanks you for the dedication and for keeping her momma laughing!

    • MommyVerbs says:

      We can’t wait to meet little Baby DFC…of course she should immediately recognize our voices and laughter and I’m sure she will have an immediate appreciation for our sharp wits. If she is snarky as a teenager, you will have us to blame. Sending love your way! (P.S. Glad my stinkeye did the trick of at least getting you a few more hours rest!) ❤

  8. Kathleen says:

    Love the ATTACHMENT fiasco! (I really wanted to say I was attached to the Attachments, but…)

    • MommyVerbs says:

      I was pretty attached to the laughs we had during the whole process. We all sent emails to each other today talking about the withdrawal symptoms we were having post grant submission. Of course, I had 10 million emails to catch up on and many discarded projects…to fill up my day. 😉

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