The Hell Raiser's Blog: Question of the Day

?  Question of the Day:

   Part-time development director... 


   Answer: More often than not. Much more. Almost always.


The Hell-Raiser's Blog: Raising Money & Hell Simultaneously

  A Post For Activists Wondering How to Find Time to Raise Money 

(Speaking Truth-to-Power-When-Those-In-Power-Don't-Speak-the-Truth

                           and Raising Money In the Process)

This is what my dog, Ramona, looks like
when she cannot believe her ears:
"You did not just say that!"

Here's a hypothetical example: The students in a 5th-grade class somewhere in the U.S. decide to fact-check some of the more dubious claims of the 2015 presidential candidates. (e.g. Carly Fiorina's claim that that Obamacare isn't helping anyone).

They create a web page (called "Is Your 5th Grader Smarter than Some of the Presidential Candidates?") on which they post their findings.  

They get their neighbors, friends, and others in the community to pledge $5 to their fund (the Fund for Fifth-Graders Fighting for a Fib-Free Future) every time they catch a candidate in a lie. 

How much money do you think they can raise?


The Hell-Raiser's Blog: Make Your Grant Application Stand Out

Several years ago, I received a box of family pictures. I don't recall most of what's in it, but I remember this picture of my great-grandparents, my great-aunt, and some unknown guy.

And though I have managed to blur my memory of most family events, some stand out. My Great-Aunt Florence's 91st birthday comes to mind: We are gathered around the dining room table, waiting for Auntie (in the picture's background) to cut her birthday cake. But it remains in one piece while she holds court. She is telling us about how 6-year-old Florence liked to sing herself to sleep with a Finnish lullaby about the Titanic, how she discovered that her "perky bustline" was a thing of the past, the time she got kicked out of Aldi's grocery store for fighting with another shopper who was "fondling" the French bread, and how the waitress at the Nugget "went the limit" on her date last night.

Auntie was starting in on the wastefulness of teabag strings, when my grandmother leaned over and whispered to me, "That dame never shuts up!"

Until then, I had never heard anyone use the word, "dame" in real life.

Twenty years later, Auntie's birthday party is still vivid in my mind.  

Grant application narratives can become lost in a blur of applicant information when foundation staffs evaluate mass quantities of funding requests.  In your effort to write a typo-free narrative, double-check your attachments, etc. don't forget the stories that show the soul of your organization and make your application stand out from the rest.    #grantnarratives


Hell-Raiser's Blog: Cautionary Tales for Procrastinating Grant-Writers

My Great-Uncle Eli (left), guarding his 
stalled car from grant-writers? 

Sometimes it can’t be helped: You find out about a grant opportunity at the last minute. Or maybe you take over completing a grant application that a co-worker started - at the last minute. Either way, you have a grant-writing rush job. No big deal. What could go wrong? 

Here are some examples:

You’re working on an online application, due in 15 minutes. You’re ready to press “send,” but just then ...
   - the funder’s web site freezes;
   - your server goes down;
   - your computer crashes; or
   - there’s a fire drill at your workplace.

Because you are scrambling to finish it in time, you write the narrative directly into the online application instead of in a separate Word document from which you'll transfer the narrative to the online form later. You're going to beat the deadline! And then your narrative disappears. Evaporates! And because you typed into the application form, you have no back-up. 

You’re almost done writing the narrative - and with a couple of hours to spare! All that remains is to copy and paste the narrative into the online application, complete the “cover page,” and press “send.” Where’s the online application? Uh oh. Alas, all you can find is instructions about where to snail mail your request.

You submit your online application by 4 p.m. - an hour before the funder’s deadline!. But in Ann Arbor Michigan, where the funder is based, it is 7 p.m.

Your co-worker started an application that you will proofread and submit while he is on vacation. In his haste to get out of town, he saved the application to only a CD (nooooooo!) and between then and now (an hour before the application deadline) it has become corrupted.

(I am not making this next one up; it happened to a former boss.) You jump into your car to zip downtown and hand-deliver the application by 5:00; in your haste, you decide to drive down the lane reserved for stalled vehicles… and you drive into a stalled vehicle. 

Generally speaking, it’s better to try to complete grant applications at least a couple of days before they are due.


The Hell Raiser's Blog

Getting Grants Without Losing Your Sanity (Thoughts on WTF?! Applications) 

This is my dog, Ramona. And this is her WTF?!-Face, which she gets when she has to put up with nonsense. 

For Ramona, those WTF?! moments happen almost every day at about 2:30 in the afternoon, when the same guy comes up to the house and roots around in the box out there, then tramps across the lawn to do the same thing next door.

I too have my WTF?! moments. Just last week, I had one, which inspired this, the first installment in a series of examples about WTF?! (worth the frustration?!) grant-getting situations and what to do about them. So here goes:

WTF?! (Example #1): The grant application that requires $5000 worth of the applicant nonprofit's resources (in time and talent) for a $2500 grant.

How does a person get caught in this trap? One way to do it is by completing the application's narrative section before determining what attachments the grantor requires: You've invested many hours in completing the application before looking at the list of required attachments, at which point you discover that the funder wants to know both your board's composition (income, gender, race, age, hometown, and favorite dessert) for the last five years and your organization's projected income (by revenue source) for the next five. And most of these documents don't exist.

 Next time: Remember to read the entire application (including the list of required attachments) before you start to work on it.

Check back soon for Post #2 ("We Don't Do General Operating"), in which I complain about grants that require specific and extensive record keeping of grantees, but do not fund the very activity they require.

Oh, and I talk about how to handle this situation.


How Qualified Are You to Run for President?

(This post originally appeared in OpEdNews on 7/6/15.)

There's still time to announce your bid for presidency of the United States! Not sure you'd make a good candidate? Take this quiz to see if you're ready to run. Write "true" next to each statement below that describes you:

1) You can do Marco Rubio's Deep-Thoughts-Gaze. (If yours needs work, not to worry: Watch the Friends episode where Joey teaches his acting class to portray a character in a profound moment by using a technique he calls "Smell-the-Fart." You can find this scene online.)

2) You own a U.S. flag pin.

3) You can use each of these words at least three times in a five-minute interview: "pray," "blessed," "family," "faith," "serve," "called" (as in "Great men called to serve"), "Good, Hard-Working Americans," "middle-class," and "fight for" (as in "I will fight for the Good, Hard- Working Americans who are this great country's middle-class!")

4) You have never forgotten your hardscrabble roots ... your father, permanently bent-over from all those 16-hour days in the mine ... your mother's hands gnarled from 40 years of doing piece work every evening after coming home from a day at the mill. Without their sacrifice and support, you would not be the man you are - the man called to go to Washington to eradicate Social Security and Medicare.

5) You have published a memoir, which can be found at local book stores (on the $2 shelves) and/or rummage sales (in the section with books on things like journaling your way through menopause and eliminating belly fat).

6) Your family looks like they just walked off of the set of The Lawrence Welk Show.

7) You have your own billionaire to sponsor your campaign.

Scoring Your Quiz:

If you are ready to run, you will have written "true" next to Question 7. Otherwise, you are not candidate material.

[For still-viable candidates] To determine how competitive a candidate you are, you will need to compare the size of your billionaire's gift to those of the other candidates.

Why bother with the first six questions? Because in the event that you and another candidate "raise" the same amount of money, how else will Good, Hard-Working Americans be able to decide whether you deserve their vote?


For a good laugh (or cry), watch CSPAN

First in a Series of Random Dispatches from in Front of My TV Set

Who knew watching CSPAN could be so entertaining? 

If you watched last Wednesday, you may have seen U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) on the House floor, ripping the Affordable Care Act:

If you just do simple multiplication, 12 million [insured individuals] into $108 billion, we are talking literally every single [Obamacare] recipient would be costing this government more than $5 million per person for their insurance. It’s staggering….$108 billion for 12 million people is immoral. It’s unconscionable.* 

At first all that righteous indignation over numbers that do not actually exist is entertaining. Then - let's face it - it's disturbing. This guy is making decisions about how to run the country? How many more like him are in Congress? And what other decisions are they making?

Well, this week, in the Senate, the Budget Committee approved a resolution that would:
  • cut funding for Pell grants by 31 percent for FY 2016, and  
  • remove 110,000 children from Head Start over 10 years,
among other things.

Of the 22 Committee members, 12 Republicans voted in favor of the cuts, and 9 Democrats and 1 Independent voted against.

I followed the Republicans' explanation for the budget on CSPAN and other news sources. It went something like this: "Oh no! National debt! .... Good Hardworking Americans!...kitchen table!...hard choices!...Our Children! ...Our Children's Children!...going forward...weeks and months and years and decades ahead! ... commonsense budget!...protect us!...disaster!"

Our Children, and  Our Children's Children – because they will have been “protected” from education spending – are going to end up sounding like this guy

Representative Pete Sessions, R-TX
every time they open their mouths. 

Watching CSPAN – a radical act of finding out just how messed up Congress really is.    

* Both the figures cited and the "multiplication" of the incorrect figures are incorrect. Twelve million "into" 108 billion is 9000 - not 5 million. When accurate numbers are used, the number is $4130.


To Praise or Protest?

According to numerous news reports, the White House praised Walmart for raising its minimum wage to $9/hour.  


Couldn’t the White House folks have just said something like, “Walmart’s increased wage is slightly less appalling than the old wage” instead?

When you consider that today in the U.S.:

  • 1/2 of children grow up in low-income households,
  • 1 in 5 kids doesn’t get enough food,
  • The richest 1/10th of 1% have more combined wealth than the bottom 90%, and
  • Over 99% of new income went to the top 1% between 2009 and 2013,
it becomes clear: Praise is not what’s needed. 

Outraged, ongoing protest is. 


Sanity-Saving Tip for Grant Seekers in a Hurry

You are asked to complete a grant application due tomorrow at five p.m.

"You can do it, can't you?" asks your boss.

You plan: "Okay, this morning, I'll work on the cover page and attachments.... this afternoon, the first three questions of the narrative section. Tomorrow morning, I'll do the next three, tomorrow afternoon, the last three..."

Wait. Stop. That plan might work this time, but sooner or later, you'll be working on yet another last-minute grant application, fall behind your own schedule, and find yourself re-designing the last part of your plan. The revised part will look something like this:

  • 4:30 - 4:40, answer questions 6 and 7;
  • 4:40 - 4:50, answer questions 8 and 9,
  • 4:50 to 4:55, answer question 10,
  • 4:55 - 4:57, proofread application
  • 4:58 - upload attachments
  • 4:59 - send.

Here's a better approach: The next time you have two days to complete a grant application, try to finish a first draft of the entire application on Day One. On Day Two, you can further develop your answers, proof read the application, etc.

There are two advantages to this approach. First,  if some unforeseen problem develops on the due date (e.g. you can't get online, your saved application wasn't saved), you have time to deal with it. Second, unlike your first plan, this approach leaves time for you to better develop any "skimpy" responses to application questions. This means you are more likely to end up with an application you are proud to submit instead of an application with responses that devolve from informational (first question) to unintelligible (last question).


A Time-Saving Tip on Researching Foundations

Credit: LaurMG
Has this ever happened to you?

You’re studying a foundation website, wondering: Will these folks fund my proposal?

You check the foundation’s mission statement. So far, so good.

You check the deadlines – plenty of time to submit.

Do they fund organizations in Seattle? They do!

You keep reading … Great! A perfect fit!

And then you see it. In fine print. At the bottom of your screen: “Due to the economic downturn, we no longer accept unsolicited proposals or letters of inquiry.”


Save yourself some time and heartache: Ignore those exhortations to PLEASE READ ABOUT OUR FUNDING PRIORITIES AND GUIDELINES FIRST! and check the section on how to apply for any “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” statements.


What to Do If Congress Votes on Repealing the Affordable Care Act a 57th Time

So yesterday, House Republicans voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA)  - for the 56th time.

If there is a 57th attempt to debate and overturn the ACA, here’s what we should do: We should form a fund and get friends, neighbors, etc. to chip in a nickel for each minute that members of Congress waste “debating” what they’ve already “debated” 56 times. And we should spend the money on voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts.
Here’s how it could work:

Let’s estimate (based on prior “debates”) that Congress (and staffers) spend 450 minutes on “Debate” 57:

If I get 20 people to donate an average of 5 cents per minute, I raise: 450 minutes x  5 cents per minute per person x  20 people, or 225 dollars.

If 99 Seattleites do the same, we generate 22,500 dollars.

If 9 other cities in  King County follow Seattle’s lead, we generate 225,000 dollars.

If 5 other counties in Washington State follow King County’s lead, we raise over one million dollars.

It just might be enough to ensure that in Washington, in 2016, pro-repeal electeds don’t get back into office, and pro-repeal candidates don’t get on the ballot.