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Fractured Prism

Welcome to the Fractured Prism. This is my domain (I love the sound of that, kind of like my kingdom), where I will share reflections of the many facets of my life. At the very least, I am a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, homemaker, teacher, counselor, and grant writer. Through the years, I have been professionally cut and polished or just accidental fractured into thousands of pieces and have thoughts about them all. I have found that I am writing for many reasons but mostly to share my small bits of wisdom. Come back often because each reflection will be different. My ultimate goal is to have a place where grant writers, grant reviewers and funders can network. So if you are into grant writing or grant reviewing please leave your name and email. Linda Beason

Peer Reviews

The peer review section is provided for those who are interested in being peer reviewers. I am not sure that all the contact information is current but you can always call the office and get current information.

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Worst Grant Review Ever! Or Did They Ever Do Me Wrong!

I would like to use this blog as a resource for grant writers, grant reviewers and grant funders.  At present, the baby is still in the incubator but I hope to bring it up to be a big strong resource for all of us.  I want it to be a place where everyone can provide their best advice and vent when they feel the need.  I want lots of input from grant writers and grant reviewers (and even funders).  As a grant writer, I know there have been many times when I really just wanted to be able to talk to the reviewer and say (loudly), “YOU DIDN’T FIND WHAT????  HOW could you miss IT?  How could I have made it any clearer?” And as a grant reviewer, there are a lot of things I want to say, which I have started in my Grant Writing 101 posts but it may take me a long time!  Let’s start here…leave me a comment about your worst comment from a grant reviewer.  In the next blog we will turn it around and let the reviewers tell you about the worst proposal they ever read (no names or locations please).

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Grant Writing 101 – Keep it Simple/Sample PEP grant

My partner and I wrote a Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) grant back in 2003.  It was funded and has been very successful for the school.  It incorporates the many grant writing tips that I have posted on my blog, fracturedprism.com.  It is not fancy (just written by two old country girls) but it got the job done.  It provided the facts in a straightforward down to earth manner.  It followed the criteria stated in a text box before each section in the order of the Request For Proposal (RFP).  The need section had a little creativity mixed in with the hard, cold facts (current data).  The proposal was written according to formatting guidelines (i.e., page limit, margins, font).  The objectives were measurable and correlated to the need.  This simple proposal clearly demonstrates that the average person can write fundable grants as long as they know the needs of the applicant and have researched-based activities to meet those needs.

 There were a few other factors that weighed in to help get this proposal funded.  One would be the strong partners the Boys and Girls Club and the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes.  In funding federal grants, you cannot go wrong with partners such as the Boys and Girls Club or Native American tribes.  The other bit of good fortune that we had was a current community needs’ assessment from a group called the “Western Oklahoma Coalition for Community Strengthening “.  Very rarely do you find a strong supportive document like this.   Most of the time you have to build the needs assessment with a lot of leg work, which means you have to plan ahead.  Once the RFP comes out, your time is very limited.

 In summation, the things that made this proposal successful were strong needs that were well documented; credible partners with resources; sustainability; researched-based activities; and an easy to read and understand application.

Find this grant at: http://www.k12grants.org/samples/pep%202003.pdf

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Grant Writing 101 – Why Grant Writers Should Do Peer Reviews & How to Become a Peer Reviewer

I wrote grants for several years before I did a peer review.  That was pure ignorance on my part.  It only took one review for me to realize that I had hit the jackpot.  I can truthfully say that I have learned something from every application that I have read.  Unfortunately, some of it was what not to do.  However, the good ones were pure inspiration, “WHY didn’t I think of that!”  All in all, a review is like a really good grant writing workshop.  You attend an orientation where the funding department tells you exactly what they are looking for in order to hand out their millions; you get to look at other grant writer’s applications; and finally you get to discuss the merits of the application with other experts. And on top of that you are staying in a five star hotel with travel paid for, a healthy per diem and you are getting paid!  I also like the fact that I have made many good friends and great business contacts at reviews.  However, I do not want to mislead you, reviewing is very intense and while you are usually in Washington DC, you will not be doing much sightseeing unless you stay over extra days at your own expense.

A peer review generally consists of three panelists and a chairperson.  Each reviewer reads and scores independently and then the panel meets and discusses each application.  This is the point from which I learn from the other reviewers’ unique perspectives.  Of course, you cannot review for a program where you have submitted an application.  The thing to do is to review for the program that you are interested in a year before you submit.  Planning is a long process and if you are even thinking about developing a program, you really should look at what is being funded (and what is not). 

There are three common types of reviews.  One is onsite, usually in DC for a week, and all the work is done at that time (very intense and not much sleep).  The next type is done at home and you usually have about two weeks to post everything on the department’s website and have conference calls with your panel.  The third type is a hybrid and my favorite – you do the work at home, post it to the website and then spend a few days in DC to conference with your panel.   

In order to get started as a reviewer, you have to apply to the funding department.  Once your application is accepted, you are put in their database and when they have a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) they send out an availability inquiry for reviewers.  You respond as to your availability and then reviewers are selected.  This is a slow process until you have some experience.  After that the pace picks up – this August was crazy as experienced reviewers were in high demand, choosing between two or three reviews each week.  Recently I have heard rumors that the administration wants funders to bring in new blood and not use the same reviewers every year.  If that is true it would be a good time to start as a reviewer as far as getting a job but not so good if they leave all of the experience at home.  Three rookies would drive the chairperson to drink (I have seen it happen).

There are many different types of government grants and many departments who need reviewers.  I have a list of places to apply that I would share with you if you would leave your name and email at fracturedprism.com   I actually network with many reviewers and we share news of reviews.  Once you have landed a review, check back at fracturedprism.com as I am working on tips for being a good peer reviewer.

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Grant Writing 101 – The Importance of Formatting

When responding to a Request For Proposal (RFP), it is important to follow the formatting guidelines.  These usually include margins, font size, line spacing, page limitations and page numbering. Keep in mind these are actually guidelines and NOT suggestions.  Most departments do not allow reviewers to take off points for not following the guidelines but reviewers really want to, especially if you are writing in an eight point font!  There are reviewers who tend to score more severely because you are straining their already overburdened eyes or because they just cannot read that small font.  If you are going to cheat on the font, it is wise to not go beyond what is clearly obvious to the naked eye.  Most reviewers do not bring a magnifying glass to the review so you might be safe with an 11 point font as opposed to 12.   And while it may not be a guideline, please do not use a cutesy, squirrelly font that distracts from your proposal.  Keep it clean and professional.

During the peer reviewer orientation for every review, someone always asks if they can count off points for the formatting.  The answer is always no.  However, there are those diligent departments who like to keep things fair and they have either removed all pages beyond the page limit or tell the reviewer not to read beyond the page limitation (and then there are those peer reviewers who just take it on themselves not to read past the allotted number of pages). As a grant writer, you are taking a big chance by going past the page limit as chances are very good that significant information will not be read (such as the entire evaluation section worth 10 points).

Keep in mind that you must get a good score from the reviewer before you will be considered by the funding agency.  Give the reviewer everything they need to award you maximum scores.  Make your proposal easy to read and easy to follow.  Be sure you follow the guidelines and the scoring criteria (in the exact order that it is presented in the RFP).  The reviewers do not award the money but they get you to the place that does–make them happy and everybody is happy.

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The Ghost Train

I live near a small, rural town in Western Oklahoma.  All around are rolling green hills with dirt as red as the blood of Chief Blackkettle’s people and horses when Custer came to call.  On that day, they say that the Washita River ran red with the blood of hundreds of slaughtered horses.  Today the river winds peacefully through lush fields and past towering drilling rigs.  (more…)

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Grant Writing 101: Goals and Objectives for Vampire Slaying

Once you have clearly established need for a specific Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) or grant application, it is time to determine a goal and develop measurable objectives.  For example, your need section has established that your targeted population is a small rural village with 500 people and neighboring vampires are picking off villagers at a rate of one per week (United States Department of Vampires 2010 report).  Your goals are to: (more…)

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Grant Writing 101: Need or How to Have Them at Hello

Usually one of the first criteria to be addressed by all government Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) is the Need Section.  This is your first opportunity to dazzle the reviewers with your brilliance.  However, this is no place for your “poor pitiful Pearl” stories.  When you are writing for the government they are immune to your hardships as they have hundreds of applications with stories just as needy as yours.  (more…)

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Grant Writing 101: Details or “The Extent to Which…”

The majority of Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) peer reviewer criteria starts with the words, “The extent to which…” and the reviewer’s score will reflect this extent.   Therefore, if you plan on getting even close to maximum score, you had better provide details for each criteria.  It is not one, two, skip a few!  Address all of the relevant information exactly in the order that it appears in the selection criteria. (more…)

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Kindred Spirits

He was a SIDS baby and wore a monitor for the first year of his life.  He stopped breathing many times every night.  We were almost scared to love him because it would hurt too bad if we lost him.  It took courage to love him but he gave us no choice, he was special.  He outgrew the SIDS before he was old enough to remember but he always seemed to be super sensitive about death. He fretted and worried if anyone was sick, even his animals.  Outside of that he was the strongest, most athletic little boy ever.  He didn’t walk, he ran.   (more…)

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Grant Writing 101: Why You Didn’t Get Funded

After reviewing a wide variety of grants for countless years, I have found that I have a lot of insight that I want to share with all of the grant writers who pass through my reviews.  To some I would just say, “Good job, your organization and presentation was excellent!” (which is why I awarded such a high score) but then there are the others, who did not get a fundable score, despite the fact that they had a great program that would help many needy people.  Those are the writers that I want to reach.  I want to tell you where you went wrong (more…)

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