One Weird Work Day

I came back to work for one day in between the Christmas holiday and the New Year's holiday and it's an odd day to be at work, for sure.

The Starfish Christmas Tree met its end today, or at least, got reacquainted with the box it came in. Since I decorated it, I figured I should undecorate it. Not as much fun of course, but we don't want to be that office with the tree up until Valentine's Day.

I've written a couple gift in-kind donation receipts and managed to secure another donation for our mentor event in January. We're trying to get cool little giftbags together for all of our mentors and so I'm trying to convince some businesses that they want to give us things.

Tomorrow we're having a Christmas party event for the Scholars. We're playing laser tag and I've once again been entrusted with the digital camera. No, I doubt there will be any laser tag action shots; I will be participating in said game myself and trying to play and take photos in the dark is just way too complicated. I will post some photos next week, I hope.

Next week, it will be back to work on the grant writing stuff. January's still a big month for proposals and I've got several that have to be started, finished and submitted in the next few weeks.


Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

May you have a wonderful holiday.


More good updates

I got to work this morning to discover an email from a foundation telling me that Starfish had been approved to submit a full grant proposal.

This email thrilled me to no end because it was in response to the first ever preliminary proposal I wrote, back oh about 8 weeks ago, when I really had no idea how to do this grantwriting thing. As always, this e-mail saying a full proposal can be submitted contains the boilerplate language about how this doesn't guarantee funding. But still, I'm pretty excited to start to see some results from my earlier work.

Also, the end-of-the-year appeal letter I wrote has been delivered to mailboxes all around. It's about the second such appeal letter Starfish has ever sent, but we think the letter looks great and we're just waiting for the check to start arriving.


Some Updates

Just in case you were wondering, I did finish the grant for the funder I was whining about last week. All in all, I think the proposal turned out pretty good. Look for an update sometime in late spring, most likely, on whether they gave us the $$ we were asking for or not.

Also, our first end of the year donation appeal letter should be going out soon. Depending on the success of this mailing, it may or may not be a portfolio piece for me. The letter, with the help of our graphic design guy, looks great. But looking great and being effective at tugging on donor heartstrings have the potential to be two very different things here.

You might think that this is a slower time of year for grantwriting with the holidays, but that is not true. I have been writing up a storm lately, getting things lined up to meet a rash of early January deadlines. I've got two fairly major proposals that are both due in about the second week of January. With the holidays and being out of the office next week, I need to keep working now.


Wonderful News

We just got word today at Starfish that we were accepted to be a United Way Partner Agency.

I wasn't here when the application process for that was going on, but from what I've heard, it's pretty rigorous stuff.

There's some lag time before we qualify for United Way funding (we can't get that until 2009, is my understanding), but the designation of being a partner agency is huge.

Just had to share the good news.


Assigned Reading

It's been a while since I've been assigned a book to read. (Outside of the montly titles for book club, that is.)

As a staff here at Starfish, we are reading Ruby K. Payne's "A Framework for Understanding Poverty." The plan is to discuss the book in January, which meant I really did need to start reading it soon. Since I had some time yesterday, I picked it up and was really impressed by the first few chapters.

I'd heard of Ruby Payne during my time as an education reporter in my past life in Oshkosh WI. The schools up there had read the book and I believe some of the staff had attended some of her workshops in an effort to better understand how poverty affected learning. So, going in, I expected good things.

The premise of the book is that there are hidden rules for conduct and behavior at each socio-economic class and when people are moving between classes, they bring the rules of their former class with them. For people trying to move out of poverty this can mean that they need to learn the hidden set of middle class rules (by which schools and business are run) to succeed.

For example, Payne says, a hidden rule of poverty is that food is equated with love, because food keeps people alive. A hidden rule of the middle class is that time is valued for the future and decisions are weighted against future consequences. A hidden rule of the wealthy class is possessions should be one-of-a-kind pedigrees.

Payne gives an interesting quiz about what knowledge the reader has that could help you survive in the different classes.

In the poverty class quiz, I could check off about 3.5 boxes. In the middle class list, I checked off all 15 boxes. In the wealthy class I checked off about 3.5 boxes too. It was really amazing to see it so clearly, that I am so familiar with the cultural expectations I grew up with and so unfamiliar with the others. I'd like to think I would know what to do if I moved either up or down in categories, but honestly, I don't. (Really, I don't know how to find the best rummage sales or navigate the politics of Junior League...)

It's pretty eye-opening to think about these core values and assumptions that really aren't the same across socioeconomic lines.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts about this book as I continue to read it.


What the funder wants

All the grant-writing books and grant-writing workshop coaches tell you the same thing: Organize your proposal the way the funder wants.

Use their words for your headings. Put them in the order they request the sections.

Makes sense, right, to do everything in your power to make it easy for the funder to find the parts of your proposal that they are really interested in. Sure, ok, I buy that.

Except for right now. That advice makes me want to scream. I'm in the middle of a grant application -- nevermind for whom --- and their sections seem completely illogical to me. Illogical. (If you hear Leonard Nimoy in your head when you read "illogical" that's exactly the tone I'm going for here.)

Why do I put the goals section before describing the project and the needs? And why do they ask for goals and objectives? (If anybody can clue me into the difference with goals and objectives, I will be very grateful).

Obviously, the proposal will get done in the order the funder wants it, but I just needed to vent.


What I've been up to

So, the blog has been neglected for a few days because this has been a crazy week. Tuesday we had a holiday fundraiser reception for the board and their special invited guests and there's some photographic proof of that event below.

Then, Wednesday and Thursday, the whole Starfish staff was at the Indiana Youth Institute Youth Workers Rock conference. The conference was great, learned a ton and heard a keynote address by Marie Osmond. There are no photos of her because the program specifically said no photography of her was permitted.

Today is digging out day and figuring out a plan of attack for next week's work.

But first, some photos.

This is the space where we held the fundraiser reception. It's a way cool room and we appreciate the owners being so gracious to let us use it for our event.

We had several Scholars at the event, taking part in greeting guests, playing background music and helping with clean-up. Here are Keith, Monroe, Deidre and Serene, four of our great Scholars.

And yes, me. I was all over at the event, helping with food and sound system stuff and overseeing our student greeters. But fellow VISTA Deandra caught me for a photo.

We did have a successful event which brought in enough funding to make having the reception worth it. And I think there are mini-quiches leftover in the office fridge...

The tree

As promised, here is the Starfish Christmas tree.

Yes, that is an actual starfish on the top of the tree.

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