Starfish received a letter this week informing us we weren't selected to submit a full proposal for a grant. I knew when I wrote it, it was a long-shot application, but it was big money and I think I really was hoping for it anyway.

They didn't pick us for this one.

It's ok, honestly. Some things have changed a bit internally that would have made how we wanted to use the funds more complicated (but not impossible.)

So, I think that brings my grant count to 4-3. Almost sixty-percent success isn't bad, I know, but it's still disappointing to read the "no thanks" letter.


Because doing one thing at a time just isn't good enough

Lately, I have realized just how much of a multi-tasker I am.

Like even writing this blog. I wrote that first sentence and then went to an Excel file for a few minutes to make pie charts. Now, back to blogging. And in a few minutes, I'll likely go read the Indy Star online because I haven't looked at today's headlines yet.

I don't know why or how I developed this habit. It's likely a throwback to the newspaper world where there was never just one thing happening at a time. The way to get all the work done there was to work on severl things at once.

Sometimes that strategy works for this development work. Sometimes... well...

Today, I realize what I need to do is actually finish some projects I've been chipping away at all week. Instead of leaving half-done drafts of several things, I need to buckle down and get some of the projects crossed off my to-do list.

First up, our new fact sheet. This has been a good project for me as a former reporter. How do you tell the story of your organization in one page that's not just margin-to-margin gray? What short facts best illustrate the need and the solution? (And here was the break for headline-skimming...)

And now back to the fact sheet to try to get this draft done.


Do you have a rheuoom?

Today I have felt a bit like Inspector Clouseau today from the old Pink Panther movie sketch. I've been making calls about rooms. (Anybody else know the scene I'm talking about, when Clouseau is in an inn, and is asking the manager if he has a "rheuoom" in his terrible French accent.)

It's time for Starfish to start planning out fall fundraising breakfast and to get started, we first need to find a space to hold it. I've been on the phone most of the morning with conference centers, hotels and other venues here in Indy, trying to find the right location for space, price, menu options, parking availability, etc. for a breakfast of 500 people.

This is actually more complicated and time consuming than I would have expected. I've never be part of the planning before for an event with 500 people coming, so my expectations were completely unfounded. It's quite the industry, it seems, this convention and meeting space and catering business. Anyway, onward to review some information that I received about one possible venue via email.

When I can update on details, I will


The Count

The count now stands at 3-2. No, I'm not calling a baseball game... that's the grants funded count.

Last week we got another no and then this morning, another yes.

Total grant dollars raised so far is $13,500.

I shouldn't just count grant dollars funded, but it's the easier rolling number to keep track of. I know other things I'm doing are adding to the grand total -- bringing in matching gifts from donors' employers because we sent them a reminder letter that it was their responsibility to process the match. Trying to get donors to make good on the pledges they made at our annual fundraiser last fall.

But the grants are the things I see most closely as living or dying based solely on the quality of my work.

The big grants are still outstanding. *Finger crossed*


Where is it I work again?

So in a moment of self-depricating humor here...

Moments ago, I just answered the phone telling the caller on the other end that they'd reached the newspaper where I used to work. My office-mate started laughing, I started laughing and trying to apologize to the caller.

I'm glad it wasn't a grants officer on the other end. Of course, the call was still serious and I feel like a total heel.

Ever since October, I've been worried I would make that mistake. I guess now that I've done it, I can stop worrying about it.

At a workshop I attended this fall, the speaker said if you weren't used to asking donors for 5-figure amounts, you should practice. Ask yourself in the mirror, ask your friends, your dog, whoever, just to get used to saying the words. Apparently, I need to take a step back and practice my phone greeting.

"Starfish Initiative, this is Bethany."


Encountering Poverty

So, this isn't particularly work-related to Starfish, but since this happened a couple days ago, I've been a little haunted by it and I'm hoping writing about it will help me think through this somehow.

Monday I was walking home from work as I always do. About two blocks from my apartment, I'm stopped on the sidewalk by a man going the opposite direction. He's a middle-aged, African-American guy, dressed moderately -- nothing flashy, maybe a little worn-looking, but nothing that says "homeless guy."

He asks me if I can spare some money for food for his kids. He then proceeds to tell me how he lives in an apartment building a few blocks over (it's a legit building) and how he's been laid-off from his former job and needs to feed his kids and could I spare a few bucks. He's well-spoken and my old reporter sense (maybe this is like Spidey-sense for journalists?) is telling me his story is true.

In my head, I'm thinking Well, I have a few bucks in my wallet, but I'm a VISTA so a few bucks really is it. And these few bucks have to last me through this weekend because I'm a VISTA and I'm living in poverty too. I asked the man if he'd stopped at the church up the street. It's where I attended and I know the deacons there try to help people when they can. The man said he had but that the pastor wasn't there. And I'm still thinking I could get out my wallet, but how do I know this guy's not going to rip the whole thing out of my hands. I've got credit cards. I've done the identity theft thing once and I'm not so keen on doing it again. And, really, I'm a VISTA! I'm living in poverty too. The fact that I'm dressed nice is a front! Really, I'm not as well-off as you think I look like I am!

I blow the guy off and eventually start walking away, shrugging that there's nothing I can do. Of course, I turn the corner and start thinking about what I could have done. I could have asked him to wait, gone up to my apartment, got the loaf of bread out of my freezer and my jar of peanut butter, or the package of spaghetti and jar of sauce I had and brought it back to him if he needed food for his family that badly.

And yeah, I'm a VISTA. I may not be as well-off as I wish I were, but I could have given him $4 worth of sauce and pasta and replaced it at the store the next time I shopped and not felt the pinch of my budget doing it.

Maybe he wouldn't have wanted that. Maybe my reporter sense was off and he really did just want cash for booze or drugs or something. Maybe he's got no hungry kids in an apartment a few blocks over.

Maybe the score after this round is Poverty: 1 Bethany the VISTA: 0.

When I cook that spaghetti this weekend, I doubt it will taste as good as it should. I wish I could find out what happened to him and his family. I wish I could rewind time and do something different.

VISTA Service Ticker