And the money kept rolling in...

(My apologies to fans of Broadway musicals who are now humming bars from "Evita" because of this post title.)

On to the good news:
We got the call today from the very first foundation I wrote a grant to this fall as a brand new VISTA and grant writer. The board approved $20,000 for us.

While I've applied for and had other grants funded in a shorter time span than this one, I was really still holding my breath for this one because it was first. I think I've gotten better at grant writing in the past six months, but the first one of something new you do always carries with it some bit of trepidation. Getting the grant award is huge to me because I think it validates, in a way, everything I've done since then.

The total grant dollars raised YTD now stands at $213,500. $213,500!

I'm a bit stunned at that myself. I have a hard time imagining $213,500. I know I've seen the checks for it come in, so I know it's really happened, but still. When I was a reporter, I covered projects and things that had much higher price tags (multi-million-dollar construction projects, airplanes that people shelled out seven figures for). I guess it's different in covering big bucks than raising the bucks.

The next milestone I think will be getting a grant in a lump sum of $100,000 or more. I've got one application out that would meet that criteria. Stay tuned in September to see if it's funded!


Summertime Service

Today Starfish welcomed our new summer VISTAs!

We have nine more people who are spending their summers doing national service and helping with projects here. It's very exciting!

Here's the new crew (minus one, who's a teacher and doesn't start till later after her school year ends):

This is a huge plus for Starfish to have this group for the summer to help with a variety of projects.

And, it's fun for us VISTAs to have more poverty-fighters working along with us.


Deadlines are no match for me and my happy fingers

Updating from the post on Monday where I was discussing (OK, whining) about all the deadlines I had coming at me.

I have completed both of the grant applications I wanted to get done this week. I have also sent the text and photos to our graphic designer to get going on the next issue of our newsletter. I have one more day left in this week, which means I can move on to other things on my list.

Getting these three projects done or moving forward (in the case of the newsletter) is a huge relief. All of a sudden, May was feeling mostly gone and what with the holiday Monday, having not enough time all told to finish everything. I still have more things on my to-do list than I have crossed off, but I use the list as well as a way to look ahead to the next things.

Also, this week, the Starfish IT guy brought me over an ergonomic keyboard and my fingers are so very happy already.

Here's what I'm talking about if you've never seen one.

For people who spend a great deal of time at the keyboard, this style of keyboard is much better. Every time I go back to one of these, my typing accuracy improves and it's just so much more natural because it keeps your hands angled instead of turning your wrists in.

I guess it's silly that a keyboard and meeting three deadlines would make me happy, but it does!


Grant Cycles or why I'm hibernating in May

Grant applications come in cycles.

If you recall, back in November and December, I was churning out about one proposal a week. Everybody, it seemed, had deadlines between Nov. 30 and Jan. 15. For a while then, the grant proposal writing slowed down.

Until now. Now I am deep in the throes of the spring grant cycle. Everybody wants stuff between May 15 and June 30 for the summer funding cycle. On my to-do list for this week, there are no less than four grants that I should work on. The goal is to write two and save the other two for next week.

The problem with the non-stop grant writing is the chained-to-my-desk feeling. I eat lunch at my desk. I sit at my desk and write all day. Not too many meetings, not even pestering other colleagues for information or data. I've done that already. Now comes just the sheer task of putting words on paper, one after the other to form coherent, compelling sentences.

In the applications that I'm writing and submitting this month alone, we're talking total funds somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000. That's a quarter-million. All in one month.

Never mind the two newsletters, database work, photo editing and prep work for our summer VISTAs coming next week. (more on that later...)

Add to the grant writing I'm doing the things I'm doing in real life (launching a writers group, teaching a four-day writers workshop, working on my own book, planning a trip in June, etc), it's pretty clear why I'm feeling a bit whelmed by all this. (Note, not overwhelmed, not yet anyway... just whelmed.)

So, I guess I should stop blogging and get to the grant writing. Maybe that would make this all feel a little less hectic.


Killing my darlings*

*No violence has been done for this post.

Killing your darlings. It's a phrase that many writers have heard, a description for how ruthless they need to be in revising their beloved pieces. No matter how great a turn of phrase, or a scene might be, if it's not working for the piece, it's gotta go.

The same holds true with grant writing.

I've got a Thursday deadline to meet for a big grant. I spent all day yesterday working to craft this puppy. I wrote a great needs statement.

Except it's not a great needs statement for this grant. So I did it; I cut 291 words -- darling words, and a great quote from a respectable researcher. I put in different words (not sure how many.) I got rid of the great quote from a respectable researcher and put in other quotes for perhaps less flashy sources but ones that better illustrate the point that needs to be made.

Grant writing is a mix of tugging on heart-strings and appealing to the intellect. I think my original needs statement was a little intellect-heavy. Were I writing an academic paper, the argument would have held up well. But for a grant, there's an element of inspiration that needs to happen as well, helping a funder catch your vision.

I guess I'll know if my revisions worked come September and we get the word on funding decisions.


I'm available for weddings...

I've spent my afternoon addressing envelopes.

Quite literally, the entire afternoon. In fact, I had no idea it was 4:45 p.m already. The fact that people were leaving the office should have been a clue, but it didn't sink in until just now when I looked at the clock. (My first thought was, "My clock is wrong!" that's how absorbed I was.)

Starfish is having a reception about a month from now at the home of one of our donors. More than 80 invitations are going out for this reception and they are all hand addressed.

I could have been done with this project already, I suppose, if I'd done labels. But even with a nice font, a label (or printing on to the envelope), still looks like a label.

Who doesn't like to open a hand-addressed card?

Direct mail studies have proven that a handwritten address will get your mail opened more often than pieces that look like bulk mail (aka, junk mail).

So this afternoon, I put aside the grant writing, picked up my nice Pilot V5 Rolling Ball pen and remembered how to write in cursive. At 60-some done, I'm calling it a day (and going home to ice my tired hand... kidding).

But maybe I could recover from my year of no-money-with-VISTA by freelancing as a wedding invitation addresser...



I haven't updated the scorecard on money lately so, here it is.

The score is 9-4 (grants funded vs. grants rejected).

Total dollars raised is $193,500.

I'm really looking forward to the grant that pushes that total over the $200K mark.


Move over, Tim Russert

Actually, in my previous job, I met Tim Russert and he was a nice guy. In fact, I got the first question for him in a press conference.

On Monday, I was the moderator of the Indiana VISTA Symposium, "The Future of National Service." "Meet the Press" it's not, but it was a good forum and an interesting topic for discussion.

Since I'm normally behind the camera, I got one of my Starfish VISTA colleagues to take some photos to prove I really did this.

I never really moderated a forum before and I think it went pretty well. Nice to know I have a skill to fall back on if this fund development thing doesn't land me a job...


Halfway Questions and Answers

With the recent craziness here at Starfish HQ, I completely blew past my six month VISTA mark.

A week ago today, I crossed into the second six months of my year of service, meaning I'm halfway done.

They say time flies when you are having fun. I guess they (whoever "they" are) are right.

The first six months has been a lot of things. I can't say "fun" would have been the first word to pop to mind. I think I would have picked things like "educational," "eye-opening" and a "good experience." If you asked me this question face-to-face and we continued talking, I probably would have also listed words like "stressful" and "frustrating" at times.

The key question I can answer at this point is, "If you could rewind time, would you choose to do AmeriCorps*VISTA again?"

I can definitively would say yes. For all the things this experience has been so far (including getting to try out the wonderful health benefit this week...), I would make the same choice. It's been a lot of sacrifice, leaving a "real" paycheck and good friends in another state, but on the other hand, I've gained a lot too. A lot of hands-on experience, the chance to see my work is making a difference and I've met new friends here in Indiana, both VISTAs (a shout out here to my PSO crew and others who I've gotten to know) and non-VISTAs who are wonderfully understanding about why I can't do social things that involving the spending of much money.

So while maybe I wouldn't have picked "fun" at first, it would be an oversight to leave it off the list.

Here's hoping the second half is as good as the first.

VISTA Service Ticker