Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Help -- my desk is a wreck!

My desk is a wreck.  Newspapers stacked up on one corner, piles of to-dos, snack foods, even my new vitamin regimen products are strewn across the thing.
I hate my desk like this. 

I really find it hard to concentrate and it just makes me feel out of control.
Now, some people thrive in this sort of environment.  Some of my co-worker’s offices at Community Partners of Dallas may look like a tornado hit them, but if I walk in and say do you know where the __________ is, they’ll lean over, move a pile of stuff and put their hand right on it.  It is a wonder to behold.
But, I need order.  I crave it. 
At home, my bed is made right now even though no one will see it except me.  My spices are alphabetized (Thanks for the tip, Francie!) and my clothes are hung by type and color.  So, today, I’ll clean this desk and my mind will be free and my work will begin anew.
It’s a good place to begin a project to benefit the abused and neglected kids of Dallas County.  We all need a fresh start sometime.
Clorox wipes, here I come…

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Story You Haven't Heard

We have a big site visit today at Community Partners of Dallas.  For those of you who are not in the non-profit business, a site visit is done when a funder – an individual, a corporation, or a foundation – is considering your agency for a grant.  We do these all the time, so it is not typically a big deal for us.  However, some funders make it a little more difficult for agencies.  They put parameters on the visit and really want to hear from a lot of different people involved with the agency, they want board members to attend, and they give a very strict time frame in order to say everything you need to say.  And if you don’t know me – well, let’s just say it is hard for me to be succinct.
Enough said.
Practice was in order – lots of it.
So, in trying to make a compelling case for funding, I always tell the story of a child.  One of our board members asked me to tell this one and it is one I don’t usually tell.  It just breaks me up.  But it tells a lot about why our work is so important.
18 month old Amelia was tortured by her mother and step-father until her tiny body could take no more.  A neighbor heard her screams and called the police.  The adults were taken to jail and Amelia to ICU at the hospital and put on life support.  Caseworkers took shifts round the clock so someone would be with Amelia at all times – leaving their own children and families to do so.  Supervisors searched for family members and her paternal grandmother was found in another state and rushed to the little girl’s side.  Meanwhile, her caseworker came to CPD’s Rainbow Room and chose an outfit for Amelia to wear while her grandmother held her and the machines were turned off.
The Rainbow Room is here for children when they come into the system.  And sometimes when they leave it.
Hug your family today and wish us well on our visit.  Thanks – Paige

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Civilized Society's Secret Code Revealed!

There is a code among civilized society, but some people don’t know the code.
Mothers teach it to children.  Bosses teach it to employees.  Wives teach it to husbands.  Friends teach it to friends.  Every person who is close to me at some point in time has heard about the code from me, or they have told me about the code.
Do you know what it is yet?
It is the Forgotten Name Code (FNC).  The FNC is multifaceted, so hold on to your pants...
When someone walks up to you and your friend – at a party, in a theater lobby, at a meeting, at a volunteer day at Community Partners of Dallas, wherever – and that person greets your friend and your friend does not (in turn) introduce you to that person, you must introduce yourself to that person, so then hopefully the stranger will tell you their name because your friend has obviously forgotten the stranger's name – otherwise your friend would have introduced you.  Your friend can then respond with something like:  “Oh, I’m sorry that I didn’t introduce you to Mary – Sue this is Mary.”  This is the most commonly used scenario of the FNC.  Extremely helpful to all concerned. 
Now, sometimes the stranger will just respond to the above by saying “nice to meet you” and not tell you her name.  At this point, you have two responses:  1) Do nothing.  Your friend is the one who looks bad because they’re the one who can’t remember this long-lost friend’s name, so what do you care?  2) Look directly at the stranger and say something like “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”  You must do this if you really like the friend you’re with and you don’t really want to hear her try to remember that person’s name for the rest of the night!
A variation of the FNC is sometimes performed in the following manner:  You see someone approaching you who you really don’t know well or maybe you just haven’t seen them for 20 years.  You recognize their face, but have no idea of their name.  When this happens to me (as it did last night at The AT&T PAC during the pre-show reception for In the Heights), I always put a big smile on my face and say in a very familiar way “Well, hello!  I’m Paige McDaniel.”  The hope is that this person will return the favor and say “Oh, hi – it’s Mary Smith – how about those days at Camp Longhorn together?”  This is the best of all possible worlds.  But, of course, many times this person will respond to you with “Oh, I know who you are.”  Ugh.  For God's sake people, if I remind you of my name, remind me of yours!
And of course sometimes the FNC just goes to hell and you must admit that you cannot remember the person’s name.  Something like “Oh my gosh – I am just having a brain freeze and cannot remember your name and I simply must introduce you to Joanna...” is required.  Don’t feel badly about admitting this.  It does help that the older I get the more people tend to forgive this – they know my old brain has trouble sometimes.
The FNC is helpful to all of us – the stranger, the old friend, and the forgetful person – once you know the FNC, you won’t allow these uncomfortable social situations to occur. 
Of course, the best thing would a universal rule that every living human being must wear a nametag at all times.  And as someone who raises money for a living – that would be paradise.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

4 Tips for Non-Profit Grant Writing Success

I'm on vacation this week, so I forgot about the Wednesday blog until late last night and unless you wanted to read a blog about Top Chef Texas and The Real Housewives of Orange County, it is best that I waited until this morning -- but never count that reality blog out -- coming soon!

So a quick post about an area I know really well:  Grant Writing.

First, everyone and his dog wants to write grants.  I think at one point or another, every person who has ever worked for me in any capacity has told me they were interested in writing grants during their annual review.  I think it is because that on the surface, it sounds easy.  All you have to do is answer the questions and mail the grant, right?

Well, yes that is true, but there is more to it than that -- otherwise every non-profit in the world would be raking it in and never have to hold another auction again.  So here are my quick tips for success:

  1. You must answer all of the questions and provide all of the info requested by the funder or foundation.  If you don't have an answer, say that.  Foundation representatives are very smart and they totally know if you are bulling them.  Include every piece of documentation that the funder requests -- you don't want to give them a reason to cull your application just because you accidentally left out the current financials.
  2. You must write a compelling grant that shows the need of your organization. You have to show the funder why your client is important and why you do the work better than anyone else in town.  The funder is making a investment in your agency -- they want to feel good about it.  Help them to feel good about their funds!
  3. If you don't fit the funding guidelines for the foundation, don't apply.  As an organization that supports abused and neglected kids, Community Partners of Dallas is never going to get a grant from a foundation that gives only to animal rescue.  Don't waste your time or theirs.  
  4. Check out who is funding similar organizations and review foundation lists of grants funded.  If I see that such-and-such foundation gave a grant to CASA (Sorry CASA, but I'm sure you check out who is funding us, too!), I'm going to ask them for CPD.  Such-and-such foundation has just proven they will give to children in foster care, so CPD will probably fit their guidelines too.  The kids call it "creeping" -- I call it "research" -- do it!

This is by no means a full list of grant writing tips, but it's a start.  What are yours?

P.S.  I'll take any comments about Top Chef too.