Archive for budgets

What if I were a Gift I gave to the world each
and every day?

What if the receiver experienced Forgiveness in
the presence of my gift?

What if emotional and physical Healing
happened as I was handed to a new recipient?

What if I received in return what I gave?

What gifts will I give today?

Source: Seven Stones Leadership Daily Sufficiency


Tis the season, and we have gifts for you in this installment of our LINKY Party! I don’t usually gush but my friends have really spilled the beans here and shared some truly valuable planning and design tools – that are the amalgamation of years of experience – so definitely check them out.

These five incredibly useful tools that will help you develop more compelling and competitive grant proposals. If this gift seems like a boring pair of socks to you, remain patient, we all use these tools to run successful grant writing businesses – they work and will save you time and make you more effective and efficient – so you have more time to enjoy the joys of life.

From Jo Miller: A Social Media Template – Strategy and Planning

From Heather Stombaugh: A Grant Decision-Making Matrix

From Diane Leonard: Two Grant Readiness Tools for new and seasoned organizations

From Mark Whitacre: A Grant Alignment System Spreadsheet/Process

From me, Jana: How much to charge for grant writing contracts tool

How to figure out how much to charge for grant writing contracts

One of the questions that I get asked the most is how much to charge for grant writing. It’s always a little tricky to answer because the Sarbanes-Oxley Act precludes discussion of rates in order to stop price fixing…which we can all agree is never a pretty thing.

Having said that, I have learned a few things when negotiating contracts that have served me well over the years and I’d like to share those with you.

Number One: Figuring out how long a grant will take you to write

The first step here is to see who how long it takes you to write a grant application. I have collaborated with other grant writers over the years and found that it can vary quite a bit. So, if you are just starting out as a consultant, I recommend that you carefully track your hours to get a sense of how long things take you. On the scale of things, I am very fast, partly by nature and partly because I have been writing grants for 20 years so I’m just much more efficient.

Foundation Grants

For simple foundation grants I calculate a minimum of 15 hours and more typically in the 25-30 hour range. But, please track your own hours and find out what is true for you.


Government Grants

Government grants are a whole different kettle of fish. Diane Gideon Martin generously shared with me her formula for calculating how long it takes to write a state or federal grant and I have found it to be remarkably accurate. Her formula

“for calculating the time it will take me to complete the entire grant application. I’ve found that 2 hours per double-spaced page allows me to complete the narrative, abstract, all SF 424 forms, work with the client on the budget, edit the budget narrative, create attachments (MOUs/MOAs, logic model, bio sketches,etc.), and any other tasks necessary to get the application ready to go.”

I have tried this out for several years and it works like a charm for me.


Number Two: Know who you are working with

The biggest key determinant in how a grant process goes along is how easy a client is to work with. These days everyone is busy and getting a grant prepared often takes a lot of extra work on many people’s behalves. Everyone starts out with good intentions but along the way you may end up doing a lot more work than you bargained for.

Number Three: Good fences make good neighbors

Given that, whenever I am working with a brand new client I will increase my initial quote by 20% and tell them that it is high because they are an unknown entity. I tell them that if they are responsive, helpful, and provide what I need on time, then the process will do smoothly and I will not charge them the full estimate. However, if they aren’t then I have a cushion and don’t feel resentment if things go awry.

When I do charge on an hourly basis, I have a sentence in my contract that says the client shall deliver requested materials within 24 hours of my request. If the client fails to deliver the requested materials within that time, my recorded hours will be multiplied by 1.5.

I also tell clients that I do not work on weekends and that I do not work in the evenings…and I don’t.

Now, these might sound a little hardball to you, but I can only do my best work when my needs are taken care of. And when I do my best work, I take care of the needs of many people in our communities. So, all of these conditions make for really happy client relationships for me and by extension the people that I serve through my work.

On several occasions, I have not charged a new client my full initial estimate because they were easy and fun to work with and their team was responsive and professional. And on a couple of occasions, I was really, really glad that I had built in a cushion.

Only once, have I actually charged extra on an hourly contract when a client wasn’t responsive – they didn’t object because they knew that they had let the ball drop and that I had picked it up and run anyway. I also did tell them that they could expect a higher bill so that it wasn’t a surprise.

And, on the issue of working evenings and weekends, I have found clients to be remarkably respectful. Only on a couple of occasions has someone asked me to work on the weekend and they have done so with the acknowledgement that it was in extraordinary circumstances (severe illness and a family’s member’s death in the team) and so I was happy to accommodate them.

I hope that these practices and tools are useful to you in developing healthy, harmonious and respectful relationships with your clients in 2015.



As always, my book is always available on a gift basis.

And, I’m also offering 30 minute introductory session with me for people who are interesting in Grant Coaching. Don’t worry  it is not a sales pitch – it is an opportunity for me to answer your questions and to get to know each other.

And finally, if you are looking for the perfect experiential gift for the person who has everything, consider giving an Insight Session with me. I’ve just been doing some interviews with clients and a couple of words keep cropping up – mind-blowing and life-changing.  One person said

I am a social scientist with an Ivy league Ph.D. and a skeptic at heart.
My session with Jana was mind-blowing. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind as to her abilities.
It was one of the most healing, joyful hours of my life.

If you’re intrigued check it out.

Please pass along the 2014 Grant Professionals Gifts to anyone who could find value from this post and the other posts in Link Party.

I wish you all a warm and joyous season of giving and receiving!




A couple of months ago, I let you know that I had space in my calendar for a new client and I had a really interesting project turn up that I wanted to tell you about.

I got a call from a lovely lady, let’s call her Shana, who works in a low income community that often ranks the lowest in the state for many health indicators. The community has a remarkably strong history of collaboration and as a result there is an active and strong coalition of non-profits who are working together to improve the health and well-being of the community.  They have great programs, trusting relationships, vision and passion. They have won a couple of large foundation grants but have scored a couple of points shy of the cut-off on several key government grants. Read More→


Budgets: Downton Abbey Style

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You may or may not know that I’m British. So, like many people I’m a fan of Downton Abbey. I like the costumes, the settings, and the romantic, tragic, and nefarious story lines.

And Downton Abbey is a great example of how the quantifiable and the qualitative support one another to make a beautiful whole – just like a grant proposal.

The grand dinner parties look sumptuous but underneath you see the hours of exact planning down to the minutest detail by the staff below the stairs to make it all happen. If Mr. Carson didn’t decant the wine at the precise time, Mrs. Patmore baked one too few cakes, and Thomas didn’t count the forks, it would all fall apart. So the mundane is the crucial underpinning of the glamor.

Budgets are the downstairs equivalent in the grant world

Most grant writers find them tedious and boringly detailed. But mess up on the budget and there’s no glamorous grant to experience.
On the surface, it looks like the proposal narrative has all the glamor – it’s the upstairs world. In it you can tell the story, put in pretty charts, and startling facts.

The budget is just a bunch of numbers. But, use it wisely and it can make the whole proposal look great and be as compelling as the downstairs of Downton Abbey.

The precision supports the glamor

I interviewed Johna Rodgers for my book and she explained why she loved working on budgets. She said something that was echoed by a few other people.

“A good budget tells a story and lousy planning will show up in your budget.”

What makes a budget interesting is not the drama and glamor of the narrative but the precision and the detail. She went on

“Every reviewer takes a three minute glance before they dive in. My three minute glance starts at the back with the budget and I have post-it-notes, so things that I saw in the budget that I want to see in that narrative, especially the big ticket items, I want to see them. If they are not there, they are going to get marked off somewhere.”

So Johna, and other reviewers that I know, take a peak downstairs before they taste the soup. If you have one staff person in the kitchen but are producing a sumptuous meal, she’ll notice. If you say in your narrative that you are going to start a summer program for teens in the inner city but don’t have any money in the budget for public transportation she’ll smell a rat.

Reviewers are wary of having the wool pulled over their eyes. Johna zeroes in on the budget because she knows that if tom foolery is afoot, that’s where she’ll catch it. She gave a great example,

“I reviewed a library grant a couple of years ago and they were actually going to build a library, it was in the budget but never said a thing about it in the narrative. It was in the budget and I am looking for it the whole time and they never talk about it. And they were going to put up one of those metal buildings. What?”

So, next time you are preparing a proposal – especially a large government grant – make sure that you take care of all the details below stairs in the budget so that it thoroughly supports and is as interesting as what’s going on above stairs in the proposal narrative.

Now, back to find out what Miss O’Brien is scheming to do next.