What I learned on the Camino about grant writing

I recently walked the Camino in Spain – it’s a 500 mile walk from the French Pyrenees all the way across Spain to Santiago. Like most peak experiences it included moments of both joy and pain. The scenery was spectacular and it was a delight to walk in nature for 7 hours a day for 32 days. And it was physically grueling for most of the pilgrims and some people were walking to relieve themselves of enormous grief or guilt.
Before I left, I wrote a couple of TRIO proposals this year. For many years, the guidelines for these grants have required that the narrative be double-spaced but that tables and charts could be single-spaced. So, it is common to put some language in tables to save space.
Apparently, someone had the bright idea of single-spacing the ENTIRE proposal and putting a line around each page. The Dept of Education did not review the proposal because it was single-spaced. The applicant then sued the Dept of Education saying that they had not defined ‘table’ and their proposal should be submitted for review.
The impact was that the Department of Education changed the new RFA’s for Upward Bound and Ronald E. McNair so that the entire proposal had to be double-spaced. That resulted in thousands of hours of people’s time cutting down copy to meet the new requirement.
Needless to say, it stinks that someone would do that and make a lot of extra work for so many well-intentioned, hard-working folks who are just trying to keep their programs going and give kids a better future.
I learned many things along the Camino. One was that we don’t know what difficulties people are dealing with and that people are doing the best that they can.  And another was just how beautiful community can become with an abundance of good souls in the mix (I’ll write more about this another time).
  1. Next time you see a change in the guidelines that makes you grind your teeth and tut in disbelief – consider that the program officers may just be reacting to some outrageous behavior by an applicant. They’re doing the the best that they can in the face of circumstances unknown to us.
  2. Please don’t be that person and I encourage you to counsel others to behave well. It matters when people think about their place in the community and act accordingly. Just follow the guidelines to the best of your ability.
With love and blessings
The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Categories : Grant Start Up

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