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Monthly Archives: January 2013

In writing a new grant proposal, the use of boilerplate from one or more past proposals is a common practice. It offers a starting point for creating responses, particularly to topics or review criteria that recur from one proposal to the next; however, it should be used only as an initial point of departure — never as a final point of arrival — for writing a new proposal.

 

This post is the second of a pair of posts on boilerplate, which together are the last in a series on the use of templates, clones, and boilerplate in grant writing.

 

Examples of Possible Boilerplate:

Some examples may clarify a few of the many possible uses of boilerplate in writing grant proposals:

 

Example 1: Organizational History — Once a concise and compelling narrative of an organization’s history and capacity exists, it should be reusable as a basis for writing subsequent ones. As it passes new milestones and adds new accomplishments, these may accrete to earlier narratives.

 

Example 2: Position Description — Once its position title, time commitment, accountability, duties and responsibilities, and required and preferred qualifications are defined, a description of any given project position should be reusable, albeit with revisions, in later proposals.

 

Example 3: Literature Review — Once an applicant has completed a cogent state-of-the-art review of research literature on a given model or strategy, it should be able to build on it or imitate it as a point of departure in later funding proposals where the similar research comes into play.

 

Example 4: GEPA §427 Plan — Once an organization has a plan for accommodating the special needs of potential participants whose disabilities or degree of English language proficiency may otherwise impede their participation, it should be able to adapt and fine-tune it to fit later grant opportunities.

 

Example 5: Statistics Tables — Once a writer has devised a statistical table (e.g., demographic descriptors or academic performance data), it should be reusable, with suitable revisions, as a structure for presenting similar data on later occasions.

 

In writing a new grant proposal, the use of boilerplate from one or more past proposals is a common practice. It offers a starting point for creating responses, particularly to topics or review criteria that recur from one proposal to the next; however, it should be used only as an initial point of departure — never as a final point of arrival — for writing a new proposal.

 

This post is the first of a pair of posts on boilerplate, which together will be the last in a series on the use of templates, clones, and boilerplate in grant writing.

 

Boilerplate Defined:

The Business Dictionary defines ‘boilerplate’ as ‘ready made content, design, or format that fits a variety of uses.’ In the context of grant seeking, boilerplate is writing that applicants have created at one time that they reuse as starting points for later writing.

 

Uses of Boilerplate:

Writers will use boilerplate to try to take advantage of language that they have created as parts of past proposals, particularly if it has been tested and proven by having been funded at least once before. They will use it to exploit apparently effective solutions to problems posed while crafting responses for one or more selection criteria (or for other required proposal elements). In doing so, they will use it to improve the likelihood of obtaining funding again by adopting and adapting responses that have proven their effectiveness in the past.

 

Under the pressure of deadlines, some writers may use boilerplate to improve the productivity and efficiency of their writing. For writers, using boilerplate may improve both by providing points of departure for brand-new writing. At times, writers may resort to it to build momentum in writing or simply to avoid the cerebral paralysis that sometimes comes when they face a blank page.

 

From one use to the next, writers will revise and refresh the boilerplate’s original structure and content even to the point of transforming it completely after several iterations. They will rework both structure and content to reflect the applicant’s current plans and its attributes very near the time of each new proposal deadline. They also will rework them to fit each subsequent specific funding opportunity.

 

Conscientious writers will use boilerplate for elements of a number of proposals that the same applicant (or the same client) submits to different grant competitions over a period of time. They will not use it for an entire proposal to be supplied or sold to a number of applicants for them to submit to the same program at the same time.

 

Examples and Distinctions:

A later post will describe several possible specific uses of boilerplate in writing grant proposals. It also will compare and contrast the use of boilerplate with the use of templates and clones in pursuing grants.

 

One way to explore differences in potential grant opportunities among and within countries is to compare ratios of persons to grant-making foundations across the states or provinces in those countries and for entire countries. Available data suggest that nonprofits may face far greater competition for private grants in Mexico than their counterparts do in the United States of America.

 

Persons Per Foundation in Mexico:

Mexico’s population, as of 2012, was estimated to be 115,296,767 persons (Wikipedia]. For the same year, the Centro Mexicano para la Filantropia reported the number of foundations in Mexico as at least 22,906. The resulting average ratio of persons per foundation was 5,033.47, which was closest to the actual ratio for Baja California Sur (at 5,317.00).

 

In the six most populous states of Mexico (excluding the Federal District, or Distrito Federal), ratios of persons to foundations ranged from 6,107.46 in Jalisco to 10,023.35 in México state. In Mexico’s six least populous states, ratios of persons to foundations ranged from 4,031.51 to 6,579.22 in Nayarit.

 

Numbers of Foundations by State in Mexico:

Excluding the Federal District, in 2012 the numbers of foundations by state ranged from 130 in Baja California Sur to 1,555 in México state. The median number of foundations by state, excluding the Federal District, was 420, which was the ratio for Querétaro.

 

Four states and the Federal District had 1,000 or more foundations, 17 states had 500 or fewer foundations, and five states had 200 or fewer foundations.

 

Distrito Federal as a Unique Context:

The Federal District was unique in the entire country of Mexico in that it had by far the largest number of foundations (5,459) and it had by far the lowest ratio of persons per foundation (1,623.81).

 

International Comparison:

By way of comparison, in 2009, the population of the United States of America was estimated as 307,006,550; it had 120,617 private foundations; its resulting ratio of persons per foundation was 2,545.30; and its median ratio for the 50 states and Washington DC was 2,695.21 (in California).

 

Mexico’s 31 States And Federal District: Private Foundations Per Person by State

Rank

State

Population (2012)

Number of Foundations

Ratio

1

México

15,586,317

1,555

10,023.35

2

Federal District

8,864,370

5,459

1,623.81

3

Veracruz

7,773,408

1,269

6,125.62

4

Jalisco

7,554,931

1,237

6,107.46

5

Puebla

5,914,085

741

7,981.22

6

Guanajuato

5,652,973

707

7,995.72

7

Chiapas

4,983,116

639

7,798.30

8

Nuevo León

4,826,292

1,002

4,816.66

9

Michoacán

4,412,767

912

4,838.56

10

Oaxaca

3,866,280

970

3,985.86

11

Chihuahua

3,470,783

752

4,615.40

12

Guerrero

3,442,564

359

9,589.31

13

Tamaulipas

3,374,200

363

9,295.32

14

Baja California

3,302,966

851

3,881.28

15

Coahuila

2,841,657

698

4,071.14

16

Sinaloa

2,806,664

346

8,111.75

17

Sonora

2,755,258

504

5,466.78

18

Hidalgo

2,753,582

381

7,227.25

19

San Luis Potosí

2,638,693

349

7,560.72

20

Tabasco

2,309,369

233

9,911.45

21

Yucatán

2,015,977

454

4,440.48

22

Querétaro

1,924,144

420

4,581.30

23

Morelos

1,819,892

507

3,589.53

24

Durango

1,667,374

493

3,382.10

25

Zacatecas

1,514,618

177

8,557.16

26

Quintana Roo

1,440,814

290

4,968.32

27

Aguascalientes

1,237,675

307

4,031.51

28

Tlaxcala

1,213,757

291

4,170.99

29

Nayarit

1,118,468

170

6,579.22

30

Campeche

849,617

185

4,592.52

31

Baja California Sur

691,161

130

5,317.00

32

Colima

672,995

155

4,341.90

 

Totals

115,296,767

22,906

5,033.47

 

In grant seeking, cloning is the use of proposal templates taken to its extreme limits. So far as I know it is not yet a technical term in common use in grant writing. Cloning happens when reviewers for a single competition encounter two or more proposals — from ostensibly different applicants — that repeat each other in so many ways that they may as well be one and the same proposal.

 

Using a clone to apply for a grant is bad practice from the start. Like the use of templates, it rarely yields a grant. And when a funder does award a grant for a clone, as often as not its recipient sooner or later comes to regret its good fortune.

 

This post is the second in a series on the use of templates, clones, and boilerplate in grant writing.

 

Cloned Proposals Defined:

The Oxford Dictionary defines a ‘clone’ as ‘a person or thing regarded as an exact copy of another’ and it defines ‘to clone’ as to ‘make an identical copy of’ something. In the context of grant seeking, a cloned proposal — as I use the term — is one whose content is precisely the same as one or more others or one that is so nearly the same that it is all but indistinguishable from those others.

 

Reviewing Cloned Proposals:

Upon occasion, technical reviewers, working either alone or on a panel, may encounter two or more cloned proposals during a single proposal review period. The first clone is likely to get as unbiased, thorough, and objective a review as it would if it were a unique proposal. It will do so since it will appear to each reviewer who reads and scores it to be a unique and custom-created grant application.

 

An attentive reviewer, upon noting that a second proposal seems to be a clone of the first, may feel shortchanged or deprived of the stimulation that comes from reading one unique proposal after another. If possible, the reviewer may try to verify the perception that the second proposal is a clone. In some reviews, looking at both proposals side by side will be possible; in others, it will not.

 

Sooner or later the reviewer may recognize the same language, the same formats, and the same errors in the second proposal as in the first. Even if the format differs, the content may read the same so often as to appear for all practical purposes to be identical to the first. Upon recognizing the repetitiousness of content, the reviewer may become more critical in commenting and scoring and may search far more diligently for reasons to adjust scores downward. Even if reviewers have been instructed explicitly to review each proposal on its own merits, they may question the credibility of both applicants and their entire proposals, and they may resent having to read and rate mere clones.

 

If on the same day or the next day the same reviewer encounters a third proposal that is a clone of others before it, the consequences for that hapless applicant may become grim indeed. By this time, even the most self-disciplined of reviewers may begin to feel so bored with the proposal that he or she may search relentlessly for reasons to give it a low score. The reviewer may also feel compelled to call attention to the cloning to a review panel monitor, or to a review proctor, or to a program officer. Program staff may still direct all reviewers to score every clone from otherwise eligible applicants, but such directives may not deter those reviewers from registering their displeasure through their scoring.

 

Cloning and Ethics:

Each applicant that submits a cloned proposal runs many risks. Among the risks are low review scores, reviewers’ recommendations to deny funding, and a blot on its credibility and reputation with the grant program and/or the grant maker. Anyone who furnishes a cloned proposal to two or more clients — with or without prior explicit disclosure of the practice to all parties involved — puts his or her interests ahead of the clients’ interests.

 

I propose that grant writers everywhere should condemn such practices for being precisely what they are: unethical, unprofessional, and intolerable. What do you think?

 

Using a template to apply for a grant is seldom smart. It rarely yields a grant. And when a funder does award a grant, as often as not its recipient sooner or later comes to regret its good fortune.

 

This post is the first in a series on the use of templates, clones, and boilerplate in grant writing.

 

‘Template’ Defined:

The Business Dictionary defines ‘template’ as: a ‘design, mold, or pattern of an item (or a group of items) that serves as a basis or guide for designing or constructing similar items.’ Similarly, in the context of grant seeking, templates may be defined as: ‘ready-made frameworks for generating grant applications to be submitted to a specific grant maker and/or a specific grant opportunity.’ Some grant seekers use them as a way to speed up the process and reduce the costs of preparing proposals from scratch. More often than not, they are a waste of time and money.

 

When used in competing for grants, proposal templates offer far more disadvantages than they offer advantages. Among such disadvantages are that they are generic, inauthentic, and unresponsive. At times, they are also explicitly prohibited in a grant maker’s instructions to applicants.

 

Generic Proposals:

Since their creators commonly furnish them for use by multiple applicants, proposal templates are generic by design. They are created to be shortcuts to funding. By their nature, they are one size fits all. The language used in templates rarely if ever reflects the particulars that set one applicant apart from others.

 

Reviewers often disdain the use of template proposals. They may tire of reading the many repetitions in phrasing and seeing the same errors or defects so frequent among them. And they may register their boredom and frustration by awarding lower scores or by recommending rejection, if not also by raising an alarm with the specific funder — or even with a constellation of potential funders.

 

Inauthentic Proposals:

If funded, a template-using applicant can reasonably expect a funder to hold it to whatever it has stated in its proposal — just as it would any other applicant selected for funding. If such a funded applicant is unaware of the narrative and budgetary details of what it has proposed, it may come to regret its proposal having been funded; however, often template proposals don’t get that far.

 

In some grant competitions, reviewers may discover the repeated use of the same template among multiple applicants. They may object to all such proposals because they are all similarly inauthentic. Since authenticity itself is seldom a selection criterion, reviewers may not be able to withhold points for its absence; instead, they may become disinclined to overlook or to minimize other flaws in such proposals. They may more actively look for reasons to deduct points. And they may red flag template proposals for panel monitors or grant program administrators.

 

Unresponsive Proposals:

Template proposals often fail to reflect a grant program’s purposes, priorities, and selection criteria. Frequently, they furnish mere generalities, rather than specifics. Their ultimate focus is often more on whatever is expedient and beneficial for the vendor or the consultant that furnishes them to multiple applicants than on anything else.

 

Inevitably, unresponsive proposals earn low review scores, rarely high enough to result in funding. On occasion, the first template proposal to be reviewed may win a grant, while those reviewed later in the same process only will incur their reviewers’ wrath. All such proposals will become part of an applicant’s record with the grant maker that received and reviewed them.

 

Transparency in Grant Making:

With the trend during the 2010s towards ever more transparency in grant making — in both public and private spheres — an applicant’s use of a template proposal may become far more a matter of public record than it ever imagined when it elected to submit one. The short-term expediency of using templates hardly seems worth the long-term risks.

 

Compared to their counterparts in the fifty states, nonprofits and other grant seekers operating in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) appear to have limited options among local grant makers.

 

This post explores private foundations as grant makers in the USVI. Later posts will explore grant makers and grant making in other parts of the world.

 

Foundations in the US Virgin Islands:

The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands publishes a Community Services Directory, which is available online as a free PDF file. Among the many providers of community services active in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), the Directory identifies 18 foundations. Its contents describe each foundation’s purposes, programs, and types of support, and they provide detailed contact information, as well as websites (where available).

 

Of the foundations described in the Directory:

  • 16 are based in the USVI, two in Florida
  • Seven make grants, three award scholarships, and six make donations
  • Four make neither grants nor donations

 

Foundation Name Location Type of Support
Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation Florida Scholarships and grants
Beyond Visions Foundation St. Thomas USVI Grants
Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas USVI Scholarships and grants
Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital Foundation St. Croix USVI Grants
History, Culture, and Tradition Foundation, Inc. St. Croix USVI No grants. No donations.
Island Resources Foundation St. Thomas USVI Donations only.
Miracle Babies Support Foundation St. Thomas USVI No grants
Make a Wish Foundation – VI Chapter Florida Grants
Partners for Health St. Thomas USVI Donations only.
Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation St. Thomas USVI Donations only.
St. Croix Foundation for Community Development St. Croix USVI Grants
St. Croix Tennis Foundation St. Croix USVI No grants. No donations.
St. John Community Foundation St. John USVI Grants and scholarships
Sunshine Foundation St. Croix USVI No grants. No donations.
Tillett Foundation, Inc. St. Thomas USVI Donations only.
USVI Coalition for Sustainable Economic Development, Inc. St. Croix USVI No grants. No donations.
United Way of St. Croix St. Croix USVI Donations only.
United Way of St. Thomas/St. John St. Thomas USVI Donations only.

 

If visitors to this blog know of other foundations operating or making grants in the United States Virgin Islands, please post a comment here with their names and locations.

As noted earlier, charitable activity occurs in many parts of the world, wherever one finds corporations and foundations committed to philanthropic undertakings.

 

This post explores the distribution of corporate giving programs in Canada. An earlier post explored the distribution of grant-making foundations in Canada.

 

Canadian Corporate Giving:

Based on a list at Charity Village, at least 130 corporate giving programs make charitable donations or grants in Canada. Charity Village’s database briefly describes the purposes and geographic focuses of each giving program and provides links to the individual websites.

 

Of the 130 corporate giving programs, five are international, 86 are national, 15 are regional, and 12 are local. Most of the international programs are based in the United States of America. The regional programs provide support either in parts or all of two or more provinces.

 

Another 12 of the 130 corporate giving programs provide support within specific provinces: one in Alberta (AB), six in British Columbia (BC), one in Manitoba (MB), two in Ontario (ON), and two in Saskatchewan (SK).

 

Canadian Corporate Giving Programs

Location

Number

Location

Number

Location

Number

International

5

Local

12

Manitoba

1

National

86

Alberta

1

Ontario

2

Regional

15

British Columbia

6

Saskatchewan

2

 

It is quite possible that other databases on Canadian philanthropy are more extensive than those presented online at Charity Village; if readers know of any, please send me a comment!

 

Later posts will explore grant-related philanthropies elsewhere in North America — as well as in other countries and regions of the world.

 

Charitable donations and grant making are activities by no means limited to organizations operating only within the United States of America. They occur in many parts of the world, wherever one finds corporations and foundations committed to philanthropic undertakings.

 

This post explores the distribution of grant-making foundations in Canada. A later post will explore the distribution of corporate giving programs in Canada. In addition, further posts will explore grant-related philanthropies elsewhere in North America — as well as in other countries and regions of the world.

 

Canadian Grant-Making Foundations:

Based on a list at Charity Village, at least 283 private foundations make grants within Canada. Charity Village’s database briefly describes the purposes and geographic focuses of each foundation and provides links to their individual websites.

 

Of the 283 foundations, 19 are international, 90 are national, and 65 are regional. Most of the international foundations are based in the United States of America. The regional foundations provide support either in parts of two or more provinces or in their entireties.

 

In addition, 109 of the 283 foundations provide support within specific provinces: 20 in Alberta (AB), 20 in British Columbia (BC), nine in Manitoba (MB), three in New Brunswick (NB), one in Newfoundland (NL), three in Nova Scotia (NS), one in Northwest Territories (NT), 44 in Ontario (ON), five in Quebec (QC), two in Prince Edward Island (PE), and one in Saskatchewan (SK).

 

Yukon (YT) and Nunavut (NU) have no province-specific foundations listed on Charity Village’s online directory. Applicants in these sparsely settled provinces must look outside provincial boundaries in their pursuit of grants from private foundations.

 

Canadian Grant-Making Private Foundations

Location

Number

Location

Number

Location

Number

International

19

New Brunswick

3

Ontario

44

National

90

Newfoundland

1

Quebec

5

Regional

65

Northwest Territories

1

Prince Edward Island

2

Alberta

20

Nova Scotia

3

Saskatchewan

1

British Columbia

20

Nunavut

0

Yukon

0

Manitoba

9

 

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