Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) is that feeling we get when we are easily distracted. It happens a lot when we are delaying something we don’t feel ready to tackle. It is right up there and often overlaps with being a “procrastilearner.” Procrastilearning is when you keep substituting research and learning, more than you need to, prior to making a decision. Don’t get me wrong, do your research, check out your options, but not ad nauseam and definitely not in lieu of actual work outcomes.
Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) occurs a lot in grant writing and fundraising. People aren’t always comfortable asking for money, whether it is from a donor or through a grant. Subsequently, SOS kicks in and every email, google ad, and/or colleague recommendation of a tool comes back into play. I see it most often when it comes to grant and funding research.
Back in the day options for researching grants and potential funders most often resided at the local library where a big fat book of possible funders might exist. Those days are long gone and if you have a laptop and an internet connection you can make more magic happen from the comfort of your office than you ever could schlepping to and from the library.
The biggest obstacle in making your funding dreams come true is investing a ton of time on how to find funders, and what database, and/or tools you should utilize. Any tool. plus work, is far superior and provides better outcomes than endless research of what avenue to take. Honestly, the biggest difference in funding and grant research tools is price tag. The option you go with won’t make or break your efforts.
What will make or break your grant writing and/or other donor requests is the work you’ve put into building relationships. No tool can replace what a solid relationship will provide. Relationships are truly the best investment of time. Spending money on a tool often trumps building relationships because it is easier, and as we all know, easier doesn’t always equal better.
There are approximately 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the U.S. Suffice to say if you are a nonprofit with a desire to go after grants your competition is most likely heavy.
Mission and vision are important, but equally important when applying for a grant are budget and planning. Why? Because the majority of the 1.5 million nonprofits registered in the U.S. have compelling causes they are pitching for funding as well. Grant funding is competitive. How are you shaping your pitch to compete with the grant application that may be read prior and after your’s is read?
The following are two specific budget and planning items you should be addressing:
Budget: How will your budget sustain the programming or address the need you are requesting funding for after the grant, if you receive it, is gone?
Planning: How are you demonstrating the resources you will utilize and the results you are targeting (your logic model)?
The greater representation of your well thought out budget and plan, the greater chance you have at securing grant funds. If your nonprofit is in the early stages and you need help with a budget and/or logic model template visit Developing Good a membership site focused on grant writing resources and information
“How much should I pay for a grant writer,” is probably one of the top five frequently asked questions I receive. So if it is on your mind, here are four items to consider when you are considering hiring someone in-house or as a consultant.
- Hiring in-house vs. consultant. Consultant costs will appear steeper per hour until you factor in what you’d be paying in pay and benefits (health insurance, retirement, paid time off, etc.) to hire someone in-house. Additionally consider if you need an in-house grant writer full time. The answer to that is found in the size of your organization and type of organization. For example a two person nonprofit has very different scaling capabilities compared to an academic institution. Seriously consider your ability and timeline in scaling upwards.
- Cost for an in-house grant writer or a consultant will vary based on geography, and possibly size of the organization. Some consultants will have a sliding scale regarding per hour, or per project costs. Cost of living in Chicago vs. Toledo are very different, and subsequently what you’ll need to pay will vary as well.
- Lower costs does not equate to a better deal in most cases. Sure you could contract with someone new to the field at their offered rate of $25 per hour, but you may end up paying an overall higher rate as their lack of experience results in their need to bill more hours to get the job done. For example, when you are new on any job in any field it takes longer to get something done compared to someone who has been doing it for years. Economy of scale comes with someone who has been in the field for a longer time. Remember grants aren’t guaranteed so you could be paying someone to practice on your dime.
- Do a bit of research. One of my favorite articles, although it was written in 2006 so rates and salaries have gone up, is “Calculating fees as a freelance grant proposal writer.” I value it because it comes from a neutral source, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and provides a well thought out plan regarding pay rates for in-house or consultant costs research. Sites like Developing Good offer grant consulting information without the consultant price tag and can also be an option if you are exploring the grant world.
Unless your organization is capable of scaling up in personnel and programming all at once, which is unusual when considering the nonprofit growth cycle, a consultant may be the way to begin. Although, if the capacity to scale up does exist hiring someone in-house for grants can work for you. Cautionary note, don’t dump the responsibility on an existing employee who has other duties. Why? Because grant writing includes much more than ‘plug and play.’ It is relationship building, writing, monitoring, reporting, etc. You have one shot at making a good first impression with funders. Make sure you go into the grant writing world well prepared and ready to knock their socks off. Grants are competitive and you want to make sure your submission stands out for all the right reasons.
Working with and in communities in the capacity of economic development for over two decades I’ve seen the subtle, incremental dismantling of good economic development practices. Incremental dismantling of a community is created and fueled by poor public administration, misguided policy, and ego driven behaviors.
Economic development in many communities is taking place at the expense of the citizens and community resources. In the past economic development was shaped by community development, which included planning, civic service, and a sense of the greater good. Over the last decade or more it appears in many places to be morphing into a win at all cost, any project is a good project, ‘shoot at anything that flies, claim anything that falls’ charade.
Does planning still take place in communities? Often planning does take place, implementation however does not always follow. I had a conversation a few weeks ago with someone who makes a very nice living creating community plans. He voiced frustration and discouragement of repeatedly seeing his work completed, only to go sit on a shelf in an office never to be actually implemented. So we know paying for a plan isn’t enough. Staying focused and implementing policy to support a plan is vital.
In the places that economic development has become a shell of the original intent you can see a direct correlation between the incremental dismantling, or even production of poor policy to feed the ‘beast’ as community resources are squandered. When economic development is more about headline and glory grabs community members will disengage and a downward cycle will develop.
True economic development is focused on community engagement, growth, planning, and development supported by well thought out and implemented policy. When good policy is in place the public administration path is clear and the influence of politics and/or ego diminishes. That is a formula that leads to community and resource growth, as well as civic pride.
What is the cost of distraction within the workplace? Do the math… if it takes approximately 20-ish minutes to return to the point of focus prior to a distraction, social media continues to increase our level of distraction, well you get the picture. Ongoing distractions impact our ability to concentrate. We live in a world that is fully aware of this problem, creating terms like continuous partial attention (CPA), and apps to deal with it. Continual distraction is bad for not just workplace productivity and profit, it is bad for employee health and wellness too.
“We have known for a long time that repeated interruptions affect concentration. In 2005, research carried out by Dr Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that persistent interruptions and distractions at work had a profound effect. Those distracted by emails and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, twice that found in studies on the impact of smoking marijuana. More than half of the 1,100 participants said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, while 21% admitted they would interrupt a meeting to do so. Constant interruptions can have the same effect as the loss of a night’s sleep.” (Source: “The Lost Art of Concentration”)
Dr. Wilson’s 2005 research shows a clear correlation between distraction and concentration. Social media distractions have grown substantially since his study subsequently so have the impacts. So the question becomes, knowing their is a negative impact on employee health and wellness, as well as positive organizational outcomes, why do we fail to address the issue? The more distracted we are, the harder it is to concentrate. This dynamic leads to higher anxiety and stress as employees try to do more in less time, rushed, and with less attention to details. Again, the outcome for companies and employees is not a positive one.
Creating an environment that requires, and supports mindfulness is difficult as our culture continues to veer in the opposite direction; however, it is necessary unless management is ready to lean into and accept lower productivity and an ongoing reduction in quality. Employers are in the midst of normalization of deviation due to social media which results in both short and long term losses.
Last week I had a fantastic conversation with a professor who teaches sales and marketing on the university level. We discussed perception vs. reality in sales within our world which is full of real and wishful “influencers.”
Bottom line is influencers talk at their audience, as that is their deal, they influence. In the world of sales however influencing isn’t a long term plan, especially in business to business sales which was the topic of our discussion.
Sales is relational, unless you are operating with a ‘one and done’ attitude-big, but temporary gains. Building a business requires engaging with people and listening to their needs, challenges, etc. Like the saying goes, “people don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.” Sales is about listening and shining the spotlight on the customer not yourself. Most of us are already burned out on the barrage of social media showing us the greatness of others so hearing it from someone that wants you to give them money too isn’t an incentive to buy.
If you’ve ever networked you more often than not get the mini version of the difference between sales and attempted influencing. It is the reason many of us dial our networking back to the level of infrequent. Talking at me, pushing your product in my face and space while telling me your story doesn’t engage me, and rarely interests/engages others. A sale via that approach isn’t relational, it is more in the realm of ‘I’ll buy it if you please go away,’ a one and done exchange.
The professor I spoke with summed it up nicely explaining introverts are often the best sales people due to being good listeners. As an introvert I’m biased to believe his statement as gospel; however it does make sense as we reside in environments that often demand we focus outside of ourselves, as well as compare ourselves through media, social and otherwise. Selling is optimized when engagement is the priority. Selling is sustainable when the customer has an opportunity to feel accommodated.
Decades ago, when I was a stressed out adult probation officer, someone gave me a book on meditation. I was hooked upon experiencing the positive outcomes of meditating. I occasionally taught meditation classes in groups and even to high school staff. Decades later I’m busy running a business, teaching in higher ed. and generally trying to have a balanced life to boot. Nevertheless I do still meditate every single day. Why? Because it reduces my stress and sharpens my focus in a world that is constantly throwing every possible distraction at us through a myriad of media.
I’m not alone in the taming the beast of stress related distraction, and you don’t have to look very far to see institutions such as Harvard, the Mayo Clinic, Yale, etc. have explored, studied, and validated the positive outcomes. If you knew even 10 minutes of employee mindfulness/meditation would boost your company’s growth through more engaged employees, create a safer environment with more focused employees, and reduce your healthcare costs why wouldn’t you pursue it? If you’re thinking 10 – 20 minutes of employee time would result in lost productivity, I can guarantee you that same amount of time is currently being lost due to the almost 70% of employees nationwide who are actively disengaged in their jobs.
As far as employee engagement tools go meditation has scientifically proven positive outcomes, and the price tag to implement it is minimal, and maintaining it cost zero extra dollars. You’ll be hard pressed to find a stronger return on investment.
Oversight is very popular, and obviously necessary within the workplace. Accountability seems to be less of a mandate, and that is a problem. The only way to engage yourself, employees, and/or customers is to combine oversight and accountability.
I’m not sure when accountability fell out of fashion, but a lack of accountability equates to lost employees, lost profits, lost vision. I’m talking about accountability on every level. Are you being honest with employees about the job they are interviewing for and/or the culture of the company? Are employees working within a dynamic that they operate knowing win or lose people at every level of a decision making, or production making process will be held accountable? Is the organization showing appreciation for those exceeding the bar? Are people being both rewarded and held responsible for both the good and the bad? You get the picture.
Accountability seems to surface during conversation that are wrapped within something that may or has gone wrong. This is where it gets its bad rap. Regardless of whether or not your organization is engaged in accountability, it is impacting you. Best to stay ahead of the curve and implement it on a level that makes your brand, product, and workplace more attractive to both employees and customers. Doing so will show a return on investment. Not doing so will create a people, product, and paid loss.
Ten or so years ago workforce development was the job of professionals within the workforce development field. Now, workforce development has morphed into an effort that for some reason more people and professions than needed are trying to contribute to. The issue in many cases is “what” the non-workforce professionals are trying to contribute. Here is a list of three things being forced into the workforce development arena that are limited at best, and counterproductive at worst.
1) Government training and engagement funding programs. Paperwork, with a side of paperwork is curbing enthusiasm and the ability to access some potentially good State based programs. Money will be left on the table when the process consumes too much of human resource’s time. Why? Because human resource’s time equals money as well. Additionally, they are already busy people. Yes to training and engagement funds, but let’s simplify the hoops and time consumption currently attached to them.
2) Economic developers. I am a recovering economic developer so I say this with love. Economic development is a full time, and important job in communities. Impact and ability are diluted when workforce is added in as ‘economic development.’ Almost any economic developer who was around 10+ year ago went kicking and screaming to Workforce Investment Act meetings because it ‘wasn’t what an economic developer did.’ Let’s quit forcing people into conversations and dynamics that take away from what they were originally hired to do. The exception, creating a job or department within the economic development organization specifically to target partnerships with workforce professionals and support growing workforce efforts.
3) Incentivizing only job creation/retention growth. Incentivizing manufacturing growth only when it includes jobs created doesn’t make sense anymore, especially in rural areas. You only need to look at demographic trends to see the issue. If you only incentivize job creation, rural areas will eventually lose their manufacturers and they will at times move to secure both more people and the funds that come with them. Most of us know multiple companies who have jumped locations for economic development funding. Why? Because many States have built incentive programs creating a dynamic which makes it more profitable for them to do so. Would I move across the city or county line if incentivized to do so? Yes, yes I would if I was in the business of ending a year with a profit. Incentivizing automation eases the workforce challenges when it comes down to the bottom line of having enough people to fill positions. It contributes to stabilizing communities.
By continually adding everyone under the sun into the workforce discussion and/or program planning the only outcome you are on the path to is progress at a pace that is detrimental to manufacturing. More action, less meetings, more smart conversations, less of talking things into the ground and then burying them with endless paperwork.