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I don’t like being scared, period. I can’t stand horror movies or thrillers. While I can avoid entertainment, I can’t avoid things that scare me in life. There are many unknowns and while we try to be prepared, we can’t always prepare for every scenario. How do we overcome our fears and become better equipped for success?  

  1. Acknowledge that you have fears. Why hide from the things that scare you? Is it death, sickness, job loss? Become aware that the fear exists and give it a name.
  2. Learn how to calm yourself down. How do you try to relax? Is it yoga, music, playing with your dogs and/or kids? What will help put you in a better headspace?
  3. Don’t think too much. I find that when I obsess about an issue/topic, I actually end up making it worse. Meditation is great to overcoming these obsessive thoughts and there are so many free apps that you can find one to help you meditate for even just five minutes.
  4. Find a coping mechanism. What happens if your fear is realized? Are you ready to face it? It helps to find a healthy way to address this so it doesn’t overtake your personal and/or professional life. What are some healthy habits that you can adopt?
  5. Move on. Hopefully, once you cross that bridge you can keep moving forward and not obsess about the next fear.

What are your greatest fears and how can you try to ensure you are mentally and emotionally strong enough to combat them?

Last month I turned 40 – a milestone birthday by most standards. People’s reactions were generally encouraging and positive, but some thought I may end up having a nervous breakdown or midlife crisis. This made me think more about our society and why we put so much pressure on ourselves to stay young. We have face creams, promote plastic surgery and have fashion options tend to skew towards those 35 and younger. Any recruiter will also tell you that older applicants have a more difficult road to finding a new job. I feel strongly that it is important for us to embrace people of all ages and I caution that diminishing the value of those who are older does not serve us very well. Why does age matter?

Here’s my list of top benefits to growing older:

  1. Your life experiences hone your intuition, perspective and ability to think clearly
  2. You know a lot more people than you did when you were 18, or even 25.
  3. You tend to take things less personally and focus more on your needs.
  4. You have a better sense of who you are and what makes you happy.
  5. You are probably less addicted to technology and able to separate from gadgets.
  6. You probably earn more money than you did when you were younger, and thus might have more ability to do things in your leisure time.
  7. You are aware of what you’re good at and also your weaknesses.
  8. You have wisdom that standardized tests can’t capture.

Think about these things the next time you talk to someone older than you (perhaps a different age demographic). You are probably more similar than you think, and you may actually learn a thing or two.

Ever since I was a young child I have always tried to avoid conflicts. I don’t like to argue or hear people argue, period. However, as we get older, this isn’t always possible. We have to confront people with differing opinions and different ways of handling an issue that is contentious. How do we move past this and find some common ground? This is especially true living in the Washington, DC Metro area and hearing lots of partisan arguments and viewpoints and opinions on varying issues.

Well, I say, let’s try to embrace some conflict as I think it helps us grow personally and professionally. Here’s why….

  1. Everyone has an opinion – Is this based on fact, past experience or personal belief? Opinions based on fact or past experience might help provide some insights that you don’t have.
  2. Gain some perspective – We all get entrenched in our own ideas so if we only work with those with whom we agree, we really aren’t going to change our points of view. This becomes tunnel vision and fuels the partisan rancor that impacts decision making on important policies and topics.
  3. Active listening – We like to talk, but are we really listening? Maybe if we stop and hear what someone else is saying before responding, we could actually have a healthy debate about a substantive issue.
  4. We need to grow – I know for myself that I have learned more from failure and negative situations than I have from triumphs. If we look at conflict as the fuel for change, this will help us become more thoughtful leaders and professionals.

While I don’t suggest you start a conflict with someone, I am recommending that opening the door to disagreements can lead to more fruitful outcomes.

 Each one of us is born with a certain personality, and our personalities are shaped by other environmental factors. This isn’t news – this is just the nature vs. nurture argument. I think it is important for us to express ourselves to the extent possible, although this will vary depending on the situation. From a professional standpoint, we may not be able to always show our “true colors” since we have to adapt to certain codes of conduct and behaviors. The same is true for our written communications, which serve as a reflection of our personalities (or more specifically, our organization’s personality). I was thinking about this dichotomy and as a grant writer when it’s a good idea to include personal information (stories, persuasive language that conveys emotion) in our writing. How do we break this down?

Letter of Intent or Proposal Narrative: Yes!

A letter of intent or proposal narrative (without strict limitations) is your way to convey as much as possible about your organization. Include a success story, case study, testimonial through an indented paragraph or call out box. This provides the reviewer with additional information and may invoke an emotional response.

 Federal Grant Proposal or Contract: No!

Unfortunately, federal proposals or contract applications do not lend themselves to beautiful prose or emotional language; just the facts ma’am. You can (and should) include letters of support, which will provide more personal details to add credence to your proposal.

 Appeal Letter: Yes!

Appeal letters are based on emotion – they are meant to evoke feelings that propel people to donate. If you are to include personal information, the appeal letter is the place to do it.

 Fact Sheets and Annual Reports: Yes and No!

You can actually convey a lot of emotion through photos and infographics, as they tell a story through statistics and facts. You can marry the two as a fact sheet and annual report are the summation of your organization’s work that is shared to the general public. This should contain outcome-based information to show impact and also identify the needs of your organization’s target population.

Benefits of conveying personal information:

  • Offers information about a target population through real life examples
  • Provides more context to a difficult challenge or problem your organization is trying to resolve
  • Expresses a perspective that seeks to educate others
  • Greater likelihood of sharing via social media

 

How will you show your organization’s personality in your writing?

buddha-1611803_640I don’t know about you, but 2016 has been an incredibly stressful year for me, and I am sure the same can be said for many of you. Between a drawn out Presidential campaign, crises all over the world, and a country that continues to divide itself even further, I am ready for 2017 to begin in earnest. While I am sure that these conflicts will not be resolved by the end of 2016, I am grateful for my family and friends who continually provide much needed support and a respite from the chaos. Work-life balance is essential as we need to ensure that we do self-care and recharge our batteries. Here are some thoughts about why work-life balance is important to me.

  1. Taking the much needed deep breath. Whenever I become absorbed in a work related situation or news related topic, I have to step away. I know this is difficult, but I find that I become more stressed out when I continue to work or read articles online rather than going out for a run or having some “me” time.
  1. Keeping things in perspective. My children often provide the much needed respite for comic relief and also ensuring that I stay grounded. The moment we lose sight of what’s truly important in our lives, the more weight we give to insignificant matters.
  1. Better quality comes from space. If I work on a proposal or report in the evening, I always have to review it in the morning. I find that a fresh eye often leads to better quality, and I also have new ideas that can be incorporated. This leads to a better output and greater chance at success.
  1. Balance is key to a healthy mind and outlook. We each have to find a way to compartmentalize different components of our lives. A healthy balance may not be achieved in one day, but we have to look at it over the course of a period of time. I know that summers tend to be less hectic, so I will spend more time with family. However, as 2017 begins, I have more tasks on my plate. Having an awareness of the fluctuation in workload will make preparations for these variations much easier to deal with when they occur.
  1. Most things are not that urgent or important. We do not need to “red flag” everything that comes across our desks. Try to prioritize your task load so that you don’t respond to emails unnecessarily and hand off work as needed. Also, set up times when you do respond as not every task needs to be addressed immediately.

As many of you take time off during the holidays, establish a game plan for continuing to recharge and refresh throughout the year. Namaste!

 

Election Day has brought to light a number of differences in our country and has showcased the truly best and worst behaviors of people that live in the United States. While I am not here to condemn or embrace the outcome of the election, what I am concerned about is our ability to work together and find some common ground. The day after the election I traveled to Atlanta, GA to attend the Grant Professionals Association Annual Conference. It was truly humbling to be surrounded by others from different parts of the country (red and blue states) who share a common goal of improving public welfare and mission-driven organizations and government entities. We are all different and have divergent political views, but people all collaborated and found a way to embrace our shared experience of helping the nonprofit and government sectors.

I would like to take this ethos and apply this in our lives, both personally and professionally. The importance of working together towards progress cannot be underestimated. So, what are the common issues and concerns that we all have? I have identified some commonalities that I think we can all embrace:

  • smartphone-1445489_640The safety and well-being of our families and loved ones
  • Quality education for our children and healthcare for all
  • A strong economy that supports people of all income levels
  • Employment opportunities for people at all income levels

I realize that everyone has different notions and approaches as to how these can be achieved. However, I will caveat that we need to compromise and try to gain other perspectives to enhance our understanding of issues and the experiences of other people. Sometimes it takes sitting around a table and working towards a common goal. As a grants consultant, I do this all the time, and I often learn more by listening than applying my own reasoning to the conversation at the outset.

What are some questions you can ask if you were to sit at a table with others with whom your perspectives diverged?

  • What are we both trying to achieve (regarding this particular topic/area of interest)?
  • Why do you believe strongly in this topic or issue?
  • What would you do to try to resolve this issue?
  • What do you think I should know that can help inform my opinion?
  • Where should I go to learn more about this?
  • What are some things that we can agree on to move this forward?

I know that these are not easy conversations to have, but maybe a good start is talking to your neighbor or a colleague. It takes a small step. What will you do to start a conversation?

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David Letterman used to put together a top 10 list each night of the week when he had his late night show. I have decided to put together my top 10 achievements this year (both professionally and personally). This has allowed me to feel positive about my accomplishments, even when I was faced with challenges. These are in no particular order, by the way.

  1. My company’s efforts on a large scale federal grant application led to my client being awarded a $6.25 million grant over the course of 5 years.
  2. I completed a Couch to 5K Program and am now consistently jogging 3 days a week and hope to compete in my first 5K in early 2016.
  3. I conducted 9 trainings on grants management, prospect research, grant readiness, internal controls and project management in the DC area, and I presented at my first national conference in St. Louis (yay, Grant Professionals Association).
  4. I served as the lead on an intensive collaborative grant proposal, which while not funded, received the 2nd highest score by a federal agency.
  5. I set aside one workday each week to spend with my 18 month old daughter. Work will always be there, but she is only young once.
  6. I collaborated with several nationally and locally recognized professionals on projects, in order to leverage skills and grow from our partnerships.
  7. I helped to create operational efficiencies and more streamlined services within a company’s grant services division.
  8. I redesigned a large Montgomery County nonprofit’s annual report to show more impact (and hopefully attract more funders).
  9. I conducted a survey of Grant Professional Association members of the work they do (outside of grants) and nearly 300 people responded.
  10. I am still happy to be contributing to the needs and services of my clients, while also supporting my family.

Happy New Year!