Dylan was right: The Times They Are A-Changing…. REFLECTIONS ON HOW THE GRANTS FIELD HAS CHANGED

When I started Proposals, Etc. in 2002, the field of proposal writing was starting a subtle change that has snowballed in the past ten years. Technology has changed how we approach and apply to foundations and the government alike.

Funder research is a lot easier.  In the 1990’s, we were still subscribing to and scouring the Federal Register for federal grant notices. We looked up foundation tax forms on microfiche (if you are younger than 30, ask your parents) in libraries. Now most funders have precise instructions and information available on websites everyone can access from their own computer or smart phone.Computers communicating

Continue reading “Dylan was right: The Times They Are A-Changing…. REFLECTIONS ON HOW THE GRANTS FIELD HAS CHANGED”


This long, strange winter allowed me to see more movies than usual, one of which was The Imitation Game. The movie’s subject, an English mathematician named  Alan Turing, was clearly an odd duck, to phrase it nicely. Today we would use different words. He clearly was a man with AspergAlan Turiger’s Syndrome (on the autism spectrum) – brilliant, but with no social skills ability.

As a younger man during WWII England, he was not understood, or liked. Nonetheless, the times were dire, and his brainpower was required to crack the Nazi code so that Britain wouldn’t be bombed off the map. The story chronicles how he ended up working the military’s top-secret Enigma program, and despite not being liked by the small group of mathematician code crackers, they learned to trust him and his unique gifts. Continue reading “HOW MANY GENIUSES CAN SOCIETY AFFORD TO LOSE? THOUGHTS ON THE IMITATION GAME”

Reading Ease – Can You Hear me Now?

Flip phone John M. Cataldo, aka my father, used to hate the expression “Do you get it?” or “Do you understand?”

The question was, in his view,”Have I made myself clear?” The burden is on the speaker or writer to make sure that the audience understands his/her point. Donors, foundations, corporations shouldn’t have to work hard to understand what a nonprofit is trying to convey, especially if it involves a monetary ask!

Continue reading “Reading Ease – Can You Hear me Now?”

From Whitney Houston to Children with Autism: Nurturing Everyone’s Talents

When Whitney Houston died in 2012, the nation was shocked – despite her decade-long  drug addiction – and saddened.  The depth of the tragedy, felt not only by me, can be summed up by one word:  cheated. We had been cheated of her enormous talent and gifts.

We all have God-given talents, and roles to perform here on Earth. Some are great healers; others moving writers. Whitney Houston had the most beautiful gift of song – a rare instrument that could move people to tears and joy with just her voice.                               angel with harp
Continue reading “From Whitney Houston to Children with Autism: Nurturing Everyone’s Talents”

Trends in the Grant World 2014

“It’s a jungle out there.” – Randy Newman, songwriter

The past twelve months have been very challenging on the foundation grant front. If you work in a Jungle monkey and babynonprofit, I hope that you budgeted your expected grant dollars conservatively! It has been harder to obtain grant funds recently in Massachusetts. Why?  Note the following  trends.

Continue reading “Trends in the Grant World 2014”


It’s February, and that means it is tax time in my household. Reams of paper enough to kill an entire forest are gathered, to file FAFSA government education forms, and to document taxable deductions for my development consulting business and family IRS forms.

One of the deductions that I pay particular attention to is the charitable tax deduction. I calculate what percentage of my income did my charitable contributions represent. Remember when Al Gore was Vice President and he raised eyebrows by giving less than 1% of his income (aprox. $200K) to charity? Note to people who make more than $150K, that was widely considered to be stingy and below the national average (3.5%).          Continue reading “DO YOUR CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS TELL ME WHO YOU ARE?”

What Nonprofits can learn from Panera’s CEO

This autumn I had the pleasure of listening to Panera Bread CEO Ronald Saich speak about his Panera Cares initiative. As a business in the food industry, his company gave away fresh baked goods daily. Even though he was making huge in-kind donations to food banks and shelters, he felt disconnected from really making a difference.

Because he “goes to work to learn” (me too!), he thought about how he and his 8,000 employees could make a significant difference. He wanted to utilize and leverage his company’s strengths in service of others. He also wanted to raise awareness about food insecurity in the U.S., so he researched community cafes that fed the hungry. He also worked in food pantries, and experienced them as a customer – which he described as very powerful.

Continue reading “What Nonprofits can learn from Panera’s CEO”


To raise money in a competitive environment, you not only need a compelling mission (e.g. reason), but also the savvy to prove why you are worth donating to again and again.  Here are common subliminal and overt actions/messages that can keep you from successfully raising more.

1) The Board of Directors (Trustees) and/or senior staff members do not contribute to their organization. Can you spell Vote of No Confidence? If the people who know and love the organization the best don’t give, why would anyone else? People do look for this in annual reports, and some foundations/corporations actually ask for the percentage of the Board that makes cash donations. Continue reading “DO YOU SABOTAGE YOURSELF FROM RAISING MORE MONEY?”


Many smart business people like to pay people based on a percentage of their performance. If you make more sales, get more contracts, you get a bigger cut of the business brought in.  The number one question I have been asked over time is if I am paid though a percentage of grant funds that I obtain.

The answer is no – never. Like most other professionals, I charge a flat hourly fee. Development professionals who are members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals abide by a strict code of ethics that forbids percentage-based compensation, since it is a conflict of interest. What? Many business people work under a percentage-based model, you say. And that is correct.

But non-profit organizations are fundamentally different than for-profit organizations. The mission of a non-profit is not to make money, like their for-business counterparts, but rather to meet a community need. The business of philanthropy is to meet community needs, for which individuals get a tax write off.  If you insert a person in between your organization and Ms. Big Donor or Mr. Foundation to raise money, you want to be sure that person has your best interest in mind, not theirs.


Do you REALLY need a Grant Writer?

So you think you need a grant writer. You have done your research, and have landed at Proposals, Etc.  Problem solved. Well, you aren’t quite there yet. At Proposals, Etc. we are expert proposal writers. Proposal writers that are very successful at obtaining grant funds.

Grant Writers Versus Proposal Writers

Unfortunately, we don’t write grants. Grant writers are the people at foundations and corporations who actually sign off on the money to give you. What a fun job they have, yes? If you need help formulating the proposals to get access to those funds, then we are your professional proposal-writing team!  So the next time someone asks you whether you need a grant writer or a proposal writer, say yes. The correct answer is that you need both.