Down the Rabbit Hole

I’ve talked now and again about working as non-profit fund-raiser, and how that means every now and again I fall down the rabbit hole of some big proposal cycle.

Well, it happened again. One of those perfect storm combination of factors: an unusually short response window on a federal RFP, bisected by the holiday season, and then with the added factor of one of the main project/proposal team having a medical emergency in her family. It was the kind of thing that was completely unforeseeable, legitimately important, and undeniably the kind of top priority that pulls you off the office map. Absolutely no blame or hard feelings about that.

However, the ripple effect is that the other two members of the main proposal team (including yours truly) had to carry more effort and work longer hours to get us to the finish line.

Continue reading “Down the Rabbit Hole”

Found Money

[Set-up] It looks like I’m going to continue to need a little flexibility and creativity with Writing 101 . Today’s actual assignment is the completion of a three part series I started back on “Day 4.” Of course, I haven’t actually written part two of this three-part series — because that’s one of the pieces I skipped during last week’s work insanity. So I guess I won’t actually be jumping right into this week’s assignments. Instead, there will be a targeted reach-back to last Wednesday’s assignment, as a precursor to whenever I get around to doing today’s.

So, Day 13, written on what should actually be Day 16 of the sequence:

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today, write about finding something. . . . Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined.

You could pick up the action where you stopped, or jump backward or forward in time. You might write about the same topic, but use a different style, or use the same style to tackle a neighboring topic.

[/Set-up]

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So, gentle reader, when I last left the abbreviated summary of my life’s career trajectory, I had drifted into both an environment (academia) and a profession (faculty) for which I was profoundly ill-suited. To some degree, the inner rumblings around that ill-suitedness began very early. And yet, I struggled to persevere. Buckled down to overcome the deficiencies of my mass-market, public school background. Shifted graduate programs to one where I had more natural gifts and talents than my first Ph.D. curriculum.

Why was I so damn stubborn? In part because I am really, truly so damn stubborn. But a lot of it was rooted in a basic survival-level fear that there wasn’t anything besides teaching/professor-ing that I could ever make a living at.

calvin-on-fund-raising

I dare say I kinda fell into my career. It’s not like I wandered around elementary school saying “I want to be a fund-raiser when I grow up!” And, really, who would go around saying that? Do the ins-and-outs of non-profit management get any airplay in the Sesame Street/Richard Scarry “People in my Neighborhood” set?

Nowadays there’s definitely more awareness at the college level of non-profit careers. But that’s a big shift from when I went to school, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

I actually wrote my first successful grant proposal as a bit of volunteer service for a community choir where I was singing. I’d somehow talked my way onto the choir’s board as a general member-at-large, and was eager to find ways to prove my worth and contribute. So when the Board president asked for someone to help write some grant proposals, I figured it’d be an easy thing to do. I’m a good writer. I even know how to teach writing, don’t I? A grant proposal should be simple!

And here’s the kicker: it kinda was.

This is not to minimize the ways that grant-writing is intensely different from the stylistic and argumentative conventions of academic prose. But where I always found myself struggling and straining against those academic conventions, the general transparency of grant guidelines, and the need to build a tight, compelling argument out of plain language was a genre of writing that made instinctive sense to me.

And then we got the money.

So suddenly, something that both came naturally to me — writing plain, strong prose — and that I had studied intensely — how to analyze genre and build written arguments* — had real, honest-to-goodness street creed and value to it. I had worked for less than a weekend, and my choir now had several thousand dollars to show for that effort.

Now, obviously, that initial grasp of what it took to be a grants professional was, in its own way, appalling naive. I had a lot to learn in the first few years of my career — though the learnings were sufficiently connected to my existing strengths and background knowledge that success was possible.

And I still have moments where I question whether fund-raising is really the “forever career” for me. The division and tension I have seen at every non-profit between those who raise the money and those actually out doing the work is one that troubles me. I know the privileges of being in the fund-raising camp. But I also have never entirely been able to let go of a nagging self-quesitoning about whether I really want to spend the rest of my life being “just a fund-raiser” — after all, the Gospel of Matthew suggests that “you cannot serve both God and mammon” (6:24).

But even with those ongoing questions about whether there is a third career yet to unfold in my life, I remain profoundly grateful that I was able to lose academia and find my way into grants and fund-raising. I have become very good at what I do, I have seen the benefits of my efforts take shape in programs and services and buildings, and I have been able to make a living for myself.

* Or “analyze funder guidelines and build a responsive case for support.”

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Image credit: http://s102.photobucket.com/user/pb82/media/Cartoons/calvin-on-fund-raising.gif.html

Life Under Deadline

Huge proposal due Friday. HUGE. Things are progressing, but nonetheless rocky. Am buckling down for the next 48 hours or so, determined, dedicated, and a little scary.

bane-resists-fear

I anticipate that by tomorrow night, my mood will be closer to:

alladin-panic

And, if all goes well, I will be back posting Wednesday night in the triumphant glee of accomplishment.

ursula-triumph

Ciao till then, darlings!