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12/03/08
MISTAKES? I’VE MADE A FEW…THOUSAND – Pt.6
Filed under: GENERAL
Posted by: Jon @ 5:49 am

THE CASE OF THE SIBLING REVELRY!!!!

Project:  An after school academic and positive alternative activities mentoring program for over 200 at-risk children.

What Happened:  This was a well-designed, well-written program that we were convinced would help the children of the community.  This was a community where students in the target population had lots of brothers and sisters who, if they were around at the time, would be invited to participate in the structured and supervised activities.  This was a community whose policy was that you never turn a child away; instead, they would always find a way to include them.  The alternative was to cast them off toward the predators that encircled the safe haven of the afterschool campuses. 

MISTAKES

Within the proposal, where we would mention those to be served, we would refer to them as “the participants and their siblings…”  As in, “…structured team sports activities will be provided three times a week for participants and their siblings…”  Common sense?  Yes.  Caring?  Very.   Comprehensive?  Extremely.   Ambitious?  Without a doubt. 
And a really big mistake.

RESULTS

One of the three readers completely reamed us and because of her low score, put us out of the running. 
The first mention of “the participants and their siblings…” was right up front in the first page, first paragraph and first sentence of the abstract.  This was like shooting a propeller off the reader’s propeller beanie because it sent her into a mental tailspin.  She was confused from the outset; was our target population 200 at-risk youth or 200 at-risk youth PLUS their siblings?  In her mind, that could equate to 400-500 kids.  Confused, she couldn’t ascertain if our program and staffing were appropriate for the number served because it was unclear exactly how many were being served.
This one reader was so frustrated by this that it fogged her vision of the rest of the grant.  In each major section (which were each scored separately) she would reiterate emphatically that she had no idea how many children we intended to serve and thus how could she judge whether each section’s design was adequate.  And each time she mentioned this, her words word grow more outraged and she’d add more exclamation points and yell at us with CAPITAL LETTERS in EACH OF HER COMMENTS!!!!!!!!!!  This went on throughout her comments until it was OBVIOUS THAT SHE GAVE UP ON US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY

This one’s easy, deleted two words:  “and siblings.”

More about this in my new book RIGHT BEFORE YOU WRITE: THE GROUNDBREAKING PROCESS USED TO WIN MORE THAN $385 MILLION IN COMPETITIVE GRANT AWARDS.  Available at www.SandyPointInk.com or Amazon.com.