Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Friday, March 31, 2006

Grant Wrangler

Today I wanted to share a resource that came to my attention by email. Holly Micheletos of "Grant Wrangler" contacted me and introduced me to the site.

I thought it was a pretty well organized site for those searching for grants for schools and teachers. I found the search feature easy to use, with clear categories, and an interface that loaded quickly without a lot of un-related information getting in the way. Here's what the site is about in Holly's own words:

Grant Wrangler: A Grant Index for Teachers

"Grant Wrangler is a grants listing service offered by Nimble Press at no charge. We make it easier for teachers to search for grants by subject area, grade level, or grant name. With more than $11.5 million in grants listed, our goal is to help more schools find funding for all areas of learning and growth for K-12 education. To search for the latest classroom and teacher grants or sign up for our monthly Grant Wrangler Bulletin, go to"

"Grant Wrangler" is the brainchild of Karen Henke, who has also developed an online grant application and management system, "Nimble Net," for grant-giving organizations.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Online Applications Vs. Paper

Today I was working on an LOI for a client to the David B. Gold Foundation, who have initiated a very nice online submission system. Several foundations have gone this route lately so I thought I'd take a moment to discuss online grant applications.

Drawbacks: I do tend to be a bit of a control freak. When I am preparing a proposal, I like to make sure everything is perfect, from the choice of fonts to the quality of the paper. Yes, the words I put down are the most important thing, but the presentation of those words is also critical.

With the online systems I loose a bit of that control. Any bolding or italics I might have used are lost into a mass of plain text. This means re-thinking how I do headings and how I draw emphasis to certain points.

Benefits: In addition to control, I love immediacy. That I can click the "submit" button and have a confirmation email moments later thrills me. I hate waiting and wondering if my proposal is being mangled or lost in the Post Office. I also like saving on paper.

There is also a benefit to a more level playing field. True, I lost some of my layout control, but so did everybody else. We are all being presented to the foundation in the same font, in the same format, and with all the same information required.

Online forms also don't allow anybody to cheat by playing with the margins or font size; if the form has a limit of 300 words per answer, that's it - anything else is chopped off. This benefits those who plan ahead (as I do).

Tips: Never, and I mean Never! type directly into an online form. Copy the form and all guidelines into a Word document, and compose your proposal there. Online submission does not release you from all the other rules of good proposal writing. Use your spell-check, print it out and have others proofread it, and make sure you adhere to any word count or space limits.

Also, when you save that Word document, choose the "save as plain text" option. This will remind you to keep the formatting simple (no bolds, italics, or underlines). Additionally, Word automatically does "smart quotes" (or "curly" quotation marks) and other special characters that don't translate well into web forms. Saving your document as plain text ensure that what you see is what the foundation will see.

Finally, once you and everybody else has approved the proposal, you can go back to the foundation's web site and copy your proposal into their form, question by question. Read it once more on their site before clicking submit to make sure it's all there and in the right spaces. Only then can you click the "submit" button.

Then, it's just wait for that funding notice...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

About Grant Writing Fees & Commissions

As a professional grant writer, I usually charge an hourly fee, or sometimes a flat fee per project. Never do I charge a percentage of funds received or in any other way work on spec or contingency.

First off, this is just accepted professional practice in the nonprofit industry. Second, as a professional I need to be paid fairly for my work. But, most importantly, it is a matter of ethics.

I always strive to fully abide by the code of ethics published by the AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals), which states, "Members shall not accept compensation that is based on a percentage of contributions; nor shall they accept finder's fees."

Still, there are some organizations that will expect to pay for proposal writing only when it is successful, and there are those consultants who will accept that. I have often had conversations where I've had to explain why this is considered an unethical practice.

Yesterday I came across an essay by Goodwin Deacon, founder of the Puget Sound Grantwriters Association, that goes beyond simply saying "it's unethical" to explaining why funders frown upon the practice.

The bottom line in her essay is, as I've also always said, even if a grant writer doesn't mind being paid on contingency, "such an arrangement is basically a kick-back, and therefore unethical." Would you want to support a charity that gave kick-backs? Didn't think so.

New Blog for Nonprofit Fundraising Tips

This is the debut posting of my new "Nonprofit Consultant Blog." I intend to use this space for fundraising tips, grant writing information, and general nonprofit resources news and links.

I welcome you to the blog, and to my web site. Until there are more resources posted here, I invite you to click around my web site ( and learn about my consulting and grant writing services.

I am a sole practitioner firm, and give personal attention to all my clients. When you contract with me, you will not be handed over to a junior associate or intern.