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Guide for 'Good People' with 'Good Intentions' – New and Expanded Grantseekers' Handbook Released


by Nat Frothingham

Barbara Floersch has for many years been associated with the Washington County Youth Service Bureau/Boys & Girls Club. In recent years she has traveled and written extensively about nonprofit grantseeking and is currently Executive Director of The Grantsmanship Center.
Barbara Floersch has for many years been associated with the Washington County Youth Service Bureau/Boys & Girls Club. In recent years she has traveled and written extensively about nonprofit grantseeking and is currently Executive Director of The Grantsmanship Center.

In late November, The Grantsmanship Center will release a new version of its popular and seminal book first written in 1972. This classic has now been revised and expanded by Barbara Floersch, a Vermont grantseeking professional who lives in Adamant.

The original handbook, called Program Planning & Proposal Writing, was written by Norton J. Kiritz who founded the Grantsmanship Center and was the center’s driving creative force for 34 years until his death in 2006.

Over time, Kiritz edited and added to the original publication and it became the seminal work in the field of grant proposal development, named by The New York Times as the “grantseeker’s bible.”  Kiritz’ original book is easy to read and friendly in tone. But despite its friendly tone his book is really a call for greater rigor and discipline as grantseekers reach out for attention, respect and support from a range of funding sources.

When the original was published in 1972 it met an urgent need. In 1964, then-President Lyndon Johnson had announced a national war on poverty. But it was one thing to announce a war on poverty and it was quite another thing to actually get that job done.  In the early 1970s, Kiritz was working as a planner for a Community Action Agency in Los Angeles.  From that vantage point Kiritz saw a host of struggling nonprofits trying to deal with discrimination, poor nutrition, substandard housing, and the like.

“Good people were trying to help good people.”  That’s how the idealism of the 1970s and the war on poverty is described in the new and expanded handbook, Grantsmanship: Program Planning & Proposal Writing. But good people with good intentions weren’t enough. As the handbook goes on to say “(Those good people) were frustrated by their inexperience with funding guidelines and deadlines, by long lines at the funders’ doors, and by the challenges of trying to build and manage solid programs.”

When Kiritz published his handbook in 1972 it found an audience of readers. Over time, it sold over 1 million copies.  It broke all the sales records for books in the nonprofit field.  Published first in English, it was later translated into several other languages including Chinese and Ukrainian.  By one count, the handbook is used in 43 different countries.

Almost surprisingly, the handbook also appealed to the organizations that were providing grant money to nonprofits. It challenged charitable organizations, government agencies, and foundations to be more open, more responsive to grantseekers, and more consistent in their guidelines and instructions.  In short, the Kiritz handbook became a classic that leavened and changed the dynamics of the fundraising world both for applicants and funding organizations alike.

Nothing stands still, and as the grantseeking world changed over the years, The Grantmanship Center undertook an seven-year quest to update and expand the original publication.  Cathleen E. Kiritz who succeeded her husband as president of the Center, and Barbara Floersch who is now the center’s executive director, collaborated to produce a new edition called Grantsmanship: Program Planning & Proposal Writing.

The new book seemed almost to burst into the nonprofit field.  As it was being written and prepared for publication it attracted critical support from the Annenberg Foundation and the California Community Foundation. As it neared publication it won praise from Pablo Eisenberg, a luminary in the nonprofit field who wrote a foreword to the new book.  Eisenberg writes two columns, one for the Chronicle of Philanthropy and another for the Huffington Post. He is also a Senior Fellow at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.  In his foreword, he called the new Grantsmanship book “a worthy successor to the original guide.” And commenting about the new book, he offered this conclusion, “It is the most thorough, perceptive and practical guide to grant proposal writing that we are likely to have for years to come.”

Floersch is a Vermonter who lives in East Montpelier. In her work for The Grantsmanship Center she has written numerous publications, contributed regularly to the Nonprofit Times, and conducted hundreds of trainings throughout the country and in Puerto Rico. Last year she conducted training in Kiev, Ukraine, to help a group of scientists, who had previously been involved in weapons of mass destruction research, find grant funding to support peaceful, socially-beneficial research activities.

The new expanded handbook continues to emphasize the theme originally articulated by Norton Kiritz. Grant funding is only a means to an end. The entire purpose of seeking grant funding is to provide positive benefits to the community–to meet community needs. Grantsmanship: Program Planning & Proposal Writing defines a logical, well-grounded way to approach program planning. It requires that needs be well defined and documented, that proposed benefits be specific and measurable, that methods be well-matched to the need and capable of producing change, and that all efforts be evaluated to assess impact. The book offers solid, in-depth information on producing an appropriate program budget, and on sustaining impact after grant funding ends. It also gives guidance on adapting the basic proposal format for general operating funds, research, capital projects, capacity-building efforts, and planning projects.

This new book is straightforward, maintains the tone of Norton Kiritz’s original, and continues to carry the torch of impassioned but hard-nosed idealism. The center views program planning and proposal writing as a practical avenue for social change. In this approach, planning is paramount. Great funding proposals don’t just drop from the sky onto a page. Successful grant proposals result from a hard-hitting planning process. And if the planning process is rigorous and truthful, then the organization being funded will deliver the benefits it promises.

Delivering on promises, delivering on time, delivering within the budget, testing a project for value—these demands on a nonprofit can’t be sweet-talked away whether or not an organization is trying to help prisoners returning to the community stay out of jail, trying to put good meals on the table to feed hungry people, or trying eradicate illiteracy.

Norton Kiritz did a lot more than write a successful grantseeking handbook. He also created a training program that has continued for more than 40 years and that was described by The New York Times at the time of his death in 2006 as “… a boot camp for community groups, nonprofit organizations, and public agencies that hoped to start programs or keep them alive but lacked the know-how to make the potential benefits clear to skeptical donors.” The continually updated, five-day Grantsmanship Training Program has been described as “the gold-standard of grants training.”

Capstone Community Action (formerly Central Vermont Community Action Council) will be bringing the Grantsmanship Training Program to its new campus at Gable Place in Barre during the week of Dec. 8—12.

Hal Cohen, executive director, says Capstone is bringing this program to central Vermont to help nonprofits win more grants.  “This is the best training program in the field,” said Cohen. “It’s how a lot of top-level grant professionals get their start or refresh their learning.”

A Capstone press release said that registration for the training is limited to 20 participants because of the program’s intense, hands-on approach. “In this training program, participants don’t just sit and listen,” said Cohen, “They actually do the work.”

In other years, the Grantmanship Training Program has been offered outside of New England so that participants have had to travel as far as the West Coast. Cohen said that an independent evaluation of this training program shows that graduates do win grants. “One follow-up study of 125 graduates found they secured grants totaling over $5 million with six months of completing the program.”

The Grantsmanship Center is now accepting orders for Grantsmanship: Program Planning & Proposal Writing. Individual copies are available for $45.  To order visit GrantsmanshipCenter.com, click on RESOURCES, click on PUBLICATIONS FOR SALE and order.  Or call 800-241-9512 for assistance.