Tag Archives: Organization

Don’t Be Afraid to Use Strong Language

Use fewer, stronger words to make your grant applications, reports and proposals more successful and effective.

I see so many documents that use soft, cushiony words instead of strong, emphatic words.  Not using strong language in a proposal offers an opportunity for the recipient to say NO, or at least not make a decision.  Using soft terms in a report diminishes the results and accomplishments.  Using weak words in a grant application make you seem hesitant or unsure of the effort/organization for which you seek funding.  Not using strong words is not only a wasted opportunity; it can also have long term impact on funding and perception.

By using weak words, people often use too many words.  Too many words can be perceived as propping up a lame idea or program.  Often you are limited in how many words you can include in a grant application or report.  The reason for the limit is to ensure the writer is succinct.  Weak wording almost always results in excess words.

Another impact of both more words and weak words is that the reader will not read everything you write.  This can result in them not having full understanding of what you are proposing or reporting.  Ask yourself how often you have stopped reading something because your brain froze-up due to the wording and length.

You probably do not even realize that you are using weak words or that you are too wordy.  So here are some examples of ways to strengthen and shorten your message.

  • Instead of saying “will give students an opportunity to . . .” replace will give with
  • In place of shows use demonstrates
  • Replace this sentence: We expect that they will generate insights that will help improve operations

With this: We will gather insights from Key Stakeholders that will improve operations.

  • Instead of: We are requesting funding for training because without a comprehensive understanding of how a human services agency should operate in order to meet the purpose and goals of the agency, staff will not be working at their optimum and most effective level.

Try this:  The requested funding will finance staff training that will improve their efficiency and increase the effectiveness of our services.

  • Substitute for:  This study will attempt to gain an understanding of the community needs and obstacles through a comprehensive community engagement and input effort.

This:  This study will gather pertinent data on needs and obstacles through interviews and focus groups.

  • Another example of wordy to impactful.
  • Wordy:  Using a carefully crafted process, we will lead the Board through an assessment that will result in the discovery of the obstacles and misunderstandings that inhibit the realization of our organization’s goals.

Impactful:  We will use our proven evaluation process to help the Board identify the actions necessary to accomplish our goals.

 

Here are a few examples of weak, unsure words and phrases:

  • Will attempt to (just use will)
  • In an effort to (again, just use will, or maybe pair will with a strong verb such as the ones below)
  • Plan to collect (replace plan to with will)
  • Try
  • Attempt

 

And here are some strong, confident words:

  • Provide
  • Demonstrate
  • Obtain
  • Impact
  • Direct
  • Add
  • Present
  • Outcomes
  • Effect

 

Remember these things the next time your write something important.

  • Fluff does not enhance
  • Extra words do not increase the impact of the statement
  • Brevity is powerful
  • Direct has impact
  • Verbs are stronger than verb phrases
  • Confidence convinces
  • Get to the point
  • And never, ever whine!
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Are you building a silo with no doors?

Have you recently been turned down for funding?

Did you have a potential partner say, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you?

Did you recently get a research report that you felt was incomplete?

The bad news is it may have been your fault because you have built, or appear to be constructing, a silo with no doors.

As a research consultant and an evaluator I get to see behind the curtains and in the closets. It is my job to find out what works and what doesn’t and why. One thing I see way too much of, is people in organizations and agencies being their own worst enemy by withholding information.

The most common withholding that occurs is the lack of sharing with the consultant they have hired to conduct research or do an evaluation. This is not always “on purpose”, but that does not make it any less damaging. Here are some examples:

  • “I’m paying you to do the research” is said to the consultant in lieu of answering questions that will assist the consultant in putting things in perspective and context. The missing information, that may exist in the organization, but was not shared means that the time (for which the organization is paying) is spent discovering/uncovering said information. This results in at least one of the following: higher cost, less time spent on uncovering new information or an incomplete report.
  • “I don’t have time to put that information together” is a common response to a request for data. If the data is requested by a consultant doing an evaluation of your program/organization, then you have just cheated yourself and your organization out of “points” in the evaluation. An Evaluator is not your enemy. An Evaluator is the person that can make you look good to your board, boss, funder, the public, etc. But not taking the time to supply them with the requested information diminishes their ability to present the best picture. If the request is made by a research consultant refer back to the first bullet.
  • “I’m afraid someone will steal our ideas and get the funding we need” can be the attitude of directors, boards, staff or anyone at any level. That attitude can be a healthy protection of an organization, position or program, but all too often, it is an unfounded fear. Being governed by fear can result in a missed or terminated partnership. It can also result in thwarted research or poor evaluation. There are ways to test people and organizations before you share everything with them. There are also ways to safeguard your information and ensure the outcomes you need. That’s probably a topic for a separate article, but the short version is: Feed them little bits of information over a reasonable length of time and see what they do with it, then judge. Also, utilize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that has actual measurements and consequences in it and enforce it. A MOU introduced early in the negotiation will test the potential partner’s integrity and uncover their level of seriousness and commitment. It will also move the negotiation along faster.

As the number of organizations continues to increase and the competition for funding intensifies, partnerships and excellence will become even more critical. So be sure that your silo has doors.

 

TOP 7 RESOLUTIONS FOR RESEARCHING, REPORTING AND EVALUATING (2018)

Janet Christy, Owner of Leverage & Development, LLC, offers this list of resolutions to help organizations, agencies and businesses be more effective in conducting research, developing reports and evaluating their operations and programs.

 

  1. If you find the answer, it is worth the journey. Research is time consuming if done by you or your staff.  Research costs money if you hire someone else to do it.  However, if you find the needed answer or solution it is well worth the cost of time or dollars.  If you weigh the problems caused by not having the proper information, example, rules, requirements, obstacles, input, statistics, etc., the journey (cost and time) doesn’t look too bad.

 

  1. If you pay for research or a report, read it. When you hand over your valuable and limited dollars to someone for them to perform research, prepare a report or conduct an evaluation, it is a waste to not use it.  Even if you did it only because it was a requirement from your funder, board or boss, it can still provide useful information.  That information can help you improve the performance and effectiveness of your programs and efforts.  It can also provide you useful insight into any aspect of your operation – clients, programs, staff, processes and impediments.  If the report or evaluation provides a plan, then to put it on the shelf after you have spent your money or the time of your staff on developing it is not only wasteful, it is foolish.  At the very least, read what you paid for and then make a conscious decision to use it or not.

 

  1. Exceed Reporting Expectations. Not many people like preparing reports (I’m one of the weirdos that does like it). Because people do not like doing it, they often spend as little time and effort as possible on it.  This is a huge mistake, especially for getting sustained or future funding.  Here are some reporting mistakes that can ruin your reputation with a funder, board or boss:  1) Not providing what they ask for, 2) Not using the format they specify, 3) Submitting late, 4) Not exceeding their expectations.  The problem caused by #4 is that you doing the minimal will look mediocre compared to someone who goes beyond the requirements.  Looking mediocre compared to the competition is the kiss of death to funding in the currently highly competitive landscape.

 

  1. Use facts instead of or in addition to stories/anecdotes.  It does take time to do the things necessary to quantify your outcomes, but quantification is proof of your effectiveness.  Quantification requires research (for statistics), tracking (of your results, not your activities) and measuring (improvements and successes).  Remember that doing the things necessary to quantify is a process, not something you do 2 days before you have to prepare a report for your funder, board, donors or boss.

 

  1. Do not hide from the truth. Evaluation is seen by many organizations and agencies as a judgement.  It can be, but its actual purposes are to help you identify problems (so you can solve them, not so you get punished), determine your successes (so you can publicize and capitalize on them), modify (so you can be even more successful) and prove your value (so you can keep getting funding).  Evaluations uncover important things; they do not invent or cause them.  If you stick your head in the sand, you will likely choke.

 

  1. Do not confuse activities with outcomes. Activities are things you do, outcomes are things you accomplish.  Holding 10 classes on financial literacy is an activity.  Helping 10 families reduce their debt by 50% in one year is an outcome.  Funders and boards want to hear about outcomes, not activities.  If your reports are full of activities instead of outcomes or your evaluators can only find tallies of activities instead of measurement of outcomes, your success and effectiveness is not proved.

 

  1. Fulfill your dreams, not your nightmares. If you get funding or establish partnerships that are not in harmony with your purpose and programs, you will set yourself up for nightmares instead of realizing your dream.  Be sure that you do not seek or accept funding that does any of the following: 1) takes time and money away from your core mission/purpose, 2) costs you more than it provides you (knowing this will require a realistic attitude and tracking), 3) involves requirements and “hoops” that cause more frustration than benefit.

 

Role of Cultural Pageantry and Tradition in Improving People’s Lives

On a recent vacation that included visits to several sports museums I gained a new appreciation for the human need for pageantry and tradition and the purposes they fulfill.

My husband and I visited the Indianapolis 500 Museum and heard all about the history and importance of the winner drinking milk and kissing the bricks.  We even kissed the bricks.  (Full disclosure I got my lips really close to the bricks, but they did not actually touch the bricks.)

At the Kentucky Derby Museum we learned about the ceremonial mounting of the horses, the Derby Hats and the garland of roses given to the winner.  At the Louisville Slugger Museum, I was reminded of the many traditions and ceremonial rituals used by teams and individuals.

All these sports pageantry and tradition activities got me to thinking about others such as Christmas Parades, Beauty Pageants, Easter Bonnets & Finery, etc., etc., etc.  We humans do love pageantry and tradition and ceremony.  If you ever doubt it, try changing a tradition.  For instance one Indy 500 winner decided that since he was part owner in an orange juice company he would drink orange juice instead of milk in the winner’s circle.  According to our tour guide the public watching in horror almost rioted.  To this day, people boo when that driver’s name is mentioned at the Indy Speedway and many other places.

One of the reasons the importance of pageantry, traditions and ceremonies was in my mind so strongly was because of the work I am doing and have done recently with organizations that are trying to help people break unhealthy and confining behaviors and beliefs.   I see programs, grants, events and books addressing things that keep people from being healthy and improving their life.  And as I do evaluations and help people do reporting, I see that the changes, if they come at all, are slow and agonizing.

Could it be that people hold on to traditions and find comfort in pageantry because the continued acceptance and honoring of them provides its own sense of security.  Anyone who has ever attempted to help people understands that change is scary.  The tightness with which people hold on to pageantry and traditions not only illustrates that change is scary, it actually emphasizes the fear.

When I look back at all the programs and efforts I have helped develop, assess, evaluate and report on, I see that the most successful ones embraced the culture of the group that was the target of the help.  The successes and improvements came faster, more often and were sustained when the helping entity showed those being helped how they could improve, but not totally abandon their cultures and the accompanying pageantry and traditions.

When you think about, pageantry and traditions evolve on their own as people and cultures evolve.  The Indy 500 milk drinking tradition again provides an example.  The original milk drinking winner actually drank buttermilk.  It seems that he had grown up drinking buttermilk to refresh himself after working hard in the fields.  So, after he was pretty worn out from driving 500 miles at 100+ miles per hour, he wanted a cold glass of buttermilk.  Today, Indy 500 winners still drink milk, but it has evolved away from buttermilk, since not everyone likes the sour taste.  So any milk is now acceptable, but orange juice is not – evolution accepted, revolution rejected.

So, this causes me to conclude that successful programs and efforts will always need to:

  • Recognize the culture and its pageantry and traditions of the people they are trying to help.
  • Facilitate the ability of the people they are trying to help to honor and observe the security of their culture’s pageantry and traditions.
  • Build in space and time for digression caused by fear of change.
  • Allow the evolution of the pageantry and traditions, instead of ignoring or crushing them.

 

I Hereby Declare Myself A Leader

This is the era of the selfie, self-promotion and social media’s power to create heroes and experts.  Therefore, I have decided to declare myself a People Oriented Research Leader.

I am certain that I have the recognized qualifications for being an issue leader.  I am passionate about the subject.  I make talks about it.  I write articles about it.  I find ways to relate it to almost any conversation topic.  I pontificate on the importance of People Oriented Research to organizations, agencies and businesses.  I believe with all my heart and soul that if we do more People Oriented Research we will know more about what people think, want, feel and comprehend.  I make profound statements about this topic.  I search out and consume information the subject.   I even conduct People Oriented Research.

Further testaments to my right to call myself a People Oriented Research Leader are the things occurring in my professional and personal life.  I am actually paid to conduct People Oriented Research.  I am asked to speak on the subject.  I am asked how to conduct People Oriented Research.  Organizations, agencies and businesses who have never heard of People Oriented Research, but know they need to get information from their members, participants, clients, etc., ask me how to get that vital information.  Groups that do not know that People Oriented Research is an important issue express to me their frustration of not knowing how to make things happen.

Additionally my understanding of the world proves to me that People Oriented Research, of which I am a Leader, is the key to solving many problems and improving many situations.   Such phrases as “a penny for your thoughts” , “let the cat out of the bag” and “straight from the horse’s mouth” illustrate that society values the information and input derived from People Oriented Research.  Other common phrases such as “your guess is as good as mine”, “pull wool over their eyes” and “heard it through the grapevine” demonstrate the repercussions of not doing People Oriented Research.  Because ignorance is not an excuse, it is critical that we conduct People Oriented Research and that we have established Leaders in this field.  I am honored to fulfill that role as a People Oriented Research Leader, even for those that are unaware that it is a major issue.

Yes this is a little tongue in cheek humor on how people become “experts” and on the fact that we often forget to get input from those who are or will be affected.

Tracking Made Easier (or at least less frustrating)

Very often when it is time for me to do an evaluation or assessment of an organization, department or program the proper data is not available.  It is not that it has been lost or that it is confidential.  Nope, it is that it has not been tracked.

Granted tracking is tedious and it does not contribute to the delivery of services.  However, it does help determine success and it definitely affects funding.

Not tracking results in cost — more paid to a consultant, time lost trying to gather at the last minute, frustration and, the worst, lost funding.

Following are some tips that will help you make tracking less tedious, time consuming and frustrating.  These tips will also help you track in a manner that facilitates turning activities into outcomes in your reports.

First of all you must keep your promises.  You must track what you said you would.  You should always strive to meet the expectations of your Funders, Manager, Board or Partners.

You should track as you go.  Recording data regularly means doing it in the manner that will enable you to know at any point that you are on the right track and meet any reporting commitments.  Regularly could be daily, weekly, after each event/session or whatever “as you go” works best for your organization.

Never use the “catch up” method.  Translation: recreating at the end of the month or when the report is written.  This causes all kinds of problems.

  • Inaccurate Reporting – accuracy is assumed by Funders and Managers.  It is your responsibility to be accurate.
  • Cheat your organization or department by not providing all of your accomplishments and not presenting it in the best light
  • Takes more time than recording as you go.
  • Means something else suffers while you dedicate someone’s time to preparing a report that would have virtually written itself if tracking had been done along the way.

Do not rely on an unorganized method such as sticky notes or notations on your calendar.

Honor the specifications of the person or entity that will receive the report (Funder, Manager, Board, Partner, etc.)

  • If they require a specific database — use it, and don’t whine.
  • Meet the recipient’s timelines – don’t ask for leeway or make excuses.
  • Realize that you not meeting specifications may cause your Funder or Department to lose their funding, community support, management favor, or something else vital to survival — don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
  • If your Funder or Manager does not have specifications for reporting, get approval for the method you want to use.  Not knowing the desired form and contents does not excuse you for not providing what they want.  Remember that ignorance is not an excuse. Do you get a ticket for running a stop sign even if you say you didn’t see the stop sign?

If you do not feel comfortable or confident about tracking, get help in developing a process and timelines.  Help can come from a consultant/evaluator, other organizations/departments, higher education and even the report recipient.

 

Evaluators Can Be Tools and Weapons

Evaluators are not usually the favorite person of the staffs of organizations – non-profits, government agencies and grant recipients.  They usually have some automatic negatives:  they are often required by funders, they are judgmental by job description, they are nosey and intrusive, and, worst of all, they give you a grade.

But Evaluators are not all bad.  They can actually be very helpful tools and weapons.  Their efforts and reports can be used to your advantage.  Here are a few possibilities:

  • Severance  –  If there is a partnership that is not working, but dissolving it would be a public relations fiasco, an Evaluator can help you.  They can:
  1. Assess the problems
  2. Determine if the relationship is salvageable, if so suggest modifications to improve it
  3. Justify dissolving the partnership if that is the best path (be the bad guy)
  4. Validate enforcement of the agreement and responsibilities
  • Avoidance of mistakes  –  By assessing potential partners and their programs an Evaluator can help you choose the right partners.  An Evaluator can ask the nosey, intrusive questions because that’s what they do.  Understanding the potential and challenges of a partnership is critical to the success of a “marriage”.
  • Be your champion  –  When you need to convince a person or group (board, funder, etc.) to allow you to do something (add or alter a program, change a policy or procedure, or adopt a new strategy) an Evaluator can gather the data and input.  They can help you build the case.
  •  Find the good  –  One of the best but most unused things an Evaluator can do is help you identify assets and clarify messages.  This help can provide just the information you need to increase the effectiveness of you publicity.  An Evaluator provides an outside view.  They also specialize in collecting and analyzing information.  Combined these two things can take your publicity and branding to a whole new level.  Talk about reputation enhancement!
  • Keep your funding  –  Often funders, especially the federal government, require that any program or organization they fund must have an outside evaluation.  So, in that case an Evaluator is necessary to get and keep your funding.  But even if an evaluation is not required, it can still help you keep your funding.  An Evaluator can do the research and analysis that you and your staff may not have the time or expertise to do.  That research and analysis will provide much of the data you need to do the required reporting to funders, boards and donors.  The Evaluator can even do the report for you.  Because you have and Evaluator involved the report has an extra stamp of credibility, which never hurts when it comes to funding.
  • Save you money  –  Yes hiring an Evaluator costs money, but they can also save you money by:
  1. Getting or retaining funding
  2. Giving you back the time you would spend to do research, analysis and report preparation
  3. Helping you avoid the cost and wasted time of bad partnerships
  4. Showing you where changes in policy or procedure could reduce costs

 

So, the next time you don’t think you want or need an Evaluator, think again.  They might just be one of your best investments.

What’s The Difference in Activities and Outcomes?

In past blogs I have droned on and on about Funder’s wanting to see Outcomes and how important Outcomes are.  But I know from experience and conversations with government agencies and non-profit organizations that many people struggle to understand the difference in Outcomes and Activities.  So, here are a few clues to knowing the difference so that you can identify and use Outcomes when seeking or justifying funding and doing reporting.

 

Your Outcome may be someone else’s Activity.  The Outcomes you need to produce depend on where your organization/program fits into the continuum of the big picture.  When you rely on funding from outside your organization or agency, you fall somewhere in the continuum of the mission/program of the funding provider.  This also applies if you are a department within an agency or government entity.  Think of it as an assembly line.  Your station on the line is somewhere in the middle.  Here is an illustration:  Your station’s purpose is to take a raw material (such as corn), modify it (cut the corn off the cob), then pass it on to another station to conduct another function (cook it).  The end product will be creamed corn in a can.  The work of your station on the line is vital to the end result.  To the big picture your station conducts an Activity; for your station, you have produced an Outcome.

Don’t assume your Activities are what matters.  On the assembly line where your station produces corn cut from the cob, you will likely be expected to produce a specific amount of cut corn.  In the big picture your station is not measured by the number of cobs you process, how fast you cut the corn or how quickly you process each cob.  Also, in the big picture it does not matter how long it takes for your machine to warm up or how many times you have to stop the machine and clear out a blockage.   Your station is measured on how much cut corn gets to the next step on the assembly line.  Stated differently: you are measured on the amount your station contributes to the end product.

With this assembly line (continuum) picture in mind, here are some points to help you differentiate between Activities and Outcomes for your agency/organization within the desired Outcome of the Funder.  Following are some typical Activities that people often mistake for Outcomes:

Actions you tally – Information sessions, classes, mentoring sessions, speeches, counseling sessions, forms completed

Inputs your provide – Staff, volunteers, money, place, trainers, tests, counselors, food

Outputs you count – Participants, attendees, graduates, program completers, certifications, qualifications, parents counseled

Resources you obtain – Materials for students, Childcare for career training attendees, mobile classroom, counseling services

 

Outcomes are what you produce depending on where you fall in the continuum – In reporting and in seeking funding, you must explain how your product helps accomplish the outcome(s) of the funder or partnership.  Here are some examples:

  • Middle Schoolers ready to enter high school – demonstrate how you know they are ready to enter high school and move on toward graduating and obtaining a job with family sustaining wages
  • Nutritional meals for Seniors that help increase their overall health
  • Program participants that are ready to fill and sustain positions in health care, manufacturing, logistics, etc. that provide family sustaining wages
  • Healthier families because you provided  food on weekends to elementary school children, health screenings for seniors, free medical clinic
  • Decreased children in poverty because you have facilitated the outcome of more people employed with family sustaining wages

 

I have attempted to provide you some explanation and examples so that you can be better prepared to determine your own Outcomes and differentiate them from Activities.  However, Outcomes are very personal to an organization/agency and where it fits into the big picture.  One of the best pieces of advice I can provide is to get outside input.  People within an organization or agency are so busy doing the work that it is difficult for them to step back far enough to see the other parts of the continuum.  Outside scrutiny can help with this.  Outside help can come from many sources, here are a few:  Funder (donor, grantor, government agency, etc.), education (university institute, interns, students in an appropriate, professors, etc.), consultant, board, volunteer, other organizations/agencies and even the funding provider.

MAGIC FORMULA FOR GETTING FUNDING AND PARTNERS

If you are struggling to articulate how you fit into a potential funder’s or partner’s continuum of mission or service here is a magic formula – put it in context.

In Context provides clarity, precision, transparency, understanding, proper perspective and ability to demonstrate your place in a continuum.

Out of Context causes ambiguity, uncertainty, vagueness, misunderstanding and inability to illustrate your place in a continuum.

 

Here are the steps to invoking the magic formula:

  1. Understand that the service(s) you provide are not what is important to the funder or partner. What is important to them is the problem, need or difficulty you can address for the population/community they are trying to help.
  2. Acquaint yourself with the mission, programs and past fundings/partnerships of your target.
  3. Be certain that you are asking for funding or a partner for something that actually fits into the mission or program of your target. Do not try to make desperation for operational money appear to be a funding/partnership request for a program that enhances the target’s mission.  Out of Context
  4. Completely develop your program before you seek funding or partners. Include the budget and focus on Outcomes.  The Outcomes should be things that easily flow into the funder’s/partner’s mission and programs.  For instance:  You will provide nutritional meals twice a week to 100 seniors to help your funder/partner improve the health statistics of seniors in ABC community. In Context
  5. Demonstrate how you will use measurements that are in concert with those of the funder/partner. Don’t just say you will – demonstrate how.   In Context

 

If you do not plead your case in context with that of the target’s, you will appear, at best, to be vague, at worst, not worthy of funding or a partnership.  One other benefit of proving you are in context is that you will more fully flesh out your own program or organization, which in turn leads to better results and other funding.

Now, if we could just get the rest of the people in the world to see things in context what a more harmonious world we would have.  There would be less knee jerk reactions on social media.  Elected officials could accomplish much more.  And there would be a lot less selfies.  But that’s just the researcher in me dreaming out loud.

When A Fulfilled Wish Becomes A Nightmare

Did you hear the story about the family who won a luxury RV?  Well, it is not exactly a happily ever after tale, but it certainly has some teachable moments.

The family of four liked to take trips together and had a long list of places they wanted to see.  However, their budget just did not include very much funds for travel.  So, when the mom saw a contest to win a luxury RV she thought, “That would be perfect for us!  If we didn’t have to pay for a hotel we would have more money for the other parts of traveling.”  So, she entered the contest.  Six weeks later, she received notice that she had won the luxury RV.  When she shared the news with the rest of the family they were ecstatic.  And then reality reared its ugly head.

When she contacted the contest company they told her someone would have to pick up the RV in a city about 500 miles away within 5 days.  Also, because the luxury RV was so large, it could only be driven by a person with the proper license.   Neither mom nor dad had the proper license so they mounted a frantic search for someone to go with them and drive the RV to their home, because 5 days was not enough time for one of them to get the proper license.  Finally they found someone.  But one of them would have to take off work to take the driver to the pickup site and they would have to pay the driver.  And one or both of them would still need to get the proper driving license, since they could not take someone with them on every trip just to drive the RV.  When mom talked to the contest company again to let them know what day they would pick up the RV, she was informed that the family would also have to purchase insurance for the vehicle before it could be driven.  Another frantic effort ensued while they added a luxury RV to their auto insurance policy.  Dad almost choked on his dinner when mom told him the cost.

Finally they got the RV home and parked it in their driveway.  The next day they received a call from their home owners association that a vehicle of that size could not be parked in their driveway or yard.  They were told they had 2 days to move it or be fined.  One more frantic search produced a place where the RV could be housed, but the cost was not cheap because the RV was bigger than the vehicle storage slots at the lot so they had to rent two slots.  Three weeks later after much studying and multiple tries on the test, both mom and dad received the proper license to drive the RV.

As the family began planning the first trip in their new luxury RV they ran into a few other unexpected hurdles.  First, not all campgrounds had sites big enough to accommodate their RV, so they were limited in where they could go. This condition ruled out the three most desired places on their list of places to visit.  Second, they realized that once they parked their giant portable hotel room, they were going to need another vehicle to facilitate sightseeing.  There was more research and debating about whether to rent a small car that they could tow behind the RV or drive both the RV and one of their own cars to the campground.  First option would result in the cost of the rental vehicle, purchase or rental of a towing trailer, installation of a hitch on their RV and the stress of towing a trailer behind a vehicle that was just under the need for a “wide load” sign.  Sub option 1 was to travel to the campground, get a taxi ride to a car rental place and rent a small vehicle for sightseeing in the area.  The second option of driving the RV and one of their cars to the campground would mean twice the amount of gas and traveling separately.  Either option would result in a lot of money spent on gas because the RV used about twice as much gas per mile as their cars.

When they finally had all the details worked out for their first trip (to a place that was about 10th on their desired trip list), the family looked at the money left in their vacation fund and had a huge shock.  Because of all the additional costs associated with using the new luxury RV they had enough money to either eat or pay the cost of visiting sites.  Mom said they could just eat all their meals in the RV.  After some thought they realized that was not realistic because most days they would be too far from the campground to go back for lunch.  So, they compromised some more.  They reduced the number of sites they would see and they decided to pack all their meals instead of eating at the restaurants they had chosen.

So, two months later the family went on the first trip in the luxury RV.  When they returned home, they posted a “for sale” ad on Craig’s List and several other websites.  They decided that the amount of money, compromise, disappointment and stress was just not worth owning a luxury vacation vehicle.  They decided they would rather wait and save so they could maximize their vacation dollars and experiences.

This story is a strong parallel to the situation I have seen many people put their organizations in when they seek funding that is not a good fit for their missions and programs.  It is very sad to see an organization compromise their mission, adversely modify their programs and increase costs that cause them to abandon efforts.  A little wisdom and a lot of reality before seeking or accepting funding could have kept the mission and programs intact.  Makes you start to believe that “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.

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