Monthly Archives: May 2009

A Scathing Report on Grant Writer’s Institute

Ok, this is not something I want to do. I like to believe in the good intentions of people. And I rarely feel the need to write an article solely for the purpose of exposing a business that acts in a way that I can only consider to be highly unethical.

Grant Writer’s Institute, which goes under several other names as well, has been promoting our grant to the people whom they are charging hundreds of dollars for something that is quite a bit less than they are encouraging people to believe that it is. They provide an information packet that supposedly contains information on grants that business owners can get to fund business expansion or startup. They have added us to their list, and we are being contacted regularly now by people who have been taken by this company. We have been contacted directly by three people, and have had applications submitted by others. The three people we were contacted by all reported how useless the information was that they were given, and that it was misleading and incomplete about the reality of actually GETTING a grant.

They operate on the fine edge of legality. They word their information carefully, so the eager applicant will THINK they are getting something they are not. They are not picky about the “grants” they recommend – some are actually contests, not grants (and there is a huge difference). Some require fees to apply. Ours is not money, and they represent it as such – it is clear they have never even read our site beyond the word “grant”.

We received an application, which some guy apparently paid them to prepare.

  • Now, in the first place, our application can be prepared by ANY qualified candidate – if you can’t prepare your own grant application for our program, you are not qualified to operate a business!
  • In the second place, the job this company did on preparing it was appalling.

It was obviously prepared by someone who did not speak English natively. To their credit, they did conceal it well, but there were inconsistent phrases which gave it away. This is something a professional company would have paid more attention to.

They did NOTHING to help this person to actually appear qualified. It was patently obvious that they just wrote down whatever he said – even the things that were redundant, and a bit rambling. They did not help him actually present his information in a way that would help him qualify for the grant. The information presented is in fact completely unsuitable, because there is nothing in it which even outlines a viable business concept. It is completely unoriginal, and the business, as outlined, would have no chance of succeeding.

This company is NOT a professional grant writing company! They lack the most basic skills in presenting grant application information in a way that will help an applicant actually GET an award. They take money while representing themselves as such, but the kind of work they did on this grant application suggests that they are not concerned about whether you actually get the grant. They do not appear to be concerned about learning what the requirements of the grant are – no one from their company has so much as ASKED us for any of the judging criteria (and a good grant writer would do that), and they clearly did NOT read the available information about our grant requirements, or they would have done a better job.

A real grant writer looks at many factors – the grant requirements, the likely judging criteria, the competition level for the grant, and the best way to present the information given so that it meets those requirements. They will recommend wording things in a way that presents them in their best light. They will outline the value and feasibility of a proposed project, and they will detail the greater good of the project.

There was no effort whatever in this application toward actually helping this person GET the grant. The job they did could have been done better by a high school student.

The information I am presenting here is documented, and can be legally proven in a court of law. I am not committing libel – I can prove what I say. We have the applications, we have the witnesses.

  • Avoid this company, and all of their affiliations.
  • Do not EVER pay more than the cost of an average priced book for ANY kind of grant listings. And be careful even with those!
  • If you can afford to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for grant information, you can afford to bootstrap a business. It does not take much to do so, as long as you are willing to work and be creative.

I am sorry to have to write this. I’m sick of having to explain to people the reality of grants – and seeing a company like this just makes me ill. It will eventually catch up with them – you can’t do this much harm over and over without it eventually coming back at you.

Right now I’m torn – I can seek legal help in making these people stop using our grant in their listings. But if we do that, we lose the ability to build a potential case against them. We also lose our ability to advise the people they are harming on what possible redress they might seek. So I haven’t yet decided exactly what to do, other than publishing what I know, and sounding warnings far and near.

If any legal entity or reporter wishes to pursue this, we will cooperate fully, but we will not release applications, or contact names without permission of the applicants, or a court order, pursuant to our privacy terms.

I Wonder if My Son is Trying To Tell Me Something?

“Get your apple” I tell my 12 year old son, as he is heading out the door to a 4-H shooting activity.

“I’m getting it!” he says, “But I don’t want to bleed all over it!”

I look. He has a knife in one hand, and a bandaid in the other. He is opening the bandaid, but does not want to put down the knife. He is supposed to be taking an apple and some wholegrain chips with him to eat in the car – apparently he wants the apple cored and put in a zip baggie first.

Just what is he trying to say?

“I still have a little trouble with knives…”

“I cut myself, but I’m a Boy Scout, and know just what to do…”

“Sheesh, Mom, give a guy a little space!”

“I know I’m late, and I have my reasons!”

“I’m a guy… It’s a knife… You’re a woman and you’d never understand!”

He’s 12, so you never quite know. That age between no longer being a child, and not quite being a teen, and only just beginning to suspect there is such a thing as adulthood in his future.

He’s out shooting a 22 now. Bonding with a gun… and maybe with his Dad. With guys, you are never quite sure which is the stronger bond.

A Tale of Two Cities

We market into two towns in our area. We are located in a dinky town, population of just 300. So there really is no customer base for our services here. We have spent a lot of time marketing into two counties – the one we live in, and the one next door where we shop the most. They are very different towns.

Neither has yielded much in the way of business, but the quality of the business and the relationships is quite different. Over the years, we have tried to do things within the county we live in, but it has proven to be a hopeless effort! They do not want to progress, and the attitudes of the business owners have been unproductive to to work with.

Wyoming is a distinctively different place to live and work anyway. People love it or hate it. We love a lot of it, deplore other aspects. The complacency drives us nuts sometimes. The high alcohol and drug use rates are beyond apalling. But the day to day interactions are often difficult, and frequently painful. It has brought me to the point of wondering whether we are making an effort that may have a positive effect in the long term if we just keep trying in spite of opposition, or whether we are just wasting time poking ourselves in the eye.

In our home county, EVERY business prospect has been twice as hard to get, and twice as much trouble once we got them. Petty politics and power plays become an issue, and cause all sorts of grief. In the last two months, we’ve been insulted, verbally abused, accused of failure to honor a contract (in one case where the entity wanted more for their money when already receiving 50% discounts on rates that are far below industry averages, and in another case because we refused to do all of the work for Phase 2 in a contract in the Phase 1 payment period!). One was salvageable, the other was not, and it was a relief to see it go, though hard, because one of the main instigators is someone who had posed as a friend for a period of about three years.

I think I am just tired of working so hard to try to help people locally, only to have it blow up on me. We are contemplating seriously just dropping our two Chamber memberships in the county we live in, and only maintaining the one in the nearby county. One has profited us, the other two have not really. It is a sad thing to come to the conclusion that you have to give up on an entire area though. Because it is about more than just business – it is about community, and attitude, and direction, and progress.

Our membership in the Chamber in the other community has been productive. It has resulted in teaching engagements, new contracts, and reciprocity. This has been far from the case in the other two towns – one is a nice, though tiny, area. But it has that quality that many small tourist areas do – they will welcome you on the surface, but you really won’t be part of them until you have lived there 40 years. The other has been completely a waste of time. A sense of normality on the surface, but no ability to make progress. Every effort is like rowing upstream.

By withdrawing from the community we will potentially lose $25 per month in income. That is $25 per month that is hard to get actually PAID, and which takes more time than most of our maintenance agreements for the same amount.

It still surprises me how communities can be so different. And how people just seem to take on the skin of the community they adopt, whether intentionally or not.

I’m not entirely sure where we’ll be going with this. But I do know that something has changed in me. I’m just not sure how it is going to come out in action yet.

The 90/10 Rule for Small Business – Webmaster Secret #4

For small businesses especially, websites tend to operate on the 90/10 rule. That is:

90% of the results come from 10% of the work and expense.

This is especially true of SEO, and of site functions, but also applies to design, copywriting, and to a certain extent, to marketing.

So when we begin a contract, we don’t try to do it all. We try to determine the 10% that will get the most results, and we include anything that is critical for their industry or site concept.

This 10% will vary from site to site – there are no two the same. So it takes careful thought and planning for each site, and a thorough understanding of the challenges and needs of their industry to get it right.

Use of this rule has been a huge factor in our success. It is a primary aspect in achieving our goal of delivering higher quality, better performance, lower prices, while still maintaining higher profits for ourselves. It sort of makes the impossible, possible.

When you understand that certain things make sense for big business, but do not scale for small business, and in fact, give no real benefit to a small business startup, you then give yourself permission to not do them, and to understand that it is BETTER to not do them. At the same time, when you understand that other things, typically not included in a corporate contract, are absolutely ESSENTIAL for small business. We are not operating by corporate website standards – we are creating new standards that work better for small businesses specifically.

If it does not contribute to the profit of the site, then it isn’t part of the 10% that we include in a contract, unless a client requests it specifically – in which case we charge more.

The miraculous result of this is that we can take a $50k site, and deliver substantially equivalent performance for under $5k. The site owner can get in the door, develop a successful web presence, and then improve gradually from there – slowly adding those other touches that cost more, but which bring lower returns. 90% performance is typically more than enough to launch a successful business and get it rolling so that it can earn enough to support further enhancements.

But only if you choose the RIGHT 10%, and get the RIGHT 90% of the performance.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.