Blog Archive

Grant Funding in Action (#grantswork)

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Thanks, Diane Leonard, for recently reminding us that grant professionals are superheroes. We need to hear this, especially when we are fighting to make the world a better place despite current troubling events. As grant professionals, we must remember to take a breath, stay positive, and pat ourselves on the back.

In July 2018, thanks to grant funding, I had the privilege of attending my first silent retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California with the Executive Director of Purple Mountain Institute. The retreat title was Mindfulness for Everyone, and there was a wide variety of people with beginning to advanced mindfulness experience.

The setting was beautiful and peaceful where we all lived simply and were served delicious vegetarian meals without talking, tv, radio, phones, internet, or social media. I loved watching the wild turkeys peacefully strolling around us and communicating with us. On the last day of the retreat, when people could talk again and rushed around getting ready to travel back home, I found it sad that the turkeys were also scattering away due to this abrupt change from peace, silence, and camaraderie with humans.

The daily schedule consisted of sitting meditation, walking meditation, guided meditation, mindfulness instruction, eating mindfully, and sleeping completely in silence. We could talk with staff if needed or when meeting in small groups with teachers who checked in to see how we were doing. The first day of silence was incredibly hard for me, and I wanted to run home screaming. The following days became easier, and I grew to absolutely love it. However, this intense silent practice causes one to look deeply inside and reflect. It can bring up difficult emotions, memories, or trauma. The biggest takeaway for me was realizing how awful the critical voices inside my head were, and how I needed to mindfully address those mean comments. I needed to remember to be kind to myself, and therefore, I would achieve more kindness to others.

I’ve written about mindfulness before, and here are five more tips, resources, and quotes that I hope can help my fellow superhero grant professionals.

  1. Ray Buckner says “Diminish fear by facing it directly with honesty, clarity, and compassion.” Read his article, and remember to be compassionate towards yourself first. Listen to your inner child.
  2. Practice mindfulness daily by being aware of the moment through ordinary activities such as brushing your teeth, walking, or showering. If you forget to do this during some very busy days, don’t beat yourself up. Treat yourself with kindness instead—celebrate moments of mindfulness.
  3. Dr. Jan Chozen Bays created Mindfulness on the Go Cards: 52 Simple Meditation Practices You Can Do Anywhere. Some of his suggestions are “taking three breaths whenever a phone rings” or “resolving to pay a compliment daily.”
  4. Read Fully Present by Dr. Susan L. Smalley and Diana Winston.
  5. “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete” (Jack Kornfield).

Thank you for all you do!

The Title IV-A (Student Support & Academic Enrichment) grant focuses on three areas: well-rounded educational activities, safe and healthy students, and effective use of technology. Exciting news: Congress increased the Title IV-A federal appropriation for schools from $400 million for FY18 to $1.1 billion for FY19. This means more money for schools to improve school safety, healthy practices for students, technology, professional development for instructional staff and leaders, enrichment activities for students, and so much more. 2018 was the first year I had the privilege of working with a school to receive and manage these funds appropriately, and next year we will continue to improve student learning outcomes even more.

Omega Alpha Academy (OAA) is a rural K-12 charter school in Douglas, Arizona. I love working with them because instructional staff and administrators are passionate, skilled, and dedicated. Students are polite, enthusiastic, hardworking, and instructional staff hold high expectations for their achievement. Through Title IV-A funding, they have started weekly afterschool Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) enrichment activities. Instructional staff, administrators, assessment staff, science teachers, Instructional Leadership Team members, English Language learning staff, and the Special Education Coordinator (also a teacher) are involved in this STEM program, making it truly multidisciplinary. The theme for these activities is zoology and robotics, but the STEM activities incorporate all content areas. Older students naturally mentor and support their younger peers during these STEM events, and teamwork skills are practiced and essential to successful scientific implementation. Students are divided into five different groups: Panthers, Tigers, Pandas, Wildcats, and Triceratops.

Teacher: Why don’t we have webbing between our fingers and toes like frogs? Student: Well, I think babies are born with the webbing, but doctors cut it out. Priceless! This conversation occurred during one of the STEM afterschool activities which was a follow-up to the previous week’s frog dissecting lesson, where 53 students and numerous parents were involved. The lesson involved learning about adaptation, surface area, watching frog leg muscles in action jumping and swimming on videos, creating frog leg muscles using multi-color play dough, identifying muscle names, and working with frog foot webbing replica manipulatives. These replicas consisted of four popsicle sticks representing the frog foot with wax paper in between, and four popsicle sticks without wax paper. Students went outside and used both replicas to demonstrate how frogs swim in tubs of water, racing to see how much water could be moved into another tub with each replica. They excitedly discovered the valuable adaptation of webbing in frog feet, and why humans don’t need this webbing.

Other STEM activities include studying wild dog robots, robotic flying birds, building robots, keeping a scientific reflective journal, Cornell note taking, using the scientific method, and showcasing an individual or team STEM project. The OAA STEM course description is as follows. “Our students will have the opportunity to study the origin and development of animal species, the habits and behavior of animals, and the interaction between animals and their environment. They will also conduct research to learn how animal diseases develop and how traits are passed from generation to generation. They will study the physical characteristics of animals, animal behaviors, and the impacts humans have on wildlife and natural habitats. Our goal is to study the influence on behavior of specific animal societies by integrating computational mechatronic devices (robots) into those societies.”

Find out more about Title IV-A here. Resources from the Arizona Department of Education Title IV-A funding can be found here. With all the negativity surrounding public education and beliefs that federal grants make no impact on student achievement in our country, kudos to Omega Alpha Academy for proving those beliefs wrong.


What stories of Grant Funding in Action (#Grantswork) do you have to share? We’d love to hear! You can also see more of the stories our team has shared about the projects that they have been able to see personally in their communities for Grant Funding in Action stories here.

*Note from Diane: We are grateful to have another “Grant Funding in Action” story to share with you about the impact that grant funding is making in the lives of our team in their community. Check out some of our earlier Grant Funding in Action stories here to see how #grantswork is making a difference throughout the country.


“We tend to think that animals need us; but what if it’s the other way around? In the case of military veterans and the tragic reality of PTSD, healing may very well come in the guise of four legs and a whinny” (M. Breyer, 2018, A 2018 study published in Military Medical Research demonstrated that after three weeks of equine therapy, military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) had a sixty-seven percent score decrease on the Military Version PTSD Checklist. After six weeks, there was an eighty-seven percent decrease in these scores. There are over 23 million military veterans dealing with PTSD in the USA, and I am married to one of them.

I previously wrote about my work with the Purple Mountain Institute Mindful Veterans Project in 2016 here. This small nonprofit is expanding to include equine therapy for military veterans and their families. Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Arizona Disabled Veteran Foundation, I was privileged to attend a Connecting with Horses program with my veteran husband this year. This Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) 4-week course does not involve horseback riding, but simply connecting with horses from the ground. The course covers (Erin Menut, Radiant Energy for Life):

  • Tapping into the body’s inherent wisdom, setting healthy boundaries, and embodying mutual respect
  • Communicating non-verbally with the horses and expanding intuition
  • Practicing how to use assertiveness without aggression, while maintaining connection – a wonderful skill for relationships!
  • Embodying leadership through relationship

Strategies learned in this course which transfer into daily relationships with people include:

  • Using body scans to tune into your own body, the horse, and others
  • “Rock back and sigh” to let the horse know you recognize his boundaries and to practice trust, respect and calmness with all beings
  • Heart breathing-connecting with the horse and others through breath and visualization
  • Realizing your own proximity response and those of others to set appropriate boundaries
  • Assertiveness minus aggression including visualization and accomplishing goals together

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I recently had the opportunity to attend a brand launch for Quincy University. A team of highly regarded marketers spent six months researching our University, and interviewed over 100 members of our community, to identify core truths about our University they could use to build an authentic brand. They told us one of the truths they identified in their research is a culture of support on campus. This immediately brought to mind the University’s Student Success Center. The Student Success Center is a space on campus dedicated to peer-to-peer student support. A space our current students can’t imagine our campus without, but one that didn’t exist just a few years ago.

When I started as the Grants Writer at Quincy University back in 2011, the University had a small classroom that was converted into a Learning Resource Center on its main campus. This space was manned by a student worker and usage was tracked on a paper sign-in sheet. The center rarely had more than a few students in it, and the Director at the time was concerned this space had gotten the reputation as a remedial center, to be used only for students who were struggling. The computers were outdated, supplemental instruction sessions had to be held off site, and four students could not sit in the testing room without their chairs touching. Despite the underutilization of the center, the fact of the matter was- our students did need extra support, and they needed support more than ever. Our incoming students were less prepared to succeed in college than students were a decade ago, reflecting a trend seen across the country.

A few years later, I asked the new Dean of Academic Support what his vision was for the center, and from these discussions the Academic Success Center, which later became the J. Kenneth Nesbit Student Success Center, was born. We drew up a proposal for a student-centered, success-oriented space that would truly meet the needs of our campus. A local foundation supported our proposal and the result was a new 6,000 square foot Student Success Center in the lower level of our library.

The center not only assists underprepared students, but high performing students and students with disabilities. Student Supplemental Instructors lead large and small group study sessions in two modern classrooms equipped with smartboards and collaboration software, student tutors provide one-on-one and small group tutoring sessions in the math and English lounges, and students use the technology-equipped study rooms for collaborative projects.

The center isn’t just a shiny new space, it is a place where students gather to collaborate, learn and grow. They come here because they want to, not because they have to. In fact, last year students petitioned the University to open the center 24 hours a day due to demand- and the University complied. This is grants in action for me.


Julie Boll, GPC, is the Director of Grants for Quincy University. Julie began her career in the non-profit world as an AmeriCorps member and has worked with grants in some capacity ever since. She is a member of the Grants Professionals Association and a member of the program committee of the St. Louis chapter.

Note from Diane: We’re so pleased to have another perspective for you from one of our team members about what Grant Funding in Action looks like, or in hashtag speak, how #grantswork. We’d love to hear your stories too! Send them to us so your stories can be featured here!


What’s your bottom line when it comes to writing for, or allocating, grants? Is it impact? Is it investing in a financially solid organization? Is it shifting a paradigm? These are some of the questions funders and grant writers struggle with when trying to decide what organizations will receive funding or how to craft a request for funding. Here’s a story about how one organization partnering with one funder changed one small, but very important aspect of a community.


One of the most compelling grants I’ve seen in action was a small grant to a food pantry in northern Nevada. The food pantry delivered food weekly to approximately 70 homes across a 40-mile radius. Because the service area was so big, and because many of the people being served didn’t have transportation to get them to the food pantry offices, food was delivered to families every Saturday morning. Volunteers would gather at the offices, pack up groceries for families and then deliver it to homes across the region. As a volunteer, it became apparent very early on that the food was critical to all of the families served but the need was greater than food. I remember showing up at one family’s house and seeing a 1 year old wandering around the yard with paper towel underwear. The next week, at a different home, it was a toddler with saran wrap around their mid section. When I asked the pantry director about this she said it was really common for families to come up with makeshift diapers when they didn’t have money to buy them. Diapers weren’t something the regional food bank could supply and so kids went without. That year a local family tragically lost their infant child and in an effort to find meaning in the impossible, they established a memorial fund that would be run out of a local foundation. With this new funding, the foundation made grants to local nonprofits and the food pantry applied for, and received, a grant to pay for diapers for the year.


I love what this grant did on so many levels. First, it built community awareness about a critical need. This grant has evolved into an annual fund that now encompasses many personal care products that aren’t available through a food bank.  On a personal level, the grant made a meaningful memorial for a tragic situation and the family has expressed their pleasure that something positive arose from their tragedy. Finally, what started out as a modest grant application is now a sustained annual fund that brings diapers to kids who really need them—no more saran wrap, no more towel papers. For me, it’s all about a community valuing dignity and critical needs. With grants, it’s about telling the compelling story and then the money follows. Build awareness, create an opportunity for compassion to take action and the funding will follow—that’s the bottom line.

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