Saturday, April 30, 2011

The best way to ask

Not sure why I am currently reflecting on the 2002 Malaysian IASL conference so much, however I am going to share something I learned from Dr. Blanche Woolls at a pre-conferencw workshop titled "The best way to ask". Blanche has published "Grant Proposal Writing: A Handbook for School Library Media Specialists" 1986. (ISBN: 0313244405 / 0-313-24440-5) among other publications.

This was about advocacy and getting what you want from the system. It was about applying for funds, staffing, resources and getting what you need.

The first thing that was discussed was why don't we ask for what we want? Children ask and expect to be given... they know what to ask, how to ask and who to ask (Santa?). We usually do not ask because we are fearful of being rejected. Rejection is just another way of saying try again another way at another time.

The discussion then turned to how often we meet with our line managers and discuss what is happening in the library? (seems to be a constant theme), Blanch suggested that we have a brief outline or report of the previous month to give to the line manager outlining developments and problems or challenges that you encountered since the last meeting as a hard copy of the meeting discussion. Her reasoning was that people do not know your challenges unless you tell them, and if it is in writing, then they have a record and you can refer back to it. In this day of email, it could be an email follow up, or if you do not have a chance to meet regularly, a short summary could be submitted regularly.

An annual report is also imperative to help with your case.

If you have a paper trail of successes and challenges recorded, it allows for acknowledgment of the problems and successes and the long term record is noted. It also allows for a relationship to be built up.

The next part of her workshop was submitting a proposal to ask what you want and the steps in writing the proposal.

1st : Know what you want and why you want it. Is it a solution to a problem that you have had for a while? Has this problem been recorded earlier? How will changing things improve the situation? Will it lead to other problems or needs? Have you done any action research to document your cause? Do you need a survey? Counting heads? What data do you need and how will you get it?

2nd: Plan the proposal - there are a number of items that need to be included -
The problem / need, the solution, the cost, the benefits, long term cost, planning for implementation, how it will be implemented, who is involved, time line, deadlines if required, alternate options.

3rd: Write the proposal using business report styling and language. You may also want to present it in a different way such as a video, or presentation, but always have a written one as the follow up for the recipient.

4th : Timing is everything - submit it early in the week, early in the term or year, or at budget time the year before and submit personally to the right person. Who is the right person? That will be dependent on your school situation. A word of caution, if you need to ask the Parent body for money make sure you pass it by your line manager or Principal first - they do not like to be surprised in open forums!

Template idea: (Extracted from U.S.-Israel Science & Technology
Foundation : Tips on How to Write a Proposal

Executive Summary:The executive summary is a concise description of the project covering objectives, need, methodology, and dissemination plans. It should identify the expected outcomes of the project.
Need: Well-documented description of the problem to be addressed and why it is important. (need more staff? If you have volunteers come in do you log their hours? Document as much as you can) Has it been done before? Research what others are doing along the same lines and their results. Review and cite the research that has been conducted in this area.
Objectives: Indicate the expected outcomes of the project, preferably in measurable terms. What will be the result of these changes? In a school the argument is best addressed to the improved learning opportunities that will occur, a good tip is to also align it with a whole school goal for the year, or school mission statement etc. Make it pertinent.
Methods:This is the plan of action for how the objectives will be achieved.
Evaluation: Describes the means by which the grantee will know if the project has accomplished its objectives.
Timetable: Describe how long (days, months) specific tasks or components of the project.
Budget: Show the detailed annual and overall cost of the project will take.
I would also put in alternate solutions that have been considered and briefly explain why they would not be as effective, to show that you have thought this proposal through.

Some of the other considerations Blanche indicated that will help you in your cause are:
1. Be a good example of an information professional in every situation, at home, at work at meetings, at social events...
2. Love your library and be proud of your profession. Make sure YOU believe in the worth of your library and your services. Make sure you believe you should be telling others about it.
3. Know that you need to ask
4. Know that you are willing to ask
5. Know what you need to ask for and have supporting evidence for your request.

Another place to find a some ideas for what to cover in your proposal is here The Canadian Association There are many others that can be found online with a bit of searching.

An extract of a chapter on proposal writing can be found from the "The whole school library handbook" By Blanche Woolls, David V. Loertscher can be found on Google Books

On return to our school after the conference my then colleague Andrea Walker and I submitted a number of proposals for changes to the program, for staffing, and for funding and they were all approved. Empowering to say the least. I have since used the same method in applying for increased staffing, equipment, and professional development. I have not been successful in all my bids, but in most cases I have been.

Getting what you need or want takes time and planning - think long term, and think it through thoroughly ensuring you have all the data you need to make a compelling case.

Principals want solutions to problems, not to just be aware of the problems. If you have a problem, figure out the solution you want and how to achieve it, write a proposal to request it and you might just be surprised at the results. Otherwise, the solution that others come up with may not be quite what you expect or need.


Carmel said...

Thanks for a timely post, I am about to ask for funding to go with Destiny as a library catalogue. You have reminded me of some important steps.

Dianne said...

Hi Carmel,
Glad you can use some of it, it certainly changed the way I asked for changes, money etc and made it far more effective than previous attempts.

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