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  • ejohnson3816

Grants that Draw Blood

It is a lovely fall day in the Twin Cities back in the days of paper grant submissions. Emily, the Grant Manager, and the Senior Program Director are catching their breath after completing a Crazy Long grant proposal when suddenly…

The State of Minnesota announces an RFP with multiple application opportunities. The CEO, ever hopeful, thinks they should apply to all five(!), but the duo persuades her that only three are a suitable fit. With a team of two, and three proposals due in four weeks, it is a good thing they get along! They're off to the races again!


It's deadline day. Emily finished the final drafts for the three applications at 9:30 the night before, and the Senior Program Director reviewed them at midnight. Now they must plow through 12 required forms before they can print, collate, and bind the 30 copies the State requires. (Ever the good steward of public dollars, the State cannot be bothered to make the copies themselves.) The team monopolizes all three copiers and ONE THOUSAND pages later, the applications are printed in record time. The team hands off the applications to the Second New Receptionist for binding at 10:00 a.m.

Ninety minutes later, Emily receives a casual email from her: “I can't find the binding machine. Do you know where it is?” The binding machine is big and heavy and tends to stay put. Did anyone in administration train the Second New Receptionist during her first two weeks on the job? because…

The previous receptionist quit a month ago. The First New Receptionist was briefed on the grant deadline and set about learning how to use the binding machine. Two weeks later, the CEO's Administrative Assistant quit, and the First New Receptionist takes that position. (Keeping up?) A Second New Receptionist is hired and alerted that these grant applications will come her way at the last minute.

Back on deadline day, Emily asks the First New Receptionist if she knows where the binding machine is. She has no idea and apparently figured it was not her job anymore, so she forgot about it. The CEO, who pushed the staff to tackle the three applications after the Crazy Long proposal was submitted, seems not to have mentioned to the either of the two New Receptionists that grants worth a half million dollars are an agency priority.

Emily had hoped to let the Senior Program Director focus on managing her staff for a change while she got the applications out the door but now she lets her know what is going on. OMG, is she ANGRY! This woman never gets angry. She marches down to the reception area, where she discovers the binding machine is in… the reception area! It was, um, disguised(?) because it was standing on its side?

In the meantime, the Second New Receptionist went to lunch, because, you know, everyone takes a lunch break when there is a deadline in four hours. A fabulous team of coworkers from various departments volunteers to collate in her stead. Emily stuffs some dried fruit in her mouth so her blood sugar doesn’t crash.


It is 1:00 pm and the Second New Receptionist and binding machine have become acquainted but not fast enough to do the job. Also, while the Second New Receptionist was enjoying her lunch, Emily discovered that the First New Receptionist ordered the wrong boxes, which were going to be used to deliver the applications.

Emily calls a copy shop: “Can you bind 30 proposals in an hour?” Copy shop: “Yeah, we can do that.” So she schleps two reams worth of applications to the copy shop. “It will take a day”, the scruffy guy behind the counter says. Huh?! She asked specifically on the phone if they could do it in an hour. “Nope.” She calls to update the Senior Program Director and heads down the street to the Big Box Store. The Big Box Store seems to be staffed on the Department of Motor Vehicles model. After watching a sloth stare at someone's downloading files for 10 minutes, Emily flags down a Random Employee. “Can we bind these in an hour?” Random Employee: “Nope.” Emily: “Do you have any ideas?” Random Employee: “Nope, not a one.” She thinks again. "Maybe we can switch to report covers?" DMV Guy is done staring at the file download and has now joined the conversation. He doesn't think report covers hold enough sheets of paper. How about loose-leaf binders? It is 2:30 p.m. Emily asks if the Big Box Store could drill holes so they can use binders. Apparently, the paper hole drilling machines of Emily’s early career as a copy shop assistant 20 years ago – which could punch stacks of 500 sheets – are obsolete in the digital age. DMV Guy and Random Employee look blank when she mentions it, but they cheerfully offer that they can punch five sheets at a time.

Emily makes another phone call to the Senior Program Director who goes off to round up every three-hole punch in the office. Meanwhile, DMV Guy discovers they have report covers that hold up to one hundred sheets of paper!! Emily schleps the two reams of proposals and report covers back to the office.

It is 3:05 p.m. and five heroes are waiting in the conference room with hole punchers. They commence assembly when one of the staff holds up a bloody sheet of paper: "Did someone cut themselves?" Everyone checks their hands. “Oh,” the person with the bloody paper says, “It's me.” Emily prints a new sheet of paper and the injured staff finds a bandage. As assembly wraps up, Emily realizes that in her frustration at the Big Box Store, she did not purchase any boxes to hold the three sets of applications. She scavenges the office with the Senior Program Director to find something presentable. Down in the creepy basement, they empty three full boxes of printed Number 10 envelopes, which are transplanted to the wrong boxes ordered by the First New Receptionist. It is 3:50 p.m. – too late to courier proposals. Rush hour is underway and downtown St. Paul is too congested to park a car so another person will have to drive the getaway car while Emily runs into the State’s office building to hand deliver the applications. A third person comes to help carry the boxes.

They enter the building foyer, which is a confusing warren of elevators and escalators, each leading to different parking levels, the skyway, and offices. After trying three wrong elevators and one wrong escalator, they spot the magic escalator that leads to the correct office. And wouldn’t you know it – two more agencies are schlepping six other proposals to the same office! It is 4:06 p.m. and proposals are timestamped and marked “received” with 24 minutes to spare. Emily and her helper return to the getaway car, which has been illegally standing by the curb. It is Friday – TGIF in the extreme!

As is standard grantwriting practice, names have been changed to protect the innocent (except my own – I wholeheartedly give myself permission to use my name).

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