- Author: Wendy Powers
I'm sitting on what I think is the loudest plane I have ever been on. I'm not sure if a motor is missing a bearing or what. While it is a bit uncomfortable, I am not complaining because, by predicting the impacts of rain in the Midwest and changing my flight plan long before I knew for certain that I would benefit from the change, I averted a long ground delay in Chicago that would likely cause a missed connection. That's the benefit of looking back on past experiences in order to better see forward.
I was at a meeting with a number of other Extension leaders from across the U.S. We met with NIFA to talk about their grants programs. Did you see that NIFA's AFRI Foundation Program was just released? If not, take a look at that and the other programs currently open. The NIFA leaders shared with us some tips to help our academics succeed in their funding pursuits. The most important tip – apply! And, be prepared to need to apply more than once before you are successful. Given that most programs have funding rates of 10 to 15 percent, odds are you won't be successful the first time. But call the Program Leader for the grant program you are interested in and see if they think your proposal concept fits with the program. If you've submitted in the past, unsuccessfully, look back and the reviewer feedback and take to heart the comments (after you've first criticized the anonymous reviewers for not knowing anything about your topic and not really reading your proposal). The NIFA leadership is counting on Extension academics taking the lead on integrated proposals, indicating that these are the people that can best understand what it takes for NIFA to achieve their 25-year goals (see page 8 of link) that are the foundation for the Sustainable Agricultural Systems grant program that is out right now.
The NIFA leaders stressed how much they rely on our impact stories to tell their story and justify federal funds (capacity, like Smith-Lever and Hatch, as well as competitive funds. Sound familiar? We do the same thing with stories put into UC Delivers and Project Board. They really do get used when written well and focused on impact – by leadership, for government relations work, and for fund development efforts.
We met with the CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA; who happens to have been one of my mentors long ago) and we talked about the different types of partnerships that the various states have with their Departments of Agriculture. One state is talking about shared ‘Advisor' positions. Imagine that! It happens to be a state where the director shared that leadership didn't change quickly enough so changed happened to them – like closing research stations and layoffs when they weren't proactive in finding new sources of funding. It sounds like some lessons were learned there, albeit the hard way. But they can still help others better see a path forward.
It's pretty easy to change flights to avoid getting stuck in Chicago but not so easy to see and make other changes. Fortunately, we pride ourselves on being change agents. As a result of efforts to boost funds development, the 2017 Giving Tuesday was up 49% over the previous year! And online giving in FY17-18 is on track to surpass FY16-17 by 13%. That's in addition to the increased contract and grant funding that I mentioned before and includes support to have shared-funded Advisor positions with NRCS. Not all necessary change is as pleasant to share, but here's to staying ahead and making change rather than having change happen to us.
Update: my flight original flight, to O'Hare, was canceled.