0’s and 1’s – The Tsunami Wave of Change

Tsunami Wave

The Internet has changed the field of philanthropy — for the better and for the worse. Here are some of the Internet’s tsunami-wave effects for those who may not remember because they were born with a mouse in their hand:

  • +++: Researching foundations and finding potential grantmakers used to take weeks. Today I can accomplish in about 30 minutes what it used to take great effort and about a week to accomplish.
  • +++: The days of hastily applying page numbers at 2 a.m. to eight or ten copies of a federal grant before sending it off to the review team with crossed fingers and a prayer are behind us. Overall, I have fewer sleepless nights since the advent of the Internet.
  • —: Crunching my need statement and story into the grantmaker’s arbitrary character limits. Now I need to not only be creative, but I need to be painfully concise, too. As a former grant program officer, though, I loved this ability to standardize proposals, because it made them so much easier to score. Pretty never was more important than the story, but in online proposals pretty is no longer even a distraction.
  • —: Stressing over the continuity and reliability of my local Internet connection for the length of time I need to successfully transit my proposal to the grantmaker. You folks in the rest of the country may not harbor the same level of stress about this as we in Alaska do. It’s just part of why we tell folks from Outside that “rural” in Alaska means more like “third world” in most places.
  • +++: The luxury of finding examples of virtually anything online. Not sure what a feasibility statement should look like? In ten minutes you can find 4 or 5 examples online.
  • +++: Communication. Reaching clients and program officers is so much easier when you can send an email the client picks up on their own timeline! I’ve happily given up hours and hours of leaving phone messages in lieu of email, which I can send whenever a question enters my head. Clients are more responsive as a result, and we are able to charge them less since we writers work by the hour.
  • —: Thinking time. I remember licking a stamp, putting it on a letter, and thinking “Good! I don’t have to deal with that again for a week or so.” Then it was faxes, which shortened our expected response time to a few hours. Now there’s an expectation that you’ll answer an email within an hour or two. As a result, it’s gotten harder and harder to carve out the time to really think through and plan a project well.

Overall? I think the positives outweigh the negatives, but the new reality requires more self-discipline and stronger boundaries. For instance, when I’m in the middle of a proposal, I check my email twice a day — not more. And I return phone calls just once a day. But I send questions out in emails as soon as I think of them so I don’t have to hang onto them in my head. What are your best tips for self-discipline and good boundaries when you’re in the middle of writing a proposal?


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