Posted by: Robin A. Edgar | April 28, 2010

Grant Writing Pointers

Grants are an important part of any non-profit budget. Unfortunately, they are often viewed as more trouble than they are worth. Taking it one step at a time helps you to approach the task with confidence. Adding some planning and teamwork gets you closer to the desired results. The following pointers divide the grant-writing process into key components that will help you feel more comfortable with the process:

 Point #1: The Personal Relationship

You do not get a second chance at a first impression. Communication and networking are key elements to grant writing. Learn how to keep your ear to the ground and ask the right questions in order to get your foot in the door. Funders have program directors that want you to succeed because it is their job to give out grants. They want you to ask them questions before you submit your grant to help you be a success. If the grant maker’s policy is “no unsolicited inquiries or proposals,” you need to do some research to find out who is on their board to invite to your facility or organization. Developing a relationship through this kind of exposure might get them to recommend you. 

Point #2: The Program

 Funders do not fund problems; they invest in programs to address concerns that fit the criteria of what their organization is all about. For instance, a community foundation wants to increase the quality of life of individuals in the community, so it is more likely to fund an after-school tutoring program to bring up the literacy rate than it would support a program to save the whales. Both programs have merit, but you have to match the outcomes of your program with the goals and objectives of the organization doling out the money.

 Point #3: The Proposal

A program proposal details how your program will improve or increase services to individuals the funding source wants to reach. There are several components to a program proposal that requires the input of everyone involved. Once you develop the proposal, you will be able to write a clear and concise summary of your request:

  • Introduction: Here is where you brag about yourself. Include information about your organization and the clients it serves. Mention successful past programs and accomplishments of the staff that will be part of the proposed program.
  • Problem Statement: Using pertinent statistics and quotes from authorities, demonstrate that the problem to be solved by your program actually exists. Be sure that the problem or need to be addressed relate to your goals and to those of the funding organization.
  • Objectives: List the outcomes of the program and how they relate to the problem and the population the program will serve. Specify a timeline how the objectives will be met.
  • Methods:  Describe in detail the program activities, listing them in sequential order. Explain how the activities will be staffed and how they will bring about the desired objectives. Be sure to indicate how the clients will be made aware of and selected for the program.
  • Evaluation: Generally, you will need a plan that gauges the success of your program. Describe your evaluation criteria and how you propose to gather and analyze the data. Include copies of questionnaires and reports.
  • Continued Funding: Since your program is so wonderful, you will want it to continue. Present a plan to continue to fund the program.
  • Budget: Yes folks, the “B” word. Every grant has one, so be prepared. This takes teamwork, so enlist every department to delineate the expenses and income of the program. Be very specific and delineate which expenses are to be met by the funding organization and which will your organization or other sources fund. Do not forget to include income from other sources and in-kind donations wherever possible.

 Point #4: The Package

You do not get a second chance at a first impression. Once you have gathered your information, be sure to put it in clear, concise terms. Eliminate jargon and check for spelling and grammatical errors. Use your letterhead whenever appropriate. Give yourself plenty of lead-time to acquire letters of recommendation and support so you have originals and not faxed copies by the deadline. Make a checklist from the instructions for required number of copies, materials and signatures. Place the information in binders with dividers or pocket folders in order to make your presentation the best that it can be.

 You cannot write your best grant until you write your first one. Assembling the above information and acquiring key documentation, such as your organization’s mission statement, annual operating budget, letters of support, etc. will make future grant-writing even easier. Remember, there is nothing to it but to do it!

 Robin Edgar is a freelance grant writer and consultant. A graduate of the week-long grant-writing workshop offered by The Grantsmanship Center of Los Angeles, CA, she has been writing successful grants for over ten years.


Resources for Grant Opportunities:

Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County – located at 301 North Tryon Street, Charlotte; 704-336-2725;  PLCMC Foundation Center Cooperating Collection of nonprofit resources is on the second floor. The reference department has a section devoted to nonprofit management (fundraising, grant writing, volunteer/board development, etc.)

National Endowment for the Humanities – – An independent grant-making agency of the United States government.

Grants Alert – –database and e-mail alert to access education and youth-related funding opportunities.

Posted by: Robin A. Edgar | April 28, 2010

Grandma Sandra’s Mandel Bread

In my book, In My Mother’s Kitchen, I teach people to follow their senses to significant memories to use to develop personal rituals that celebrate life and loved ones. Here is a recipe for my mother’s mandel bread that is a ritual from the story The Mandel Bread Pan.
Grandma Sandra’s Mandel Bread  
2C flour (If not self-rising, add 2tsp baking powder and ¼ tsp salt)
¾ to 1C sugar (as desired)
¼ C oil*
2 eggs
¼ tsp vanilla or almond extractNuts (almonds or walnuts) and chocolate chips (as desired)
 *Add jelly, yogurt or sour cream to further moisten if necessary 

Sift flour, sugar and dry ingredients in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Batter should be the consistency of your ear lobe — if too dry, add jelly, sour cream or yogurt. Place in greased pans (bottom of aluminum ice cube trays).Bake at 350º for1/2 hour or until golden brown. Cool, then slice and place on a cookie sheet, wide side up, and bake at 350º for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about two dozen.

R. (Robert) Powell Majors

 Born Dec 12 1906

 We survived because we lived within our means.”

R. Powell Majors graduated with a degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida in 1928. That November, he accepted a job for $125 a month with Peat Marwick and Mitchell, a public accounting and auditing firm in Charlotte. He had to sell his tuxedo for eighteen dollars in order to have money to move there. For the first two months, he stayed at the YMCA on the corner of Second and South Tryon Streets and then rented a room with a college friend in a private home on Greenway Avenue off of Caswell Road, close to Mercy Hospital. He rode the streetcar to work, buying four tickets for a quarter.

            The accounting business was fairly good until February 1931 when I became unemployed. I knew it was going to hit me because income tax was due by March 15 and, by February 1, we did not have anything to do. Everybody was broke. The government did not take taxes out of paychecks at that time, and if you did not make $1,500 dollars a year, you were exempt from federal income tax.

            After one week, I got a job for the Veterans Administration who needed extra help paying off a bonus to WWI veterans. I worked from three o’clock in the afternoon to eleven o’clock at night. When Tryon Drug Store went bankrupt, the receiver hired me to keep the books from 8:00 in the morning to 2:30 in the afternoon. Mr. Holmes, one of the former Tryon Drug partners, opened Park Place Pharmacy and hired me to work on Saturday and Sunday, teaching his daughter to keep the books.

            By that time, I was living with the Hal Bobbitt family and was working so much that dating was out of the question. I did not even have time to get a haircut. All of those jobs were temporary, so I took advantage of every opportunity that came my way.          

            At the end of May 1931, my jobs ran out, so I went to Florida to visit my family in St. Petersburg for two weeks’ vacation. I did not tell them I was unemployed because they had problems of their own. Their real estate business went kaput way before the Depression.

            When I returned to Charlotte, the Bobbitts woke me early the next morning because Mr. Bobbitt’s brother, Bill, wanted to talk to me about a job. He was an attorney for Independent Trust Company and they had foreclosed on a loan to a finance company in Hendersonville, They had to liquidate the collateral and the CEO of the finance company had an unsavory reputation, so they wanted an honest person to handle the pocketbook. The vice president interviewed me on the drive to Asheville and I got hired.

            A lot of people were out of work, so my job was not very pleasant. I was trying to get money out of people who did not have it so I had to sue them. I stayed there one year to the hour and moved back to Charlotte to work for Peat Marwick. After I did an audit at Southern Asbestos Company, they offered me forty dollars a week to work for them.

            I married Dorothy Alma Fortune in 1933. The first year we were married, I worked out a daily form to put down what we spent every day and develop a budget. Dot took five dollars a week and bought all of the groceries. She had milk delivered to the door and the laundry, too. Our rent was thirty-five dollars a month and I was making thirty-six dollars a week. I smoked in those days and bought cigarettes for $1.25 a carton. In 1934, we had to buy a refrigerator for nine dollars a month. It was the first time I was in debt and it drove me crazy.

            We survived because we lived within our means. One of our favorite eating places was Holmes Restaurant on South Tryon Street, just below the Catholic Church. They had good food and it was real reasonable. For thirty-five cents, you could go to Thacker’s on South Tryon for a meat and two vegetables. You could get the same at the S&W Cafeteria in 1935.

I was affected by the Depression. I still turn out lights and conserve on everything. We raised our two children, Robert, Jr. and Nancy, that way.

            After resigning from Southern Asbestos in 1943, Powell went on to work for Lance, Inc. for twenty-five years. A civic-minded institution, Lance encouraged him to get involved in the community. As a member Charlotte Rotary Club for 68 years, he served as president in 1946 and as president of Red Cross in 1953. After he retired, he worked part time for Central Piedmont Community College as a fundraiser for 19 years.

His advice: Get an education and learn to take care of what money you have. Be moderate in everything.

Posted by: Robin A. Edgar | April 11, 2010

Excerpt from In My Mother’s Kitchen by Robin A. Edgar

The Mandel Bread Pan

                My kids were all in bed and I was cleaning up the aftermath of macaroni and cheese and algebra homework. Something was stuck in the oven drawer and I could not get it to shut.  After a one-sided wrestling match, I finally pulled the whole darn thing out, falling backwards and landing on my bottom. Accompanying this thud were the drums and cymbals of pots and pans crashing to the floor.  From this new viewpoint I could finally see the culprit.  That pesky mandel bread pan had managed to squirm its way out the back again and wedge itself between the drawer and the wall.  It’s not really a baking pan at all, but the bottom of an old aluminum ice-cube tray, the kind they don’t seem to make anymore now that plastic is around. 

My mother used this oddball utensil to bake her famous mandel bread, a semi-sweet Russian pastry that was my “If I were lost on a desert island and could have only one thing to eat” food. She discovered it was just the right size to bake my favorite treat in her toaster oven so she didn’t have to turn on the big oven and heat up the whole kitchen.

Using a broom handle, I fished for this sacred vessel, dented and stained from years of service, and gently dusted it off.  Carefully I placed it back in the drawer. Every year on my mother’s birthday, I pull it out and bake mandel bread in my toaster oven.

For my daughter’s wedding shower, in addition to her other gift, I gave her a set of old and dented aluminum ice cube trays that I had been saving for years. I included a recipe card with her grandmother’s mandel bread recipe, so she could carry on the tradition of love and good eating.

From In My Mothers Kitchen: An Introduction to the Healing Power of Reminiscence

by Robin A. Edgar (Tree House Enterprises 2003)

Posted by: Robin A. Edgar | April 8, 2010

Recipe for Finding Joy on Mother’s Day

As the Mother’s Day Approaches, families make plans to get together for good food, good times, and good memories — or maybe not.  Holiday gatherings can be times of sadness if a family is separated from or has lost a loved one. Celebrating the special times you had with them can ease that pain. In addition to filling your table with delectable treats, use the following recipe to feed your soul with happy memories and to find joy during the special family days.

 Ingredients to Trigger Memories of Your Loved One:

  • Smells like cinnamon, perfume, or burning wood
  • Sounds like a slamming screen door, a train whistle, or old songs
  • Favorite foods your loved one made for you or loved to eat themselves                                                                                              
  • Objects like jewelry, an article of clothing, an ornament, or piece of furniture
  • Old photos of special places like the back porch or where you went on vacation

Optional Ingredients:

Not all memories are happy ones. In a separate bowl stir in a cup of funny stories or a handful of things your loved one taught you by deed or example such as:

  • An embarrassing moment that you both shared
  • A certain way they did something that used to drive you crazy
  • Something your loved one taught you like how to fish or bake bread
  • Traditions about celebrating holidays like family recipes or ways to decorate

 Add a pinch of details such as where you are, who you are with, and what you are doing as you write down or talk about whatever comes to mind,. If you cannot remember specifics, ask a relative or childhood friend to add some spices of their own. Once you have shared your memories, you will find personal rituals to celebrate your loved one as you enjoy the holidays.

This recipe is adapted from the exercises in the book, In My Mother’s Kitchen: An Introduction to the Healing Power of Reminiscence by Robin A. Edgar (Tree House Enterprises) and cannot be reproduced without the written permission of the author.

Posted by: Robin A. Edgar | April 7, 2010

Life Writing Retreat

The more I teach reminiscence-writing workshops around the country, the more I truly believe everyone has story to tell. That’s why I invite you to join me for a weekend life-writing retreat open to anyone who is interested in life-writing, regardless of skill level or experience. Held at Wildacres atop a Pompey’s Knob mountain in Little Switzerland, North Carolina, it is a true retreat, undisturbed by through traffic or noises of the city. The 1,600 acres are adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway and thousands of acres of the Pisgah National Forest. The buildings are modern yet rustic and provide a very comfortable setting.
Guests stay in lodges with rooms that have a private bathroom and accommodate up to two guests. There are no televisions or telephones in the rooms. See

Registration is limited to 12 participants. Fees for this weekend retreat include a double-occupancy room for two nights and five meals. To register, please contact Robin Edgar at or visit

WHEN: October 8-10, 2010
WHAT: A Story Circle Life Writing Retreat with Robin Edgar
WHERE: Wild Acres Retreat, Little Switzerland, NC
COST: $230 for SCN members, $255 for non-members

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