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Making Time to Stay Current

Have you ever looked at the statistics and research you have been using in your statement of need for years and realize you have been using them for years?

Data becomes outdated more quickly than ever these days, and your proposal should reflect the most accurate, up-to-date information possible. I also find that old versions of our need statements (as with all standard proposal sections) can and should resurrect themselves over time, whether from repurposing material or having program staff hold onto past proposals.
Finding the time to keep your data and language fresh can be a challenge. Best practice would be to have the most current information available; if you are using statistics from an annually updated source, use each year's new data (as long as it is still compelling). If your source updates on a regular multi-year schedule, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress or other government assessments, review when they become available. For other research, I recommend using data from the last five years. If you have a treasured but older citation, perhaps there is something new to back it up and freshen your copy.
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you carve out some time to rejuvenate your statement of need.
  1. Sign up for a few daily digests or newsletters from news sites that are relevant to your field of work. Many news aggregating sources can bring you updated stories, facts, and research during your morning coffee. If you are not sure where to start, try Googling a few keywords with “daily digest” or “news aggregator.” Alternatively, ask your colleagues, collaborators, and competitors what sources they trust for their facts and data. You may find some surprising new material!
  1. Set an annual or semiannual task in your calendar to review any templates or boilerplate documents relating to your statement of need and eliminate any out-of-date or inaccurate references. It is easy to let this slide—and any program staff who works with you will appreciate the ease of using your refreshed writing!
  1. Make a standing appointment with Google- create a recurring calendar item for 15-30 minutes at least once a week to take a careful look for new information that would be beneficial to your argument for the need of your program.
  1. Check out the available resources at a nearby library, college/university, or other educational institution. Often, these groups will make their journal or news subscriptions accessible to the community at low or no cost.
  1. Set up Google Alerts for the most salient keywords related to your work.  Communications staff tend to use these to listen for references to their organization or programs, but you could use them to have Google send you any new content that includes the keywords you choose. It is important to use specific keywords in these Alerts to avoid being overrun with emails!
For example, I receive Fisheries Digest, Saving Seafood, and Climate Change News each morning and take a quick run through the headlines to see if anything would be useful. I also find new journal articles and book chapters through National Academies Press, and regularly review Science Friday, New York Times Science, and other major news sites for just-released research that relates to our program areas. It is a challenge to squeeze it in between my many meetings and deadlines, but taking a few minutes each morning and having regular reminders show up in my inbox keeps the statement of need front of mind.
What are some tips or resources that you use to make sure your statement of need stays fresh and current?
Kat Champigny writes grants for marine research, science education, and community programs at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, ME.



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