T-minus one week and counting to the July 30, 5:00pm Mountain Time deadline for our Cultural Trust Grants.
For those of you interested in trying to squeak out an application in the next seven days. The application is located here.
For those of you “in the business” and interested in our online applications…. call me…. I’ll give you the nickel tour and give you an access code so you can see what I see. Call me geeky but it really is fascinating.
Some general (unedited) rambling thoughts about this process to date…..
So far it has been a lot of work. Designing, re-designing, streamlining, re-thinking. I believe there are two key points to creating a really good process…. staff buy-in and streamlined systems. And, of course, patience. I don’t believe the online process will necessarily save us work load because it is exchanging one set of challenges with another but I do believe what we produce will be more consistent, accurate and reliable. Ask me if I still believe this a year from now.
A few things I’ve questioned during this online application process.
1. What about all the little things I’m missing in developing the application? MST? Is it MST or MDT? Standard or Daylight? All I know is… when my desktop calendar says 5:00 (or when my cell phone says 17:00…) next Friday I am shutting down the application. I can do that. I have the power. Also a bit confusing… while the company we work with is located in Bozeman, Montana, their server is in Iowa somewhere… so some things have a central time zone time stamp. This has messed me up more than once. LESSON LEARNED: It is the little tiny things I didn’t realize I had to think about that may be my downfall. Slow down. Take a break and let your mind perk on the problem for a while and you will probably realize the solution.
2. What if everyone doesn’t have the software or software knowledge I have? For example… Foundant contracts to use a service called fax-to-file. You click the link, some directions and a fax number pop up, you fax the documents and they magically are turned into pdf forms. Sweet, right? You need a hard-copy signature for the application page to show the sponsor is aware of the project? Use fax-to-file. You want to upload your 501 c 3 letter from 1973 and don’t have a scanner? Use fax-to-file. So here’s a special story I’ve been sharing with our grantees who are feeling technologically-deficient. I decided I better actually USE fax-to-file instead of just touting the ease of it. So I did. And it worked. Magically. Until I opened the pdf file and it was BLANK. BLANK. I was sputtering. Stupid technology. And then I had a moment of clarity and realization. I put the documents on the fax machine back-to-front. I faxed the backside of my documents to my pdf. I admit it. Not upside-down but bass-ackwards. There goes my technology merit badge for 2010. LESSON LEARNED: Be patient. If I can screw it up, so can you. So don’t feel bad when you call me with what you think is question that demonstrates your technological lackings. (But PS… call me soon… if you call me at 4:45 next Friday I promise I won’t be as patient with you as I will today.)
3. What if someone gives up because they are terrified of the technology? Call me. Really. I’m right here. (Ok, yes, I was out on Monday and Tuesday but that couldn’t be avoided…. Officially we are calling it a “family emergency” but the reality is my mom was fighting a CRP fire and hit a badger hole with the 4-wheeler. She had a very acrobatic landing and ended up spending a night in the hospital. All is well…. and I’m very thankful for my flexible co-workers who covered for me while I was gone.) I’ve talked to several applicants who are not pleased with the concept of online applications but I think this is the direction things are going and our agency staff is here to help. LESSON LEARNED: We’ve tried to make this application process as simple as possible but without you trying it out and telling us what works and what doesn’t work we won’t be able to make it better. That’s my nice way of saying, “You are beta-test guinea pigs for my evil plot to take over the world.” Kidding.
The serious lesson in all of this is the learning process. This online application is a learning process for all of us and we, as a staff, are open to hearing your thoughts, constructive criticisms and ideas for improvement.