Great Ideas Need Money:
Take Control by Acquiring Resources to Accomplish Your Dreams
Beverly Karplus Hartline, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of the Graduate School (2012-present)
Montana Technological University
Butte, Montana USA
Mr. Chairman, esteemed and impressively accomplished Co-founder of this outstanding young university, distinguished Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, your Excellencies, Honourable Ministers of State and Members of National and State Legislatures, your Royal Highnesses, respected Deans and teaching faculty, members of Staff, honoured guests, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, students, and friends, I bring you greetings from Montana Technological University and the State of Montana in the United States of America.
For me it is a great honour and privilege to be invited to deliver the second annual lecture honouring the memory and accomplishments of the late Olorogun Michael Christopher Onajirevbe Ibru—entrepreneur, business leader, and philanthropist. Olorogun Michael Ibru’s efforts bore incredible fruits and have benefited and created great opportunity for so many—especially the Urhobo people, the communities of Delta State, and the Michael and Cecilia Ibru University.
With the greatest of respect, let us rise and join together in a moment of silence in remembrance of Olorogun Michael Ibru. May his soul rest in peace, Amen.
About Montana Technological University and Me
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, before I engage the topic of raising money to accomplish dreams and goals—a task truly mastered by Olorogun Michael and Dr. Cecilia Ibru and their family members—please allow me to introduce myself and familiarize you briefly with my institution of higher education—Montana Technological University. I bring special greetings and well wishes from our chancellor, Dr. Donald Blackketter—a mechanical engineer. We invite you to visit our campus and collaborate with us. Montana Tech is unlikely to be known or recognized widely in Nigeria, though we are proud to include Nigerians among our students and alumni.
Montana Tech is located in Butte, Montana, a historic mining community at the headwaters of the great Columbia River. The town and campus are nestled into the Rocky Mountains at an elevation ~1700 meters above sea level. Montana Tech was authorized by the US Congress in 1889 in the Statehood Act for Montana as the Montana State School of Mines, which opened to students in 1900. We are a “special focus” university, concentrating on engineering and science, with a mission to provide “exemplary undergraduate and graduate education, workforce development, research, and service that build on a strong heritage in engineering, science, and technology, blending theory with practice to meet the changing needs of society and enable the responsible development and use of natural resources.” Today Butte is both a mining city and the largest environmentally damaged Superfund site in the USA, having produced over 10 million tons of copper used to electrify the country, as well as over 2 million tons of zinc, 20 thousand tons of silver, and 83 tons of gold.
A cross-section of members of the governing council
About 85% of Montana Tech’s 2,500 students are in fields we call STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and health, 75% are from Montana communities, about a third are the first in their families to attend college, and 10% are graduate students. We pride ourselves on enabling ordinary people from humble backgrounds to follow extraordinary pathways and achieve success. Year after year, over 90% of our graduates start successful careers with high-pay jobs, launch their own businesses, or continue into graduate or professional school. Despite our small size, we are among the top universities in the USA for advancing the economy, for return on investment, and for “best value.” Ryan Lance, one of our petroleum engineering alumni, is the CEO of the worldwide petroleum company, CONOCO, and many others have started successful businesses, are medical doctors, nurses, lawyers, scientists, or licensed engineers. Today, our most popular degree programs are petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering, business, nursing, earth science and engineering, and occupational safety and health. With our longstanding focus on responsible development and use of natural resources, we were one of the first universities in the USA to offer a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering!
My colleagues and I hope my visit here will lead to opportunities for fruitful collaborations and exchanges involving faculty and students at the Michael and Cecilia Ibru University. Our research strengths include materials science and engineering, water resources, energy systems, natural resource exploration and development, advanced manufacturing, restoration ecology and environmental engineering, safety, and health. On campus, we have Montana’s fastest High-Performance Computer, an underground hard-rock mine for research and teaching, along with numerous pieces of state-of the-art research instrumentation.
Professor Beverly Hartline – The guest speaker
For those of you who might be interested in traveling to Montana, please be aware of similarities and differences with Delta State: agriculture and energy production are big parts of both economies. However, we have only 1 million people, but 2.5 million cows, 800,000 deer and elk, and quite a few bears. Our population density of people is only 2.7 per square kilometer—just a bit more than 1 percent of Delta State’s. The speed limit on our highways is over 130 kilometers per hour, and heavy traffic is very rare. Comparing the elevations and the weather, you will find essentially no overlap with Delta State at all. Montana’s lowest point is 600 meters above sea level, and in Butte we have a dry mountain climate with very cold winters. The hottest temperatures in the summer in Butte reach the lower 30’s with low humidity, and it cools to 5 to 15 degrees C at night. In the winter it is rarely above 0 C, more often in the range of -10 to -25 C and briefly colder. But in the sun, if it is not windy, even -15 C feels quite comfortable.
Our Chancellor, my colleagues, and I at Montana Tech wish to welcome you to Montana soon!
* * * *
Olorogun Michael C. O. Ibru – Founder, MCIU
Like Olorogun Michael Ibru, I am the oldest of seven children in an unusual but not nearly so accomplished family. Whereas many members of his family have likely visited the United States, as nearly as I can tell, I am the first in my family to visit Nigeria. Fortunately, your Embassy issued me a multi-entry 2-year visa, so I hope to return to learn and experience more.
My family also places a very high value on education and helping others. My father was Dr. Robert Karplus—a physicist and university professor, who fled to America from Austria as a school-aged child with his parents and brother during the Holocaust. My mother is Elizabeth Frazier Karplus, a retired, 93-year-old physicist, special education teacher, and teacher educator, who shares the month and day of her birthday with Dr. Cecilia Ibru! My mother’s father was a congregationalist minister in New England, who travelled the USA in the summer with his wife and children, visiting and preaching in various communities.
As my younger siblings and I progressed in school, my father redirected his energies from theoretical physics research to a more practical challenge with greater near-term societal benefits. He led the development of hands-on science activities, curricula, and teacher training to stimulate curiousity and discovery-based learning in primary schools. At home, our curiousity was always encouraged, along with our self confidence and independence. I can remember wondering at age 6 about how plants grew, and my father asked me: “how can you find out?” So, I designed an experiment and measured a leaf and branch on a camelia tree outside the front door for weeks, every morning on my way to school. After school, I graphed my data.
Evenings, around the dinner table, our parents asked each of us what question we had asked in school that day. Needless to say, we got very good at asking questions to avoid having to admit we had asked none. With our own children, Jason and Jeff—both now PhD computer scientists—my husband, Fred, and used similar strategies to foster their curiousity, self-confidence, and belief that they could achieve any aspirations with hard work.
Starting in the early 1960s, my father won considerable funding from the U.S. government and other sources, not only for his scientific research, but also to develop science curricula and materials for elementary-school classrooms. His was the first ever grant from our National Science Foundation for curriculum improvement aimed at the primary school level. I recall many summers, starting in middle school, going to work with him to develop and test these curricula and materials with teachers, college students, and staff, thereby getting exposed to the opportunities available with grant funding and the associated accountability requirements.
As an adult, during my career as a researcher, research manager, project manager, educator, and in science and technology policy, I became quite successful at grant-writing, fundraising, and helping others win many millions of dollars through scores of successful proposals and fundraising campaigns. My purpose here is to share with you some advice and proven strategies, with a goal of enabling you achieve similar success toward achieving your dreams.
The Honourable Fritz Baffour – 1st annual memorial lecture guest speaker
Finding and Acquiring Funding to Achieve Your Dreams
Last year, your inaugural speaker, the Honourable Fritz Baffour from Ghana, challenged the audience and the Michael and Cecilia Ibru University to catalyze and accelerate entrepreneurship and development—endeavours in which Olorogun Michael Ibru and the Ibru organization excelled. How many of you were here for Mr. Baffour’s memorable and inspiring speech? In his talk, Mr. Baffour identified three major barriers to entrepreneurship and development in Nigeria, including
- access to know-how,
- access to start-up funding
Olorogun Michael Ibru and Dr. Cecilia Ibru, by establishing the Michael and Cecilia Ibru University, took a giant step toward providing access to know-how. Like Mr. Baffour, I cannot overestimate the importance of battling and eliminating corruption, which would go a long way toward improving Nigeria’s climate for entrepreneurship and development, its international reputation, and its ability to support more research and attract more investment. In America, research and technology development efforts help our universities rank among the best in the world. Moreover, the results from their research drive a very large share of fast-growing, high-tech businesses, leading to novel in-demand products and whole new industries that could not even be imagined a few years ago.
In this second memorial lecture, my aim is to build on Mr. Baffour’s message by providing approaches and strategies that really work to access and acquire funding—not only for start-up businesses, but also for other purposes, including research, student learning, and social improvements.
In the modern global economy money is needed for just about everything. You might be trying to launch an exciting business venture. You could be a researcher with a great but unproven idea for curing a disease, developing a vaccine, deepening understanding, or advancing technology. You might need costly, state-of-the-art equipment or software for research, for instruction, or for scaling up production for a small business. Or you could be a dedicated teacher, desiring to create or update a course to improve student learning. Maybe you want to build or remodel a commercial building, manufacturing plant, school, or home for yourself or others, provide services to disadvantaged families, or offer educational enrichment experiences for school children and their teachers.
Each of us has dreams that are out of reach without money. Let’s figure out how to get the money we need to bring these important and worthwhile dreams to life. It isn’t easy. But really anyone can do it.
How does it work?
People want money. Sponsors, government agencies, and donors have money to offer. It is not a perfect match, because the number of people who want money to achieve their worthwhile dreams and the amount of money they need are generally much larger than the amount of money available. This imbalance between supply and demand means that the sponsors and donors basically control the play. They can choose which worthy causes to bless and advance with their funds.
Most of the time, the way it works is that a person who wants funding writes a proposal or a business plan, and either sends it to the sponsor or advocates it to the sponsor in a face-to-face meeting. The proposal or business plan describes the project, its importance, goals, and benefits, and says how much money is needed.
The sponsor considers and evaluates the proposals and funds the best ones. What is “best” is defined by the sponsors, because it is their money. They get to choose what to spend it on. Thus, “best” means most likely to accomplish something the sponsor wants done. “Best” can also mean most likely to result in some other benefit desired by the sponsor.
What is in it for us? Money to achieve our dreams!
What is in it for the sponsors? Advancing their purpose, agenda, and image.
The key question then, is how can we arrange for our ideas and dreams to have the best chance for being funded?
First, we must find a sponsor that is a good match for our idea and us. Then we must present our idea—either in writing or in person—so that the sponsor can see that our idea is “best” and will advance its purpose, agenda, and image.
What would be some attributes of sponsors that would make the sponsor a great match for our idea?
We need to share some common ground. Ideally, we look for sponsors whose mission and goals are similar to ours. We try to find some that serve the same constituency and show how our project could amplify their impact with this constituency. It is also a good sign, when our core values and “culture” align with the sponsor’s. Other types of attributes to consider include the sponsor’s image, motto, vision, market, and interest in the product or result of our project. The more dimensions of alignment, the better the likelihood of winning the prospective sponsor’s support.
There are many types of funders. Public agencies include national, state, and local governments, along with international sources, such as UNESCO. Private sponsors include basically everything else, such as philanthropic foundations, corporations, businesses, trade associations, service clubs, individuals, friends, family, internet-mediated “crowd-funding” mechanisms, such as “Kickstarter,” and ourselves.
By the way, it is much easier to interest potential funders in projects where we can show our own personal or organizational investment. You have no doubt heard many anecdotes of people—including the young Olorogun Michael Ibru—who quit their paying jobs, and/or took out a mortgage on their homes or other property, or made other significant financial sacrifices to launch their new business, research, or social improvement. Such investment demonstrates our own strong commitment and helps convince the sponsor that we will put in the extra effort to ensure the venture’s success!
As in a jigsaw puzzle, the “fit” is key, between the sponsor’s interests and us and our project. The burden is on us to learn about and thoroughly understand our potential sponsors. Then we can identify, communicate with, and cultivate the most promising ones—describing our idea and our request in a way that is shaped to attract their support.
It is absolutely critical to know the eligibility requirements. It would be a waste of time for me to ask for money from a sponsor that was only interested in supporting projects by Nigerians. However, if I had a great idea for a project matched to this sponsor, it would be an effective strategy for me to find some Nigerians, who share my dream, to be partners and lead the project.
Partnering and collaborating is a proven approach to expand your potential and your ability to bring in needed funds. Having the right partners also aids in completing the project successfully. I would not doubt that quite a few of the Ibru Organization’s impressive achievements were substantially enabled by Olorogun Michael Ibru’s propensity for partnering—a propensity he demonstrated early his career.
It is essential to understand the sponsor’s selection criteria and process. How does the sponsor choose from amongst the proposals it receives? What are its criteria? What are any special requirements it might have? For example, does it want students involved? If yes, involve students. Modify your plans and project design, if appropriate, to achieve a better match with the sponsor’s criteria and goals—as long as the modifications don’t weaken or destroy the project. Write or present your project in a way that clearly demonstrates systematically how well your project satisfies all the sponsor’s criteria, goals, and requirements, and how well it will accomplish what the sponsor desires.
To have the best prospects for success, you should endeavor to understand the sponsor as well as the sponsor understands itself. Try to know its history, mission, purpose, geographic eligibility, current programs, where its money comes from, and whom it must please. What are its plans and aspirations? Who are its partners, allies, and competitors? Get to know its leaders and staff. Who are they? Where did they grow up? Where did they go to school? What are their backgrounds? What special connections might the sponsor and its staff have with you or your organization? Did its leader or her son go to the same university or church as you? Do you like the same kind of music or food?
It is a good idea to contact sponsors, which are potentially excellent matches to your idea. Before doing so, do your homework. Learn how they like to be contacted. Do they prefer phone, email, letter, drop in, or appointments? Make a good first impression by planning this contact well and dressing professionally, if it is a face-to-face meeting. Know what you want to say or ask. Practice your “pitch.” Get to the point quickly. Assuming it goes well, be sure to cultivate a long-term relationship with them.
How can you craft an irresistible proposal, business plan, or pitch? My son, Jason, who worked for Microsoft Research after completing his Ph.D., and then joined the faculty at Northwestern University, where he is now an Associate Professor of Computer Science, is amazingly successful winning highly competitive National Science Foundation grants, landing TWO during his first year on the faculty. In fact, already when he was a college student he and a friend applied for and won a $50,000 “Small Business Innovation Research” grant from the US Department of Education. When I started mentoring other university faculty in grant writing, I asked him to share some advice, and I share it with you now.
- First, read, re-read, and follow any instructions the sponsor has provided, and prepare and adhere to a schedule that will allow you to complete and submit the proposal ahead of any deadline. As a final step before submission—hopefully well before the deadline—reread the instructions again and verify that your proposal addresses them completely and accurately. I have lost count of the number of times my final read-through discovered to my great alarm that I had forgotten one or two key required topics or pieces. How could I have missed them? What if I had not done the thorough final check? Fortunately, I had enough time to remedy the deficiencies and still submit ahead of the deadline.
- Second, in your face-to-face meeting or written proposal, you must get the sponsor enthusiastic by showing the importance and impact of the project. Ideally you also connect the importance and impact clearly with the priorities and goals of the sponsor. Basing your case for funding on impact and potential to succeed is more likely to win funding than a case based primarily on “neediness.”
- Third, you must convince the prospective sponsor that the project is achievable—they won’t just be wasting money in an impossible or highly improbable “lost cause.” If what you are doing is truly new or state-of-the-art, you may need to create the evidence. For a research project, you might need to get preliminary data or develop and demonstrate that a critical method or technique will work. For a start-up, you might need to have prepared some prototypes, proved a key manufacturing step, or qualified materials. It generally only takes a little money and time to do this preliminary work, but it makes a huge difference in your credibility and fundability.
- Finally, you need to show that YOU can do it. Show that your qualifications and other resources are adequate, and all you need to succeed is the support requested. If your qualifications and other resources, such as facilities or networks, might not be sufficient, it is best to line up partners and collaborators, who would provide the missing expertise and resources.
In your write up or meeting “pitch,” focus systematically on the funder’s selection criteria and the match between your project and its mission and goals. And carefully follow all instructions.
If you are not funded the first time, ask for feedback. What were the weaknesses of your proposal or pitch? Were you lacking preliminary data or prototypes? Is the match good? What advice do they have? This feedback will be most helpful to position you for a positive funding decision by them or a different sponsor in the future.
If you receive the funding, hearty congratulations! Now comes the hard job of doing the work, establishing your reputation for delivering on commitments, and laying the groundwork for your next steps. Thank the sponsor, invite them to visit, and keep them informed as the efforts proceed. Be sure to publicize or publish your work and its results (unless it is supposed to be confidential to the sponsor). The publication and reporting earn credit and recognition for both you and the sponsor, grows your reputation, and strengthens your track record as someone who delivers on commitments and succeeds with projects. These steps strengthen your relationship with the sponsor, and position you well to get additional funds from them and others in the future.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we all have dreams. It is dreams fulfilled that collectively better society, nations, and the world. It was an incredibly powerful dream of Olorogun Michael Ibru and Dr. Cecilia Ibru to establish this outstanding university with its ambitions to become a university of excellence in teaching, research, service, and value creation on a par with any in the world.
Personally, I greatly admire and applaud the Michael and Cecilia Ibru University for its vision to reduce poverty by providing a quality tertiary education in line with international standards; its commitment to welcoming individuals without discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, or religion; and its goal to produce diverse, well rounded graduates, ready to stand the challenges of work, life, and spirituality and able to build any society in which they find themselves.
The education provided by MCIU will enable its students, its graduates, and their communities to achieve heartfelt dreams of opportunity, social reform, economic improvement, and an inexorable rise in the international standing of Nigeria—the most populous African nation, full of ideas, energy, aspirations, and large numbers of bright and talented young people.
Last year, your inaugural speaker, the Honourable Fritz Baffour charged this University to “institute a two or three credit course at Level 1 undergraduate study and do a comparative analysis of the Theories and Methods” of Olorogun Michael Ibru “and other renowned business moguls in Africa in particular and the rest of the world in general.” That sounds to me like a fascinating and worthwhile course—one I would love to sit in on.
In this second lecture, I am following his example and charging the University to offer a similar course in grant seeking and fundraising, giving students skills and knowledge needed to compete successfully for acquiring money to achieve their dreams and put in motion the good works and social reform that can be the delicious fruits of education, dreams, and effort.
In conclusion, dreams have been part of human existence probably since the origins of our species. Only comparatively recently, however, have we been embedded in a global society where money was the currency seemingly needed to make anything happen.
We have been focused in this lecture on winning resources to achieve worthwhile dreams. Not all dreams are good dreams—some can be nightmares. Indigenous peoples in America—long before money came to their communities—developed the “dream catcher.”
The guest speaker presenting The Visitor – Dr. Mrs. Cecilia Ibru with a dream catcher
I have brought a Native American dream catcher with me to Nigeria. I would like to invite Dr. Cecilia Ibru to join me at the podium.
The purpose of the dream catcher is to protect people—especially children—against the effects of nightmares, while enabling their good dreams to come to life. The design works by trapping bad dreams in the web, while letting good dreams pass through the hole in the center—allowing them to thrive and be achieved. The dream catcher is typically placed above the head of a bed where it can protect and empower the sleeping dreamer.
Dr. Cecilia Ibru—co-founder of this outstanding University—I am presenting you with this Native American dream catcher, in recognition of the dream-filling success you, the late Olorogun Michael Ibru and your family have accomplished through so many good works—notably the founding and support of this outstanding University. Thank you for all you and your family have done and are doing to advance dreams, education, well-being, and prosperity—especially for the students, faculty, staff, and leadership of Michael and Cecilia Ibru University; for the Urhobo people; for Delta State; for Nigeria; for Africa; and for the world
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, on the eve of the second anniversary of the untimely passing of Olorogun Michael Christopher Onajirevbe Ibru, let us all remember, honour, and celebrate his life and great accomplishments by continuing to build on his good works, each in our own ways. As I have learned a small amount about this great man in preparing these remarks, I truly regret not having had the opportunity to meet him in person.
Thank you for the privilege of speaking with you today. It is humbling to be able to participate in this special day. I am very grateful for the extraordinary hospitality you have provided, welcoming me to this special and wonderful campus and community. Please come visit us in Montana, so we can reciprocate. I hope my words and suggestions bolster your determination to pursue and achieve your dreams and those of Nigeria—even if the amount of money and other resources needed make them seem out of reach. You CAN do it. Thank you.
Free On-line Courses or Videos on Fundraising, Grant-Seeking, and Start-Up
http://www.smallstarter.com/funding/ presents a Free Course on Obtaining Funding for your Business.
The Foundation Center in New York has training courses, resources, and example proposals. Some of the courses are free. Check out Foundation Center’s grantspace.org and foundationcenter.org/improve-your-skills2. Here are two example on-line courses and/or videos or webinars that are free.
Introduction to Proposal Writing: http://grantspace.org/training/courses/introduction-to-proposal-writing/?_ga=2.31463223.803684402.1534730673-1595676891.1534730673
Introduction to Finding Grants: http://grantspace.org/training/courses/introduction-to-finding-grants/?_ga=2.91215635.803684402.1534730673-1595676891.1534730673
The Center for Social Justice in Abuja, Nigeria is a Funding Information Network partner of the Foundation Center, which provides free access on site to Foundation Center databases of funding sources and other resources. Website: Csj-ng.org/ Phone: +234-80-55070909. If MCIU wished also to be a partner, the instructions are on the Foundation Center’s we site: www.foundationcenter.org.