Some Grant Writing Tips (Here’s the rest of it, Part II of 2)

Another Opportunity
If a foundation states they do not accept unsolicited grant requests, do not send them a grant request. Do not call. Instead, send them information about your nonprofit. This should be no more than a page and a half with attachments.

Include a few glossy brochures with pictures that explain the mission and purpose of the nonprofit. The best thing to send is testimonies and pictures of the people who the nonprofit helped. I then wait for the foundation to contact the nonprofit, if they do. If not, I do not bother the foundation again.

I have had success using this method. Over half the time, the foundation sends a grant request.

Don’t Waste Time
Some nonprofits focus their effort on applying for grants they have little chance of getting. The top U.S. foundations (with the most money) accept less than five percent of the grant requests they receive. Many of them look for wide impact on a national level. A lot of them fund projects in third world nations.

A grant writer should look for foundations associated with a business in the local area. If a nonprofit is in a rural area, find family foundations. People are more likely to give in an area they know well.

The biggest problem is applying to foundations that fund projects not in the nonprofit’s mission. If the foundation states they will not fund it, they will not fund it.

Organization
Keep every detail about every grant request sent out. Use a spreadsheet and avoid complicated software programs. Note deadlines, acceptance dates, and when to expect a check. If rejected, call the foundation and ask why. Record this, too. This database can be important for future grant requests.

No Response from Editors and Agents

I submit short stories to magazine editors with the vague hope they’ll accept my work. I have hope until my story is rejected (hope turns to shock/surprise when accepted). I have the same hope when I query an agent for my young adult novel (there’s no acceptance, yet).

The worse part of submitting a story or a query is the “no response” position editors and agents take. Some agents will at least say that, if I did not hear from them, they were not interested. I still wait and, after a hundred days, decide they will not respond like they said they wouldn’t.

A few magazine editors say the same (don’t wait for a response), although I do. Some editors say to query them if there is no response. I used to do that and I always received a nasty email to stop bothering them. They put in more effort to respond to me like that than it would have taken to send a form rejection.

I realize people can be overwhelmed with submissions, yet it does not take much to send, at least, a standard form rejection. Most editors and agents have assistants or interns reading the submissions, anyway.

I think, to not respond at all, shows a lack of respect for writers as if they are not worth a reply. When I record on my spreadsheet “no response” from an editor or agent, I tell myself to take them off future submission lists.

Of course, the editor or agent could have lost my story or query. And, I am not immune from making mistakes in my submissions. This is why I will probably send another submission contradicting any advice I might have just gave myself.

Some Grant Writing Tips (Part I (II in 2 weeks)

Who is the Foundation?
Before writing a grant request, the writer should study the foundation to get a good understanding of their culture, mission, and goals. It is not enough to read a summary of what grant requests they accept. Research the bios, look at media sources for additional information, and read everything they have on their website. Yes, this can take several hours or more. At the end and if they allow it, call the foundation administrators with no more than one or two questions.

Motivation
A grant writer has to build excitement in their grant requests. Show the devotion everyone in the nonprofit has for the mission and goals. Write out any key words sprinkled in the foundation guidelines that stand out and want to be included in the request. Include these words in the grant request. Make sure the nonprofit’s grant request matches what is important to the foundation. No match, don’t apply. (Later, see waste of time.)

Social Media
When writing a grant request, the information and data in the request should not deviate from what is published online in a nonprofit’s website, Facebook, or other social media. If a nonprofit is fortunate to advance toward the final round of selection, a foundation will likely research a nonprofit’s online presence. There should be no deviation because, what is the truth?

An Opportunity
If a foundation offers a webinar, always sign up. This is where they offer tips and hints on writing a grant that is usually not found anywhere else. A webinar means, “Hey, we’re trying to help you.”

Performing an Ending

John T. Frederick wrote, in his 1924 book A Handbook of Short Story Writing, that “for the most intimate and final revelation of a character to be realized, it is best to put the character in action rather than conversation or introspection.”

I’m glad I found this passage since I am struggling to conclude what I finished writing. This is my dilemma with concluding my book. There is only dialogue. I need a performance.

Yes, performance and action do not necessarily mean the same in a lot of ways. I’m looking for something between action and dialogue and performance seemed to fit for me. Although, I don’t know what I mean by it.

The standard theory has one character changing from beginning to end. I made that happen. Now, how do I make him happy about it and ride into the sunset without looking back for a sequel?

I read a lot of different genres and some authors are good beginners, some good at the middle, and some end the novel well. The key is to be good for two out of three. It can be a struggle to accomplish this. Also, which is lower in priority? Beginning, middle, or end? I’m trying for at least one out of three.

So, I’ll put in a performance. I’ve decided this will be action and dialogue together that includes a second character. Like a dance. Maybe a tango.

P.S. Yes, I’ve used the same image before. I like it.

Big Egos in a Nonprofit

Some people have too big of an ego to be involved in managing the operations of a nonprofit. Egos are fine for businesses, agencies, and other organizations that are made up of paid staff. In a nonprofit, most of the people are volunteers and teamwork is essential to keeping people from running away.

I see the most harm done when egos exist on the board or in the nonprofit’s management. Board of Directors are responsible for identifying the mission, providing oversight, and raising funds. The Executive Director and other managers are responsible for fundraising, managing the paid staff, and day-to-day operations.

While the lines between the two are clear, they become blurred when big egos dominate. Board members become micromanagers on the staff or the executive director and staff work as if the board does not exist. Both ways damage the nonprofit’s ability to be successful.

Harm to the nonprofit appears in high turnover rates, loss of donor funding, and errors in meeting the mission goals. Even worse is when the egos reside on the board and management at the same time.

Unfortunately, there are no clear, easy solutions. There are mediators for nonprofits, yet someone has to initiate their involvement and pay them. Most nonprofits suffer through the turmoil. Board members serve two year terms and the executive director and staff with big egos usually burn themselves out and leave.

A grant writer should be prepared for this situation and stay away from it. I realize this is a poor solution, yet an honest one. The only people who can change the situation are other board members or staff who need to step in and confront the egos. However, it is sometimes easier to just leave.

Starting a Young Writer’s Group

I got peered pressured into being president of my writing club. We have about 60 members, run a contest in the spring, hold monthly luncheon meetings with guest speakers, and sometimes a one day writing course. I’m fortunate to have board members who are great at helping me with the presidency and making my job easy. So, I decided to try starting a young writer’s group.

This is probably not a smart move on my part. First, I don’t know how to start a young writer’s group. Second, it will consume more of my time and could interfere with my afternoon (or morning) napping. Third, I need volunteers.

Some of the research I’ve done recommended not starting a writing group. Instead, I should help one that is already established. Except there are no young writers’ groups anywhere in eastern NC. There’re barely any writing groups at all.

I’ll start slow and just keep working at it. First, I need to pick the age group such as middle school, high schoolers, or community college students. Then, there’s the purpose for the group.

I think it will be to encourage writing, provide critiques, help members get published, and promote progress and accomplishments. I also hope to attract authors as mentors.

We’ll need a name and a place to meet regularly where we can have speakers. Of course, there is the issue of money.

Getting people to join, volunteers to help, and support from the community will take motivation. I don’t know what’s motivating me. Maybe when I do get a group going, I’ll figure that out, too.

The difference between a nonprofit’s paid staff and volunteer board members

A nonprofit has two groups who work toward meeting the mission goals. The Executive Director (ED) and maybe some staff workers run the daily operations. All are paid employees of the nonprofit.

Overseeing them are a board of directors made up of a President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. There could be other board members, too. All board members are volunteers with the board president being the ED’s boss.

Having a volunteer board overseeing a paid staff creates a unique relationship. People who volunteer to do a job and those who get paid for the job can have vastly different motivations for doing that job.

Both groups will have a sense of duty toward the success of the mission. Yet, they may see achieving that success based on what inspires them. Is it a personal feel-good of community service or a desire to pay the bills at home?

Both inspirations can be good or bad. They are just seeing the mission accomplishments in a way they believe based on why they are there.

I am a board member of a nonprofit. Although I see myself more of the grant writer than a board member. To write grants, I work with the Ed and paid staff. We all try to ignore that I’m a board member. Grant writers should avoid being a board member.

Instead, a grant writer should be aware of the different motivations between volunteering and being paid. This awareness is important when combined with people’s personalities and egos.

At a minimum, grant writers should meet regularly with the ED, talk to the board president, work with the nonprofit staff, and smile at the board members. Focus on the success of the mission. Everyone else is doing that, just maybe with a different purpose.

A Series or a Serial

I’m rewriting the ending of my book – again. I’m debating whether to end this book with a cliff hanger or not.

A cliff hanger means it has no ending and sets the stage for the next book, making them into serials. I will have to write follow-on books until I create an ending. No cliff hanger and I have an ending. If I write proceeding books, they become a series.

Sometimes, an author will break up a long book into smaller ones to make a serial and sell the books as a box set. It’s still one long book, it just gives the appearance of more manageable reading.

Other times, a writer cannot stop writing. One book leads to another and another as a serial. The never ending story. In both cases, a reader has to read all of the books in the correct order to understand the story and reach an ending, if there ever is one.

A series are stand-along books hosting the same characters within the same genre. Theoretically, these books can be read out of sequence, although I have rarely found this to be true. They build off each one, the characters change in some way, the environment they are in is altered somehow, or maybe minor characters become more prominent. Series are almost like a serial, just with an ending.

I don’t like serials, although some of the best books I’ve read were serials. Such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Another good series were the first three Star Wars movies (the best of all Star Wars).

I want to see an ending, which should make the decision for my book ending easy. Yet, the cliff hanger ending I came up with is much better than the ending I have.

Maybe I just don’t want to be committed to writing the next book. Although I’ve already started it.

Diversified Income

Nonprofits should receive money from as many different sources as possible. These sources include private donations, churches, other nonprofits, foundations, businesses, communities, fund raising events, and government agencies.

The more sources the better for a nonprofit since no source is a guaranteed income. However, it is not possible to work on all of these sources because each takes a certain amount of time and effort. Priority is needed.

Everything ends up being a choice of two methods. Getting a lot of money from a few sources or a little money from a lot of sources.

Getting a lot of money from a few sources means each request is generally long, complicated, and littered with traps. Competition is usually high with the funding organization wanting to trim out as many applications as possible using any excuse. Most of these sources are government agencies.

Using this method of few sources allows a nonprofit to focus more on these applications, giving them some upper level of chance. Yet, requesting a lot of money from a few places also means one denial can be catastrophic.

The other method of submitting to a lot of sources, means a lot more work. However, competition is usually lower and the submissions are not as cumbersome to complete.

This method requires being organized. There are more people to know and more time expended. However, one failure has a small impact. Also, getting a little from a lot means greater success since the source is not expending a large portion of their funds.

It all is a matter of personality. The first method is a greater risk with a higher payoff. The second method is less risk with a lower payoff.

Personally, I would always take the second method. It’s more work, but more assurance of success.

Writing Slow

I read about authors who write a 60-70K word book in a month or two. Some can turn out 10K words a day. While I certainly believe writers can achieve this, I think (from reading their novels) they do so by building simple characters, less scene details, lots of repetitive action, and uncomplicated plots.

There is a market and niche for this easy style of fiction. But, I find more enjoyment in a novel of some complication in plot and character. I want to have a connection to the time and place where the novel is placed.

In Anne R. Allen blog post “Are Slow Writers Doomed to Fail in the Digital Age?”, she is a slow writer in an industry demanding fast writers. Volume equals more money. She writes, “In fact, I believe working slowly and mindfully is the best way to build a career.”

Fast writing does not mean fast success. Some authors think so by publishing a multitude of novels over a short period of time. They believe the more books published, the more readers they’ll attract and the more money they’ll make. A few achieve this, but only because they have a team of ghost writers helping them.

So, are slow writers doomed since they produce a book a year instead of three or more in a year? On the other hand, an author can take years to write a book of gibberish or two months to do the same. Forget these possibilities of failure.

They can happen or not. Instead, focus on how much time put toward writing rather than the number of words produced in a day. You might feel better.

I’m a fan of slow writing because I’m biased. I write slow. I have tried writing the fast stuff and it can work, but I’m not satisfied with it. I think there is a more viable market and niche for stories with a few plot layers, slightly flawed characters, and places that seem real.

This takes time to write.