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.

Funding and Hurricane Florence

Many people want to donate after a hurricane and it is certainly appreciated by nonprofits, churches, and organizations overwhelmed with those who need help. In a catastrophe like Florence, money can come from:

  • Politicians (don’t count on it)
  • Government agencies (fill out paperwork to populate their databases)
  • Businesses (sometimes for business purposes)
  • Foundations (what about next year’s funding)
  • Individuals (sincere giving)
  • Probably others I may have missed

Regardless where the money comes from, nonprofits should review the conditions for accepting any money. Most of the time, the conditions only require supporting those in need after the catastrophe. However, conditions can be more restrictive and bind the nonprofit to future initiatives that may not be in their best interest. If there are any concerns with the conditions, do not negotiate and reject the money.

This may be hard to do with someone trying to give money for a worthy cause, but it will be harder to later meet conditions that violate the nonprofit’s mission. If the money is accepted, the details should be recorded in a spreadsheet.

All money associated with the catastrophe should be kept separate from money for operations. It may be tempting to delay this recording of income and expenses with everything happening almost at once. But, take the time and don’t just dump everything into the general account.

More important than anything, a nonprofit should not get involved in recovery efforts beyond their mission or capabilities. This catastrophe should not be used as a means to expand into other areas of need, despite the pleas to do so. It will only lead the nonprofit off the side of a cliff with a guarantee of failure for all involved.

Many people want to give money after a catastrophe. Nonprofits should focus on what they are capable of doing, accept money that will temporarily increase their services, partner with other organizations, and then return to normal operations.

Editing Again?

I’m finishing another edit of my novel. Before I wrote the book, I had been thinking about the story for almost a year. When I finally started writing, it came out fast and easy. I liked what I wrote, until I read what I wrote.

I have gone through numerous, much needed edits. While the basic story remained the same, I made a lot of changes such as in the characters, how the story started, and the ending. All right, maybe more than I thought. After each edit, I thought I had written a bestseller until I read it again. It was a non-seller.

I tried different ways to edit such as starting with the last chapter and going backward chapter by chapter. I wouldn’t recommend this. It’s very confusing and I don’t think people were meant to read a story backward. At least not me.

On this, my final edit (I hope), I focused on each scene within a chapter. I questioned everything and whether the words belonged where they were placed. I was not kind to my words. I think some were hesitant about being written down since they had a good chance of being deleted. Some took the chance, anyway.

This process required many re-readings on the same chapter, yet it seemed to work better for me. I also joined a critique group who have been great at finding things wrong. Yet, we meet too infrequently.

My method is slow, but when I’m done with each chapter I feel better at what I had written. Until, I re-read what I wrote.

P.S. The picture is Harry, a friendly Sasquatch from the 1987 movie “Harry and the Hendersons” and my recent toy.

Florence

Nice name, not a nice storm.

This blog is about the hurricane since I live in New Bern, NC. My wife and I evacuated on Wednesday to Richmond, VA where we had family. We came home Sunday afternoon to no electricity and piles of rubble and debris everywhere. Flood waters were not far away.

The picture is an 80 foot pine about 35 feet from our house. If it had fallen the other way, it would have destroyed part of our house. While we were fortunate, I feel bad because several houses in our neighborhood were flooded and many homes had trees leaning on them or through them. Fortunately, no one got hurt because many in the neighborhood evacuated.

The big debate of whether to stay or go happened on Tuesday when Hurricane Florence was a category 3. Some did not evacuate, although they had money and places to go.

A thousand theses can be written on why people choose to stay during a hurricane. I have been in category 2 hurricanes and it is stressful when trees are coming down outside. I have sat in a dark house wondering if the next tree to fall will come through the house or some debris slam through a window.

New Bern and the surrounding area will recover thanks to people across the U.S. who came to volunteer and many others through their donations. An interesting note: This afternoon, the remnants of Florence brought tornadoes near Richmond. The hotel we were staying in became a shelter for those seeking safety.

Grant Reporting

When a nonprofit receives foundation money, it is critical they provide a report to the foundation on how they spent the money.

Almost all foundations require some type of report. What is required and the due date is usually explained in the acceptance letter that comes with the check. Not reporting back to the foundation means no more funding from future requests. Also, the foundation can notify other foundations of noncompliance in reporting.

But, let’s assume the positive and the nonprofit staff eagerly read and understand the reporting requirements. As much care should be taken in preparing the report as writing the grant. Many foundations use the reports they receive as a measure of the nonprofit’s ability to operate effectively.

Even if not requested, a nonprofit should provide at least one story of someone, a family, or a community being helped by the funding. The report’s data and information should relate to the story, which should be the highlight of the report.

If the foundation does not require a report, send one anyway. Even if it is a letter, the foundation should appreciate the feedback. Reports are beneficial to the nonprofit for many reasons:

—  They continue the communication between the nonprofit and foundation.
—  The report assures the foundation that the money was spent for what it was meant to do.
—  The foundation can use the information and stories to showcase that their grants were helping people. Showcasing the nonprofit, too.
—  A report gives the nonprofit added points for getting future money

A timely and accurate report helps to build a relationship between the nonprofit and the foundation. This relationship can sometimes mean more than the money received.

Chapters and Chapters

Nowadays, many novels are written with short chapters of no more than four or five pages. I guess this is supposed to go along with the limited attention span of today’s readers. However, short chapters create a lot of chapters.

How long should a chapter be? More importantly, how many chapters are too many and what chapter number should the novel end with?

To the first question, I think that chapters are like sentences and paragraphs. Important tools a writer can use to keep the pace of the story and the suspense. I don’t agree with many publishers who think short chapters should be in thrillers to quicken the tempo and longer chapters used in novels such as romance and the literary to slow the pace. I think it really comes down to what is right for the story and a writer should not hold to any nonsense guideline.

Another excuse given for short chapters is that readers need a break from reading. Readers can find a break from reading even with long chapters. At some point, the story has a transition from one event to another, a change of scenery, or the departure/entry of a character. This is where I can stop reading and take my nap.

To the second question, do readers really pay attention to the chapter numbers? They will if they are superstitious, have a need to read only to a certain chapter number, or believe in the ending of odd or even numbers. But, this is another issue.

I just ask the reader not to blame the writer, who probably ended on a chapter number only because that’s where the ending came.

Who is the Nonprofit’s Executive Director?

A nonprofit operates or doesn’t based on their executive director. In many cases, the ED is the nonprofit.

There is rarely a deputy making the ED the only one managing the operations. Their morals and ethical values reflect directly onto the non-profit.

Everything runs based on their personality, style of management, and ability to solve problems. Also, the attitude of the staff will mostly reflect the attitude of the ED. Just like leadership in any organizations, small or large.

To write grants, it is important to know the ED because they are the “face” of the nonprofit. It is the ED carrying the nonprofit’s message to the public. They are the person that donors, foundations, media, and others recognize when talking about the nonprofit.

There are other people involved in the nonprofit who can influence operations. Such as the board president (ED’s boss) and other board members. However, they are not usually involved in daily, routine operations.

A grant writer should first have the same values as the ED, but also understand the influence that can be exerted from others.

Characters and Plots

I recently read in various writing articles and blogs that literary fiction is character driven and genre fiction is plot driven. This is nonsense. All stories are character and plot driven. At least the good ones.

What makes a story good is the balance between character and plot. Too much of either becomes mundane and not a real story.

As an example, if it is all about a character – that’s a monologue which is usually good only in standup comedy. Other characters are introduced, but just to support the monologue. Usually, the main character (protagonist) explains how they were a victim of some physical or mental abuse or misdeed and the mental stress it caused.

If the story is all about plot, there is no plot. Just a series of action scenes or events that take place (whether the characters are involved or not). The focus is on loud noises, violence, or someone/something running from/to some place.

Both types of stories become a series of repetitive scenes. This is fine for readers who just want to read something without an investment in too much thinking. Some readers enjoy the emotional ride they get and can forget about soon after.

I would rather look for a story balanced between characters and plot.

Plot is the main part of a story. Yet, plot comes from characters doing things. When there is a balance between character and plot, both share in driving the story along. Doing this type of writing may take an author more time to write. So, these stories are hard to find.

It is unfair to categorize all literary fiction as character driven and genre fiction as plot driven. Some good stories are found in both types when there is a balance between plot and character.

(In the picture, who is the character and who is the plot?)

Volunteers

A volunteer’s time and services are the same as money. Nonprofits should look for volunteers as much as they look for grants and donations.

It’s hard managing volunteers who can walk away at any time for no reason. A lot of nonprofit people do not talk to the volunteers and never know why they are there. Like the grant writer, I think one of the critical positions in a nonprofit is the volunteer coordinator.

The coordinator should know the nonprofit’s needs, know where to find volunteers, and be able to ask people to volunteer. When the volunteers show up, the coordinator should remember what they provided and what they liked by talking to them.

The executive director and staff should meet and greet the volunteers when they are volunteering. And, more than once. It’s important to know what will keep the volunteers from running away. Such as not to demand more services than they want to give. Nonprofit managers and staff don’t know what too much is unless they talk to the volunteers.

Make volunteering a benefit to the volunteer. Give them something in return for their services. Sometimes this is easy when a person needs to do community service, their company gives benefits for volunteering, or a person needs to update their resume. Other than these reasons, really, why do people volunteer?

I ask myself that all the time. Like many people, I don’t know the answer. Yes, people say they want to give back to the community or help the nonprofit that helped them. But, it’s not that easy. Nonprofit managers and staff should not bother looking for reasons. Just be thankful for the volunteer and say hello.