Author Archives: Stanley

Brief Outline for Grant Proposals

I think I got this from a grant writing class I took. I can only claim summarizing the information to fit into this blog post.

A grant proposal starts with identifying and documenting the need for a project. This includes finding statistics to demonstrate a need is compelling. Data strengthens a grant request by explaining the need exactly.

State the project’s objectives (at least three), the expected outcome for each objective, and when these outcomes will be achieved. Also, what is the evaluation process to know the outcome was achieved?

Put this all together and build a description of the project by identifying who will be helped, what activities will improve the lives of these people, and who will do the work to include partnerships. Foundations want to know there are other organizations helping with the project. The more the merrier.

The other most important section is the budget.

Expenses are divided between programs (good to mention) and operating or overhead (bad to mention). Under program expense, list everything except things considered capital expense such as equipment or personnel benefits (considered overhead). Salaries are all right most of the time if they are for the program. Avoid operating expenses (private donations can fund these). More importantly, list exactly what the foundation money will buy.

List other funding sources (match the list of partners). Most important, state how the project will be sustained and funded in the future.

Overall, a grant writer should note the capacity and resources a nonprofit has to successfully do what they said they would do. A foundation wants to feel good about giving out their money. Build confidence, trust, and strength that what a nonprofit does with this money will help people.

Where to Lead Yourself

There are many choices for a writer when they publish. As an example, a writer can decide to write for money, write for attention, or write to produce quality writing.

Of course, all three would be good, yet generally only one takes priority. It depends on what the writer wants out of their writing life. Whichever way a writer chooses when publishing, each provides readers with a variety of reading choices (a good thing).

Many times, writing for money means volume writing (such as many novels in a short span of time). Writing for attention means getting on someone’s best seller list or get an invite to an award’s dinner. While producing quality writing can help with these priorities, it is not necessary.

In my case, writing is not about the money since I have another income (although I could use more income). It would be nice to have some attention, such as an award, but toys take up all my shelf space. This leaves me trying to write better.

This takes time, at least for me. It will be a long time before I have multiple box sets. It’s already been a long time and I have yet to publish my first novel. I hope to change that in the next few months. I also hope I don’t get an award. I like my toys.

Relationships Again (because they are that important)

I wrote two blogs on relationships. This third blog is about building and keeping a relationship between a nonprofit and a foundation.

Relationships are the most important asset a nonprofit has, which is why this is my third blog on the subject. Whenever a foundation provides money, they show confidence in the nonprofit’s success and the nonprofit has a mission matching the foundation’s goals. A basic relationship is created representing an opportunity for the nonprofit.

The nonprofit should take the lead in further developing a connection with the foundation. There are plenty of advice on business relationships. However, I think it is best that the nonprofit keep things simple.

After receipt of the money, the nonprofit should encourage continued contact by:

  • Sending the foundation a quarterly newsletter that includes testimonies, a calendar, and information about the community the nonprofit serves. Do not include politics or gossip.
  • Invite the foundation to events. If the foundation is too far away to attend, provide updates on the event.
  • Try to visit the foundation at least once. Face-to-face meetings and maybe a lunch go a long way to cementing a business relationship. When meeting, never talk politics or gossip.
  • Call as a follow up to previous conversations. Do not make up things to call. When calling, keep things friendly, but not personal. Do not talk politics or gossip.
  • Whenever contacting the foundation, never ask for or discuss money. This is not about getting more, but about building a relationship so the money will continue to come.

It is sincerity that makes strong relationships. A nonprofit (or anyone) should develop a strong connection because it builds trust. With trust, there is confidence, opportunities arise, and things are easier.

Who are the Characters in a Story

Every story has characters. They may not be human, but they should have human traits. Also, there has to be at least two characters in the story. Stories with one character are not stories, but monologues. You can have one person talking in a story, but they should talk about other characters.

Characters do not have to be people. They can be things, animals, vegetables – as long as they act with human traits and can express thoughts and feelings in a way that people can have empathy with. They also need to be put somewhere, in some type of environment, that affects how they feel and helps define them as characters.

After settling on who the characters are and where they exist, there has to be some type of challenge to them. This could be a conflict with other characters, the need to achieve one or more goals, or a combination of these.

From here, a story improves when the writer adds depth by layering and expansion of the characters, where they exist, and their challenge. The best way to do this is through relationships either between the characters, their environment, their quest, or a combination of these.

Another way to provide depth and layering is for the characters to have something in common that drives them apart, have them as opposites that makes them the same, or they transform the other from good to bad or vice versus.

While two characters are the minimum in a story, there can be too many characters. The number depends on the length of the story (less in a short story, more in a novel). I learned from readers over the years that, when a story has too many characters, the reader struggles to figure out who is who (certainly me).

No story is a story without characters.

A Nonprofit’s Volunteers part 2

I previously wrote a blog post about volunteers. This post is a different take on the subject.

A grant writer should learn about the volunteers who help a nonprofit. As an example, many companies provide grants where the employee volunteers. A grant writer only needs the volunteer’s permission to use their employee number.

On applications, a grant writer should note the number of volunteers and hours worked, even if not required. The more volunteers there are, the stronger the justification since it shows community support.

However, data on volunteers should be explained in relation to the size of the nonprofit. The number of volunteers and hours worked are only relative to the number of people helped by the nonprofit. A few volunteers for a small nonprofit are just as good as larger numbers in a bigger nonprofit.

Volunteers are crucial to the success of a nonprofit. Without them, labor costs soar to levels that are difficult to justify. To learn about volunteers, a grant writer should talk to the volunteer coordinator.

If this position is not filled or does not exist, there may be no need to get grants. Without management of the volunteers, the nonprofit’s primary labor source is unstable. Who will reliably help perform the mission? Foundations do not want to fund only labor.

Fortunately, most nonprofits have some management of their volunteers or they would not be around for long. Writing about volunteers in a grant application is an easy way to help justify the need for funding.

I did not form an LLC

In a previous blog post, I stated how I was forming a limited liability company (LLC) to publish my books. For the LLC, I completed the short application and long operating agreement, then decided to see what the wizard Google had to say about all of this (you would think I would have done this first).

I originally got the idea from podcasts and articles by authors who publish multiple books. They made me think it would be a good idea to start off self-publishing under the umbrella of a company. “Treat your writing like a business,” they proclaimed.

From my advisor Google, I found articles from authors and others who questioned the advantages of an LLC. At least for beginning authors. Most people publish under a sole proprietorship, meaning they are personally responsible and liable for everything.

Forming a company does not necessarily isolate an author from liability. However, liability was not the reason I considered an LLC.

It was to help me be serious about self-publishing and treat it like a business. I rethought my decision after one author wrote about the need for beginning authors to minimize expenses.

Forming an LLC in North Carolina cost $125. The annual report (really a tax) is $200 a year. This also got me thinking about complications since every year I would need to file a report (and the tax forms!).

Self-publishing is already complicated enough. Did I really want to add to my already complicated self-publishing attempt with managing an LLC?

I decided not to form one. I’ll still treat my self-publishing like a business. However, first I’ll get my books published and see where that goes. Hopefully, someone will read what I wrote.

Grant Writers Should Write Grants Only

After writing a grant, the writer should never be involved in receipt of the grant money or reporting on how the money was spent. This is the nonprofit’s responsibility.

I haven’t researched this ethical issue, this is my personal view. A grant writer should establish boundaries of what they will do for a nonprofit. Anything up to the point of submission can be the grant writer’s responsibility. Submission must be made by the executive director. After that, I think the grant writer’s responsibilities should be as a consultant, only.

  • For a nonprofit: a dishonest writer receiving grant money has all kinds of opportunities to take some of the money. They know all the details about the submission. Reporting on the grant money and a writer can control who receives the money and create false reports.
  • For a grant writer: other people can accuse the writer of dishonesty when it is someone else who is dishonest.

The grant writer should make sure the nonprofit understands the reporting process and procedures. Then, it is the nonprofit’s responsibility to correctly receive and account for the grant money. The nonprofit should report on how the money was spent.

Grant writers need to stay in their lane of responsibility. They find the opportunities and write the grants. To do anything else presents risks for the grant writer and nonprofit.

Anti-Clean Language

This blog post is about writers using profanity (obscenity, swearing, cussing, etc.). Are these words necessary in a story?

I think some profane words are all right in a novel if the words are part of the character’s personality. When a writer uses profanity everywhere, the novel is about the writer expressing a particular side of their personality. It’s not about the story.

I do not read books with excessive profanity (or graphic violence, I have the evening news for that). I think too much profanity pollutes the story with wordiness. The use of profanity can distract a reader and become a list of profane words without purpose.

Also, I find too much profanity boring. Yeah, the writer knows a lot of swear words, but can they write anything else? A writer who focuses on profane words is not focusing on the story.

If a writer uses profanity, how far should they go in the selection of words? I resent writers who use words that are anti-religious, racist, provoke ridicule, or are derogatory. Even if they keep within the character, I think this is unnecessary. If a writer wants the reader to know this about the character, they should do that in the story through active voice.

Profanity should not be the focus of the story. It should be the characters, plot, story line, and other elements in the story that make a good telling. Of course, there are readers who enjoy excessive profanity and do not care about the choice of words. That is not for me.

I’m interested in the story, plot, and characters. I enjoy word usage, style, and technique. Qualities I have never found in a novel with a list of profane words.

Steps in the grant writing process

These step-by-step procedures provide the basic processes to follow when writing grants.

A grant writer should only follow these steps after they have fully understood the nonprofit’s organization, their mission, and specific needs. A nonprofit should only follow this list if they are organized, have a mission, and know what their specific needs are.

In these procedures, there’s not much writing, a lot of preparing to write, and some work afterward if the grant is accepted. The first half of the list is the grant writer, the second half is the nonprofit.

The List

1. Conduct research and find a foundation that meets the nonprofit’s mission and needs
2. Once a foundation is found, learn more about it through further research
3. After further research, contact the foundation for more information
4. Read, more than once, the details of the grant application and research found. Make notes of keywords repeated.
5. Gather nonprofit data for the application
6. Write the application
7. Have at least one person read the application as an editor
8. Check everything over
9. Submit
10. Do not contact the foundation. Wait to hear from them.
11. If the foundation rejects the application, call and find out why for next time
12. If the foundation accepts, thank them immediately
13. Get reporting details and restrictions (if any) on spending the money
14. Receive the money
15. Spend the money
16. Report on the money to the foundation

A grant writer is responsible for steps 1 to 8 or just before submission of the grant application. The rest of the list, from submission to final reporting, is the responsibility of the nonprofit.

A grant writer should never be involved in the receipt of the money or reporting how it was spent. I will go into why on the next post about grant writing (in two weeks).

Learning is Forever

Writing is putting letters into words, extending the words into sentences, and ending it all in a series of paragraphs. Hopefully, so it all makes sense. Like I try to do with this blog each week. Writing is certainly not an easy thing to do.

A lot of things are not easy for me to do, but with writing I take the time to learn how to do it better. The more I learn, the easier it seems to get (or it appears to me that way). I think it is the same with any skill.

To learn how to write better, a person needs to make the decision they want to write better. This goes back to a previous blog post about motivation. A person, on their own, should want their writing to be understood by as many readers as possible.

This means a writer should continually learn the craft of writing. Just like construction workers adapting to new regulations and tools, a writer must keep up with the latest trends and technology. This is what makes writers successful. This is what stops writers from being understood.

As an example, some still put two spaces after a period, do not accept the Oxford comma, and use gender speech incorrectly. They do not accept that long paragraphs are out, white space on a page is in, and everything must be mobile ready. While they may have learned writing rules using a computer, that may have been twenty years ago.

Keeping up with the latest writing trends and technology makes writing even harder. Yet, like any craft, if a person has motivated themselves to be better, it would be easy to keep up.