Let’s Have a Grant Writing Party

When I’m writing a grant, I prefer to have as many people in the nonprofit helping as I can. Diversity is a good thing all the time.

Yet, too many times the nonprofit staff and managers provide little input. While I encourage them to be involved in putting the application together, I just receive smiles. As if they are thinking, “thank goodness someone else is doing this grant thing.”

It’s too easy for a grant writer to ask for input, get nothing, and finish the grant themselves. I find myself sometimes doing this and I tell myself, “Self, don’t do that.”* Except, by this time the grant deadline is approaching and I have to do the grant myself, anyway.

Grant writing should not be a solo operation. Yet, getting people involved can be difficult. To make it easier on myself, I give out sections of the grant application to people with the most knowledge of that area. As an example, finances goes to the business manager, volunteer data to the coordinator, and I ask for data from the program director.

I treat my role as the coordinator where I put everything together for consistency. Of course it doesn’t work this easily, but I try. And I keep trying.**

The best grant writing process I’ve read about was when the grant writer got all the input they needed and put everything together. In the end, everyone involved met in a sit-down and talked about the application. This nonprofit had the most success with grants.

As a grant writer, what is your process for getting grants written?

* Yeah, I know. Bad joke.
** Hope dies last. (Studs Terkel)

Self-Published Print Book and Booksellers

Things are simple for self-published ebooks. The author sets the price and the publishing company takes their share. For print, the author must choose what discount to give booksellers (30-55%) and whether to allow returns or not. If allowing returns, the bookseller can send books back for a refund. The author pays the refund.

What the author chooses determines how motivated a bookseller will sell their book.

Allowing the 55% and returns will motivate booksellers to sell the print copy in their store. However, this means the author gets less for each book and there is a risk of paying for returns. However, having a book in a store may generate more sales offsetting the cost and risk.

So, what is an author to do?

I do not allow returns. I have read horror stories of booksellers ordering too many books and the author getting stuck with a large expense. As an alternative, the author can buy their books and provide them to local stores, promising to accept returns. This way the author can limit how many books are in a store and can resupply if needed. More importantly, an author has the opportunity to sell their books in other-than-bookstores. And, readers can still buy a print book through online sites.

While I would like to offer booksellers the 55% discount, that means I must sell my book at a higher price. This could reduce sales. So, I decided on a low book price and the profit I’d like to make (it’s minimal). After these decisions, I adjusted the discount to meet my numbers.

Even with the 55% and allowing returns, as an unknown author I have little chance of a bookseller picking my book. So, I’ll stay local and online to sell my book.

How To Manage Grant Time

Time is an important factor for a grant writer.

First is the figuring when to look for grants. I start with when a nonprofit is normally low on cash. I look over the nonprofit’s bank account over the last three years that shows cash flow and I take out unusual events like a natural disaster. Next, I average out the income and expenses on a monthly basis.

There will be times throughout the year when more cash is coming in and expenses are low and vice versa. For example, soup kitchens feed fewer people in November and December when churches provide food. This is also when donations run higher. During the summer, donations are typically down while there are more people to feed with school being out.

Once I establish a cash flow schedule, I mark out six months before cash is needed and look for grant opportunities. Six months is usually how long a foundation takes from a grant deadline to handing out the check.

Second, I create a schedule when grants open and close. I keep it simple by putting the schedule in an MS Excel spreadsheet (I do this for the cash flow, too). Even MS Word is good. Everyone is familiar with Excel and Word and these documents can be sent to anyone because everyone has the software. (Of note, do not use complicated formulas in the spreadsheet.)

This grant schedule tells me when to collect documents, update data, and write the grant. (I always try to finish a week before the grant deadline.)

A cash flow and grant schedule helps me be organized with grants. More importantly, having an easy to read, easy to upkeep, and easily transferable schedule lets everyone be involved in finding and writing grants.

After all, grant writing should be about sharing and managing time together.

Two and a Half Ways to Plan a Story

Pantsers* write a story with only a general thought of how their story should go. On the opposite side are plotters who outline their story, sometimes in detail. I think most writers are half way between these two and use both techniques to craft their story based on how they write.

When starting off, most writers have been thinking about what they will write for some time. They have at least thought up the primary characters and a plot. It’s at this stage, before writing, they are a pantser and a plotter at the same time.

For a pantser to begin writing their story, they need to structure it at least in their mind. For a plotter to outline their story, they need to discover it by writing out the scenes. Therefore, writers are both a pantser and a plotter. It’s how they apply these techniques that makes the difference.

A pantser will have something in their head to follow. A plotter will have something written to follow. They both follow a plan to tell their story.

I’m a half way writer. I have it in my head how I want the story to go and I write a few pages. Then, I write the ending. That way I know where I’m going, even if I end up somewhere else. When finished, I summarize each chapter in a kind of outline. This is so I can remember who did what before I start my edits.

Really, in the end it only matters that the story gets written.

* Some pantzers prefer to be called discoverers.

P.S. My book High School Rocket Science (For Extraterrestrial Use Only) is now self-published as an ebook and in print. Yeah!