How Much to Ask For

When filling out a grant application, how much money should be requested from a foundation? A grant writer should put as much thought in the numbers as the words.

Asking too much money and it may seem an impossible project for the foundation to fund. Too little and the nonprofit may have missed out from receiving more (a foundation cannot fund more than the request).

This is my method.

I research the foundation’s past awards. This can be found on their website or near the bottom of their IRS 990 form. I focus on awards in areas similar to the one I’m submitting. From this information, I get a range of award amounts.

Next, I look at how the economy is doing. If the markets are up, then donations and investments will likely be up and I tend to ask for the upper range of awards. If the economy is down, I’ll ask for the middle range. I want to be realistic with the foundation when asking for money.

Once I have a dollar amount, I look at the project’s expenses. I do not expect a foundation to fund more than a third of a project. Many foundations will not be the primary funder for a project anyway and asking them to do that means they won’t.

So, I make adjustments to the request and maybe the expenses.

It is rare that a nonprofit gets the whole amount they requested. So, I may ask a foundation to fund forty percent of the project expecting a third to be funded.

The most important advice with this blog entry is that, before the words, figure out how much to ask for. Once you have that goal in mind, the rest can be a little easier.

My Limited Liability Company

In February 2019, I posted my reasons for not forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC). At the time I thought it would have added more complications to an already complicated self-publishing route I was taking. Now that I’ve self-published my first book with plans to publish others, I decided an LLC might help with marketing and promotions.

Many people say don’t form an LLC. They cite taxes to be paid and an LLC does not protect against a lawsuit. Also, an LLC is something to keep track of along with other self-publishing duties.

I discovered that setting up an LLC was not complicated and there are few additional duties other than what I would do anyway as a sole proprietor (which most self-publishers are). There is an LLC tax to be paid each year (it’s a reporting fee, but still a tax), which I am treating as a marketing expense.

As an LLC, I found my book listed in more places worldwide than under my name. Distributors and bookstores seem to pay more attention to a business rather than a person running a business. The LLC provides some legitimacy to my self-publishing.

To some people, an LLC or corporate entity means the author is serious about their publications. This may or may not be true, but if an author goes to the trouble to form a company they are more likely to put more effort into their books. Also, under U.S. law my LLC name is more protected than a name under a sole proprietorship.

I’m glad I formed an LLC. I don’t know if it will help me sell any books, but it makes me take my self-publishing efforts more seriously.

P.S. My LLC is “Every Word Rise, Ltd. Liability Co.”

P.P.S. The logo is a work-in-progress. Anyone have ideas for a logo?

Getting Along with Small Businesses

Nonprofits should develop good relationships with everybody. This includes local small businesses.

Nonprofits should not want money from small businesses or even volunteers. These wants put stress on these businesses who are already stressed out enough for being small. Instead, be helpful by providing resources the businesses can use such as trained workers (giving people a chance to recover).

Mostly, invite feedback from small businesses. While the ego is happier with positive responses, be more open to negative feedback.

Nothing builds relationships more than solving problems caused by the nonprofit, who may be unaware of the problem. As an example, a soup kitchen offered take-out with the leftovers. After leaving the soup kitchen, wherever people finished eating they dumped the styrofoam containers and littered the area.

The executive director reached out to local businesses and discovered other people had to pick up the containers. The soup kitchen instead packaged the leftovers for facilities with more responsible people. The politicians, who heard the complaints, were more favorable to the soup kitchen and nonprofit after this solution.

Politicians pay more attention to businesses than nonprofits. Prospective donors respond to nonprofits who help small businesses. Small businesses are “It.”

When talking to local small businesses, do not go to a Chamber of Commerce. Go directly to the business. This takes more time, but the benefit is gargantuan. Good relationships help nonprofits in many ways and a good relationship with small businesses has the potential for great benefits.

Even though these benefits may not be noticed right away, the positive outlook from businesses will be noticed by the local government and community. In the long term, nonprofits will benefit.

My First Book Signing

A few Saturdays ago, I had my first book signing at a local bookstore. A podcast I previously heard had advised that authors at a signing event should not stand next to their books. People will more likely browse the book without the author there. This did not help.

Whether I stood by my book or not didn’t seem to matter. Yet, I still had a good time. I was outside with great weather on a Halloween afternoon and next door to the liquor store. My creativity was on overload with all the people I could write about who passed by. And I sold two books (yeah!).*

Despite few sales, I felt encouraged by the book signing. It is easy to feel negative about such an experience, but this book process (writing, publishing, marketing) is long. Just like it took me a long time to write something that people would want to read; it will take time (I hope not as long) for me to sell what I wrote.

My encouragement came from just being there with my book. I think all authors should have book signings. Even if there are no local bookstores, local shops would enjoy having an author out front. Just don’t expect to sell many books.

Instead, enjoy the experience and meet people. Book signings may not generate many sales, but maybe that podcast advice could work for someone else.

For me, the next time I have a book signing I’ll use a special pen to sign books. It won’t help sell anything, but it will make me feel as if I may have a chance.

* Note: I won’t mention they were sympathy sales to people I knew.