To Tell a Story or To Learn

Some people think the purpose of creative writing is to tell a story, while a grant writer is to explain what the project is about. One is to entertain while the other is to teach. This is true, but the opposite is also important.

I think creative writing and writing grants are linked by the need of a writer to entertain and to educate a reader. When the two are done together, the reader better understands the message the writer is telling. The writer and reader become connected by the same thoughts and ideas.

This does not mean the reader agrees with what the writer wrote. That’s a different subject. Many writers use words to express themselves, wanting acceptance by a reader. But the writer should be content with the reader understanding what was written, whether or not the reader agrees.

When I write a story or a grant proposal, I want the reader to enjoy what they are reading. I also want them to come away with learning something, whether in a story or a grant request. I’d like for the reader to end the reading with a connection to what I wrote. Even if they do not agree.

I think that the best way to write is through entertainment and teaching at the same time, whether as a story or a grant request. Success comes from how a writer combines a story and learning as a pair.

It is not easy to create a story and teach a subject at the same time. In the world of publications, most writing caters to one or the other and ignores the combination of both. Yet, the classics of writing and approved grants are accomplished when story and education unite.

Yes or No to Matching Grants

Some foundations and government organizations require grant recipients to match the grant funding one-to-one. As an example, if a nonprofit is approved for $10,000, they must have another $10,000 before getting the grant money.

The good news about matching grants is less competition. Many nonprofits will not try for the matching funds. The bad news is that the nonprofit must raise the matching funds.

Most of the time, matching funds cannot be in-kind expenses or money from other grants. The nonprofit must raise the money through donations or events, which is not that hard.

Getting a matching grant is a great motivator to raising money and can be central to a fundraising campaign. People are more likely to give a donation if they know their donation is matched. Like a half-price sale.

But don’t get more than one or two matching grants at a time. Any more than this and too many resources could be used to match the grants. Such as multiple ads and events, which could confuse donors.

When submitting for a matching grant, the nonprofit should have reasonable confidence they can match the grant. A nonprofit is not likely to get another grant if they miss the matching deadline. Also, do not plan on negotiating. Foundations and government organizations are usually bound legally to the guidelines.

Given all this, I would recommend every nonprofit get at least one matching grant. The nonprofit usually has two to three years after grant approval to raise the money and the risk is worth it.

Before I submit for a matching grant, I make sure the nonprofit has at least a general plan on how they will raise the money. That way when the grant is approved, there are no worries, but smiles.

The Long and Short of Things

This blog will help creative writers and grant writers. It is about the length of a chapter, whether in a story or a grant.

Editors talk about varying the size of sentences and paragraphs to maintain tempo or pacing. Shorter sentences and paragraphs increase the pace while longer ones slow things down. The opposite is true for chapters.

For creative writers, long chapters allow a reader to settle into the story through dialogue, action scenes, and/or narrative explanations. Short chapters focus on a single event and give the reader time to absorb the experience of the long chapter. As an example, a writer can use a long chapter for the climax where a lot of things happen to wrap up the story (quick pace). This is followed by a short chapter to wrap up the climax (slow things down).

For grant writers, the section describing the project generally allows the most number of words. This section is best divided into segments with headers, similar to chapters. Long segments provide important information for the reader to digest. Short segments allow the reader to take a break and hopefully understand the information in the longer segment better.

Varying the size or length of chapters and segments helps the reader capture the writer’s thoughts and provides a more readable experience.

So, how to do this? Of course, there is no formula or template. One way I would suggest is to think of a long chapter or segment as studying for a test. At some point, the student takes a break and sips on coffee or does some simple distraction to momentarily stop studying. This is the short of it.

Motivation Between Staff and Volunteers

Who is more motivated toward the nonprofit’s mission—paid staff or volunteers? I see them both as having different yet equal motivations.

Salaries are one of the highest expenses in nonprofits and they do not survive without volunteers. While vital to keeping labor costs down, nonprofits should not be all volunteers. There needs to be paid staff for stability and who bring a different motivation to nonprofits.

There is no right answer to what this mix of staff and volunteers should be (cost is a factor, of course). I think the best way to manage the two groups is to have a clear separation of job duties. This is true for any business, and it helps everyone to know their role and the roles of others. Just keep the job duties simple.

The most important part of managing staff and volunteers is paying attention to the dynamics of what motivates each group. To staff, it is a paying job (although little pay). To a volunteer and sometimes staff, it is a desire to help and be involved.

I have seen executive directors have weekly staff meetings, but never meet any of the volunteers. I’ve listened to volunteers say how they never met the executive director or the people working in the nonprofit.

It is up to the executive director and volunteer coordinator to make sure staff and volunteers know about each other. And not only through a newsletter. It could be just a meet-and-greet that takes a few minutes. The more people who feel a part of an organization, the more they are motivated to do their best.

Staff and volunteers may bring different talents and motivations, but they are equally important to the success of any nonprofit.