Teamwork on a Grant

The majority of my grant writing I do alone. Certainly not my choice. I gather information and data from the nonprofit, ask for help, get a “no,” and write the grant myself. However, I recently joined a nonprofit team to write a grant.

It was great. A leader was assigned (not me), people were energetic about providing information (almost unheard of), and my workload as a volunteer was significantly reduced (yeah!).

I didn’t mind putting the grant package together or doing some of the narrative writing because the team members helped. This is what volunteer grant writing should be about—the paid staff helping the person not getting paid.

Of course, not all teamwork is great. Teams can be as dysfunctional as some families. I think the key is motivation. Everyone should feel they are contributing to the final product.

While working on a grant, most of the time I look to the nonprofit staff to help. I don’t ask them to be team members because they may run away. I ask them for information and data. I try to get them to read over what I wrote. I make them secret team members. It’s a secret to them that they are on a team.

I think teams have a greater chance of success to get a grant than one person doing everything. More mistakes are made by one person. Also, only one viewpoint gets presented. Yet, nonprofits usually have one person doing all the grant writing. This can be the executive director, paid staff like the volunteer coordinator, or a volunteer.

Everyone has talent and fault. One person is good or bad in one area and another the opposite. I prefer the team concept because I am certainly do not always have the right solution.

Boundaries

When writing essays or other writings, I try to focus on boundaries. I try to stay inside the theme or main point I’m writing about. Who has ever accomplished this in their first draft?

I rarely have. As an example, I wandered around in writing this blog. At some point I realized I had reached 300 words, but not the ending. I went back and extracted the alternative paths I took, without knowing I took them. I saved these additional paths in another file for a future blog.

The point is to stick to the point. I try to focus on what should be written and take out what should be left for another writing. I think that in an essay or any type of writing there should always be one primary purpose, a goal to reach, a place to land on. The reader wants this (I want this as a reader). It’s not that easy, I know.

It takes practice writing concise essays, short stories, or other limited writings. Yet, doing so helps the writer learn how to focus on what to say. A billion years ago when I started to write as a writer, I attempted a novel (that I still have). I realized I was being wordy like I’ve seen in too many other novels since. I decided to write short stories so I could be more efficient.

By writing short stories I learned to conserve words, maintain focus, and tell the story without adding things that didn’t belong.

It doesn’t matter what a writer writes as long as they know where to go and get there in the most direct path as possible. There will be other times to write about those other paths attempted.

What’s Important in a Grant Application

Most foundations have a priority of what is most important to them in a grant application. The easy way to find out their priorities is to call the foundation and ask the staff members. Yet, this doesn’t always work. Either there is no way to contact them or they don’t explain their priorities clearly. There are other ways to find clues to the priorities.

For online applications, most of the fields limit the number of characters. The more characters allowed, the more details the foundation wants to see. A grant writer should spend more time on places where a greater amount of information is required. Yes, there’s more to write about, but what is written should be data, information, and details of the project.

Another clue can be found in the application guidelines. Many foundations repeat words that they believe are important. Those words should be the theme of the grant request (mention them several times).

Whether I talk to someone at the foundation or not, I still research the foundation looking for blogs, articles, or comments by recipients of previous awards. There can be a wealth of knowledge written about the foundations and board members (decision makers). I do not pay much attention to previous awards.

For many foundations, like most organizations, things change from year to year. Sometimes the foundation makes different types of awards each year. In any case, the past does not generally foretell the future in grant awards.

The most important thing about writing a grant is for the writer to get to know the foundation as much as possible. It is a lot easier when the writer does.

Does every story need a villain?

The writing community goes back and forth about whether a story needs a villain or not. Some people want a villain to make the hero become a hero. They believe a villain promotes action, conflict, romance, and other plot trends.

In some genres, this is true. The story must have a villain to succeed. However, in many stories a villain is not necessary and I do not think a writer should worry about creating one all the time.

A story needs at least one protagonist attempting to accomplish at least one goal. The writer creates conflict through the use of obstacles making the accomplishment toward the goal a challenge. The obstacles do not have to be a bad person.

Obstacles can be things as weather, environment, or other natural occurrences. They can be organizations like companies or governments. Or, they can be the culture and society who rule over the protagonist.

A villain is an easy way to form obstacles, host conflict, and create action. It is a simple way for a writer to expand the story and keep the interests of a reader. I do not write stories with villains.

While the back and forth between a hero and villain can make a good plot, I try to read something with broader scope and maybe not as predictable as the antics of two people fighting.

I write stories without villains to complicate my protagonist’s approach to achieving their goals. I want the person to confront obstacles bigger than another person. Even if those obstacles are the protagonist own doing and they are the villain.