Author Archive: Stanley

Heroes Need Friends

Recently I listened to a podcast* where the guest speaker talked about characters. One thing the guest speaker said was that a hero** should not be a hero alone. Every hero needs others to help them do heroic stuff.

I’ve read stories or watched shows where the hero took on the villain alone with maybe a few bystanders thrown in for atmosphere. To me the story or show had action, but no character and certainly no dialogue except for the occasional one-liners or grunt. The hero had no personality.

I didn’t realize until the podcast about the importance of the hero to have others around to help. These people give the hero personality and depth of character. They make the hero stronger when he/she must rely on others to achieve their goal. The hero is even stronger when they ask for help.

The same can be true for the villain. The hero has more of a challenge when the villain has help.

These helpers are not subservient to the hero or villain (well, maybe the villain). Instead, they fill in for the flaws the hero or villain may have, giving the writer opportunities for a more developed hero or villain through added conflict.

A team who supports the hero in achieving the goal provides the writer with lots of material to make the story more meaningful. The team is what makes a “hero’s journey” type of story a better story. Aren’t we all better as a team?

 

* Sorry, I listen to several podcasts almost each day on my walk and I could not find which one this played on or who was the speaker. I should take better notes.

** I use “hero” in the generic sense that includes hero (male) and heroine (female) and herowhere (extraterrestrial).

Professional versus Volunteer Grant Writer

There are two types of grant writers—someone paid by the nonprofit and one who is not (a volunteer).

I’m a volunteer grant writer which means I provide my services without compensation. But I know professional grant writers who each formed a company and are paid for their services.

Professional grant writers are paid either hourly or by a set fee. Whether the nonprofit gets the grant or not, the grant writer gets paid. The other way is for the grant writer to get about ten percent of the awarded amount. If the grant is not awarded, the grant writer does not get paid.

There is a long list of pros and cons for these two methods of pay. The grant writers I know are paid an hourly rate. I was involved in one situation where the grant writer was paid a percentage of the award.

Personally, I would rather pay the grant writer up front for their services. I feel the nonprofit has the best control of the grant writers’ work such as selecting the foundation. In the other situation, the nonprofit had almost no input into the application and the grant writer only submitted grants to places they were fairly certain of success (and getting paid).

Yes, it seems easier with a greater chance for success to pay a grant writer a percentage of the award amount. But reality can be much different after the grant is awarded. Having control might be easier and not all grants are good for the nonprofit.

Of course, whether a nonprofit pays for a grant writer or not depends on whether they have the money to do so. Many times, the nonprofit’s staff and management write the grants. In another blog post, I’ll explain why bringing on a grant writer, paid or volunteer, is as necessary as paying a volunteer coordinator (and doable).

Making Changes

I worked on a novel for several years until putting it away to work on other writing projects and grants. When I put it away, I had in my mind that it was a great novel. Over time, it became even greater.

Two weeks ago, I decided to work on it for publication later this year. I thought the writing was good, but the plot was not good. After two weeks, I had hacked away at my great novel, taking out large sections. I eliminated characters and added to what plot was left.

These were major changes to a novel I thought did not need any changes to. This is one of the most important things I learned over the years about my writing: never be devoted to what was written.

Most people dislike changes, including writers. I think writers get better by how they overcome this dislike. It was not an easy decision redoing my great novel, but I thought readers would not like it (I didn’t really like it). My novel will be better (I hope) with my changes.

Every writer will produce something they think is great, whether it’s a story or a grant proposal (or even a blog post). I am suspicious whenever I think that what I wrote is great. The more I think this, the less likely it is. The only problem is accepting that the work needs changes.

This is where editing is important. I meandered from the central plot with unneeded side stories and undeveloped characters. Soon I will need to know when to stop editing. Too much is like the writer is trying for greatness.

I’m not looking for greatness. I’m looking to write the best story I can that I hope is at least pretty good.

Finding Local Grants

A nonprofit has a better chance of a grant if the foundation has a presence in the area where the nonprofit is located and operates.

When I’m out in local shopping areas, I note the names of chain stores.* At home, I put “foundation” at the end of the name and most times there’s a website for a grant application.

I could find business names with an online search. But seeing the physical appearance of the building tells me a lot about the business and whether they will fund grants. If the building is run-down looking, the company has probably changed its focus away from that store or the store manager has a negative opinion. The chance of a grant is low.

Besides, I would not want the nonprofit to receive a grant from a business that looks run-down. I look for stores that have customers, a clean appearance, and are stocked with merchandise. I look for a positive appearance.

After I select a business and review their website to make sure the nonprofit qualifies for a grant, I contact the store manager.

While grant applications go to corporate headquarters for approval, the local manager usually has influence in the approval process. By getting the manager’s support, the nonprofit has a better chance for success.

A local grant is a mutual relationship between a business and a nonprofit. Not only does the business give back to the community where their customers come, but they can advertise that they helped the nonprofit.

I like working with local business managers who want to help the community. Even if their company does not approve the grant, there are lots of ways a business can help a nonprofit.

* Sorry, but local small businesses usually do not have foundations.