Author Archive: Stanley

Why Write

Sometimes I think I take a break from writing and zone out by giving in to some electronic device or the TV. I do nothing extraordinary for writing. This lasts just a short time and I am energized to write again. Or, maybe I was just lazy.

What is the desire to write? This has plagued writers for millennium and they have written about it trying to understand their motivation. Some believe it is their ego calling out to be heard. I think that when I am writing I’m trying to tell myself something. Apparently, I am not listening to myself since I continue to write.

Some people become intimidated by their writing. They cannot believe they wrote that well and maybe they will not again. The fear of never producing something readable can be intimidating. Yet, the bigger fear is that no one will read what is written.

Fears aside, when I write I look for something different. A need to explore an alternative place in time and space that breaths without movement. A world in a universe with alien purpose. This is why I try not to write in the simple genres.

I like exploring the universe(s) without boundaries. As long as what I write is readable to someone.

So, when I take a break from writing, I am not really taking a break. I am only taking a breath in my mind and realizing that what I wrote needs editing so it would be readable.

How I learned to write grants

When I worked for the U.S. Defense Department, each fall I helped build the defense budget for the next fiscal year. Me and thousands of others. The process we used was identical to writing and submitting grants.

It began with military organizations (like a nonprofit) identifying their unfunded needs. I summarized the unfundeds in issue papers, which had almost the same format as a grant request. I submitted the issue papers to the comptroller organization who considered funding the request (like a foundation would).

After many years, I learned to marry the unfunded needs with current politics and projected Defense Department requirements. In the issue papers, I put in key words the comptroller organization and politicians were looking for and addressed the new priorities of the administration. I altered the unfunded needs only enough to be acceptable to the comptroller organization. Yet, not enough to change the submitting organization’s ability to complete the mission. I use this process today.

The most important thing I learned in the Defense Department, which I apply to writing grants, is that the process is not about numbers and words. It is all about people and relationships. Whenever there is money involved, there are a lot of competition. The perfect issue paper or grant request may not be enough.

A nonprofit should communicate with a foundation with more than some pieces of paper. Like it was for me in the Defense Department, many times personal contact can determine success or not.

Let me know how you, as a grant writer, started your career or livelihood writing grants.

Writing Needs Editing and Vice Versa

Over the years of writing and editing, then more editing and more writing, I learned to get rid of words that I wrote and just did not fit. I send them into oblivion with a push of the delete key. Or, into a parallel universe where my better alter-self turns them into the best seller I missed making them into in this universe.

I see editing as a learning process many writers go through to know when words should be replaced with something that may or may not be as good as the original. Yes, second guessing defines writing and editing.

I hear the mantra, “Don’t be married to your words.” But, can the original, that your ego said was once great, be worse than what your pride is telling you to get rid of? That is the dilemma.

I try to create something that is the best I could create at that moment in time. Since I am always learning; what I wrote in the past reads a lot better after I edit with what I know in the present. This is what I keep telling myself and, most of the time, it is true. Editing is my mantra.

So, I have gotten better at getting rid of words that I liked but did not fit in with the story. It has been a process.

Long ago I used to work my story around words that I liked rather than deleting the words and continuing with the story. I eventually lost the argument with myself and decided to take the words out. Yet, I could not delete them, so I saved them in another document.

Looking back at what I saved brought me to my next phase of editing. Now, I just delete the words and move on.

Too Much Money

Some nonprofits rely on donations and the occasional fund-raising event to cover their expenses. They maintain the same level of funding each year that is enough to meet their needs. Then, either the need changes or a board or a staff member decides they want additional funding.

I am cautious about submitting a grant for a nonprofit who never submitted one before (or it has been a long time) and their funding has been steady for years. Additional money is not always a good thing. Once they receive the money, the nonprofit must spend it and the process to do so (tracking, reporting, etc.) can be overwhelming.

Increasing a nonprofit’s funding above their normal operating budget should be carefully planned. When submitting a grant request, I usually do not let the funding increase the nonprofit’s budget by more than a third. Past this amount, the expenditure of funding becomes increasingly difficult to manage for a nonprofit. Sometimes more people need to be hired. (A substantial increase is also more difficult to justify in a grant request.)

Besides managing the money, excess funding can lead to personnel conflict among board members, staff, and volunteers. However, a nonprofit can benefit from submitting a grant. The submission process forces them to get organized.

Any major funding changes to an organization, nonprofit or a business, can lead to disaster if not planned carefully. A grant writer should consider the impact additional funding will have on the nonprofit and advise the nonprofit if you have concerns. Sometimes it is better to not increase funding and look at other resources, such as in-kind donations, to satisfy additional needs.