Author Archive: Stanley

Do Readers Read Table of Contents?

A table of contents (ToC) is a tool for a reader to use as navigation within a book. They can read the story the writer wants to tell. It is also an organizational tool for the writer to help them categorize their material and keep it all straight.

A ToC is best used in nonfiction books where it allows the reader to understand, at a glance, the structure of the book and the topics available in each chapter. A ToC can improve the reading experience by acting as a preview of the book.

Every poem has a title (even a missing title is a title). In a poetry book, listing these titles in the ToC can help the poet portray their poems in a way that is the best appealing and attractive to the reader. It creates a theme which can become a poem.

ToCs in fiction can go one of two ways. In a collection of short stories, they are like a poetry book. The listed titles create a theme that joins the stories into a cohesive whole. By looking at the ToC, the reader can understand how the stories relate to each other. If there is no relation, there should be.

For all other fiction, a ToC is usually not needed. In the past, novels had titles and brief summaries of each chapter that are no longer used. In many ways, this style took away from the story and interrupted the pacing.

The exception to this is in some genres where chapter titles, listed in the ToC, add mystery, suspense, and help with pacing. However, this is a technique that can be difficult to pull off.

In my book, I had chapter titles I deleted in the final version. I realized they were more of a distraction and I left only chapter numbers that could be easily ignored. I couldn’t pull off the technique.

How do you feel about Tables of Content?

One Degree of Separation—The Grant Writer

Writing grants is not about the grant writer. Yes, they do the writing, which is important. But a grant writer also connects the people in the foundation with the nonprofit and vice versa. With the application, many times this is the first contact between the two organizations. It should be like a handshake and not a slap in the face.

A good introduction of the nonprofit to the foundation increases the opportunity for approval. For a nonprofit, being introduced to a new foundation reduces issues if the request is approved.

When I answer the questions on the application, I keep in mind that this may be the first time the foundation has heard about the nonprofit. So, I provide enough information throughout the application, but not too much, to welcome the foundation into the nonprofit.

On the other side, when I propose that a nonprofit submit a first-time grant request, I highlight the foundation’s information that is specific to the nonprofit’s mission. I want the nonprofit managers to focus on what is relevant about the people who may give them funding. Second, I provide background information like the foundation’s history. This is the foundation’s introduction to the nonprofit.

Introducing the nonprofit and foundation to each other is important since it is hard to come back from a bad or so-so introduction. To write a good introduction, the grant writer should: stay friendly and not demanding; provide confidence and not arrogance; give encouragement and not being derogatory.

The connection the grant writer makes between the foundation and nonprofit could positively impact the people both organizations are helping. Most importantly, a good introduction by the grant writer may help create a long-lasting relationship beneficial to everyone.

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.