grant writing

How to Write a Good Title

The title of anything is what people read first. For most writers, a title is also one of the hardest things to write.

When I’m trying to come up with a title for what I wrote, I spend maybe weeks or months hoping inspiration will strike. Surprisingly, it sometimes works. But, not often enough.

So, I use other techniques like writing down the five most important things about what was written. These could be names, objects, animals, or anything mentioned throughout the writing. After I have the five things, I get rid of two of them.

Next, I add in the two things that almost made the first list of five. Of course, this is just mixing words together different ways in the hope something appears to make sense. However, it also makes me think more about what is important in the story that should be in the title. Sometimes this works and a title pops out that I like. A lot of times, not.

Another technique I use is more logical. If the story is about two people, I put their names in the title with a description of the environment they exist in such as riding a train. These titles are sometimes okay.

While there are lots of opinions about this, I think short titles are not that good. The best titles are at least five to seven words. These are harder to write, yet tell more about what was written. A one or two word title does not say much.

Out of all of this, the single most important thing to writing a good title is taking the time to think about it. A title should be as important as what is written.

Online Grant Applications

I find online applications can be intimidating. Not because they are online, but because the foundation uses another business to manage the submissions. While the foundation provides the criteria, the generic online software is the same whether it supports an animal shelter or a soup kitchen.

Also, there are usually more questions to answer in an online application. And, some of these questions can be confusing. Such as “Performance Measurements Logic Model.” I wonder how many of these answers are read.

Mostly, online grant applications are intimidating because of the way the categories and questions are displayed. When applying for a grant online, I find it easier to ignore the categories and go methodically through the application by concentrating on what is needed in the grant request.

As I do this, I copy the questions and lists of data required into a Word document or other word processing software. This gives me the flexibility to answer everything offline and send draft answers to other people for critiquing.

I answer each question one at a time. I do not pay attention to how many more questions are left, I just move on from one to the next. Like taking one step at a time. In the end, providing the list of data is just uploading documents such as annual budgets, audits, and the board of directors.

The various headings and categories in an online application can be unfamiliar and a challenge to a grant writer. Yet, all grant requests have the same important categories: budget (project and organization), a description of the nonprofit, and what is needed.

Should a writer read only in the genre they write in?

I’ve read about and talked to many writers who read mostly in the genre they write in. Actually, most people read primarily in one genre where they find the reading comfortable and enjoyable. They know what to expect.

People should read what they want (although I would challenge them to read different types of stories). I try to read in different genres. I enjoy the diversity of style and form found in stories written for audiences with opposite tastes than mine. Such as romance, horror, and other genres I normally do not seek out and read (nothing racist, dehumanizing, overly violent, etc.). I may not write in these other genres, but I think it helps with my writing.

I feel more capable at providing contrasting viewpoints to my plots and characters. To me, I add depth and strength to what I write after reading a novel outside the genre I’m writing in. As an example, if I’m writing a science fiction story, I read a romance book. How many people know that romance books have happy endings?

This can also be a good technique for grant writers. Sometimes, it’s good to stop writing the proposal and read a horror book. After all, I feel I’m in a horror show when trying to complete a long, detailed grant request.

A creative writer or grant writer should experience reading outside their comfort zone to add variety to what they are trying to write. Sometimes this change can mean publication or funding for a nonprofit.

Grant Reporting (part 2)

This deserves another blog post to emphasize the need for grant reporting. I’ve discovered many nonprofits overlook or ignore this important part of the grant writing process.

Nonprofits fail to report on grant money they receive mostly because of disorganization. An easy solution is to use either an Excel spreadsheet or Word document as record keeping tools. Other software programs will cost money and must be learned. It’s best to keep things simple. Even simpler is to get a journal or ledger book and write down the grant information.

Most foundations provide a letter of acceptance and send the check about a month or so later. Guidelines, instructions, and the deadline for reporting on grant money usually comes with the check. This is when nonprofits fail.

They do not have a process, procedure, or place to record the reporting requirements and when they are due. Happy with the money, the rest is forgotten.

Reports are usually due six months to a year later. Yet, a nonprofit might realize a report is due when they apply for another grant and must report on the previous funding first.

I’m asked, “What’s the harm? The report gets done.” The problem is the report, at this time, is usually late. Foundations do not like a late report or no report.

There are some foundations who do not provide guidelines or even a deadline for a report. However, a report is still due.

Of course, some foundations are familiar with the nonprofit enough, or the relationship is strong enough, that late or nonreporting is overlooked. Nonprofits should not take that chance. Eventually, someone in the foundation stops overlooking the lack of reports.

Nonprofits need to always report on grant money received. After all, foundations want to know what happened to the money they gave out.