grant writing

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.

Brief Outline for Grant Proposals

I think I got this from a grant writing class I took. I can only claim summarizing the information to fit into this blog post.

A grant proposal starts with identifying and documenting the need for a project. This includes finding statistics to demonstrate a need is compelling. Data strengthens a grant request by explaining the need exactly.

State the project’s objectives (at least three), the expected outcome for each objective, and when these outcomes will be achieved. Also, what is the evaluation process to know the outcome was achieved?

Put this all together and build a description of the project by identifying who will be helped, what activities will improve the lives of these people, and who will do the work to include partnerships. Foundations want to know there are other organizations helping with the project. The more the merrier.

The other most important section is the budget.

Expenses are divided between programs (good to mention) and operating or overhead (bad to mention). Under program expense, list everything except things considered capital expense such as equipment or personnel benefits (considered overhead). Salaries are all right most of the time if they are for the program. Avoid operating expenses (private donations can fund these). More importantly, list exactly what the foundation money will buy.

List other funding sources (match the list of partners). Most important, state how the project will be sustained and funded in the future.

Overall, a grant writer should note the capacity and resources a nonprofit has to successfully do what they said they would do. A foundation wants to feel good about giving out their money. Build confidence, trust, and strength that what a nonprofit does with this money will help people.

Relationships Again (because they are that important)

I wrote two blogs on relationships. This third blog is about building and keeping a relationship between a nonprofit and a foundation.

Relationships are the most important asset a nonprofit has, which is why this is my third blog on the subject. Whenever a foundation provides money, they show confidence in the nonprofit’s success and the nonprofit has a mission matching the foundation’s goals. A basic relationship is created representing an opportunity for the nonprofit.

The nonprofit should take the lead in further developing a connection with the foundation. There are plenty of advice on business relationships. However, I think it is best that the nonprofit keep things simple.

After receipt of the money, the nonprofit should encourage continued contact by:

  • Sending the foundation a quarterly newsletter that includes testimonies, a calendar, and information about the community the nonprofit serves. Do not include politics or gossip.
  • Invite the foundation to events. If the foundation is too far away to attend, provide updates on the event.
  • Try to visit the foundation at least once. Face-to-face meetings and maybe a lunch go a long way to cementing a business relationship. When meeting, never talk politics or gossip.
  • Call as a follow up to previous conversations. Do not make up things to call. When calling, keep things friendly, but not personal. Do not talk politics or gossip.
  • Whenever contacting the foundation, never ask for or discuss money. This is not about getting more, but about building a relationship so the money will continue to come.

It is sincerity that makes strong relationships. A nonprofit (or anyone) should develop a strong connection because it builds trust. With trust, there is confidence, opportunities arise, and things are easier.