What does a Nonprofit Need?

Before looking for grants, I find out exactly what a nonprofit will need to meet their mission goals.

Almost everyone thinks this means money. But, many times a nonprofit will need something else like volunteers. Or, they might need an in-kind donation like equipment or a used vehicle. Maybe, the people at a nonprofit just need someone to talk to.

I try to always be available and listen to staff members talk about future goals for the organization or how they deal with problems. I try not to tell them what they should do but help them figure it out as best as I could. As a volunteer, it doesn’t cost them anything and I don’t mind.

It’s good that there are other people better than me who can find in-kind resources. It helps when the nonprofit staff have a relationship with local businesses and vendors. Nonprofits should work on these relationships in case they need something one day that they don’t have the money to buy.

My ability to find volunteers is not that good, either. Unless I volunteer my wife. Nonprofit staff should develop a relationship with their local community. Get on neighborhood email lists, speak before church groups, or simply go outside and yell for help.

Successful nonprofits communicate regularly with local communities, churches, businesses, social clubs, other nonprofits, and individuals. They build partnerships and share resources as much as possible. They look for other means to solve problems and promote the mission.

Nonprofits and grant writers should not always look for money. There are other ways to get help and usually people are there to help.

Quote: Hope dies last (Studs Terkel)

Outlining for Fiction

I’ve been writing short stories for many years. Now, I’m writing novels, hopefully to publish one soon. Whether writing short or long fiction, I learned not to write an outline.

When I’m ready to write, I had already been thinking about the story for so long that I don’t need to write an outline. I think not writing an outline is what most fiction writers do.

Some writers just start writing something and some say they start with an idea only. But, I think most are like me and have thought about the story enough that they have the story outlined in their thoughts. Except, soon after I start on a story, about when I discover the main character and plot, I write the ending.

This becomes my outline. A start and a finish with only the middle to be written. Fairly simple process, like coming to a fork in the road and knowing which one to take. Yet, by the time I’ve completed the middle, a lot of times my ending and beginning have changed and taken the other fork in the road. Sometimes, even my ending is better as the beginning and vice versa.

My characters are at fault. While they have not entirely changed things, they tweaked enough to make the story start and end as they wanted it. I let them since it is their story, anyway.

I’ve tried writing a story without first writing the ending and I’ve ended up with a story without an ending. Maybe an outline would solve this issue. The problem is I wouldn’t follow an outline if I wrote it.

At some early point in writing the outline, I would be writing the story.

Outlines can be good for a lot of things, such as writing business plans or a technical manual. Even some fiction writers do well with an outline. Writers should not get lost in outlines. Do the minimum and go write.

What really matters is the story.

Quote:  A fork in the road. Classic cliché. Most people write about how they don’t want to go left (or right). It is better to write how it is good to go in the other direction. Granted, the choice may lead the traveler off a cliff, but it was good up to that point.


Passion in Grant Writing

I have had a busy two weeks writing grants for several nonprofits. I volunteer my time since these nonprofits do not have the money to hire a grant writer (if they can find one in this rural area).

I learned grant writing by working way too many decades for the U.S. Defense Department (DoD) writing budget issue papers. The papers were part of a budget process where everyone tried to steal each other’s money. Designed to submit a budget to Congress each year, the budget process was like the grant writing process. Except, stealing each other’s money was a DoD twist.

Writing a grant is like writing an issue paper. It’s about identifying a need, finding a resource with the money, and justifying the program in a way that builds confidence the money will be spent judiciously. Like in DoD, when a program got funding, someone else received less or nothing.

In DoD, few people cared (it was cut throat process). But, the need is more real in the nonprofit world. When asking for money, a grant writer should care about the program because someone will get less or none. Yes, like in DoD some grant writers don’t care as long as they win. However, grant writing should be a more than winning.

There should be passion for the program when writing a grant proposal. I think this was part of my success in the Defense Department. If I believed in the program, I almost always found funding for it.

Six rules I use to find a book to read

There are a lot of books I want to read that get lost in the many books I don’t want to read. So, I came up with six rules to help me sort through all these books and pick the right one (hopefully).

  1. Ignoring book covers

In Brenda Ueland’s 1938 book If You Want to Write, she states that “writing does not get better with a fancy, loud package.”

I found that few book covers have anything to do with the book’s content. The only thing I pay attention to on the cover is the author’s name and title.

If the author’s name is big or bigger than the title, I won’t read the book. The publisher is selling the author’s name rather than the contents or story. I found these books to be not well written and boring.

As for the book’s title, I look for something unique. In other words, I have no clue what title catches my attention until it does.

  1. Who is the author?

I want to see a picture of the author smiling. If the author is giving me a grim look, I wonder why the person is angry after getting a book published. I don’t want to read a book from an angry author.

The credentials of non-fiction authors should show experience and education on the topic. I think fiction authors who publish three or more books a year are rushing to publish rather than paying attention to what they write.

  1. Who endorsed this book?

Endorsements from individuals, like other authors, are irrelevant. They can easily become favors to each other. However, endorsements from organizations are more valid because the reviewers need “likes” to get paid. These endorsements are hard to come by. Individual endorsements are easy.

  1. About the book: Multiple authors and point of view

I avoid books written by more than one person. For non-fiction, it seems the authors are always arguing with each other. In fiction, the different styles of writing are just irritating. Another irritation is second person narrative (example: you thought this and you did that). How does the author know what I’m thinking or doing?

  1. From start to the middle of the book

I do not read books that start off with some vicious, violent scene or a string of profanity. The author is using shock writing to attract readers. If there is a plot, it generally consists of more violence and profanity that becomes the story. Some readers like shock writing. I do not.

So much effort is given to writing an opening that many times the rest of the book fails. I find that the middle of a book is where writers struggle the most. A story or non-fiction kept strong in the middle means a lot. This is the problem with books online. Publishers make sure only the start of the book is seen, not the middle.

  1. Non-Fiction versus Fiction: Likes and Dislikes

For non-fiction, I look for a topic that interests me in a subject I want to learn more about, something that hints at a new discovery, or where an author presents a different viewpoint. To me, a non-fiction book should be something I learn from and that makes me rethink what I thought I knew that was all wrong in the first place.

I generally avoid creative non-fiction books. I think many of these are more fiction than non-fiction.

I like a wide range of fiction genres, but not the commercial, mass market driven books. Publishers are more interested in making easy money than providing anything worth reading. I don’t want to read a book that I can’t remember what it was about after I read it.


There’s a lot of bad books either because of poor writing or awful topics. These are easy to weed out by glancing at the title or a brief look at what’s written inside. But, there’s also a lot of good books, just not ones I’d like to read.

These rules help me improve my chances at finding something I like. However, sometimes I find a book I really like by ignoring everything I listed here.

Quote: Read to let the words be the writer’s mentor.