Friday, October 29, 2010

Blogging at the OK Corral

Every day I read something a little bit different than I am used to.

I discovered Penelope Trunk in my wanderings this morning, not that she has been lost or even reported missing. Penelope is the founder of Brazen Careerist. It is a career management tool according to her blog site. Business Week called her writing “poetic” in a review of her blog.

I read a few back issues, mostly the ones about blogging. I want to pick up tips in order to develop a larger audience for my own blog.

Being famous is always helpful when attracting anyone to your blog, website, book or musings of any kind. So what if you are not famous? What do you do?

It appears as if making links back and forth to those that appreciate or at least find some value in what you are writing about makes the most immediate sense. I have visited some blogs covered up in links. When the link opens up in a new window it is easy to track back to where you were. This is the case in Penelope’s blog. No matter how many outside trips I took, Penelope was waiting for me patiently. What a deal!

One link took me to a site giving me hints I might find a new position because I am a blogger. Companies now are not as concerned about a mundane resume as they are finding someone who sees the big picture. I have some age on me, though my credentials still do not include a Doctorate in some esoteric club of super achievers.

I can be me. I can express myself in my chosen profession through word pictures and conversations with strangers and with some folks not so strange. I like it!

In the grant writing world there is a myriad of levels of asking for, offering to give and matching the two of these together in the most symbiotic of relationships. Even the most successful of non profits have an identity crisis when it comes to instant recognition.

If a non profit with even great success is grant seeking in locations of unfamiliar territory, how does one blow Gabriel’s horn when there is not a blank on the application to express that information?

More creativity is necessary to stand out from the crowd, even if your non profit is the perfect match.  Knowing a million deer slayers in the crowd is always helpful. Making a few strategic phone calls before or after an RFP submission can’t hurt if you know the right people to touch base with.

Small foundations looking for small non profits with a record of success make more sense to me, at least for now in my growing stage.

It seems to make sense to apply to 20 or 30 small foundations on a yearly basis using 2 or 3 boiler plate proposals that fit their bill, than it is to put all of your eggs in one or two baskets so highly competed for, your non profit’s chance of funding becomes almost zero.

Penelope’s career is most interesting. Digging further into her successes I even discovered her failures. She puts it out there in plain English. Failure is okay now as it has always been. We learn by our mistakes and then keep on keepin on.

Grant writing can be a rich, rewarding, writing experience. Like any other professional path followed, the road is not easy. I think about the excitement I once had on a treacherous, dirt, mountain road. It was fear I experienced when traveling up that road, and I do mean up. It got steeper and steeper the further I pushed my 1986 Isuzu Trooper II. Reaching the end of that one-lane, no turn-around included road my heart was in my throat choking me. In first gear I loped up that mountain path having little faith my journey would have a happy ending. 

But end it did, with no way to turn around and go back in the opposite direction. Sitting there completing stopped with my brake and clutch depressed to the floor, my Kamikaze character kicked in. Slowly ever so slowly I backed up into the bank with death staring me in the face on the right. I made small corrections one at a time. It took me 15 minutes to complete the maneuver. When I was finally facing down hill once again I took deep breaths, wondering what I would remember as the most challenging on the trip.

 I proceeded with caution to the bottom of the hill arriving safely. Survival was still the name of my game. Though catastrophe could have occurred at any given moment in my trial, I continued along the road less traveled, by me anyway.

Writing to me is no different than my experience on the road that day. At times I am not completely sure of the safety of my actions; but I am always going to be in the game.

The fear and excitement I experienced on my uphill battle that day will not always show up in my writing. Though treading a ledge to express myself seems to bring the best out in my writing.

How about you?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Writing Your First Book

I would like you to write your first book sitting next to me as I write mine.

I’m not going to tell you what to write about. You will make your decision in a matter of days. Since this is a blog about grant writing and the process of completing winning proposals, a topic falling somewhere within this may be the logical choice for your new book.

There are many ideas and subjects outside of the grant writing process deepening our understanding of the ritual even more. Different venues often add more layers of understanding to what ever we might be working on. We are peeling the onion, so to speak.

I am always interested in learning about new high-tech devices, toys and goodies or whatever your name may be for them. Somehow I got in the habit of haunting hardware stores. You gotta be asking yourself, where is this going?

The old-style hardware stores have bin after bin of nuts, bolts, washers, screws, nails and a thousand different fasteners designed to do specific jobs. I look at those little pieces to see which ones I can adapt for my fly fishing equipment. What gizmo will allow me a better experience and solve a simple problem the next time I take a fishing trip?

It forces me outside of the box I have become accustomed to living within. I look at those fasteners as an opportunity for design and invention. Maybe this seems not very serious. It is serious enough for me to approach it at a loving, passionate angle. I love to fish. I am passionate about the sport of fly-fishing. There is never enough time to fish all the wonderful locations I want to visit. So I have transmuted my desire to the hardware section. Here I am able to design, think and walk around my favorite fishing haunts even when I’m not there.

I regress. All great copywriters research every aspect of a product or service they wish to tout. Once they have discovered the core desires of the possible prospects, in other words who the audience is, the copywriter attempts to solve a problem the buyer has.

Once all this framework is laid down in her head, she leaves her office for at least a couple of hours to take a hike. She lets all the pertinent information gel inside her mind. She thinks about it while on the trail but not really hard. When she returns she puts her words on paper very rapidly. The words seem to flow seamlessly over the paper. Once she feels she has accomplished her task, she saves the info, reads it one more time and then off to the trail once again.

Any profession requires a quiet time to insure the knowledge and information the professional possesses has the opportunity to turn itself into something more than just a normal application addressing  a unique set of ideas or problems. Our minds have a way of working through the BS to get to the core reason we spend so much time earning the rewards we work so hard for.

We can’t win them all. We can win the majority of the time if I can be so bold as to say we have to "take time to smell the roses." When I was a kid I always reacted instead of surveying a situation, rather than having the answer develop in my mind over a period of time. I believe grant writing, copy writing and any other number of professions draws a fine line between merely adequately producing an end result verses taking the time to do the very best you possibly can in any given situation because you are so completely passionate about your subject and the process of resolving the question or problem that exists.

You want to be part of the solution...each and every time.

The big bucks are always paid to those who have done their homework. Am I old school or what?

Thanks for listening.  We’ll talk about writing your first book next time.

You’re next!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Catbird Seat, Part II

A recent acquaintance mentioned the trouble she has getting local donations for her nonprofit.

Funny how on some days I can solve every one's problems but my own. Is that true for you too? Immediately I said write a letter to a service club, fraternal group or any group that interests you. Offer to give a speech about your organization. Excitedly show the folks how busy you and your volunteers have been. Use pictures and words to show how much has been accomplished with so little. Explain in detail how much more could be done if there was only some local support your nonprofit could count on to make it through the year.

Service clubs such Rotary, Kiwanis, and Civitans never know from week to week if they will have a speaker. How about Toast Masters? Imagine using their platform to seek funding for your group. Isn't that like sneaking into the hen house and they don't even know you are the fox? They won't mind!

Don't think about what you will talk about for now. Pick out several clubs and send them an invitation to invite you to speak. Get ready as the response will probably be a bit daunting. These groups are starved for speakers, especially ones that have a message that needs to be heard.

Be sure to have a hand-out available for those wanting more information. Make it easy for your audience to donate. Have your non profit's website proudly listed on any sheets you pass out. Offer to speak to any other group or club members of your audience may also belong to.

Tell them what you are going to say. Then say it. Then tell them what you just said.

Be yourself. Stand up tall so they can see you. Speak up so they can hear you. Once you've made your point, sit down so they will still like you.

Seems so simple. Make the speech, rinse and repeat as often as possible, in as many locations as time allows you. 

Your community wants to support your cause. They want to become a part of it. Allow your audience the opportunity to become an integral part of spreading the joy of giving.

Don't forget to let your audience know you are grant writer. Every one listening to you speak has a soft spot for his or her own organization that needs exposure and help. Offer it proudly!