Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fear, for the Heck of It

The first time I stood in front of an audience my mind drifted to the physical act of hanging sheet rock on some stranger's walls. If you have never had the privilege of carrying 25 pound sheets of chalk glued together with stiff paper you have not lived life to the fullest.

The 4' x 12' sheets take two workers to lift and place into position. Once positioned a sheet is nailed to the 2" x 4"s behind them. This goes on for hours and hours, the carrying, the nailing until it is time for the pinnacle of pleasure, mudding and taping the seams and nail marks. This is done by mixing a mud like substance, using a trowel, wearing clothes you never want to wear again and walking around on stilts to reach the upper heights plastering the gooey concoction. Upon completion, if it ever comes, someone will paint the entire surface and all your hard work disappears for ever.

For me the art or function of hanging sheet rock is the worst possible thing I can imagine to do when I would rather not participate in the process at all.

Speaking in front of an audience is much more pleasurable than hanging glorious sheet rock. Today's survey says, "an individual would rather commit suicide than speak in front of a group of people."Seems a bit rash, don't you think?

Yet the first time I stood in front of an audience preparing to speak to my freshman English class at Oklahoma City University, my thoughts drifted to hanging sheet rock. It did not occur to me to commit suicide, though it would not have been a bad idea, I merely had not thought of it.

Somehow I made it through my entire 15 minute speech without collapsing on the podium or choking on my own fluids. My knees physically knocked against each other almost the entire duration of my speech. It wasn't until one of the listening audience laughed at one of my comments or gasped at the horror of the subject of my speech that my knee knockers subsided with their harmonious tune.

The topic of my speech was spelunking. Exploring the innards of caves was a topic I knew something about. It wasn't until feedback hit my ears that I was able to calm down and enjoy the actual delivery of my words. Probably a bit of exaggeration as far as enjoyment goes, my speech was reaching a conclusion and I knew my time was short in front of this group of jackals. When I finally finished,  prepared to tuck my tail under and hide in the back of the room, the unexpected happened. A member of the audience raised her hand to ask a question about the topic of my speech.

I was hooked for ever! I had stirred an interest in the subject of my talk and someone wanted more information. How cool was that?

Today I beg groups, civic organizations, fraternal clubs, political allies and any fund raising committee to allow me to speak in front of their membership for absolutely any reason that will give me a bully pulpit. Quite a reversal from my earlier days, don't you think?

Sometimes I look for speaker nets to learn new tips and tricks to apply to my own speaking prowess. As a rule, though not always I encounter the awful specter of FEAR being repeated throughout a direct marketing piece seemingly interested in helping me cope with the unteachable beast. I still get butterflies before I speak to a group of peers or unknowns, though I am no longer petrified at the thought.

In grant writing the same words seem to be prevalent. The idea of “Fear” follows any line of extroverted optimism seeking financial or other type of approval through speech or written application. Simply speaking, fear has no place in your role as a Grant Seeker.

The nature of being a fundraiser asks you to step out in front of every kind of audience you encounter. Naturally, fear rears his ugly head trying to get your attention. Focusing on the issues whether speaking to a group of would be grant funders or to an audience expressing interest for your cause is a reason for concern, not fear.

I am an Auctioneer. I take charge of my audience of interested bidders the moment I open my mouth. I have come to realize over the years, that the bidders are the ones with fear in their hearts. They are afraid of two things, both are fearful. They fear they will lose the deal of the century and at the same time they fear they will win the deal with too high of a bid. Fear of having over paid for the item kicks in, now they will appear silly to the rest of the bidding crowd.

When standing in front of a audience, about to give your speech, the audience assumes you are an expert in your field. When approaching foundations, large or small these groups assume, until you give them a reason to believe otherwise, you are an expert in telling your organisation's story. They expect, not from fear, you as a grant writer will tell a truthful story following the potential funder's guidelines to the letter.

If you veer from the path they request, fear should pop up in your mind's eye immediately. The fear will come from knowing you have not performed your duties to the best of your ability. Your fear can be avoided completely or stopped in its path by reverting to the correct path the funder requests of you.

I choose to be a fearless grant seeker. With every leap I take into the non profit arena I learn a little bit more about myself and my audience.

I know my limitations!

That last statement is not true. I don't know my limitations. I don't even know if I have any because I am willing to pitch my hat in the ring and see where the smoke settles. If I have done the best I can possibly do then I am content to move on to the next project.

Living without fear is one of the greatest joys of life. Considering the things one can be fearful about, writing a proposal for a possible grant funder is very small potatoes in the larger scheme of things.

So let's walk up to the plate, swing as accurately as we can and bring everyone on base home for the winning run.

Never let em see you sweat!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fund Raising: Ebay Auction Style

Veering off in different directions for the benefit of your client often portrays you as a momentary hero. Ride the wave as long as you can.

As a grant writer being on top of any financial need for your non-profit especially recognizing ones unforeseen by the casual bystander makes her worth her weight in gold. A grant writer's experience says to always expect the unexpected. When things go wrong the possibility of the occurrence has already been figured into the financial equation. Remember the rule of thumb, “Murphy was an optimist.”

A small shortfall can occur in almost any nonprofit's budget. Any number of unexpected expenses can upset finances during the budgetary year. Whatever program or project the organization you represent is funding always expect the unexpected and you will be ahead of the game. With experience many signals are telegraphed and recognized well ahead of any approaching catastrophe.

That last statement is probably just BS. As much as each of us would like to walk on water for our clients, we too are able to miss the hand-raising of slow motion, short term problems. Sometime there is not enough money to pay for unexpected expenses. This is especially true for smaller nonprofits unable to tap into some huge ready and waiting pool of emergency funding.

This suggestion is so simple, so easily accessible, so easily started that I hesitate to even mention it; but I will anyway. Sign your nonprofit up for charitable status at Ebay. That is all there is to it. is and has been the most popular auction style site on the net for many years now.

I have personally used Ebay's services to sell hundreds of items over several years. How much money did I earn? Well I did not actually earn any money, so to speak. What I did was get rid of items I no longer needed and put them into the hands of those who wanted them. Any money I realized after the auctions was always a plus. Everybody gets their cut from the sale of the items. Still after all is said and done, money went into my account that otherwise I would not have. Your charitable nonprofit will benefit from the entire percentage of the value of the donation with no risk involved.

If your charitable organization is not set up with ebay for donations, it is an easy and painless operation. Once setup your fund raising arm should notify your entire donating list of your organization's participation in the program. Short term financial needs could be satisfied quickly. Utilizing your membership's list of donors, leave no one out for notification. Send out press releases, post handbills, notify forums, facebook, twitter, even your Aunt Jane about the Ebay participation. Spread the word as rapidly as possible.

When an ebayer puts an item up for bid or sale, there is a section where a choice may be made to donate to a participating charity. In the A listings alone there were 1468 organizations set up for donations the week of November 1st. 10% of anything sold will be deposited into the nonprofits account. This is an easy process to establish hopefully inciting a tremendous amount of activity in a short period of time.

Go to If you are responsible for the funding of your organization simply sign up in moments. Get on the horn and notify everyone in your group to spread the word. You may find you have tapped into an excellent financial resource for almost no cost to your nonprofit.

So get ready to dispose of everything in your over flowing garage. You will have fun doing it and be helping your organization now and into the future with very little effort. As a grant writer you may even be a hero for a moment. After all, time loves a hero!

Translation: Go Ebay!