Dan Pallotta asks, "Can you change the world without losing yourself?"

This week, nonprofit thought leader Dan Pallotta blogged about the potential perils of prioritizing work in nonprofits over your true passions.

The nonprofit industrial complex -- which now includes such exotic breeds as "social enterprise, social entrepreneurship, L3C low-profit corporations, B corporations, the charitable endurance event industry" along with your standard 501c3s -- has created multiple ways for people to dedicate their careers and life energy to nonprofits.

But at what cost? The cost of your most authentic, talented self?

As Pallotta writes, "If you want to change the world, you have to go into the change-the-world sector, the times say. And so a young girl, whose calling — and whose value to the world — may really be to dance, or to build an industry, is hypnotized into becoming the fundraising director for an NGO. Imagine if someone had held up Gandhi to a young Frank Lloyd Wright, as Gandhi is held up to our young people today, and the incredible architect decided to go run a nonprofit soup kitchen as a result. What a tragedy. And what a setback that would have been for architecture and design."

Does this idea give you pause?

The professionalization of nonprofits has created a whole bunch of career opportunities for idealistic, talented people... people like you. But if your nonprofit career ladder didn't exist, what ladder would you be climbing? Would you be climbing a ladder at all? Maybe you'd be walking a tightrope, or jumping out of a plane! 

But if this hurts your heart to think about, let's get back to the business of fundraising! Check out some other great posts on the web this week: 

How to understand the patterns of charitable giving in your region!

1. In her blog Wild Woman FundraisingMazarine Treyz highlighted the Chronicle of Philanthropy's "How America Gives: Exploring philanthropy in your state, city, and neighborhood" interactive maps/data sets.

As Mazarine writes, "Are you living in a generous region? The answer may surprise you.... We’ve got some fantastic giving breakdowns here. What regions of the USA are the most generous?... You can break it down by town. And zip code. And there’s more! So much more! DATA WONKS -> REJOICE!"

How to write goals and objectives!

2. Betsy Baker provided us with a great explanation of how goals and objectives differ from each other, and via a handy-dandy printable chart gives "specific tips on how to write goals and objectives that grant makers will love you for."

As Betsy writes, "In the very simplest of terms, a goal describes an 'end.' Your organization was formed to serve a specific purpose such as ending gang violence and childhood obesity. Your goal is to end these things.And while these are admirable causes, more than likely, your goals will never actually be reached. Objectives are activities that are performed to help reach your goals. They provide milestones to reach your goal."

Why It's OK If the First Draft of Your Grant Proposal Isn't That Great

What do you think of Apple's first draft?

It gets the point across, but it's not perfect.

This is exactly what you should aim for with the first drafts of your grant proposals.

If you wordsmith a first draft to death, and then rethink a component of the project design or realize that the funder won't support part of the concept, you've lost some valuable time.

For your first drafts, don't let perfect be the enemy of good. (Perfect and good can fight it out in the final versions of your proposals, at which point I am usually rooting for perfect.)

But there's an exception to the rule! Some of us think on paper. We don't know exactly what we want to write until we've written it.

If this is you, the mental energy you put into belaboring each sentence of your first drafts could be a good investment. I think that Mark Twain was one of those people. He said:

"The time to begin writing an article

is when you have finished it to your satisfaction.

By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive

what it is that you really want to say."

-- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903

Here are three tips for drafting bliss:

  1. To write that first draft of your proposal with minimal stress, use an outline.
  2. To focus on your draft and minimize distractions, get out of the office and away from the internet. Download the materials you will need to your laptop, print the grant proposal guidelines and project descriptions, and get thee to a coffee shop or other favorite place for intellectual work.
  3. To get inspired by some great rewrites of so-so first drafts, read the book Grant Proposal Makeover.

Happy drafting!

I walk the (out)line


Are you procrastinating on writing a grant proposal that really needs to be submitted?

A technique that really helps me break through proposal inertia is outlining.

Here are four tips for outlining grant proposals – provided for you in informal outline form!

1.     In the early stages of writing a grant proposal, an outline can help you to quickly capture the information you already have and identify the information you still need.

  • Typically, to get the ball rolling with a proposal, the program director will forward you a bunch of documents about the project – white papers, emails, reports, articles.
  • This means that you're starting with a huge pile of information that you need to first read and then distill. Your job as proposal writer is to synthesize this broad cluster of information into a coherent, persuasive document. Your proposal needs to include the ideas that will be compelling to the funder – and succinctly explain anything that may be confusing to a reader from outside your organization.
  • The outline is a tool you can use to identify and organize the best information you've been sent, and determine any need for additional information.

2.     Outlining helps you to avoid getting into the weeds of explaining a concept or writing perfect prose before you're clear about what the proposal is going to cover.

  • There's no sense in creating elegant, compelling text about an aspect of your organization or the project that you're not going to end up including in the final proposal.

3.     If possible, get all of your source material electronically.

  • This will allow you to copy and paste text that you may want to use directly into your outline.

4.     Keep your outline as simple and streamlined as possible.

  • I like to create my outlines in Microsoft Word, and use the review tab to add comments. The comments function allows you to include all the technical or detailed text that you may want to draw from, without cluttering up the outline itself.
  • Don't wordsmith your outline. Sentence fragments and imperfect word choices are OK for an outline. Unless there's a boss or coworker you really need to impress, the time to polish your text is when your proposal is in close-to-final draft.

Outline your way to proposal success!

For more tips on outlining grant proposals, check out this article by Mark Whitacre of Goldstone Grants.