It's all about the STORY!

Archive for the ‘Grants/Nonprofit Writing’ Category

Your Startup Is Bigger Than You

After interviewing high level business pioneers and making headway on their book, here’s a big take-away: Most people have heard the phrase, “Know your *WHY* ” But what does it really mean and how do you apply it for sustainable success?

strategy

A little history lesson in product/service development and sales: Most young entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that their innovative product is king. Wrong. Others think it’s about the content–make sure your marketing and branding strategies are on-point, and you can fill the box with just about anything. Wrong. Oh, you might find a limited amount of profit and success that way, but you’ll also find it fizzling out, and you’ll need to scramble to find the next big thing to saty in the game, virtually starting over from scratch. That’s not sustainability. That’s grit (which is a great quality, but it’s not sustainability).

Instead, “Know your *WHY*” dictates that you understand what you want your product or service to do, and you get committed to that outcome. For instance, your *WHY* may be that you want to help people come together and connect at a table together, share stories and build relationships, because people are feeling alone and disconnected. That’s your *WHY* To answer that, you might productize bottles of wine for people to share together, but what your selling is a social tool meant to provide a shared experience more than a mere product or service.

Also, to really be sustainable, your *WHY* can’t just be about something that’s meaningful to you in a vacuum. It needs to be responsive to or reflective of a cultural need. In this case, data show that people want to put money in experiences and they crave connection. So, your *WHY* of wanting to help people come together and connect at a table, share stories and build relationships answers the cultural need for interpersonal connection and shared experiences.

Now, here’s the thing, because your focus is on your *WHY* and not the singular product (e.g. wine), when you expand or scale and decide to add new products/services to your offerings, they needn’t be more wine. They merely have to be reflective of your *WHY* So, a social club, exotic tours and retreats, books designed for book clubs and other groups, film festivals and other events, etc. all can be positioned to answer your *WHY* keeping you relevant even if drinking wine goes out of style (Although, I dare not think of such a travesty!).

#startup #whystatement #scale #strategicplanning #thinkbig #business #entrepreneur #legacycompany

THE HAZARDS OF THINKING TOO SMALL FOR SUSTAINABILITY

THE HAZARDS OF THINKING TOO SMALL FOR SUSTAINABILITY

(aka: the selfish monologue in business = short term)

Philosophically, our only true ability in life is to generalize from oneself. The only true perception we will ever have is our own, even when we empathize or “see through another lens” it’s still our interpretation of it. So, self is always in play no matter how hard we may try to remove ourselves. That’s not a bad thing, but it can get complicated when you’re establishing a company.

Portrait of smiling businesswomanYou need to know your *WHY* but whether you consider that to be personal or universal will greatly affect the scale and ultimate sustainability of your business.

At first a company is but a seed, a beautiful idea. Then, we nurture it into existence. We feed it, water it, love it, even struggle with it, then it blooms! Still, we think of it as our own, but is that the best view for the long-term health of pure creation?

Maybe you grew an orchid — a boutique hybrid that is gorgeous and exclusive and very personal. That’s wonderful! But it’s not very SUSTAINABLE. It has a targeted quick lifespan that will be enjoyed by a very limited number of people who will get to experience it. Which is great if that’s the goal.

Perhaps, on the other hand, you’re growing a magestic cherry tree. Ahhh, that’s very different. Many entities have contributed to this successful incarnation and will soon come to rely on its existence. Sure, you planted the seed, maybe even started it in a small pot to keep it safe in its formative time, but soon it will be a critical part of a living ecosystem on the planet. Earthworms, bugs, microorganisms, squirrels, birds, owls, bats, raccoons, snakes, etc. will one day rely on its shelter, stature, fruit and other forms of its biology. Decay, sunlight, rain and dew will all contribute to it’s growth, though you may still contribute, keep it printed and healthy, it’s grown much larger than you. Frankly, it can even live without you, and that’s good. That was the point!

Using the analogy of growing these “plants” from seeds into maturity are similar in business. If you intend to stay small, as a rare flowing plant, enjoyed by an elite few, you’re allowed to be selfish with its mission — you’ll do no harm to it, and long-term sustainability that benefits many isn’t it’s goal. You’ll likely achieve success, then you’ll move on to your *next*

But, if you intend to build an empire or at least a mid-sized corporation that will be able to thrive, maybe as your legacy, long after you’re gone, you need a mission that isn’t about you but is all about the culture and ecosystem your establishing and sustaining. This is your *WHY* and it’s far bigger than *you*

You also need to ensure that this large sustainable *WHY* is something embraced by everyone and everything in your culture, from your workforce and investors to your customers and fans. The moment you think your *WHY* in this larger game is anything about you, you know you’re playing too small and threatening sustainability. Because if you think this majestic cherry tree is here to give you joy and shade, you’re not addressing the more important needs of the many contributing to it and relying on it. You’ll strangle it’s growth and prevent it from fulfilling its fullest potential for the greater good.

A small business can afford a selfish monologue for its *WHY* because its goal isn’t long-term sustainability for the masses. A larger company, intended for long-term sustainability, needs a more universal, cultural, ecosystem-oriented *WHY* to thrive and grow at the scale that is most suited to it.

#branding #scale #sustainability #corporation #mission #yourwhystatement #brandstory #startup

Proposal winning strategies – 7 tips

DaphnesGrant

[Pictured at left is an actual grant application Daphne wrote and submitted, directing a small team of clinicians and support staff. Daunting, no?]

 

Background: Daphne Street is a multi-million dollar award-winning grant and proposal writer, with more than a decade of experience in winning proposals spanning myriad fields within the nonprofit and for profit industries. From the fine and performing arts to substance abuse and mental health services and from technology developers  to transportation services, Daphne has helped transform businesses through establishing new revenue streams and fostering profitable partnerships. Far too often, Daphne says, companies are content on submitting proposals without doing the work needed to truly be competitive and win the game. Here are 7 winning tips from Daphne:

7 Tips for Winning Proposals

  1. Do what you’re told. Read, follow directions and gather appropriate content. Never skim an application. Completing award applications and proposals are not the time to get creative, decide certain questions are superfluous or bluff your way through. You must be exacting in every minute detail: from composition and submission instructions, to addressing every detail in the scope of services and search every section to discover additional areas you need to address.
  2. Points matter. If an RFP assigns points to certain sections or questions, calculate those compared to the word count. The more points assigned to a question or section should get a higher percentage of your word count dedicated to it. It is formulaic and expected.
  3. Information gathering. Do not attempt to do this on your own unless you solely have ownership of the vault that holds all of your company’s data and are its universal content expert. More likely, you have accountants, program/department heads, specialists and industry experts on your team that can provide invaluable content to strengthen your proposal. Take the time to engage them and be specific about the type of information you need from them.
  4. Money. Your financials and budget are often the strongest and most highly weighted sections of your application. Your financials tell a complete story of your company’s financial health and whether your company is a good investment for funding. This includes tax returns, independent audits, etc. Your budget is usually what really sets you apart from the competition, and there is no shortcut for developing a winning budget: analyze ALL of your costs associated with a project and pitch a budget that is as tight as you can get it while still making a profit. In terms of for profit government proposals, you tend to make your money on volume over ticket price, so consider that when you calculate your estimated profits.
  5. Interpretation. Reading between the lines is critical in winning applications. This requires skill and experience to know exactly what questions mean and the data, details, interpretations and focus points to include within proposal responses along with the best ways to present that information, using graphics, logic models, flow charts and time tables, etc. to drive key messages.
  6. Value-added. This is where proposals are won. What additional, extraordinary benefits and features are you bringing to the table? What is unique about your offering that sets you above the competition? Skilled proposal writers know how to sniff out these details and highlight them in writing in compelling ways. From your narrative to your budget, value-added wins every time.
  7. Hire an expert. Especially when you are dealing with high stakes, it’s worth the investment to use the expertise of a pro. They often don’t come cheap, and it’s important to vet them properly, but they know the tricks of the trade that can augment your chances of winning exponentially. While there is never a guarantee that your application will win, the outstanding news is that your investment in an expert proposal writer never goes to waist unless you fully scrap your project. The application they pull together often can be repurposed to submit for various funding opportunities. It’s never a “one size fits all” job—there will be significant time spent rewriting sections and addressing varied specifications and scopes of services, but you will often find subsequent applications written to support the same project far less cumbersome.

Eat What You Kill

I’ve been working for others about as long as I have been self-employed, and I’ve learned only one thing throughout all this time: value = delivery. I began the bulk of my professional career as a grant writer, and as a grant writer you are charged with paying for yourself, plus. Usually you are required to bring in three times your salary to justify your job. Seeing as how I was never a highly-Screen-Shot-2012-06-13-at-10.40.13-AM1paid grant writer, but I did win many 6-7 figure awards, this wasn’t difficult to accomplish. My jobs have always been secure…

Now that I am a freelancer, however, I’ve noticed that my personal expectations of what I deliver to clients changed a bit. I expected pay for work–competitive pay–pay commensurate with my skills and experience. What’s wrong with that? Work is a deliverable, right? You need writing services: a blog, a book, web copy, a press release, business proposal, a grant, flier, etc. I should get paid for the work I do based on my experience, talent and quality and the value of what I deliver. Right? Not so fast.

“Eat what you kill.” I have been in the land of commissioned sales, of percentages on projects with little cash laid up front but with lots to gain on the back end, based on the overall success of my deliverables. Some people cower at the thought while others thrive with the sense of empowerment to create their own revenue. I am the latter. I like knowing that the cash in my hand is a direct result of the work I have done. In other words, “eat what you kill.” If I bring money in the door, I get more money. In this strategy, my value is directly correlated with the money I generate.

As a writer, that may sound like a strange principal, and arguably it’s not the right strategy for everyone. It’s not the right strategy for every project, either, or for every client. But, over the past few weeks, it has become increasingly clear that this is exactly how I work best. Pay me most not just when I produce, but when what I produce turns a profit or is deemed measurably valuable to you in some meaningful way.

I’ve watched so many employees walk into businesses with a sense of entitlement that made my eyes water from the stench. They had no sense of hustle, no desire to bring efficiencies or ingenuity to the game, and felt no responsibility to add to the immediate bottom line of their workplace. Yet, they felt completely entitled to continue receiving a salary for breathing, whining and taking up space.

I’m not saying that all staff or contract positions need to conform to this philosophy, but I am saying that if you want to be deemed truly valuable, take on an “eat what you kill” mentality. Take risks that force you to deliver in big ways for you to see real pay-offs. Justify your salary by developing systems that save your company money, eliminate waste and redundancies, produce innovative products and services, commit to constantly increasing your performance and the quality of your work, or better yet bring hard cash through the door in the form of contracts, or developing a new customer base. Eat what you kill.

Report Writing — 7 Tips

How to write an outstanding report — 7 tips — (Business not academic)

1) Know your audience(s)– if your report will only be seen by industry pros, do use appropriate industry-specific jargon. This will ensure clarity amongminorityreport your peers and a level of comfort and credibility will be bestowed to you because you are speaking the same language. However, if this is going out to other audiences who may be unfamiliar with your industry jargon (e.g. B2C marketing, stockholders/investors, etc.), kill the jargon and just tell the story.

2) Visuals are important– use charts, graphs and other descriptive images, but do make certain that these images directly correlate to the text, and make sure that the text you are referencing is nearby in the layout. Do not use images in place of text.

3) Words are part of your layout and design– love the text as much as the pretty pictures. Remember that visual balance is important, so don’t leave a lonely word hanging on one line or just a few sentences lingering on the final page. Make certain your text looks as good as it reads. Edit… which brings us to the next point…

4) Editing– I recommend putting everything including the kitchen sink into your first draft. That way, everything you might possibly need is there. You won’t have to look for it later when you decide that a particular piece of data or quote or whatever would be the greatest thing right now. Edit for content first, eloquence second, grammar and punctuation third and then the ever-present character count if needed. Subtract, tighten, refine, polish and delete your way to the final draft.

5) Organization and flow– Put first things first. It’s helpful, though not always necessary, to create an outline. If you’re having difficulty with organizing your report, ask yourself simple questions: What would I, as a reader, want to know first? Second, once I know that, what is the next question I want answered? Continue following this thought-pattern until all of your content for your report has been addressed.

6) Details count– added details will help your readers follow your content and add aesthetics to your report. These details might include a table of contents, text boxes that highlight quotes or facts/statistics, page numbers and references. If your report will be distributed and/or accessed electronically, consider providing an interactive table of contents and hyperlinks within texts and photos as appropriate.

7) Software– if you’re lucky, you can create the report in a professional Adobe InDesign or cloud program. However, many professionals are lucky if they even have an updated version of MS Word. It’s best if your end product is a PDF regardless of what software you used to create it. Not only will this elevate most problems with diverse software accessibility from your readers’ perspectives, but this also will help maintain the integrity of your content—not allowing it to be manipulated easily.

*BONUS– Have fun! Reports need not be stuffy. The most engaging, well-written and useful reports are generated by people who enjoy writing them. Use accurate data and statistics, collect accurate facts and quotes—this is most important. Next, enjoy the process of telling the story about the data, statistics, facts and quotes. The choice is yours—miserable people create miserable reports.

Daphne’s List of 7: Telling your company’s story

I have just spent hours researching the history of several Bay area nonprofits–learning about their stories. Specifically, their history.

Here are 7 tips on storytelling that would be helpful for all businesses, particularly nonprofits. These are 7 important points, what I have learned along the way as a professional writer for nonprofits and as a member of the media as I am currently…

  1. Make your audience “feel” your story. DO NOT give us facts and figures. We truly don’t care–we glaze over them, mostly. Tell us about the tears. Tell us about the victories. Tell us about the struggle. Tell us how your organization CHANGED things. Give me something to feel, to care about, to go out and tell my friends and family about. Here in Pinellas County PARC does a GREAT job of telling their story HERE.
  2. Get your FACTS straight and make sure your information is up-to-date. I will not mention the site, but it is one I know all too well–they have the date the company was founded, which is good, but then they also include how long the company has been operating. Not only is this information redundant, but the number of year operating is an evolving number that needs to be changed each year. If you insist on including it, you’d better be committed to updating it every single year. As it stands, you’ve been dormant for about 5 years. Okay, that’s just an example, but in a historical statement, STAY AWAY from figures that change. Also, if you include a blurb about where you are today, which is good–update that at least annually. Do it the same time you do your annual report–that’s a good reminder that all your company’s content should be reviewed, including your website
  3. Make sure your website looks good. Honestly, this is not an expensive or difficult thing to do. If you have a website, and you certainly should, make sure it’s attractive. Certainly, if it’s easy to navigate, lots of content, etc.–even better. But, first, make it visually pleasing. If your web page is hard to look at, no one will want to bother, and it reflects poorly on your company’s image.
  4. Less is more when it comes to text. WOW! So much verbose copy, laden with industry jargon–I’ve been working in the helping fields for over 20 friggin years, and if I wonder what you mean by what you’re trying to say, and I’m getting tired of reading wordy copy, I can’t begin to imagine what the public at large thinks when they see it. Tighten it up, and keep it simple. If that’s too hard for you pros in the field to do, get some clients and community members together to focus group your marketing copy for you. If you don’t believe me, listen to what they have to say…
  5. Include a link for media on your website. Please, think of us and throw us a little bone. Include your press releases there as a link. Include contact info. and brief bios of subject experts that we can contact for quotes and insight into issues–we are always looking for expert opinions. Make it easy for us to find. Give us your logo and other graphics that we have total permission to use as stock art for articles. And, tell us who your media contact is so that we can contact them directly. When a story is breaking, and we want to use your organization as an expert, we don’t have time to wait around or hunt to find “maybe” the right person. Get us linked to them straight away, and we’ll get you into print faster and more often as the experts in the field that you are.
  6. Be responsive to media. We matter. In a time when funding is tighter than ever, getting and keeping your company’s name in the community dialogue is critical when you are cultivating donors. If a development director has to spend too much time explaining to a potential donor what the organization is and why they care about it, it’s probably already too late to bother. Keeping your name in the media as noted experts in what you do is key to raising the value of your organization in the mind of your public. There’s no short cut. There are many creative ways to do this, and traditional media isn’t the only one… but it’s important to do in some fashion.
  7. Reach out to media. Don’t just send us a press release. Trust me, we often don’t “get” why your story is important. Talk to us. Get to know us. Take us to lunch (we really like that!). But, develop a relationship with us. And this is critical–don’t bother telling us why your story is important to you. Tell me why I, the media professional cares, and why it’s cool, interesting or important to the public. THAT’s the story. Don’t count on the fact that the media professional will be able to see why your story matters. Spoon feed THAT to them, because why your story matters IS the story.

Poynter seeking superhero VP to help with funding

It’s no surprise that the parent of the Tampa Bay Times, Poynter Institute for Media Studies, is facing the same financial terrors as print newspapers across the nation. The first blow is obvious, coming from a relentless national recession, while the second hit has to do with Poynter’s unique ownership model of the Tampa Bay Times.

Tampa Tribune’s Richard Mullins reports: “The nonprofit Poynter Institute is recruiting new philanthropy experts, launching a massive fund-raising drive and exploring land sales as financial support from the St. Petersburg-based newspaper is ‘no longer viable.’”

“‘These have been difficult times,’ said Poynter President Karen Dunlap. The institute’s posh campus with the bay view makes ‘a number of people think there’s a huge pot of gold in a closet somewhere in Poynter. That’s not true. I’ve looked.’”

The Times has not been immune to the same threat all print media is facing—the internet. In fact, despite holding strong as the best selling newspaper in Florida, the times has had a steady decline in revenue, based on IRS filings.

“Times revenue in 2009 stood at $274.7 million, which included the sale of its Washington-based Congressional Quarterly publication. Times officials declined to say for how much. Then in 2010, revenue fell to $159 million, a drop of 42 percent. At the same time, assets, including physical property, stood at $122.9 million in 2008, then $113.4 million in 2009 and $83 million in 2010,” based on Tampa Tribune research.

This directly correlates to Poynter’s hardship as the Tampa Bay Times had been a significant part of the organization’s revenue. “Newspapers simply can’t offer the kind of ‘generous dividends’ required for Poynter to remain vital as a national journalism training institute,’ as described in the job posting for a new vice president for Poynter, “and ‘strategic thinking’ over the past few years suggests the newspaper model won’t in the future,” reported Mullins.

Poynter’s solution is that they hire it. So the organization has a new position open: President, The Poynter Foundation/Vice President, Institutional Advancement.

Based on the job description, the position’s expectation will be to double outside grants within two years, launch an endowment drive and lead a new foundation staff. While the new-hire will be responsible for “doubling outside grants,” Poynter admits that historically it has mostly left government grant untouched for ethical reasons.

“Poynter could seek donations from government-affiliated groups, such as national endowments for the arts or humanities,” reported Mullins, “but has ‘steered clear’ of those groups in the past, Dunlap said, partly out of a concern about a potential conflict of interest because journalism plays a role of government watchdog.”

If this new Vice President of Institutional Advancement is expected to double outside grants without applying for government grants, I
wonder if the applicant must also have a superhero cape in her wardrobe?

Link to full TBO.com in-depth article by Richard Mullins HERE: http://www2.tbo.com/news/business/2012/jun/02/6/tampa-bay-times-parent-facing-financial-squeeze-ar-410873/

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