For my final project I created the sample of a website, that would hopefully be developed in the future called Sprout.com. Sprout.com is for people who are interested in working in the ministry part of the non-profit sector. At this website, after answering a series of questions, people who work in ministries or want to start ministries, have the opportunity to connect with other ministries that have similar visions or are more established, so that they can lend each other a helping hand. They would also be connected with other resources such as events in their communities, workshops, grant writing information, etc. It was important for me to break out of my shell during this project, so I challenged myself to talk to people, more than I normally would, and after speaking to various people interested in starting ministries in my community, I realized that almost of them said that they’d like to network more and find out about available resources to help start their ministries, which is why I thought Sprout would be helpful. During the project, I put together an actually list of resources that I plan on giving my friend who’s passionate about a homelessness ministry, which is one of my deliverables because the most important part of the project and the website is to get people who lack knowledge connected. I actually surprised myself because most of the resources that I found were through networking face-to-face with other people, so I accomplished my goal of breaking out more at the same time. I learned so much about what is near me, even though I’ve been living in the same county for 9 years. Another part of my deliverable is a flyer for the website, while it’s not as good as it could be, I would like to develop it more and the flyer would be handed out and emailed to churches, ministries, and resources in various communities because it’s important for people to know that it’s out there, it won’t work if nobody is on it. The last part of my deliverable, is the form that ministries of people would have to fill out when signing up for the website because it was important to me to use clear rhetoric, so that questions were efficient and not misleading.
Though challenging, I would definitely say that this was one of the most educational experiences I’ve had in a long time. I learned that not many non-profits promote themselves nearly as much as they should, though it’s possible that they simply lack to resources to do so. I learned that my own community is a lot more developed than I thought. I also learned that while I’m more comfortable being to my self, I do have the ability to network with others, which can be very beneficial.
I do plan on developing this project and making it long term after the semester ends. I have a friend who’s a great web designer and as a side project, helps young people develop their own websites or blogs as long as they’re passionate about them, for free.
Last week we had Nico Gumbs and Heather from YAYA (the Youth and Young Adult Network for National Farms Worker Ministry). Nico is their head organizer while Heather is one of their team leaders.
They gave us a lot of information about their organizations and shocking statistics about some of the terrible working conditions of farm workers. It was very eye opening but good to see that organizations, like YAYA, are taking a stand.
When it came to their writing, I liked that, after taking a trip or volunteering, they have their team members write a reflective essay of their experience. I believe that writing with the intention of sharing an experience can be more impactful to a stranger than writing with the intention of persuading or informing them about something they can learn elsewhere. It reminded me of when Taylor, from After School All Stars, visited us and mentioned that if you’re going to write a grant, it’s important to get out there and do the work that will be accomplished through the grants. In the future it would be interesting to try reflective writing to capture people’s attention.
On Tuesday October 7th, we had Laura Pooser and Anne Botteri from the UCF Foundation, Inc. visit the class. Laura Pooser is the Director of Humanities for the College of Arts and Humanities, meaning that she raises funds. Anne Botteri is the Director of Communications and Marketing for the foundation. in charge of It was very interesting to have both of them in the class because although they both work and write for the same non-profit, they have different experiences and focus on different areas, which is yet again, a demonstration of the variety of positions one can have writing for a non-profit.
One thing that I learned, from both of them, about writing in the non-profit world is that it is valuable to express gratitude and constantly give thanks to your funders and partners. Ms. Pooser mentioned that she always guards her communication with donors by thanking them and finding ways to show her gratitude towards them. They also mentioned that they try to have students write letters to their scholarship funders, which I personally have done in the past & consider to be great. This made me think about the real people that donate their money to a cause or a person that they believe in. If I were in their shoes, I would only do it again if I felt that it was truly valued and appreciated. That is was a written “thank you” might make them feel. As Ms. Botteri said “No one writes a check just to write a check.” It’s important to take care of those relationships, as they both clearly pointer out.
They both spoke about the appearance of things, as well. As a communication major, I know the importance of field dependence and how the look and feel of something can be intriguing to somebody or cause the opposite reaction. However, I never focused on it when it came to writing for a non-profit. Ms. Pooser mentioned using her graphic design background and Ms. Botteri spoke about the use of photographs and graphics. It then occurred to me that I should include my background of graphic design and photography as skills that would be helpful to a non-profit. I never though my Adobe Photoshop certification would come in handy, but I guess it will after all!
Yesterday we had Tyler Chandler, the state director of After School All Stars, visit us as a guest speaker.
I learned about three different areas in writing in the non-profit world, that one can get into. The first area is, of course, writing grant proposals, which can be for programming grants (money that would come in to an organization to fund “hands on” work) or for capital grants (money that would come in for a new building or playground, etc.). The second area is in public relations and advertising, according to Tyler Chandler, non-profits are 50% what they do and 50% perception, which is why it’s critical that they look good in order to grow and continuously get funded. The third area is more technical writing for the organizations, such as programming and curriculum, to put in print exactly what and how they do.
Two things that I believe I can put into practice from what he said are to try to get grants that are for 3-5 years, in order to get sustainability, and to keep track of every single dime that would come from a grant proposal that I have written, because you and your organization will be held accountable by funders. Also, he mentioned how important it is for a grant writer to get involved and learn how their non-profit works so that they know exactly what they are talking about when writing a grant. I believe that was the most important take away from everything that he said. Knowing exactly what your organization does and needs makes for an efficient grant.
This week we had Jason and Jennifer Helvenston as our guest speakers. They are the founders of Growing Food, an organization dedicated to growing healthy food and the community coming together to help each other grow food and have healthier eating habits.
While their presentation was full of information, what I learned about writing in the non-profit world is that it is critical how you word something in order to be considered “legit” or get what you want/need but still do exactly what is says in your print. They mentioned knowing many organization whose mission on paper is completely different from what they actually do. I thought it was interesting that they mentioned that before sending in their paperwork to the IRS, they started out with one wording and ended up changing it almost completely.
I was very surprised to hear how much paperwork is involved in getting a 501(c)3 status. My church is going through the same process at the moment, so I knew it was a lot of work and important to have an accountant, however, I never realized how tedious it truly was. As someone who would eventually like to start a nonprofit organization, I’m starting to realize that I have more work ahead of me than I imagined.
Based on what I learned from this presentation, I think in the future I will continue asking for second or third opinions on my writing. Since wording is so important, I would like to make sure that my word choices are very clear and that there is as little room for misinterpretation as possible.
Today we were visited by Angela White-Jones. She is the Grants Officer for Quest Inc. I learned quite a lot from her visit. I truly enjoyed it and got a new perspective on grant writing.
I learned about that Quest generates 30 million dollars a year and employ 700 people, which was very surprising about a non-profit organization. I loved learning that grant writing never goes of style and is “recession proof” as she said.
Though, I already had an idea that no two grants are the same, it was surprising to learn that they always make a completely new grants based on the requirements of the funder and that some of them are so detailed, that they can be up 250 pages long. I remember thinking that it must be terrible if they go through all that hard work when the funders may not even be interested in the grants until she mentioned the letter of inquiry as a sort of “application” for permission to submit a proposal to a funder who’s interested.
Out of everything that she said, what stood out the most was how much she networks with people face to face and/or over the phone. She gave an example that she called a huge foundation and even though it was a long shot, they go funded by that foundation. She also mentioned that if her proposal gets rejected she usually calls the company and asks why over the phone, to see what she can improve. She also mentioned, that Quest is currently working with Ikea and she got that connection at a birthday party through a friend of a friend, it made me realize that she is always aware and networking and that a great quality to have as a grant writer is alertness of connections and resources. I also admired how fearless she is, it’s important in the non-profit world to be a go-getter and leave fear aside.
Something that I would probably work better on as a potential job applicant would be sharpening my social skills. I‘m somewhat introverted and I don’t always have a lot of confidence when meeting new people, so I know that it’s definitely something to work on. While I knew it was important, I didn’t realize how critical it could be until Angela spoke to us.
Looking at the five grants proposals was a really interesting experience because I always wondered what a grant proposal “looked like” but it’s a very diverse genre. I noticed that though they are all very different in style but that they all had quite a lot in common.
Distinguishing characteristics that the 5 grant proposals included:
- Mission of the organization
- Purpose of the organization
- Statistics to show why the existence of the organization is beneficial (Most, though not all, used resources to back up those statistics.)
- Information to increase their credibility (usually statistics of what they already accomplished, this includes, amount of people they have helped, awards they have received, amount of money they raised for their cause in the past, etc. They may also name organizations that support them, that are already credible such as, Publix or Bank of America)
- Challenges that they are facing or may face and strategies to overcome them.
- Why they need help from the foundations they are writing to.
- Amount of money needed to accomplish their goals
- What they plan on doing with their grants in detail.
- Projected date to accomplish their goals or make a change in their communities.
- Detailed plan of their end goals.
I found the biggest difference to be the structure. Two of the proposals (from Building Tomorrow and Southeast Community College) had a pre-prepared form with instructions from the foundations that they had to fill out, they seemed more like a “grant application”. While the other three seemed to be more “free” in what they wrote, two of them (Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine and Quest, Inc) seemed more organized and structured in their proposals because they had various headings and sections to organize their ideas and information, while the other one (Lexington Habitat For Humanity) seemed to intertwine their information and make it flow all together. Another small differences, was the type of statistics and resource used but a lot of it seemed to depend on what the goals of the organizations were. For example, Quest and Lakeland Volunteers had completely different goals, so naturally their information was varied.
I believe that what makes an effective grant proposal is having clear defined goals, it is critical that the funders know exactly what they are supporting and where their money and/or services are helping accomplished. It’s very important to clearly state your vision, short term goals, and long term goals, as well as dates. I also believe that it is extremely important to list resources when using statistics and having good credibility, it’s beneficial to have proof of what has been accomplished in the past, along with realistic goals, to prove that what you want can be accomplished.