Category Archives: Ask Dalya

Ask Dalya: ‘We’ vs. ‘You’ in Appeal Letters

Q: We are writing an appeal letter and we’re trying to figure out what pronouns to use. You see, we’ve taken your advice to heart that we should include our readers in a “conversation on paper.” That means using the words “you” and “your” as much as we can. But sometimes we have to talk about what the organization is doing. It gets confusing. Help!

A: Yes, it can be a bit tricky at times, if you’re not careful.

A simple switch from the “we” of the organization to the “you” of your reader goes like this:

Original: We want to bring native plants back to our community. But we need your help!

Suggested revision: You can help improve our city’s environment by planting and saving native plants. They bring many benefits to our community and help us avoid eco-trouble down the line.

Did you see what I did there? Changing the perspective like that is pretty clear.

But did you also notice that in the suggested revision there’s a “we” also — and it now includes the reader? That second sentence is now talking about “our city’s environment” and “our community”. No longer is it “we” the organization needing “your” help.

The rule of thumb operating here is this: Continue reading

Ask Dalya: How can a nonprofit CEO, Director, or Board member facilitate successful grantseeking?

Q: How can a nonprofit CEO, Director, or Board member facilitate successful grantseeking?

A: Grantseeking is a team sport. As a nonprofit CEO, Director, or Board member you can help guide your team to victory — but you can’t do that if you hang back on the sidelines.

If your nonprofit is like the vast majority out there, you need (at least some) grant income to advance your mission in your community. Your role as a leader is to marshal the right strategy and resources so your grantseeking team can succeed.

Whether your team consists of staff, consultants, and/or volunteers, you need to help set (or at least know) the game plan so you can manage effectively. Without your vision and planning, your team will lack direction, priorities, and motivation.

Even if you are not personally involved in your organization’s day-to-day grantseeking activities, you need a solid grounding in how grantseeking happens. That is, you need to know what to expect from the process and how you can help it along. By preparing for success you will increase your likelihood of attaining it.

I’ve spoken with leaders of many new (and not-so-new) organizations who have not properly prepared for grantseeking. They simply want to see more money come through the door right away. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. They have often been disappointed.

In my experience, strategic leaders who are starting or upgrading their teams’ grantseeking efforts best position their organizations for success when they:

  • Frame grantseeking as a team effort that enjoys strong investment from the organization’s leaders: in the form of timely information, adequate human resources, and appropriate planning
  • Encourage an attitude of ongoing partnership between the organization (the entity that makes changes in the community) and funders (the entities that underwrite those changes)
  • Model a sense of openness and curiosity about what makes the most sense in the current funding climate, from a funder’s point of view
  • Routinely share specific plans for accomplishing their mission and evaluating their activities’ outcomes and impacts
  • Establish community collaborations that the grantseeking team can leverage
  • Prioritize funding needs for at least 6-12 months at a time
  • Meet with their grantseeking team on a regular basis to strategize and define responsibilities

Is grantseeking high on the agenda of a CEO, Director, or Board member? It should be. Without the support of nonprofit executives, even the strongest grantseeking teams must often watch opportunities pass them by.

To learn more, join me for my February 15 free webinar, Grant Strategy for CEOs, Directors, and Board Members: What You Need to Know to Succeed.

[By the way, you can find more “Ask Dalya” questions and answers HERE.

Ask Dalya: First person or third person in grant proposals?

Question: I’m working on a grant application, and I find myself referring to our organization both in the third person and the first person.  The third person sounds more professional, and I feel more comfortable “bragging” about our accomplishments in the third person.  But the first person sounds warmer and more personal, and I think it tends to convey greater ownership/passion. Which approach should I take?

Answer: This is a common situation, and there is no hard and fast rule about  it. I have seen both.

Personally, I tend to go mostly with the first person but use the organization’s acronym when it seems feasible and appropriate (not to overdo the “we”, to get the funder familiar with the organization’s name, and to sound official).

By the way, your focus should be more on what you do for and with the community and less on you, as much as possible. The third/first person issue should not be that big of a deal; don’t let it disrupt your flow.

PS: You can find more “”Ask Dalya” questions and answers HERE.

Ask Dalya: What’s the danger in misusing hyperbole?

(Creative Commons photo license)

Q: What’s the danger in misusing hyperbole?

A: While we all like to think that our work is unique, essential, and groundbreaking, that can’t always be the case. (I think of the phrase from A Prairie Home Companion, “where the children are all above average.”)

It behooves you as a socially responsible changemaker to get your facts straight and do your research; exaggeration has no place in your writing. You certainly don’t want your readers to doubt your integrity or knowledge of your field if they learn you’re not telling the whole truth.

Of course, If extensive research tells you that you are the only/best/least expensive/most effective/largest (etc.) organization doing your work in the way you are doing it, by all means tell the world about it. Just stay away from claims that seem too good to be true (what a turn-off!).

In all other cases, take the time to qualify your statements. Temper the temptation to go overboard. Look for the unique part of what you do and focus on that distinction — in an honest and clear way. For example, maybe you’re the only one in your geographic area making a specific community change. Perhaps you specialize in a particular population within your larger field. If you  are contributing a major piece of the puzzle in your field, but your partners also form part of the solution, take them into account and share the credit.

Keep it real and always be mindful of your credibility.

 

 

Ask Dalya: Do funders hold all the cards in grant relationships?

Question: It seems that foundations and other funders hold all the cards in power relationships with grantseekers. Is that true?

Answer:

At first glance, it definitely can appear that way. It may feel like you are “begging for money” with a virtual tin cup. You may even get nervous when you prepare to speak with a funder one-on-one.

That’s totally understandable. (FYI, many foundation program officers used to be in grantseekers’ shoes so they can empathize with your sweaty palms.)

But while grantmakers hold the purse strings, by no means are they the only ones in the relationship who should be confident, empowered professionals.

Look closely at the situation. Continue reading