Why Storytelling is Crucial for Nonprofits

In The Storytelling Animal, his examination of the evolutionary origins of fiction, Jonathan Gottschall writes:

“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”

Continue reading “Why Storytelling is Crucial for Nonprofits”


5 Nonprofits Winning at Social Media


5. Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency

Not only is CincyCAA active on Twitter, their tweets and images both attract the viewer and provide clear, practical information about accessing services in the community.

IMPACT Community Action

Several reasons why not being considered “poor” by the Federal Poverty Guideline is deceiving. #OHSOP17#poverty#povertystats#housing#food#utilitiespic.twitter.com/oblNi8NN4C

— IMPACT Community Act (@IMPACTCA) June 6, 2018

4. IMPACT Community Action

Nonprofits owe a lot to the invention of the infographic. (You can use Canva and Tableau Public to make free infographics and data visualizations.)


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Humane Society of Ventura County

3. The Humane Society of Ventura County

Look at that adorable little face! The Humane Society of Ventura County has dozens of great, expressive photos of their adoptable animals. Their posts also include facts about each dog, cat, or horse’s personality and backstory.


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2. Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County (CAPSLO)

CAPSLO’s Sex Ed program has one of the best small-nonprofit Instagrams out there, an integral quality given their target audience.


MacArthur Foundation

1. MacArthur Foundation

Yes, MacArthur is a private foundation rather than a small community-based organization. But their Learning page offers valuable resources for nonprofits, not to mention great inspiration for creating your own infographics.


What are some other nonprofits doing a great job of telling their stories on social media?




Grant Writing for Newbies, Part 2: Nonprofit Alphabet Soup

  • AFP – Association of Fundraising Professionals (a group for Grant Writers, Directors of Development, and other advancement employees)
  • CBO – Community-Based Organization (a nongovernmental nonprofit agency eligible to apply for grants)
  • CDBG – Community Development Block Grant (these grants are typically awarded annually by cities across the country)
  • CFRE – Certified Fundraising Executive (a certification for development employees)
  • DAF – Donor-Advised Fund (an account into which individuals make charitable contributions and receive instant tax benefits; over time, the donor suggests potential grantees)
  • FBO – Faith-Based Organization (e.g., a church)
  • FOA – Funding Opportunity Announcement (essentially the same as an RFA; see below)
  • GPC – Grant Professional Certified (another certification for fundraisers)
  • LOC – Letter of Commitment (a letter signed by one of your partners in a grant application; outlines the partner’s role if the grant is awarded)
  • LOI – Letter of Intent (some funders require you to send them this before they invite you to submit a full grant application; it is essentially the Reader’s Digest version of your proposed project)
  • LOS – Letter of Support (a letter from another agency or person expressing enthusiasm for your grant application)
  • MOU – Memorandum of Understanding (a formal agreement between two parties)
  • NOFA – Notice of Funding Availability (essentially the same as an RFA; see below)
  • NOFO – Notice of Funding Opportunity (essentially the same as an RFA; see below)
  • PD – Project Director (an employee of your organization in charge of the day-to-day management of a grant, should it be awarded)
  • RFA – Request for Applications (funding sources release this document to request proposals from grantseekers; it outlines the requirements of all proposals)
  • RFP – Request for Proposals (essentially the same as an RFA)

Grant Writing for Newbies, Part 1: What is Grant Writing?

Q: OK, what is grant writing?

Long before I started working on grants, I would occasionally hear of the nebulous field of “grant writing.” I thought it meant, basically, writing checks to nonprofits. I imagined a “grant writer” from a big foundation writing a check and a contract for a nonprofit and calling that a grant. Naturally, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“Grant writing” is actually a bit of a misnomer (for more information and a snazzy pie chart, see: Most of Grant Writing Is Not Writing: My Process). Perhaps a more accurate term would be “grant application writing” or “grant project development.” Essentially, grant writing is a nonprofit’s process of designing, revising, and proposing a future project to a funder.

Some examples of grant applications include:

  • A project to teach local children to swim (funding would be used to hire a full-time instructor and rent pool space at a gym)
  • A project to spay and neuter local cats (funding would be used to pay a veterinarian)
  • A project to improve literacy rates in Oregon (we’re asking for funding to pay teachers to work with children at local community centers and after-school programs)

It’s important to note that grant applications are definitely not always for new projects. Many nonprofits ask for funding to maintain or expand existing programs that have a track record of success.

Q: Who can apply for grants?

In almost every case, applicants for U.S. grants are required to be 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.

See you in Part 2!

One Word Your Nonprofit Might Be Misspelling

I can’t even begin to list the grant proposals in which I’ve seen some variation of the following sentence:

Continue reading “One Word Your Nonprofit Might Be Misspelling”

Most of Grant Writing Is Not Writing: My Process

The term “grant writing” is a bit of a misnomer, as it makes the process of developing a grant application sound limited to typing up a draft. In reality, crafting a grant proposal is a complex process that involves many steps before real writing takes place.

Here’s my process:

Continue reading “Most of Grant Writing Is Not Writing: My Process”

I’m a #Griffin. What Are You?

I love Nonprofit AF (formerly Nonprofit with Balls). Whether you work at a nonprofit or not, you should take this quiz to find out if you are a Griffin, Dragon, Phoenix, or Pegacorn: go do it now!

I see quite a bit of myself in the Griffin description:

Griffins are diligent, careful, logical, and accurate. They take time to do their work, so it is usually high quality. They are detail-oriented, often picking up stuff that other people miss. They love processes, data, and well-reasoned arguments. They bring grounding and balance to any team, encouraging everyone to pay attention to boring technical crap like objectives and timelines and data. They are not sure this description of them is accurate; they need more time to think about it first.” —Nonprofit AF

I have been called detail-oriented many times, and I often wonder how people can overlook small things. Does the character limit include spaces or not? I need to know.

These quizzes are fun because everyone wants to know more about themselves. I remember reading that it’s easy to see versions of yourself in generic descriptions like those for Zodiac signs and aura colors, but they don’t really tell you much. I can’t help it; personality quizzes are my guilty pleasure.