Lesson 8 For Grantwriters From “The Princess Bride”

Don't give up your "true love"

Continuing with the series of what we can learn from the movie, The Princess Bride, here’s lesson #8.

Don’t change your mission to chase the latest thing.

booooo

The Ancient Booer: Your true love lives. And you marry another. True Love saved her in the Fire Swamp, and she treated it like garbage. And that’s what she is, the Queen of Refuse. So bow down to her if you want, bow to her. Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boo. Boo. Rubbish. Filth. Slime. Muck. Boo. Boo. Boo.

Princess Buttercup, in a dream, is presented to the public as the wife of the insipid Prince Humperdinck. She is accosted by the Ancient Booer who addresses the gathering, exclaiming how Buttercup gave up her true love, Westley.

Nonprofits sometimes are guilty of giving up their mission, their purpose for existing, in order to become more acceptable to whatever “fad” is sweeping the field, especially if funders are backing that trend with money. While every organization has to be willing to change, such adaptation must be done thoughtfully and with board discussion and debate. Mission drift can occur if money, not mission, is the key driver of decision-making about what services will be offered to what population.

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Lesson 7 For Grantwriters From “The Princess Bride”

It'll take a miracle!

Continuing with the series of what we can learn from the movie, The Princess Bride, here’s lesson #7.

Don’t give up the grant opportunity before you begin!

mircalemax

Valerie: Think it’ll work?

Miracle Max : It’ll take a miracle!

Miracle Max and Valerie: Have fun stormin’ da castle.

Miracle Max and his wife Valerie have just brought Westley back from “almost death” and hope he, Inigo, and Fezzik can get into the Prince’s castle, rescue Buttercup, avenge Inigo’s father, and escape. Obviously, there isn’t much chance of this succeeding.

Sometimes we approach writing a particular proposal in the same way. We look at the chances of success (only three proposals will be funded across the nation) and talk ourselves out of even trying. Naturally, we do have to be careful in how we spend our limited time and other resources, but if you have the right skills and knowledge, and time enough, you may just find that a a seeming miracle will occur.

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Lesson 6 For Grantwriters From “The Princess Bride”

Take care of yourself

Continuing with the series of what we can learn from the movie, The Princess Bride, here’s lesson #6.

Take care of yourself, no matter how busy you get!
princehumperdinck

Prince Humperdinck: Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.

Count Rugen: Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.

We all know that it’s hard to be a grantwriter at times. You’ve got three proposals due this month, there are the other duties of your job (perhaps you’re a CEO of the nonprofit, or you’re a freelance grantwriter with other potential clients to approach), and so on. You come to work early, you leave late, you skip meals, your exercise routine goes down the tubes, and you dehydrate. Your meals are fast-food and you fuel your working hours with coffee and cola. This is unsustainable. If you want to do your best work, you have to fuel yourself properly. An ill grantwriter is an ineffective grantwriter.

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Lesson 5 For Grantwriters From “The Princess Bride”

To the pain!

Continuing with the series of what we can learn from the movie, The Princess Bride, here’s lesson #5.

Sometimes your proposal can use a slight twist to bring home its uniqueness and keep the reader interested.

wesley

Prince Humperdinck has found a weakened Westley and intends to kill him, then murder Buttercup. He says, “To the death!” and Westley responds “To the pain!” which confuses Humperdinck. Westley explains:

Westley: To the pain means the first thing you will lose will be your feet below the ankles. Then your hands at the wrists. Next your nose.

Prince Humperdinck: And then my tongue I suppose, I killed you too quickly the last time. A mistake I don’t mean to duplicate tonight.

Westley: I wasn’t finished. The next thing you will lose will be your left eye followed by your right.

Prince Humperdinck: And then my ears, I understand let’s get on with it.

Westley: Wrong! Your ears you keep and I’ll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out, “Dear God! What is that thing,” will echo in your perfect ears. That is what to the pain means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.

Westley (we know, but the Prince does not) is buying time, and ends up recovering fully by delaying the fight. Obviously this is not the model a grantwriter should follow. But the way Westley causes the Prince to pause IS remarkable. There is a typical storyline that readers are expecting to hear. If you follow the usual pattern, you lose readers’ attention, they skip the details, and have a hard time remembering your proposal in the midst of so many that seem a lot the same.

A grantwriter who can “disrupt the pattern” even slightly, pulls readers back into the proposal and intrigues them to pay more attention. The proposal becomes more interesting, more salient, and more fund-able in this way.

Of course, you have to provide all the requested information and you don’t want to be “cutesy” (see lesson #9) but you don’t have to be fully predictable and dull, either.

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Lesson 4 For Grantwriters From “The Princess Bride”

Do we have to read the kissing part?

Continuing with the series of what we can learn from the movie, The Princess Bride, here’s lesson #4.

Some parts of the grant proposal are ones you wish you didn’t have to deal with. But you do. So do them as well as possible.

kissingpart

The Grandson: They’re kissing again. Do we have to read the kissing parts?

Like many young boys, the grandson is not interested in romance and kissing. He wants to get to the good parts of the story—the sword fights, the adventure, and the part where the good guy wins. He wants to skip the other parts of the story.

Many of us grantwriters, if we’re honest, like to write some parts of the grant more than others. A compelling needs statement makes our mind come alert. The solution to the problem causes our hearts to sing as we write it.

The program evaluation section—it’s ok. The agency capacity and capabilities part? Not so much. Maybe your favorite part is different and maybe your pick of the worst is not the same as mine. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we DO have proposal parts we wouldn’t mind not having to do, or just pulling out boilerplate sections from a previous grant. It’s human nature.

But it also is a good way to lose points in the review process, which leads to an unfunded proposal.

Even the least interesting section is valuable. Not putting your best effort into it is a mistake.

That doesn’t mean you, as lead writer, can’t delegate the initial drafts of some sections while you focus your talents on other parts. But you still have to bring you’re A-game to the entire proposal, if you want to be funded.

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