How I Came to Love Research
Updated: Aug 18, 2019
From the time in entered my career in fundraising, I knew the one part of fundraising I never wanted to pursue was grants. Okay, most people are surprised by this and I still get calls asking if I can help some nonprofit write grant proposals. Why are they surprised when I tell them that’s not my forte? “But you’ve written dozens of books, you must be a great writer and you must love to write.”
Well, that part’s right. I’ve been writing since I was about twelve, starting with short stories. And I’ve authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than two dozen books for the nonprofit sector and three works of fiction. So, what took me from someone who hated research to someone who now enjoys it? Simple, write about something you love and something you are knowledgeable about. I’m going to relate in a series of blogs how I researched for my books and how I got to enjoy it. Spoiler alert: the research got to be more fun as I wrote more and expanded my genre of writing.
Several of the nonprofit books I wrote required research, although they were all written from a practical standpoint and not in an academic style. For example, my very first published book was Recruiting and Training Fundraising Volunteers. For this book I talked to nonprofits about how they involved volunteers in their fundraising program and held focus groups in several cities asking volunteers how they felt about their volunteer experiences. Fundraising as a Career: What, Are You Crazy, one of my early books, required some research on things like salaries in the nonprofit sector, specialties in fundraising, number of nonprofits in the USA, and number of fundraising professionals. Tedious stuff for me, but the good news is that, with the Internet, it is much easier to research than it was back in the dark ages, when I was in college. But here’s where the fun came in: When my publisher and I were brainstorming on ways to promote the book, we came up with a podcast where he would interview me, and we wanted to start out with some music. After a little musical research, it didn’t take us long to decide on Billy Joel’s You May Be Right, I May Be Crazy as an intro and outro for the interview. I still think of that interview every time I hear that song!
Another book I really enjoyed writing was Raise More Money from Your Business Community. Again, I had to do what I consider boring research—things like how many businesses were there in the USA, how many were formed as corporations, partnerships, sole proprietors, or LLCs, and how much of their profits did these businesses give to nonprofits. But I had some fun doing online surveys and personal interviews with nonprofits about how they approached businesses, how they counted business gifts in their reporting, and what types of gifts did they receive from businesses. And, being a former businessperson myself, I also enjoyed researching through talking with business owners and managers about how they wanted to be approached, what kinds of recognition they wanted, and what type of organizations they supported.
So, research does not have to be boring. Wait until I tell you about the research for my fiction books, The Matriarch https://amzn.to/2Z09dzQ and The Face of Jesus
https://amzn.to/2HclZAn. No, I didn’t have a time machine, but I kind of created my own back in time experiences through some interesting research. I must say that the research for my upcoming book, Beyond Las Vegas: Road Trips from A to Z has been my favorite research experience so far. Stay tuned for pictures and stories about how I researched these books.