Every proposal writer struggles to come up with that perfect line, that strand of words that captures the heart and soul of the program — even the entire organization. “Lines that capture the essence of something often come from Nashville, Laurel Canyon, Tin Pan Alley and the other haunts of songwriters … we could do worse than listen to how they say it.”
Poverty and inequality? For the Lindsay administration, New York City 1968, “put your girl to sleep sometime, with rats instead of nursery rhymes, with hunger and your other children by her side. . . Give a Damn, Bob Dorough and Stu Scharf.” Nothing much more needed to be said, according to Boyd. More recently, Bruce Springsteen could have been talking about contemporary poverty with Ghost of Tom Joad: “Hot soup on a campfire under the bridge; Shelter line stretchin’ ’round the corner, Welcome to the new world order. Families sleepin’ in their cars in the Southwest No home no job no peace no rest.” There are thousands of people living under the bridge today.
Some nonprofits work hard to get us to take the climate crisis seriously.
Marvin Gaye tried to catch our attention 50 years ago: “Where did all the blue skies go? Poison is the wind that blows. From the north and south and east” (Mercy, Mercy Me / The Ecology). Or maybe we listen to Childish Gambino: “Every day gets hotter than the one before, Running out of water, it’s about to go down, Go down. Air that kill the bees that we depend upon, Birds were made for singing, wakin’ up to no sound, No sound.” (Feels Like Summer).
What else is there to say about guns and gun control? This, maybe, from Drive-By Truckers: “We’re all standing in the shadows of our noblest intentions of something more Than being shot in a classroom in Oregon.”
Lead writer Patterson Hood says “that’s one of the reasons why the flag’s always at half-mast these days” (Writing credit is shared by the 5-man group, Guns of Umpqua).
And there’s a painful picture painted in Carrie Underwood’s The Bullet: “Line of limousines leaving one by one The prayers been prayed the hands been sung Oh, mamas ain’t supposed to bury their sons, The bullet keeps on goin’” (writers Allen Shamblin, Andy Albert, Marc Beeson).
Proposal writers should not simply copy these images. On the other hand, they might learn from the tight, compelling language of these and hundreds of other songs that carry emotion, imagery and urgency, all qualities we ought to incorporate in our proposals. © Copyright 2022 The Grantsmanship Center Thomas Boyd is chief editorial consultant for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif.