Reporters have been writing about the death of small family farm since at least the Great Depression, and governmental efforts have been underway to save it for almost as long if not longer. Combine that with perennial grant programs—which we’ve written about before (and here too)—and you’ll find many odd patterns. Recently I found the Small, Minority Producer Grant Program, which aims to “provide technical assistance to small, minority agricultural producers through eligible minority cooperatives and minority associations of cooperatives.” Compare that to what Isaac wrote in his introductory post:
But I’ll never feel better about the universe than when I picked up that check from an aging 1930s radical who was a manager at the funder, Farmer’s Union Central Exchange, a producer cooperative long since merged into an energy conglomerate. This old guy in a conservative suit knew another radical when he saw one and was delighted to once again be stirring things up.
Funders of various types are still passing out money to agricultural businesses, large and small— including cooperatives. One thing I’d like to know: just how many small, minority farm producers are there?
For another, similar program called Rural Cooperative Development, I tried to turn a sentence from section “I. Funding Opportunity Description” from proposalese into English:
Grant funds are provided for the establishment and operation of Centers that have the expertise or who can contract out for the expertise to assist individuals or entities in the startup, expansion or operational improvement of cooperative businesses.
Subscribers instead got this:
Grants to establish and operate centers with the expertise to help start, expand or improve cooperative rural businesses.
It effectively says the same thing in 18 words instead of 39 words, reducing the word count by half while simultaneously being easier to understand. This is an example of what I mocked in RFP Absurdity and Responding to Narrative Questions and Bad Government English. At times it might be beneficial to write as poorly as this in proposals, but at the very least you should know if you are writing in proposalese and why. For instance, if you’re parroting sections of an RFP to answer a question, mimic the proposalese, but if you’re facing harsh page limits, write succinctly. And if you’re trying to state the purpose of the programs to time-stressed leaders in the nonprofit world, as I do, make their lives a little easier by writing in simple declarative sentences. Try not to use 39 words when 18 will do.