Margit Brazda Poirier, GPC, M.S. will focus on donor cultivation, an essential step to getting the grant.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Margit, I got 1:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started officially?

Margit: Absolutely. Let’s go.

Steven: All right. Awesome. Well, good afternoon, everybody, and good morning if you’re on the West Coast, I should say. And if you’re watching this recording, I hope you’re having a good day no matter when and where you are.

We are here to talk about how to get more grants, specifically through donor cultivation. Oh yeah. Nice angle to be looking at this topic. Excited that all of you are here. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of quick housekeeping items. I just want to let you all know that we are recording in this session, and we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on today. So if you have to leave early, maybe you just want to review the content, don’t worry. We will get all that good stuff in your hands just a couple of hours after we finish up here.

But most importantly, we’d love for these sessions to be interactive. So send in your questions and comments. We’re going to try and save a little bit of time at the end for Q&A, but we would love to hear from you throughout. I’ll keep an eye on those. There’s a chat box. There’s a Q&A box. You can use either of those. We’ll see them. But bottom line is we would love to hear from you. You can even send us a tweet. I’ll keep an eye on that as well. So don’t be shy. Don’t sit on those hands.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar with us, welcome. A special welcome to you first-timers. We do these webinars just about every single Thursday throughout the year, bringing on a great guest speaker. Today is no exception by any means.

But if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang beyond these webinars, we are also a provider of donor management software. That’s what Bloomerang is. It’s a donor database. You can even do grant tracking, which we love as well. So check that out if you are maybe interested or just kind of curious about us.

But don’t check it out right now. Wait at least an hour, because one of my favorites is joining us. Her initials may be MBP, but to me, she’s the MVP of grants. Margit, how is it going? I had to make a dad joke. Sorry.

Margit: It’s great. I like that MV. I’ve never heard that. Great.

Steven: I was workshopping. So yeah, you’ve done a lot of webinars for us, but if you don’t come back after that lame joke, then I’ll understand. But I hope you do, because you’re awesome.

If y’all don’t know Margit, check her out. She’s over Grants4Good, been doing this a long time, and is just really, really knowledgeable. I love having her on the series every year to talk about grants. And it’s been kind of a wild . . . not just year but a little over a year, so she’s got a lot of really good insights on what’s been going on because it seems like things are changing all the time.

She’s got an awesome grant-writing course that she’s going to tell you about it at the end, which I hope you all sign up for because it’s really good.

But I’ve talked too much. Margit, I’m going to stop sharing and I’ll let you pull up your beautiful slides because I know you’ve got a lot of good stuff.

Margit: Thank you, Steve. I will do that. One quick thing. I know we were on earlier for our sound check, but I hear a little bit of a buzzing sound. Do you hear that, or is it just on my end?

Steven: I don’t hear it, but it might have been me. I’ll mute myself, and maybe it’ll go away.

Margit: Okay. I just want to make sure we have the best possible webinar for everyone who’s here today.

So I am so excited that we’re here together. Thank you for choosing this webinar among the thousands that you’ve probably gotten in your inbox in the last year. I’m really excited to be here with you. As Steve said, my name is Margit Brazda Poirier, and I’m owner and founder of Grants4Good, a grant consulting company that I started in 2009.

I also have some funny initials after my name. MS means I have a Master’s of Science in natural resource management. I worked in that field for 20 years, and I was writing grants at times there too. That’s what got me started, writing grants for environmental projects.

And GPC stands for Grant Professional Certified. So that means that I sat five hours for a really, really long multiple-choice test, and have a whole bunch of credentials that say I get national certification for doing this. But truly, I love to do it because I love that when nonprofits get the grant funding they need, they can do extraordinary things. And that’s why I teach these courses. That’s why I’m passionate about really helping others do this stuff and get the most they can get for grant funding with the least amount of time preferably.

So this webinar is called “Get More Grants with Donor Cultivation Now in Post-Pandemic.” I don’t love the term donor cultivation. It sounds so impersonal. But calling this webinar “Get More Grants by Getting in Touch with Funders and Getting to Know Them,” etc., is just too long of a title. So here we go.

And I’m going to share some great insights with you today. So in the next 45 minutes or so, I’m going to talk about the 5% rule and why it matters right now. If you already know what that is, stay tuned. I’ve got some fresh data for you.

I also want to share with you some tips for engaging your board in fundraising, for utilizing social media, and really leveraging your current connections as part of getting grants.

I also want to share some tips about how to have the best meetings and site visits with funders. So it’s all under that donor cultivation umbrella, right?

But I want to share tips because I was a former funder. I have been in grant writing for several decades. And again, Grants4Good, I started it back in 2009, so that’s been 12 years. But I also was director of a large family foundation. Not my family, but the family that started Xerox Corporation. And I got a lot of important insights and information when I was in that role. I’ve also done a lot of reviewing for state and federal grants.

So I’m going to share some tips with you all throughout to try to make this process painless and, most importantly, fun, kind of like these kids running these science experiments. We want to be able to have fun with this stuff.

So first of all, the very bad news. Well, actually, why are we looking for grant funding in the first place? Well, the main reason is it’s a great source of revenue for your nonprofit or business if you’re here as a business. There are grants for businesses. But really, primarily, grants are not the end-all. They should not be your sole source of revenue, but they really do help complete your revenue stream.

So we’re here because there are predictions out there that are rather dire and say that one-third of nonprofits may close within two years. These predictions were made earlier in 2021. More likely, 11% to 38% of nonprofits will close.

Now, when you look at those numbers, it’s simply unacceptable. When I think about all the important work you all are doing . . . And I’ve just seen we range from Florida to Alaska, California, Indiana, New York, Canada. Everything you’re doing in your communities is too important to lose. And so we don’t want those predictions to come through at all, and grant funding is one way literally to help you keep the doors open.

Grants are still out there. If there’s any doubt in your mind, I can tell you right now some numbers. Just last year, $450 billion was given in grants donations, $10 billion in Canada. What does that mean? What it means is there are 100,000 grant-making foundations out there right now in the U.S. These are the private foundations that you can access, 100,000 of those. Then there are thousands of state and federal grant opportunities out there too. When you add all that together, plus individual donations, there’s literally over $450 billion given out just last year alone.

I anticipate that amount to increase when we get the reports of 2021, and I’ll tell you exactly why.

There are also 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. and about 90,000 in Canada. So clearly, there is a lot of money out there for all the organizations there. The key is how to get it.

Also, why are we talking about grants today? Well, because not only is there money out there, not only are they a great source of revenue for your organization, but thirdly, third reason, they will pay for just about anything. It depends on which funder you’re applying to.

I work with clients from mainly in New York, but also all over the country with my “All About Grant Writing” online course. And so some of the customers who finish that course come back to me and they say, “Margit, okay, we got money for everything we need. We got general operating, we got programmatic costs, and we got capital funds to expand our theater.”

So kind of the three categories of what you might need money for are all ones that grant funding can pay for as long as you make sure the funder is appropriate for that particular opportunity.

So when you do your research on funders, you have to make sure it’s a good match for you. That’s a whole different webinar. But generally, these grant funds can literally keep you alive and also help you expand your programming if that is something that you’re doing this year and into next.

So I’m going to jump right into the deliverables here. Grants and the 5% rule. What is it? Why does it matter? And let me get out a crystal ball and predict the future a little bit for you too.

But first, as a quick recap for anyone who hasn’t been on any of my webinars, I like to categorize funding sources into four categories.

Government grants, which include state and U.S. federal grants or Canadian provincial grants.

Secondly, community foundations, which, in the U.S., most areas have a community foundation that covers your area. And in fact, there’s a really cool website. If you Google “community foundation locator,” look for that. You’re going to see a big map of the U.S. This is just for U.S. folks. Big map of the U.S. pops up, click on your region, and you’ll get the name and address of your community foundation. Many of those are grant-making organizations, so it’s worth reaching out.

Private foundations, this is where that 5% rule applies. And I’ll tell you right now, I have a blog on my website, grants4good.com, just go to the blog page. There’s a lot up there. Even check out some of the older blogs. The one I published last year about the 5% rule, it’ll give you more detail.

Corporate foundations, these are ones that you all know of, Ford Foundation, Walmart foundation, Target. Think of some of the banks that you bank at. They have corporate foundation arms.

So those are really the four categories that I like to divide our grants into.

Now, let me apply this 5% rule we’re talking about and why it matters to our topic today.

Well, charitable foundation giving is directly related to economic growth or economic decline. Well, a very strange thing happened in 2020, one of many strange things, unfortunately. The pandemic. Much to most people’s surprise, we did have a recession for technically one quarter, but it didn’t last that long. And so we ended up seeing a lot of economic growth in 2020.

The stock market finished very strong, and that means that foundation assets, their investments, also went up. They went up quite a bit. So there are projections that a lot of foundations made about 10% in profits that year off their assets.

Now, the IRS . . . Again, I apologize to our Canadian friends here today. I’m not sure if it’s the same in Canada. I’m going to have to research this. In the U.S., the IRS has a minimum distribution requirement, and it says that 5% of the average market value of net investment assets of a foundation have to be distributed the following year.

So for example, you would take the average assets of 2020, multiply that times 0.05, get the 5% number, and you’ll know how much money they have to spend in 2021. So it’s a great way for you to predict what a foundation has to give out in charitable donations.

Now, some of those qualifying distributions can go to a little bit of administrative costs, but it’s very minor. Put that aside. Most of those have to go to you all, to nonprofit organizations.

Now, the interesting thing about this . . . there are a couple of ways to find out assets. So first of all, if you want to do this research, go to any foundation you’re interested in, hop on their IRS Form 990, which is their tax return. This is public information. It will tell you the current assets of the foundation for the year ending . . . in this case, this is a 2015. I’ll have to update this slide. But you can find out foundation assets from 2019, from 2020. And again, apply that 5% rule to see how much they have to give out.

Also, you can check their annual reports or their websites if they have them to see what their assets currently are. So those are some quick and easy ways to do this.

I’ll tell you a little bit more about my “All About Grant Writing” course at the end, and I go into much more detail about funder research in that course.

But for today, I want to share some really interesting data with you. 2019 versus 2020, for all of you numbers geeks out there . . . and I am a self-professed math geek, so I love the numbers. I just wanted to look into what has been the trend in foundation giving? Because this is going to affect how we communicate with our donors and when.

So 2019, foundations exceeded the 5% minimum that they had to give out. In fact, in 2019, they gave out about 7.9% on average. In 2020, they gave out about 7.4% of their annual assets on average. So they did go over that 5%. Good thing too, because in 2020, they were making over 10%. Again, this is totally on average, but it’s lumping together small foundations, big foundations, everything.

It does get more interesting, though, when you separate out the smaller foundations. And I know some of my clients are very local. They do very local work, and it’s only the small local foundations that are interested, at least initially, in funding them. The good news about that is they’re given out 15% to 19% of their assets. They’re really there for folks this year.

And the larger foundations, well, they gave out more money because they have more assets, but it’s a smaller percentage of their overall money, so about 6% to 6.5%.

I think those are some pretty cool numbers. What that tells me is that foundation giving is above 5% on average, and I do anticipate it’s going to increase in 2021 and 2022, and it’s mainly because of that 10% number you see right there. They did so well in 2020 that they’re going to have to give out more money in 2021 and next year.

All right. Enough about the numbers. Let’s chat a little bit about donor cultivation and contact and connections. We all know how important it is to build relationships with funders. But what on earth does that really mean and how do we do it without pulling our hair out?

And in the last 18 months, it has certainly changed drastically. We no longer call and say, “Would you like to get together for coffee? Let’s go to lunch. Let’s meet up at a conference.” Even though there are more in-person meetings happening, and Steve and I were just talking about that, a lot of folks, including Steve and I, kind of like sitting in our flip flops and pajamas. Well, maybe not today, but we like working from home, and so a lot of our connections are still going to be virtual for quite some time.

So I want to talk a little bit first about where and how to connect with funders, and then what to do.

So where to connect with funders? Well, oftentimes places of employment. So it may be places you work, your colleagues work, or the bank that you go to. I’ve met many funders that way. There may be networking groups, professional affiliations, recreation, sports, clubs. You never know where you’re going to meet folks that could be potential donors, any kind of social connection, social media, which I’ll speak about too.

In my course, where I talk about researching and finding funders, I focus much more on the databases out there that help you do the research. But for today’s purposes, I want to talk more about what are some not-so-obvious sources. And I have a blog post here on my Grants4Good site and it talks about places like legal societies, sports clubs that have grant programs, Rotary Clubs. So there are a lot of other ways to find funding other than going and doing your searching in foundation, state, and federal grants, although mind you that is the biggest source of money. But I wanted to share a little bit of this stuff with you, too.

Now, since we’re talking about donor connections, what do you say? Why would you call or email somebody? Well, I still recommend phone calling. I recommend emailing because right now, when you have a group of funders or you have a list of people that have supported you in the past, the best thing to do is keep them posted on how you’re doing, especially since the pandemic began. Tell them what you’re doing, because some people may assume that you have gone out of business, or that your programs have decreased. And most importantly, tell them why you’re doing it.

I’ll give you an example. I work with a nonprofit that helps provide group and individual counseling services for women affected by domestic violence. Well, the domestic violence rate had increased threefold in New York State directly as a result of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders. And so the client I’m working with had a four-fold increase in calls for demand for services.

So what that necessitated was that we find funders and make it very clear that there is this major spike in the problem of domestic violence, a major spike in the demand for services, which in turn really provide a compelling statement for the funder of why they should get on board and help us with this.

And I’m going to give you another number. We are increased fivefold. We received five times as many grants as we did the year prior. So it really works. Tell people why you’re doing what you’re doing. That’s really what they’re interested in, and the what and the how.

So what could be the role of your board when it comes to this kind of work? So getting in touch with people who have funded you in the past, great. You’ve probably got names, connections, everything. Probably a no-brainer. But what if you’re looking for some new foundations or you heard of a foundation you really want to get in touch with and it says, “We do not accept unsolicited proposals”? Do you say, “Oh, forget it then. Let’s just get them off our list”? No, no, no. This is a good chance to still build a relationship and potentially apply and get grant funding. In fact, some of our best grants have come through this route.

So again, I’ve got a blog. I wrote this one just a month or two ago about what to do with unsolicited proposals. So there’s a lot more in that blog. But what I can tell you right now is if you can research, and you can do this through the 990 that I mentioned earlier, research who’s on the board of the foundation that you’re interested in and share those names with your board of directors. See if there’s some overlap. Does anybody know each other? Can you get an introduction to this foundation with whom you have not yet worked but would like to?

And I’d have to say, if I have to think of one thing that a board of directors can do for your organization, it is that. It’s to make those introductions. Rarely will they actually sit and write grants. I mean, it’s great when board members do. I have seen that happen, I’ve seen it work well, but a lot of times, more often than not, really building those connections helps.

And also, when you think about inviting people to your board, consider having somebody from a major bank in your community serve on that board, or a major trust or insurance company that can help and make donations to your organizations as well through their corporate giving programs.

So those are some thoughts about your board, but be sure to do your research on the funders first. The second thing, again, what if you don’t know a foundation, you want to reach out to them, you want to start to build that relationship so you can apply and get funding and build a strong partnership? Well, the letter of inquiry is something that probably most of you are familiar with if you’ve done any work in grant writing.

It’s gotten really popular. It wasn’t so popular 20 years ago when I wrote some of my earlier grants. It is now, and it’s mainly because it’s a quick way to answer three questions maybe, won’t take a ton of your time, but it will give the funder a very specific idea of what you’re applying for and it can tell them right away, “Is this a fit or isn’t it a fit?”

So the LOI is not a bad thing. It’ll save you time and it helps the funder determine if you’re a good fit and invite you for a full grant application, which is a foot in the door. It’s a great way to go.

So the LOI, letter of inquiry, is also something you can provide even if you weren’t asked for it. So it might be one of those old-fashioned first steps of getting to know a donor or a funder, and that’s to write them a letter. Email, hardcopy, both, your choice. But write them a letter introducing your organization asking for an invitation to apply, or perhaps you come in with a question.

And again, when you make those phone calls to funders, these are some ideas you might want to talk about. You might want to pitch one or two programs and say, “You know, I think both of these align with the mission of your foundation.” You’ve done your research now. Assuming you have, you may want to call and say, “We believe these programs really align with your organization’s mission.”

And you may hear from the funder, “Okay, this one really resonates with us, but this one doesn’t. Yes, we’re interested in workforce development, but we’re not interested in offering students scholarships,” for example. So sometimes it’s good to run a couple of ideas by funders when they’re welcoming to that.

Now, co-planning a program. I’ve got to share something really cool with you all. I was just telling Steve about this before we started the webinar. Yesterday, I was moderating a session for the Association of Fundraising Professionals and it was called “Meet the Funders.” We do this every year. We had four different funders come and serve and answer a whole set of questions and then open it up for audience questions.

So I’ve done a lot of these. I’ve heard a lot of advice from funders. But I have to say yesterday something really different happened, something I have not seen before and certainly not two years ago before the pandemic. And that was that funders are collaborating so much more together than they ever have before.

I can tell you in the community in Rochester, New York, the funders that were present at this virtual Zoom call, just like today, said that they must have spent almost every day for four months talking to each other, because they all pooled money into a community crisis fund specifically for COVID relief, for nonprofits struggling to stay alive during COVID, to provide PPE equipment, to do critical shifts in their work, in their programming.

Funders always talk to each other, but never had I heard of, you know, daily Zoom calls where people get to know each other’s living rooms. And this had happened in the last year.

Here’s a second really, really big and encouraging thing that I heard. And I think we can safely extrapolate some of these trends throughout the country and throughout our regions, our communities. And that is more funders are giving a general operating cost. What a relief, because that’s really what we need, right? That’s what nonprofits need.

It’s great to get money for a specific program or to expand your programming as it exists. But how wonderful to get unrestricted funding that says, “Here, put this into your general operating budget and spend it as you need to.” And that’s exactly a trend that I did see happening last year. I still see it happening this year.

This summer, I was writing a number of grant applications for clients that directly came out of American Rescue Plan funding. And in fact, if you get into my “All About Grant Writing Course,” we’re going to talk a lot more about American Rescue Plan funding and infrastructure funding, because that stuff is coming down the line. So there is no shortage of funding coming down the line, and a lot of it, I predict, will be for general operating funds. So that’s some good news.

That doesn’t mean that pitching a program, having outcomes is going away, because no, your funders want to buy impact in the community, which means when you write that grant application, focusing on your outcomes, the big change you’re going to make in your community, is still the key thing that they’re looking for.

But I want to talk a little about co-planning. This is the third trend that I heard yesterday, and I do see it going on throughout the country. And that is that more and more funders want to be involved with nonprofits.

Now, some of you are probably like, “Oh, that sounds like a disaster.” But it can also be a good thing. It can be a good and a bad thing. Really, in most cases, I’ve seen this be a really positive thing where funders want to talk with you about your program in advance.

What I heard yesterday was that a lot of the funders today, at least the foundations that were represented on this panel, they want to know more about the community need, and they’re looking to nonprofits like yours, like you, to tell them what are the problems in the community? What can and should we be doing about it? And they want to be in partnership with you to make some big change.

I hear a lot of terminology systemic change, change throughout the community that’s going to last beyond the life of a grant. So I see them being a lot more interested in co-planning, which relates to this topic of the webinar because you want to get in touch with them and they want to hear from you.

So don’t make the mistake I made when I was a complete newbie to grant writing, and I thought to myself, “Oh, I don’t want to be a pest and email . . .” Well, I wasn’t emailing back then. It was the early ’90s. “And constantly emailing and phone calling people.” But you’re not a past. You are helping foundations do their important work.

So please, if you take anything from today, reach out to them. Reach out to them only after doing your research.

You may want to ask for an in-person virtual meeting. That might be another reason for doing an LOI, or you may just have a question on something that is not available on their website or in any of your database research.

So moving on, social media. There are so many statistics out there about what percentage of people are on social media, how many hours they spend on social media a day. I didn’t bother sharing those today. What I really think is important for our purposes is that this has been a great way to connect with funders. So I encourage people to follow or like a funder’s page, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Find out where they are present. Most likely, they’re going to be on Facebook. That’s where I see most of them. Some are on LinkedIn as well. I don’t do as much with Twitter.

So definitely look for a social media presence and follow or like them, because when you do that, you’ll see the stories that they publish. You can watch who they fund. They’ll have success stories that they share. They may even share grant deadlines or updates to their giving priorities. So pay attention to those.

And likewise, invite them to follow your social media platforms. And when you do that . . . As you know, just the rules of social media, post often, post relevant information, feature interesting stories that show people. In fact, I would say show people that are benefiting from your work as much as possible. Share exciting news about your nonprofit. It’s a great place to share any upcoming events and information on issues.

You can also drive any emails or communications that you make to your funders back to your social media sites.

So if you’re not already tapping into this massive power of social media, you can do so now. It will take a little extra time. I know it does in my business, but it will be worth it for learning more about funders and letting them learn more about you.

I also talk about educating funders. Maybe that’s not the right way to say it, but really informing funders about the relevant issues, the critical issues in your community that you are addressing.

It’s so important to do this because while many foundation executives, administrators, program officers may have a background in social work, for example, or health administration, or something that relates to what you’re doing, they may not. And so it’s always critical to be sure to provide as much information that you have about an issue to funders.

I heard a recent trend that funders are less interested in the going out for coffee than they are learning something, learning about something going on in the community that makes a difference to them and their mission.

So social media. Oh, and speaking of which, here’s a two-second intermission. I would love to invite you to my group called “Get the Grant with Margit.” It’s my private Facebook group. Just jump in there and I’ll get you approved as soon as possible. We have over 600 people now, and I also share any upcoming events that I run. So I hope to see you in there. It’ll be a good way for us to connect. That was the two-second intermission there.

Oh, by the way, Steve kindly sent out a handout that I developed for you, and this link is on that handout, as are some of the links that I’ve been referring to all along in this presentation. So you won’t miss out, and you don’t have to write them down real quick.

All right. Our third big thing, funder meetings and site visits. Where are we with time here? I want to make sure we have plenty of time for questions. Good. So we’re going to talk about funder meetings and site visits.

This is the gold standard. Boy, if you can get a site visit even during a pandemic, or at least a virtual site visit or a meeting, it is worth so much. What’s better than reading a big long grant application than actually talking to the person that’s excited about their program that is on the ground every day helping kids with after school programs or, you know, helping people get breast cancer screenings that couldn’t ordinarily get to their appointments, or doing food deliveries? You name it.

To actually see a program in action is really one of the best things you can do in terms of building a relationship with a funder. And unless you really mess it up, you almost always get the funding after a site visit. I have to say, the site visits, they’re fantastic.

So I want to share some tips for you, because when I worked for a foundation, this was something that was really critical to giving out money.

So types of meetings with funders. I love my categories, so let’s say there are, one, informational one-on-one meetings. Great. If you can get that go for it.

Two, you might be invited to present to a funder, maybe put together some PowerPoint slides or have a short video.

And third is the site visit where people come in person to your location of work, or lately, virtually. And those can be site visits that happen before you submit a grant application, or they might happen after you’ve submitted a grant application and the funder says, “You know, we really want to know more, so we’re going to come out and do a visit.”

They could also happen post-funding. I don’t see that happening as much except in the case of federal grants, and then we call it an audit, right? A word that strikes fear into people. But audits can be a really good thing, too.

So if you do get federal grants in excess of $750,000 a year, you’re guaranteed a federal audit. And if it’s less than that, it’s a maybe.

So why might a funder want to schedule a presentation or a site visit with you? Well, first and foremost, they may want to learn more about your organization, which great, because you know about your organization. You could probably talk for hours and hours about it. So they may want to learn more. That’s the first thing.

Secondly, they may need to determine whether your organization truly has the capacity to deliver what was proposed in the grant application. So this might be you wrote a fantastic grant application, but maybe your organization had some budgetary problems in the past. And so many of us have, right? So many nonprofits have. So they may just want to kind of do an assessment and say, “Okay, do they have the capacity to deliver this?” So a site visit might do that.

As I mentioned before, they may want to see the impact of past grants from a foundation. They want to see what happens after you’ve been funded.

Fourth, they may want to be an active partner. Oh, love when this happens, if they want to be an active partner, because what that often means is they will not fund you for just one year. This may be a relationship that leads to two, three, four, five years’ worth of funding, which, again, helps you save a lot of time and effort.

They also want to see your program in action at times, if that’s applicable and possible, and they might want to meet new staff. Maybe you’ve just hired a new executive director, or perhaps you’ve . . . a major shift in your staffing. This is another good reason to schedule a site visit.

I’m going to share with you a rather detailed slide here too with some more specific tips. I won’t read them all. You do have access to my slides. But I did some research with funders from all over the country and I did some interviews with them a few years ago. It was published in the Grant Professionals Association journal. And here’s my summary chart, kind of the dos and don’ts of site visits. I’m just going to highlight a few of these.

In a nutshell, we don’t want to overwhelm funders with a whole bunch of materials and things that they have to review. Best thing is take that 20 minutes, half hour, hour-long, however much time they spend with you, to really share your genuine, authentic passion for what you do and why you do it.

I’m betting everybody here in this webinar has the know-how to make six times more money than they do right now, and maybe even work less than they do right now, but you’re here for a reason. You know what you’re doing is making a positive impact in the community. You know it matters, so let the funders know that too. That is really going to so-call sell your program.

However, I do recommend a one-page sheet. Give people a one-page quick highlight or fact sheet or mini case statement that they can take with them. That’s often helpful.

Definitely be honest. Don’t hide any bad press or challenges that your organization is facing. Be upfront, because they’ll probably find out anyway. But I think it’s helpful to show the good with the bad and really show what you have done to . . . especially in this pandemic, what have you been doing to stay afloat?

And I believe that funders have far more . . . there’s far more compassion out there right now for nonprofits than there has been, and businesses, because everybody is struggling. So it’s important to share. Did you get the PPP loan? Did you get an EIDL loan? So those are things that have probably helped you throughout the last year and a half or so.

Let’s see. What are some other things to pull out? Oh, here’s a really basic mistake. I have seen this made. Make sure everything looks clean and there’s a good visual impression. You don’t want boxes lining the hallway. Believe it or not, I’ve seen this kind of stuff and it just makes a really bad impression. So looking organized means you are organized.

What’s another one? If you don’t have an answer to a question at the time, be sure to follow up immediately, as quickly as you can see.

Let’s see. Oh, and one more. You’re probably not going to have the site visit on your own, at least I hope you aren’t. I hope you’ll have maybe one or two staff members or a board member, or maybe even, if it’s appropriate, a person that has benefited from your program. Maybe it’s one of the teens that participate in the Girls and Boys Club after-school program, or maybe it’s an adult that has truly benefited from some of the healthcare services you provide.

Regardless, you may want to have two or three people with you on a site visit, and be sure that you all meet ahead of time so that you’re all on the same page in terms of what you believe the mission of your organization to be. So that may sound like common sense, but I’ve seen some kind of disasters happen that way, so I want to make sure that you don’t fall into that.

Good. So those are some of the quick tips. I know I ran through these slides kind of quickly. I’m glad Steve is going to provide the recording. But I really love talking with you all, so I’m going to I’m going to wrap up in a few minutes and we’re going to go right to your questions.

I do want to share some parting thoughts, though. Keep in mind foundations want to give out money. Keep in mind state and federal grant governments have money to give out. There’s a lot out there right now. It’s a really good time to apply for grants.

If you are new to grant writing, please jump into it. If you’ve been doing it for years, I would say up the effort. Get more grants out the door and get more funding in the door.

So as a next step, I do want to share with you a little bit of a bonus if you’ll indulge with me for a couple more minutes, because I know every time after I teach a webinar like this, somebody says, “Okay, Margit, that was really great. But how do I write the grant step by step? How do I research the best funders? How do I develop my grant program budget?” which is one of the biggest challenges that people have.

So I finally developed . . . I took a took a lot of webinars I’ve been teaching and I put together “All About Grant Writing.” It’s a self-paced, online course. It’s a complete proven system and it’s step by step. So check it out, allaboutgrantwriting.com.

By the end of the course, you will have finished your grant application. I designed the course so that you go through each of the eight modules, and when you fill out the workbook that I provide for you, you will have a list of your best-fit funders and you’ll have a grant application plus budget done.

So it’s not sitting there going through each module and learning, and maybe even being bored. It’s none of that. You are going through and working the whole time.

So this is what excites me, is I’ve had students, customers, come back to me and say, “Margit, I was so new to grant writing, but within six months, I have $200,000 for my organization.” And this sounds like one of those crazy infomercials, it just feels too good to be true, but it’s true.

So I’m getting these reports of people finally getting the grants that they’ve been needing, and it excites me so much, because me and all the other grant professionals out there, we can’t sit in your office. We can’t be in a hundred places at once, but now, with this course, I can. This is like me sitting right next to you holding your hand doing the work with you.

So I’ll teach you to find the best grants. I have a seven-day plan in there that you’re welcome to use about how to get the grant proposal done. And there’s a ton of bonus materials that people just rave about. They love the grant templates. I share with you budget templates, grant application templates, logic models, letters of inquiry that we just talked about. You’ll see the ones that I’ve written that have been funded so that you can use those as models or samples for your work as well.

The step-by-step perfect planning workbook, if you complete that, your grant application is done.

And lastly, I really don’t like buying online courses only to find out that I’m left completely to my own devices with nobody checking in on me. So what I’ve done with this one is I have a private Facebook group for customers only where we all interact and we do a lot of fun stuff on there.

And every month or six weeks, depending on the holiday schedules and such, I will run a live Q&A with me so we can actually chat in person in a meeting format and we can talk about any issues you’re having with the course, or any sticking points on a current grant application. So it’s a really fun way for me to keep working with you.

Real quick, I’ve got a discount for you, because you’re here with Steve and I on this fantastic Bloomerang webinar. Gosh, I love these Bloomerang webinars. I’ve learned a ton from them. So I’ve got a discount for you for $100 off the course. It expires October 15. Use the code grants100 to get your $100 off by the 15th, which is next Thursday.

And if you want to use that $100 code on the three-payment plan, you’re absolutely welcome to do so as well. That may help with some budget planning.

All right. Thanks again for being here. I’ve got my email here if you want to contact me after, my website, grants4good.com, and the site with the course is allaboutgrantwriting.com. I would love to hear your questions.

Steven: Nice. Thanks, Margit. Yeah, before we get to questions, I just want to say thanks. Awesome information, and it’s always awesome to have you. So thanks for doing this. I hope people reach out and take advantage of those offers.

We’ve got some questions here. If you haven’t asked a question, do so because we’ve probably got about 10, 11 minutes for some questions here. Here’s one from Darrell, and we were talking about this before Margit, but Darrell is saying, “You mentioned possible funding for general operations. When and where do you think that will be the source? And what’s the timeline?” You said you’re kind of already seeing that now. Is that the case, or do you think it’ll not continue? Or what’s your feeling there for the general operating funds?

Margit: Yeah, that’s a good question, Darrell. So here’s what I would say to that. I’m sorry. Did I just mess up my sharing here? Here we go.

Steven: No, we still see it.

Margit: Okay, good. So what I saw happening last year in 2020 was that some foundations were giving out more general operating funds, and some foundations were getting in touch with their grantees and saying, “Okay, I know that we funded you for this specific purpose and program, but right now we’re going to grant some leniency and say, ‘Use those funds as you need to use them.'” I’ve actually heard people saying that. So that was what I saw in 2020.

What I’ve seen in 2021 this year is a trend that there are some more grants for general operating funding out there. Having said that, what I sometimes do, and I recommend anyone on this call do it too, is ask for program funding, but be careful to make sure that you are honest about the cost of a program because it does include things like overhead, utility payments, insurance. Those are all general operating costs, so include some of those in your line-item budget. Quick tip there.

So 2021, what I see happening now and in the future. This past summer, the American Rescue Plan passed, and almost immediately, I saw that one of the federal agencies in the U.S., the National Endowment for the Arts, immediately came out with a request for proposals, and in turn, had specific COVID relief funding. So we wrote a whole bunch of those.

Some of that money trickled to the state, New York State Council on the Arts, because we’re in New York. So again, more grant opportunities.

So you may want to really look closely at some of the federal grants out there right now. Go to grants.gov and see what’s available, because some of that is money that came through the American Rescue Plan Act and it’s probably trickling down at the state level, and a lot of that is general operating.

So yeah, check that out. There are 26 federal grant-making agencies on grants.gov, so I’m hoping there’s one that really fits the kind of work that you do. Thanks for asking that.

Steven: Nice. Yeah, it’s been my observation that there are a lot more of those general operating funds being out there, so hopefully, that’s the case for them.

Vicky’s got a cool question about site visits. Have you seen that done virtually at all, Margit? It sounds like Vicky’s maybe tried that through videos, PowerPoints, interactive things, but it’s not quite jelling. Have you seen that work at all doing that virtually, or does it truly have to be an in-person thing?

Margit: I have heard of them working. So I’ve not been involved personally in a virtual site visit because, as the grant professional, I’m kind of in the background. As a funder, I was involved in many, many in-person site visits. And again, this was before really we were doing a whole lot of virtual work.

I would still encourage it. If you’ve heard that it turns off maybe a different generation of funders, it might be worth asking them quite honestly how they prefer to learn more about your program if it’s not through a virtual site visit. Maybe it is something they would come out and see you, or maybe they prefer a short two-minute video that you could shoot on your own iPhone. You know, the iPhones have gotten phenomenal now for video shoots. So I would actually point-blank ask what they would prefer to see. But yeah, I think the virtual ones, I’ve heard they’ve gone well.

Steven: It never hurts to ask, right? Nice. Here’s one from Katie. Katie is, it looks like, maybe setting up a meeting between their program officer and a potential new foundation. What do you think should be on the agenda for that first meeting, Margit, when you’re maybe trying to court that foundation for the first time and you’ve got the program’s people in the meeting?

Margit: Well, first of all, congratulations, Katie. This is exciting. I’m really happy for you. I don’t know if this is a meeting where you’ve already applied to a foundation or not. But in either case, I think for that first-time meeting, you want to spend a very, very short amount of time talking about your organization. I find people spend far too much time going on about their organization, their program, initially, and I would say keep that to a couple of short minutes.

And then really show how what you’re doing aligns with the funder’s priority. Show how it aligns with what they believe in.

Most importantly, keep in mind funders want to buy the impact on the community. So it’s great to talk a little bit about your organization, align it with the funder priority, and then I would say spend so much time on how does this benefit the people you serve or environment or animals, whatever your field is, but how does it benefit the people you serve? And show that.

In terms of any kind of distribution or materials, I really just recommend a one-pager or something that’s a few more than a . . . maybe a couple of pages. But a quick infographic, something visual that people can look at quickly. I know that a lot of times people don’t have the time to read the longer documents, so the quicker, the more visually appealing, the better.

Does that answer the question? Yeah. Good luck with that. I’m excited for you. Pop me an email and let me know how it goes, okay?

Steven: I want to know too. Here’s an interesting question that I’m willing to guess that there are more than a few people also feeling this. “I’ve been trying to get in contact with foundations that have supported us in the past, but they’re being unresponsive right now.” Any tips for that where maybe you’re just not hearing back from people that there was a relationship with but for some reason . . . I don’t know. Maybe they’re busy or things have changed? Should you be kind of aggressive there, or what should you do?

Margit: Wow, that’s interesting. Yeah, I’m sorry that’s happening. I know sometimes it’s hard to get a hold of funders that are new to your organization that don’t know you yet. Usually, you get better responses from people that have funded you in the past.

But what could be going on is really . . . I don’t know about everyone here on this call, but I just feel like this year has been so busy, especially from summer on. I feel like we’re on this high-speed train. Everyone is kind of waking up and it feels like they have to do a million things at once. A lot of stress. And I know that funders are under those same pressures. And so one of the reasons they may not be getting back to you is simply time constraint.

So are there some different avenues you can try? Can you reach out through social media through them? Can you send a couple of more emails, text, phone? I would try some different avenues.

You also might have a different person reach out to them. So is there the president of your board or somebody from your board that could reach out to them on your behalf? So that might be another tactic that I would suggest doing. Yeah, common problem.

Steven: Good idea, getting a third party. Yeah, that’s a good idea. Here’s one from Matt. Margit, and you’re probably partial to the answer here, but how much time do you think folks should spend on grants versus individual donors? It seems there’s always a lot of chatter out there that individual donors are the best and that’s, you know, the baseline. I’d take all that with a grain of salt, of course, but . . .

Margit: It’s a great question. I think you need them both. You really do need them both. I mean, when I look at the revenue kind of as a pie chart, grants could fill anywhere from 10% of your revenue to I’ve seen them fill up to 80% of a nonprofit’s revenue. But that 80% is an exception. It’s kind of an outlier. It’s usually for really small grassroots organizations that are just getting grants nonstop.

For the most part, 10% to 30% approximately is what grants should be in your revenue stream. So definitely keep up the individual donations too.

Yeah, you’ve got to do a little bit of both, especially when those individual donors . . . it may take a couple years of stewardship and then this wonderful big gift comes through the door that’s game-changing. So I really recommend them both.

Steven: It seems like spending a little more time on grants now is good because . . . We were talking about Giving USA earlier, but that foundation giving…

Margit: There’s money out there for it.

Steven: Yeah, they’re giving it out. If there’s a year, it’s probably this one, right? Dang, we’re almost out of time. It’s almost 2:00. Maybe a good way to end it, speaking of, Margit, I don’t know if you’d be willing to get out your crystal ball, but what do you think is going to happen with that? Do you think it’ll keep going and that’ll be the norm, or it will maybe get back to pre-2020 trends? What do you think folks should expect?

Margit: Well, I can tell you just from what I hear firsthand from the funders I’m speaking with and what I’m seeing a little bit in the federal trends is that there will be increased grantmaking. There will be increased giving in dollars in 2022 simply and purely because of that 5% rule. So that’s going to be a given.

Now, there’s also increased need, so it’s still going to . . . The onus is still up to you to really put out there some stellar grant applications and make sure you do your funder research. Hopefully, I see you in the “All About Grant Writing” course. We can get more into this.

I do also see some trends for capacity-building grants. I saw a question on there about that. I do see that happening too.

And definitely keep an eye on . . . I do not love politics, but I have to keep an eye on what’s going on with the with the acts like the American Rescue Plan Act, the infrastructure plan, and if and when and how it’s going to get passed. Because when that happens, there’s going to be many years’ worth of funding, especially for infrastructure and improvements.

So there’s a lot to keep an eye on right now both on the federal level . . . And again, I apologize to our colleagues in Canada. I’m talking about U.S. federal level. But also foundations. So I do feel like it’s a really great time to get grants out the door for your organization. And I really wish you all the absolute best. It’s worth your time to do this and I hope . . .

Steven: Well, you gave them a good head start on things. So thanks for doing this, Margit. This was really fun.

Margit: Sure.

Steven: And definitely sign up for her class. Check out what she’s got going on there.

Margit: Use my coupon before next week, okay? I don’t offer that often, but you’re here, so let’s cash in on that and let’s get going.

Steven: Special deal for the Bloomerang crew. I love it.

Well, hey, this was a great session. It’s always fun to see a full room. I know things are getting really busy with everyone here. And giving season is here, so it was nice of all of you to hang out. And if you’re watching the recording, I hope you enjoyed it.

Speaking of recordings, I’m going to get this recording out as well as the slides and the handout that Margit mentioned. So just be on the lookout for an email from me later on today.

And we’ve got a great webinar coming up next Thursday. Like I said, every Thursday we’re here. Peer-to-peer, this is a big one, especially for year-end and Giving Tuesday. If you’ve never done a peer-to-peer campaign, or maybe you have and you weren’t super happy with the results, join us exactly one week from right now, 2:00 pm Eastern next Thursday.

Our buddy Abby Jarvis who is . . . she’s my go-to for peer-to-peer. She’s the queen of it. She’s over at Qgiv. She’s awesome. She’s got a lot of really good tips for not just generating peer-to-peer donations but also retaining those people after that initial campaign, which is really hard, by the way. And she’s got a lot of really concrete tips for how to improve those.

So join us if you’re free. If you’re not, register anyway because you’ll get the recording, just like you’re going to get the recording of this session.

So we will call it a day there. I hope you all have a good rest of your Thursday and a good weekend. Stay safe. Stay healthy. We need all of you out there doing all your good work. And hopefully we will talk to you again next week. Bye now.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.