In this webinar, Amanda Pearce will break down the narrative portion of grant proposals and teach you how to create a stellar template that you can use time and time again.

Full Transcript:

Steven: Okay, Mandy. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Mandy: Yes, please.

Steven: All right. Awesome. Well, good afternoon, everyone, if you’re on the East Coast. Good morning, if you’re on the West Coast, I should say. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Time-Saving Templates: Where Grant Writing, Time, & Money Meet.”

My name is Steven Shattuck, and I’m the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion, as always.

Just a couple of housekeeping items. I just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and we’ll be sending out the recording, as well as the slides, later on today. So just look for an email from me. I’ll get all that to you. If you have to leave early or maybe you get interrupted or just want to review the content, no worries. We’ll get you that stuff today. Just be on the lookout.

But most importantly, please feel free to use that chat box on the Zoom screen there. We want to try to save some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy. Send in those questions and comments throughout the hour. I’ll keep an eye on those and we’ll try to get to just as many as we can before the 3:00 Eastern hour.

If you haven’t already done so, introduce yourself. Tell us about yourself. We’d love to know who we’re talking to here. You can also do that on Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed if you want to send us a Tweet. So yeah, go crazy with the tweets if you want.

If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to all you folks. If you’re not familiar with Bloomerang, we do these webinars just about every Thursday throughout the year. Sometimes we double it up and do a couple in a week. We love doing these webinars. It’s one of our favorite things we do here at Bloomerang.

But what we are most known for is our donor management software. So, if you are maybe in the market for that or just kind of curious about what we’ve got going on, check out our website. You can even watch a quick video demo and see the software in action. You don’t even have to talk to anyone to see it.

Don’t do that right now. At least wait an hour because you all are in for a real treat. One of my favorites is coming back on the series. It wouldn’t be the Bloomerang webinar series without at least one section from my buddy, Mandy Pearce. Mandy, how is it going? Are you doing okay?

Mandy: I am doing great today. And I have with me Marie, my business partner. So you can get both of us for a little while.

Steven: This is a bonus. We’ve got two awesome people. And they are both extremely busy trainers and speakers and fundraising consultants. And they graciously snuck this session in into the schedule of an on-site meeting that they’re doing today. So very, very gracious of them to slip this in their schedule. They’re actually sitting in an empty gym on-site where they are. So, if it sounds a little weird, that’s why, but that’s okay. The content is going to be great.

And what can I say about Mandy? She’s done a ton of webinars for us. She’s awesome. She’s a dog lover. She’s an animal person. And wow, I just loving hearing from her. And I love this topic too because anything that saves time is going to get a lot of attention.

So I don’t want to take any more time away from you two. I am going to let you share your screen. I am going to stop sharing my screen and then let you tell us all about these grant templates. So the floor is yours, my friend.

Mandy: Thank you. Can you see the first one okay?

Steven: I don’t think we can see anything yet.

Mandy: Okay. Hold on. Let me go back out. Technology happens. So share. There.

Steven: There it goes.

Mandy: Is it good?

Steven: Yeah, it’s starting to . . . there you go. We’re good.

Mandy: Okay. Perfect. [Inaudible 00:03:35]. For those of you that do not know Marie, this is both Marie and myself, and we are Funding For Good.

I like to jump in and just roll because there are a lot of questions you guys are going to have. But today, we’re here to talk about how to create templates for your grants that are going to save you some time, because time is money. And whenever you’re putting together multiple grants throughout the year, it’s great to have a template to be able to copy and paste and already have written what you need to write really well so that all you’re doing is editing it, maybe cutting down characters or words or whatever.

One of the first things we tell people that will also save them time is that you need a grant readiness checklist so you know all the pieces of most applications so you can put that together in a folder on your computer and have all that accessible at your fingertips.

So this grant readiness checklist is going to have all the financial pieces you need, all the board governance pieces, all the organizational documents, all the typical things that are going to come with most grant requests. So, if you find that you’re in a place that you need that, you can go on our website and request that and we’ll send it over to you. This is the website,

So I’m not going to go into everything that’s in that because that’s a whole different webinar. But we are going to talk today about why you need a grant template.

The things it’s really going to give you are consistency. Once you answer a question really well, you don’t need to rewrite it every time. Nobody is trying to reinvent the wheel here. It’s going to make you very efficient. It’s going to make it transparent. So, if you’re writing a grant and someone else from your organization is writing a grant for a different department, everybody’s saying the same thing for organizational history and those types of things. It’s going to be accurate and it’s going to help you be prepared. So it’s going to give you that readiness piece that everybody is looking for.

So, when you go to organizing your key documents, like we just said of the grant readiness checklist, you’re going to have some very specific pieces that are going to be required for most applications. Some applications, like the Walmart Giving Grant, are not going to ask you for these things, but the majority of them will. So financial documents, they’re going to ask for, maybe your most recent audit, a copy of your 990, your P&L, your current operating budget or maybe a program budget, your tax ID number.

And they’re going to ask you for how you know what you’re asking for is needed. So sometimes that’s a needs assessment or a needs statement. You’re going to want to have some impact data. So what have you done well in the past? What are some of your successes? What are some data and metrics to support that? Do you have stories that you can share, whether they are positive stories of success or stories of what happens if your program isn’t there?

Media stories. Maybe you have coverage online or in a paper. And then supporting documents. Sometimes we call that supplemental information. Maybe it’s a newsletter, a photo, brochures, testimonials, those types of things.

A lot of times, you’re going to need to have your bios and job descriptions from either existing or potential staff. Many foundations are going to ask you for a strategic plan. We mentioned if you don’t have one, it’s going to be the strongest tool in your fundraising tool kit. And then program goals and impact reports. So being able to say what your goals are and how you’re going to accomplish them.

So we’re going to look at these things when we talk about how you’re going to structure your template for success. And I’m going to let Marie talk to you about this for a little bit.

Marie: Absolutely.

Steven: Hey, Marie. It’s Steven. Can I interrupt you real quick?

Marie: Yes.

Steven: I think you guys are not in full screen mode on this slide.

Mandy: You are so right.

Steven: Sorry. I didn’t want to . . .

Mandy: You’re good.

Steven: . . . mess up your groove.

Marie: Perfect. So a few disclaimers before we move forward. We call these time-saving templates, not time-saving completed grants. And that’s really important for people to understand, because we have a lot of clients that come to us and they hire us to write a template. A template is a live document. It is meant to be a guide. It’s kind of the framework of your program or your project, but it should be a live document.

You will have the information in there, but a grantor might ask for that information in an abbreviated context. If you’re doing a local bank grant, they may give you 150 characters instead of 150 words. You may have to cut and paste things out of different sections. So the idea of a template is to have all the information there so you can pare it down or beef it up if you need to, but you’re not having to create new content. You’re just having to either build or pare down.

Another way to keep yourself kind of on track with this process touches on what Mandy was just reviewing with you, and that is the organizational documents. We encourage you to look at Dropbox or another file-sharing system and make sure that the people in your organization that contribute to any of those documents have access and it becomes part of their task. If it’s your accountant or your bookkeeper, they upload in a document that says, “Most recent P&L,” or the audit, or if it’s a program director, that they upload their most recent impact data so that you’re not having to track people down in different departments to do that.

If you have kind of a set expectation of, “Once a month or once a quarter, we need these items from you,” and they’re in a shared document, you’re always using the most recent stuff. And if you have a crunching deadline in front of you, you’re not having to track that stuff down.

So part of creating templates that save you time is having a system to store that information, and file sharing is a great way to do that.

So a little bit about structuring for success. Like I said, donors are going to ask for things in different ways, but most of us agree that foundation grants, not state or federal, those are a different kettle of fish, ask for the following eight things.

Your organizational history. How did you get started? What’s the story behind that?

Your executive summary. Your executive summary should be essentially a grant in a nutshell. If you need more details on what that is, we will share some resources a little bit later.

Needs assessment, as Mandy mentioned. Data. Stories. We want statistics and stories.

Your program description/project design. Remember, programs are ongoing. Projects are something that has a beginning and end date, such as a capital project or something that’s just a short-term type situation.

Goals and objectives, and evaluation methods. How are you going to determine that your program was a success?

A sustainability plan. Once grant dollars are no longer available, how are you going to keep that program up and running? Because donors do not want to hop on sinking ships. They’re not looking to kind of keep your doors open. They want to fund your impact.

And then, finally, your budget and your narrative. Those are the eight components.

So jumping into organizational history, I cannot tell you the number of grants we review, because we do a document review service, and the most common intro for this section is, “Our organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that was incorporated in.” That is true, I’m sure, but it does not compel a person or the reader to want to say, “Tell me more.”

So, if you can catch the donor with a story . . . for example, one of our clients said, “As a young adult, I lost my beloved German shepherd Rocky because I was unable to get the medical care that Rocky needed. To make sure families in our community did not lose their loved ones and their pets and family members in that way, I started this local animal hospital.”

So capturing people with the story and then explaining, “While this is the founder’s story, other people in the community resonated with it and there is an established need.” What does that need?

Are the founders still engaged in the organization? People want to know this. You can say, “Our founder is still engaged,” or, “Our charter board members are still engaged in the following ways.” That’s important information.

Your year of incorporation is also important to note, but it shouldn’t be your headline. That’s just a statistic, not a headline.

What is your mission and what is your vision? Many groups start with, “Here’s our mission.” That’s what you do, but the vision is where you’re going. Visions are designed to inspire people where missions are designed to inform people. So informing people is nice, but if you can inspire them, then they’re going to want to be informed.

So most people lead with the mission. Consider leading with your vision and saying, “Our goal or our vision is that no one in our community be hungry. We do that through,” and then state your mission as an example.

And then what makes your organization unique? Are you the oldest, the most established? Are you the most productive? I mean, what is it about your organization that sets you apart from others in your community?

Then you’re going to move on to the executive summary. In some grants, this could be two or three sentences, and in other grants it would be up to a page long. This is going to be your grant in a nutshell. Literally, your entire proposal is captured in this one page.

If you have more questions about this later, we have a great blog that really dives into this. It’s free. It’s on the free resources Mandy will share with you. But for the purpose of today’s limited conversation, these are the questions you want to be asking.

Who are you? Give some stories from the organization’s history. You’re going to repeat a little bit of that organizational history. “We are Raleigh, North Carolina’s oldest organization focused on hunger disparities,” whatever that might be for you.

What do you propose to do? “We propose to serve a minimum of a hundred children in our after-school program and improve their academic performance in the areas of reading and math.”

Who will your program or project serve and impact? “We intend to serve a minimum of 100 children from such and such school in the third grade.” You can say that in a few sentences.

How will you evaluate the success of the program? Are you going to use qualitative or quantitative data? What does that look like in a sentence or two?

And when do you propose to complete this program or project?

It’s really important to mention who you are collaborating with, because in the old days, grant donors wanted to see that you were competing and that you were the most competitive. Now, they want to see that you are a great collaborator.

And then finally, what are you requesting form the donor?

By the end of that one-page summary, hopefully at the beginning, they should know “What are you doing and what do you want me to do about it with you?” You need one to three sentences to address each of those and you can keep it short and sweet, but address all of those things at the same time.

Mandy: One thing I would like to tell people to think about when they think about their executive summary is . . . I’m hoping some of you on here are old enough like I am to remember Blockbuster video or the video stores where we used to go pick up the VHS tapes. When you went in there, how you determined the video you wanted to rent that day was usually based on what was on the back of that jacket, right? It was the pictures. It was the description. And it made you want to know more. It was like, “Oh, my gosh. This sounds really interesting. I want to watch that,” right?

But what you’re doing with your executive summary is you are trying to get someone interested enough to read more, to want to learn more, and that’s what makes them want to read the rest of your grant application.

So just kind of keep that in mind. Like, “Is this compelling enough to make someone want to read the rest and potentially learn more about our program?”

Marie: Absolutely. The needs assessment. When we hear needs statement and needs assessment . . . you have two. One is shocking data, things that kind of resonate to say, “Wow. I didn’t know this was an issue.” But you also want to tie it into your personal story and your community.

Just because I say there’s a hunger disparity in my community doesn’t mean I’m necessarily equipped to deal with it or that the people in my direct service area are impacted by that.

So, while you should be sharing shocking data with your community, you want to show how you interact with those community members experiencing that issue.

And you need to think outside of the box. We encourage you to think about all of the ramifications of your program.

We recently had a group contact us and say, “We address children’s hunger issues in our community through the backpack program.” So they were looking just at hunger. How many children do not have a meal on the plate? And we had to really focus on other things such as nutrition. Just eating empty calories is not nutrition. Nutrition is very different from just having that meal. So how does nutrition impact a child, whether it be through obesity, through diabetes, their long-term health? What is the goal of the program? What is the impact as it relates to nutrition?

If a child is not nourished, if they’re not receiving that nourishment, how are they performing in school? Are they engaged? Are they missing school because they’re sick and have digestive issues?

So, looking at the holistic nature of the program is really important as you evaluate those pieces of data. You can’t just say, “X number of children in our community don’t have lunch.” What is the impact of those children not having lunch on their future? That is the kind of data you’re looking for to support your program.

Mandy: Steven, I know that you are fielding questions on your end, but if you see something that you want to ask while we’re teaching, feel free to just interrupt. We’re happy to field them as we go or all at the end. Either way you want to do it is fine.

Steven: Okay.

Marie: Okay. And we continue.

The program design or the project description, this is a huge component of every grant. Donors break it down in different ways, but we found that it’s helpful to do it in these categories.

What is the purpose of the program? “The purpose of this program” or “we propose to offer an after-school program or enrichment.” Why? You’re wanting to increase academic performance. If you were providing mental health services, what is the intent behind that?

So, when you think of the purpose, I’m going to encourage you to replace the word “purpose” with “desired impact.” What is the desired impact of your program? So, right there, where it says purpose, what is the desired impact and how do you propose to achieve that? That’s what you’re addressing there.

The need for the program we just highlighted a little bit. What is the need? But then you’re going to take it a step further and say, “We’ve identified the need in the community. This is what our organization needs to be able to provide a solution.” So the need might be the needs assessment, which is the community perspective, and then the needs statement might be, “Our organization requires the following resources for support to provide a solution.” So need breaks on a community level and the organizational level.

And then your target audience should be as specific as possible. If you’re serving a certain demographic group, if you’re serving a specific geographic area, age group, whatever that may be, be as specific as possible.

And then the design, you might see this question, “What is the program design?” Some people get confused by this. They’re not saying that everyone needs to walk around in designer jeans. The donors are asking, “How are you organizing the program in such a way that you are setting it up for success, that you’re structuring it for success?”

So an example of this would be . . . I managed an after-school program for at-risk minority youth for many, many years. And we were offering tutoring services, but we were receiving state funds. In order to receive those state funds, we had performance evaluations. To continue getting those grant dollars every year, we had to show that our program was effective.

In the beginning, we were only offering those tutoring services one to two days a week. When we started doing the research on evidence-based programs and proven methods for after-school programming, we learned that most studies agree that it takes 12 to 15 contact hours with the child a week in order to increase those academic performance goals and reduce truancy, which was another goal of our program. So 12 contact hours.

We were meeting from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. four days a week at one point. That is only 12 hours. What was happening was some children were showing up late because of busing. Others were getting picked up early at 5:30 as parents headed home from work. And they were only getting 9 or 10 hours of contact hours. We decided to open up five days a week for a total of 15 possible hours so that we could make sure that the children got at least 12 contact hours.

The other thing is we wanted to make sure that we weren’t limiting ourselves. So you want to consider this as well. You’re not going to say 100% of your participants are going to achieve the desired goal. That is not realistic. So your design might say, “Eighty percent of our population or 90% of the people we serve will achieve these contact hours and, therefore achieve these goals.”

Your true costs. This is a big one. Most people just say, “What do we actually spend out of pocket?” Mandy and I also have some free resources on this on determining your overhead, true program costs, but lots of free blogs on this topic.

You’re going to be looking at what is it actually costing to run this program. The facility, any contributions from community partners, all of that is going into program budget because if someone wasn’t offering it to you in-kind, you would be having to fork out those dollars. So this is helpful for lots of reasons. Later when we can get into budgeting, Mandy can explain that cost analysis.

Your resources. What do you have and what do you need to make this program happen?

And then, the sustainability question is a huge one, and it’s always kind of in a little tag-on for many people. But sustainability is touching on that, “How are we going to keep these doors open and this program successful after grant donors end? What are the strategies that are in place?” And hopefully, if you have a strategic plan or a development plan that’s where you’re going to plug in that organizational information.

And then finally, your personnel, whether it be volunteers or staff, what are their qualifications and how are they going to help spearhead and implement this program and track the data so it can be reported back to the community?

And finally, some strong writing tips. We have lots of community groups that have some amazing programs, but if you can’t get it on paper in a way that resonates with the donor, then you could miss some amazing opportunities.

So a few writing tips that we like to share involve leading strong. Every grant application that you read is going to have a header or an instruction. So it might be, “What do you propose to do?”

So if the question is, “What do you propose to do?” or, “What are the goals of your program?” don’t start with the statement of, “Our organization has been serving the community for 10 years and we’ve been successful in this and that.”

That’s the same thing as if I walk up to Mandy and say, “Hi. What’s your name?” and she tells me, “My dog’s name is Leo. My other dog is Dally.” I didn’t ask that. While that might come later in the conversation and be very interesting, I want to know the answer to my question.

The same thing stands for the donor. You’re going to answer the question they ask first, and then offer any supporting data. So the leading strong might be, “Centro Latino of Raleigh proposes to initiate a cultural program for at-risk youth ages third grade, blah, blah, blah.” So what is it going to achieve and how? “We propose to facilitate two dream programs to increase the academic performance of third graders.” Whatever that looks like, it needs to be in that first sentence, and then how you’re going to do it can be described after the fact.

Using the active voice instead of the passive voice allows you to invite a donor to take ownership with you. I can’t sell you Mandy’s car. I can’t say, “Well, Mandy’s got this car and it’s great and it’s wonderful and you should buy it.” But I can sell you my car. So your grant, your narrative, you should be taking ownership because you need a donor to buy in and support this program with you.

So instead of saying, as you see in Sample 1, “Health programs will be offered,” by random people, “to women,” I’m not sure who, “who need breast cancer education and screenings,” you can turn that into an active voice statement and share so much more information about your team.

“Our bilingual program director will facilitate targeted breast cancer awareness events and medical screenings for a minimum of 100 Latina women ages 25-plus in the Unifour region.” This is from an actual grant I wrote years and years ago.

And the first grants that we wrote looked more like Sample 1. But as you grow and you learn to create more effective narratives, you realize you can share so much more information.

Sample 2 allows you to get introduced to our team. So now, the donor knows who’s that ambiguous “‘we’ will be offering,” what type of screenings, who’s going to receive them, and in what region all in one sentence that’s not too big to digest.

Pay attention to structure. Put your key information at the beginning and the end of the sentence. So, if you ever watch the news, you might be frustrated because they give a teaser of the most interesting information right before they cut for a break, and then they lead the next section with interesting information. They know they need to capture you at the beginning and the ending of each segment so you stay tuned.

Your narrative should use that same principle. Make sure you’re putting your information at the beginning and end of your sentences. Anything that’s a little bit less important, even if it should be important enough to put into the narrative, you can put it into the middle.

And then make sure you help keep a healthy balance of simple and compound sentences. We see lots of run-ons, but we also see narratives that kind of look like, “See Spot run.” Those short sentences like, “We served over 100 youth last year,” that’s great. It should be an impact statement. It should be packing a punch. If you’re going to use short sentences, make sure they make a punch. Otherwise, they just sound elementary.

Mandy is going to share a little bit about goals and objectives and how that kind of creates a more competitive proposal.

Mandy: A lot of times, we see folks writing goals and objectives that are very vague. And we try to explain to people to use the SMART method, which is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic or relevant, and timely, in order to put together both goals and objectives.

So, if I said, “I’m going to lose weight this year,” technically, I could lose a half a pound between now and December 31st and I’m going to accomplish that goal. But if I had said, “I would like to lose 5% of my current body weight by December 31st, 2020,” that is not only specific and measurable, it is attainable, it is realistic, and I put a timeline on that so I know when I need to accomplish it.

When you’re writing a grant and you have to explain to a potential donor what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it, it becomes very easy then when you receive funding to tell your team, “This is what we’re going to do and this is how we’re going to do it.” So you do the work once during your grant application process, and then you’ve also created your work plan for when you receive funding.

When you create really good goals and objectives initially, then you can use them for multiple grants. You can use them in strategic plans. You can use them in department work plans, in evaluations of how successful something has been.

And then we also say to use the KISS method, so “keep it simple, sweetie,” and make sure that you’re not over-complicating things or creating work for yourself that you don’t need to do.

For example, “We intend to propose to increase the reading scores of a minimum of 75 of Brown County’s third-grade students by 25% during the 2019-2020 school years.” All of that is specific. We have a measurement in there. We say, “Seventy-five third-grade students by 25%.” So we actually have two measurements in there. We are assuming that that is attainable and it’s realistic. And we have a timeframe on that, during this 2019-2020 school year.

If you are not comfortable or used to creating goals and objectives in this way, I would encourage you to do an activity where you just write one goal for yourself. It could be personal. It could be work-related. It could be made up. And then write one to three objectives. And then go back and you look at this slide and say, “Was it specific? Was it measurable? Is this realistic? And did I put a timeline on it?” And if you can say yes to all of those, then you’re writing pretty good goals and objectives.

So that’s a component that’s a part of almost every grant application that you’re going to need to become familiar with. And maybe you need to sit down with your team to create some of those. Most of the time, a grant writer needs to consult with program folks to make sure they’re creating realistic goals and objectives before they put them in a grant.

Marie: Absolutely. And remember that this is a template that’s going to be tweaked. So, when your template is created, you want to have your overall goals and objectives. So maybe it is that you are going to serve 100 students, not those 75 mentioned. But remember that in order to demonstrate success, you have to track that data. You have to report on it.

Is there a chance that you’re going to have some turnover? Well, look at the turnover from your prior years. How many children disengaged from your program? How many adults disengaged? What does that look like when you’re establishing those goals? That falls under the realistic section.

And if you say, once again, “One hundred percent of our participants are going to do X, Y, or Z,” what’s going to happen is if they drop out or if they don’t perform or they miss certain portions of your program, it’s going to look like your program was unsuccessful. So in those SMART goals and objectives, be realistic.

We also get questions from people saying, “Well, wait a second. We say we’re going to serve 100 kids. This is a grant template. This grant we’re looking at only funds $1,000.” By having your total goal, you can break it down in the template saying, “For every . . .” You want to know what the cost is per unit.

So, when I had 100 children in my after-school program, I could say, “It’s going to cost me $100,000 a year.” I’m making up numbers at this point. So for X number of dollars, I can serve this many kids. So, if I’m going for a smaller grant that’s not going to cover that full program dollar amount, I can say, “Your contribution or your support of $10,000 will allow us to effectively serve X percentage of this total.”

Then you can go to multiple donors, and this is where this template comes in handy, and say, “You know what? We’re leveraging dollars from five different foundations and three different businesses in the hopes of reaching this 100-student goal.”

You’re not changing the goals. This is where people make mistakes, is they change their template for every grant. Your program design should be consistent. We’re not talking completely about program design today, but you have to have a program design before you do the template.

Then when you write your grant templates, you can take into consideration those overall goals and tweak them based on the donor’s request and information. You’re not changing what you’re going to accomplish. You’re not changing your stated goals according to your strategic plan or your staff meetings. You’re simply sharing them in a way that aligns with the donor’s information.

Now we’re looking at evaluation measures. This little kind of format really works for me because we work with so many clients from all different sectors. Mandy and I write grants for hospitals and schools and small organizations, large organizations. And this template just works well for us because we can plug in the unique factors for each group without having to come up with all new verbiage.

Just simply insert your organization and say, “We will utilize the following strategies and tools to track the successful implementation and completion of the proposed project.”

If you were looking at a capital campaign and it’s something that you’re just buying equipment, you can break this down into three different goals and say, “Assure the purchase of the equipment,” or the evaluation might be, “Confirm the successful installation of the equipment.” The next one might be, “Ensure that all of the team has been trained on the new equipment,” if you’re doing something capital.

If you’re doing a program, you might move on and talk about attendance records, administering the evaluation method or tools. And then finally, completing certain capacity-building initiatives.

One thing that you will notice here is that each one of these bullet points starts with an action word, a verb. Assure, maintain, administer, utilize, complete. It shows you’re taking action. It’s not just that the purchase of the equipment will be tracked.

When you use that passive voice, that passive voice meaning something’s happening and you don’t know who’s doing it or there’s not really an action verb at the front, donors say, “Who’s going to do this or how is this going to happen?” Assure, maintain, administer, utilize, complete.

In some situations, they may ask you . . . the donor may say, “Who’s going to do this?” and this format allows you to adapt and say, “Our program manager will assure the purchase of . . .” Or, “Our local maintenance person will do X, Y, or Z.” or, “Our after-school director will maintain attendance records or our secretary.” So you can always put in the individual responsible for that action using this format.

So, hopefully, this is a helpful tool and you can tweak it to meet your needs.

Mandy: When you’re going to talk about sustainability, we usually want this section to be pretty brief. We want to know that there is a plan for how you’re going to sustain . . . it’s easy when you’re talking about equipment or capital campaigns because, more than likely, you just have to write in a maintenance fee, or let’s say you’re building a building and you need to incorporate the new costs of the power bill or those types of things, you can put that into your general operating and say, “The board has approved that for next year’s budget.”

But when you’re talking about things like programs or staff salaries, it becomes a little more difficult, and foundations want to know that you have a plan for how you’re going to fund those funds and sustain that position or sustain that program in the future.

We actually have a blog on our website that’s all about this and it says, “How to answer the sustainability question.” So, if you haven’t been to the Funding For Good’s website, you can go there and just search in the search box. Put in “sustainability” and it will pull up every blog we’ve ever written on it. And the answers, like the actual crafted answers, are there that you can look at.

But some things to consider . . . because everybody has this different sustainability plan. Maybe your sustainability plan is, “In three years, we hope to have our endowment at a certain level and we’ll be able to draw down X number of dollars a year. And our board has approved allocating those dollars towards the sustainability of this program.”

Maybe your plan is that you are going to implement program fees in Year 1 that will offset the cost of the program in future years. That’s potentially a plan.

Maybe your plan is that you have a major donor in the community that is agreeing after Year 1, if the program is successful and meets certain benchmarks, that they’re going to support the program at 50% and allow you to fund matching funds going forward.

There are a ton of different ways to say that you’re going to create sustainability, and it’s going to vary based on your organization, the resources at your disposal, and what you’re willing to do.

So things you can think about are “Will funds contribute to the creation of a new program or curriculum or services that are going to generate additional fees in the future?” Maybe it’s going to allow you to serve more people that are coming in and paying a fee for a service that you can then allocate those dollars towards the sustainability of another program.

“Will the funds allow you to hire a key staff member who’s going to assume fundraising responsibilities?” So then you’re building your capacity through staff.

“Will funds create capacity to reach a larger donor base?” So maybe you’re asking for funds to help build a website. The website is going to help you get your word out to more people, which then increases the number of potential donors or individuals that want to share in your impact, whether it’s generosity or whether it’s through volunteerism or whether it’s through becoming an ambassador as a board member. Maybe it’s marketing materials that are going to do some of those same things. There are a lot of different ways you can create capacity to reach more donors.

Now, again, we’re going to reiterate this doesn’t have to be crazy, long, complicated. You don’t have to give them your development plan for the next three years. But there does have to be something that is viable. It has to make sense. It has to be doable, right? You guys have to be willing to do it and it can’t be a guess. It can’t be, “Hey, we’re thinking about starting a special event and we’re going to take the proceeds of that event and apply it towards this program.”

If it’s brand new and you’ve never done it before, you don’t know that you’re going to be able to raise that money. So more than likely, you’re going to want to make sure it’s something you have proven or that has a strategy that you can say is going to be fairly successful before you say that’s how you’re going to fund a program.

Marie: Absolutely. So all of these slides . . . Mandy and I are quite aware that we are speaking quickly. We share a lot of information very fast, but the idea is to give you lots of great tidbits and information and some helpful tools.

Almost every single slide we’re sharing, if you go on Funding For Good’s website, you’ll find a tab that says, “Free stuff.” Imagine what is under that tab. There are lots of free templates. We have everything from a goal-setting template to those first program design questions to even two or three budget templates that you can use for either individual or other things.

Mandy: Five budget . . .

Marie: Five budget templates Mandy just updated. So lots of free resources there. So if you’re looking at these slides and you’re thinking, “Oh, my goodness, they’re moving so quickly,” almost every single slide is accompanied with a blog, a vlog with a video with either myself or Mandy on it, and a template that you can use. It’s all in a Word document that you can take and you can put your own logo on there and make it your own. We’re not going to say, “Fill out this logo,” and then all of a sudden you have to pay a fee to actually print yours off. So great resources there so don’t stress if this is a lot of information.

Organization budgets. This is important for your templates. Many grants are going to ask you, “What is the percentage of your total budget that is comprised of individuals? How many dollars or what is the percentage of dollars raised each year through corporate gifts or events or grants or state and federal funds?” You should know those.

Now, in some situations, donors will clump some of those together. They’ll cluster them and you might have to recalculate. But if grants or a donor sees that your organization is 30% or more dependent on grants for general operating, that might be a red flag for them because you are putting lots of eggs in a basket that have not hatched yet. So you’re not guaranteed these grants dollars.

So just be aware that when they ask for those percentages, they’re looking for a robust and diverse funding stream to show that you’re going to be sustainable. So it ties into that sustainability plan.

Mandy: When you look at creating your program or project budget, you want to look at the total budget, the actual cost is what I like to say. You don’t want to forget anything that you may be currently incorporating in your overhead budget.

For example, if you have an executive director that spends 20% of their time working in a program or project, and that could be helping fundraise for it, helping market for it, helping recruit people to participate in it, if that executive director is spending a portion of their time on that program or project, that percentage of time should be allocated in that specific program or project budget.

So, if it’s a full-time position, then 20% of their full-time salary and 20% of their benefits should show up in that program or project as a line item.

A lot of times, people don’t take into account all of the aspects of what makes their program or project run, and then it becomes more difficult to fully fund your overhead because you’re trying to fund things that should actually fall into a program or project budget, which is much easier to fund, especially when you’re talking about grant funding. So think about those types of things.

If you have a project or a program that happens in 50% of your facility and you’re paying rent on your facility and it’s 50% of the time you’re open, then 50% of your rent should be a part of that program or project cost. Could you do that program or project if you didn’t have a facility to do it in? And if the answer is no, then that should show up as a line item.

You want to also make sure that you are tracking in-kind support, whether that is the value of volunteer hours or products that are donated, space that is donated. And that should be a part of your program or project budget.

Your funding status. If you are writing grants, you’re going to make sure that you know who you applied to, if those grants are on secured, approved, if they are pending, or if they’ve been denied, because a lot of times foundations will ask for that information in their proposals.

And then you want to know the total amount that you are requesting from a current donor or from a current foundation. So, if you’re asking for $10,000 and your budget is $100,000, you’re asking them to pay 10% of this total program fee.

Once you have created a budget that you’re comfortable with, you may consider using that as a template for all of your other budgets so they kind of looks the same. And as Marie said, we have sample templates out there, but you can create your own as well. Once you find one that works for you, just use that for a lot of your designs so you are familiar with what the lines are, who [inaudible 00:40:57], and which ones you need for your organization.

Marie: All right. So budget narratives and justification are going to be really helpful to create when you create the budgets. It may be one person, a program director, creating the budget and then a grant writer having to submit it, so having these items, these kinds of allocations, is really helpful.

So you can use either complete sentences, like the one you see on your screen. “This grant will provide salaries for seven tutors who will be hired at a rate of, and to facilitate tutoring sessions Monday through Thursday.” For me, I would leave out the 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. because you might be boxing yourself out. But you could just say, “For three hours per day five days a week during the academic school year,” and then you do your formula.

So a couple words that you might use: will fund, offset the cost of, support, enable, grow, increase, supplement, create capacity. These are all great tips instead of just saying, “We will use grant dollars to . . .” Donors want to know they’re not the only ones contributing. So, if you have funds from your general operating expenses offsetting that salary, then let them know that their funds will be offsetting the cost of a particular item, not covering the full dollar amount.

If a donor is wanting to fund a capital project, then you could say, “One hundred percent of grant funds will support or enable us to purchase.”

So really choose your words wisely. You only have a few of them in the grant for the narrative.

You also have the option of posting formulas in many grants, and you see a sample of that below. So, once again, having these documents all in a place, whether it be a file-share system like Dropbox or Google Drive, will make this process so much easier as you actually move from the narrative to actual grant applications.

Mandy: It’s very important to have a second set of eyes to look over your applications. Hopefully, it’s someone within your organization that is not involved in the program you are writing about.

There’s been research done that shows when you know what something is supposed to say, your brain reads it that way, especially if you’re the one that wrote it. So it’s very hard to edit your own content. It’s very hard to read something objectively and say, “Does this make sense?” because to you it made sense. That’s why you wrote it that way.

Marie and I review each other’s work all the time, and she catches stuff that I didn’t see and I catch stuff that she didn’t see. We also use tools like Grammarly and spellcheck and all sorts of things to kind of help us because we do write so much.

But a random reviewer, like a grant reviewer, with no knowledge of your organization or program, will they capture what you’re trying to say? Is it going to make sense to them? So sometimes we have folks that aren’t involved in what we’re doing read something to see what kind of questions they’re going to ask. It might be something in our head we already know, so we didn’t find it necessary to explain, that is necessary in the proposal.

Will an expert in your field agree that your program design is evidence-based, efficient, competitive? If you’re writing those types of programs, are you going to be competitive?

And then does your grammar, syntax, or content marry into a winning proposal? If you write a grant proposal and submit it and it’s got a whole bunch of issues, grammar, the spelling is off, whatever, I have seen feedback come back on grants about that, like, “Oh, it would have been great if they could spell.” So do the things that you can.

I know and you know that sometimes you run spellcheck and it won’t catch something because the word is actually a real word. It’s just not the word you meant to use. So that’s where having a second set of eyes to read through that and catch issues can be very helpful.

Again, like we mentioned at the beginning, if you need that grant readiness checklist, this is where you can find it.

I believe that we are going to take some questions and answers. And I think we do have time. We have like 15 minutes left, so, Steven, I’m going to turn it over to you and let you take it from there.

Steven: Yeah, that’s right. We’ve got about maybe 12, 15 minutes, but thanks. There was a lot of good information in there. And to everyone who was asking about all those downloadable goodies, we’ll get all of those to you. Don’t worry. We’ll get you all the links and stuff.

But yeah, if you haven’t asked a question yet, now is your chance before we let these two ladies go.

I got some good ones here. There is a question that popped up I think when Mandy was talking about voice, the perspective of the voice, first person versus third person. Is there any rule of thumb there? Should you always speak in first person or third person or what do you think?

Mandy: This question comes up every single time we do [crosstalk 00:45:34]. It’s Marie’s favorite thing. She’s an English major, so she’s . . .

Steven: Oh, me too. Awesome.

Marie: No, you do not want to be using first person singular at any point in a grant narrative, unless it’s a one-page request like to a local business or you already have a developed relationship with that donor.

What is appropriate in most grant applications these days is the collective “we,” the team. So it would be first person plural, the collective “we.” But once again, donors don’t want to see the ambiguous “we” throughout a proposal. So, if you’re going to say “we,” I encourage you to use it a few times, but define who that “we” is, like our team, our leadership team, program staff.

Whenever you have a chance to describe who’s responsible for something, that active voice, use that opportunity. “Our program staff will do this.” “Our bilingual X person/director will do this.” “Our clinical advisor is responsible for.” Because it shows that you thought out the program design. It shows that there is a designated person responsible for making it happen.

When you put “I,” and we have seen grants with this, especially when we have a one-man show and founders writing it . . . we proofed a grant recently and every single one said, “And I,” or, “The founder,” which was the writer, “will do X, Y, or Z.” It looked like the founder was going to have a mountain bigger than a house on her plate and that there was no realistic way that the grant could happen without her.

It raises red flags when you use the individual “I” because the thought of the donor is, “If this person is not there tomorrow, if they’re unavailable, they get hit by a truck, whatever happens, then my dollars are going to get put to waste because there’s no one else there to implement this program.” So never use the singular first person.

If a grant, such as a federal grant or something like that, does not want you using first person plural such as “we,” they will indicate that in the guidelines. And you would say, “The organization.” You replace “the organization,” “the team,” “the staff,” all of those with an article like “the” instead of “our.”

Steven: Got it. Awesome. I knew we’d put that one to rest pretty quickly. Okay. Here’s one from my buddy, Douglas, up in Plymouth. What is the difference between secured and committed? Is there a difference, or are there some still differences there?

Mandy: Yes, there is. Committed means, “I told you I’m going to give it to you.” Secured means you have it in hand.

Steven: Okay. Got it. So dovetail into that, here’s one from Charlotte. Charlotte asks, “If we are indicating if funding is secured, committed, or pending, does that mean that our revenue streams should include all of that funding for which they’ve applied or just confirmed?”

Mandy: No. Well, there are two answers to that question. One, it doesn’t necessarily need to show up in your operating budget yet, but what it would show up in is your project or program budget if it is pending or secured, like [inaudible 00:48:29] are committed or secured. So it would show up there. But if it’s pending or it’s been submitted, then it doesn’t, because you don’t know if you’re going to get it or not. Yes, in your program or project budget, it should show up in there.

Marie: And for the purpose of the narrative in the last portion, a lot of times donors will say, “Use this chart,” or, “Tell us this.” And you can add one sentence like, “We have applied to 15 foundations. Currently, X number of dollars have been secured and we have a request pending.” So you can do that as well in the narrative.

Steven: Okay. That’s making sense. Cool. Here’s one from Jeff. “Should you give references for any data quoted in the grant application itself?” So footnotes. Is there a good rule of thumb for that?

Mandy: So, if you’re writing a state or federal grant, they will typically give you the information on how they want you to cite your references, and they’re all different. It depends on the agency or the department of the federal government you’re writing to.

But in most foundation grants, honestly, I’ve never seen a foundation grant that wanted you to put citations. But what you do need to do is keep track of “Where did that data come from?”

So we typically either have a folder on the computer or a hard copy folder where we keep that for each grant. So, if a foundation comes back to you and says, “This is really great information. Where did you find this?” or, “What kind of report did this come from?” or whatever, you can provide it to them.

I will tell you I’ve been writing grants for 25 years and I have literally had a foundation do that once.

Steven: Wow.

Mandy: I even remember the report that it was because I couldn’t find it after the fact.

Steven: I bet that was a fun one to do.

Mandy: It was.

Marie: Yeah, if you have that impact data in your file and you have all your statistics written out, maybe you have an intern that’s going to do that statistical research, they should cite the data. So it will be easy to go back and just align that with the source, if the donor doesn’t ask you for that in the guidelines.

Steven: Got it. Okay. We’ve got a couple questions on determining value of things. Paula is wondering, “How do you determine the value or the cost of volunteers?” Is there a good formula? What do you think there?

Mandy: Yes. lists the value of volunteer hours, and you can see that nationally or by state. So, if you go to our website as well and just put in the search bar “value of volunteer hours,” we have a whole article on it and the link is there., and you’re looking for the value of volunteer hours, it’s all there. You don’t have to guess about what it is. They have already done all the calculation of that for you and that’s what we use.

Steven: Cool. Kind of like the IRS mileage rates? It sounds pretty similar.

Mandy: Yes. Exactly.

Steven: All right. That was an easy one. Here’s one along the same lines from Jim. “How do you determine what percentage of your office space or your rent is applicable to the specific program?” Maybe when you’re going after several programs, so maybe have to split it up or maybe even it’s just one, how can you assign that value there as well?

Mandy: Sure. So I’ll just give you a brief example. Let’s say that you have an after-school program and one of the rooms in your facility is used as a classroom and that’s the only thing it’s used for. You can calculate how many hours a week you are using that room and you know how many hours a week you are open, so you can figure out the percentage of the time it’s being used.

If that room is only used for that one program, you figure out the square footage of that room compared to the square footage of the whole facility that you use. That percentage of the room and that percentage of time are used to figure out the percentage of your rent that you pay and the percentage of your utility bill or whatever, and then that’s how you come up with the value.

It’s kind of like if you have a home office and you figure out what the value of that is that you write off. It’s the square footage and that room is only used as your office. So you take that percentage of your whole house, whatever that room’s percentage of the whole house is, and you break that of as 13% of your mortgage, 13% of your utilities, 13% of your power bill. It’s the same thing.

Steven: Cool. Another definition question. A couple folks asked if there is a difference between a goal and an objective. I think this came up maybe early in your presentation when you were talking about both. But is that a synonym, or is there a difference there?

Mandy: My short answer, and Marie will probably go more in-depth, is goal is the big be-all, end-all thing you’re trying to accomplish. Like, “I want to run a marathon by December 31st, 2020.” That’s my goal, right? How I’m going to get there are the objectives, like, “I need to buy running shoes by next week. I need to start jogging because I’m not a runner by this day.” All the little things you’re going to do to help get to that goal are your objectives.

Marie may or may not agree with me on it completely.

Marie: Well, I agree with Mandy on the fact that you can be a little bit more broad in the overall. So, for example, for the after-school program, if you have several objectives, measurable things, that are going to fall under a general one, maybe list the goal as, “We are going to improve the academic performance of third-graders during the 2020 school year.”

Objective 1 might be, “Increase the reading score of 75% of the participants.” Objective 2 might be related to math or English as a second language. So those, you break it down a little bit more. The objectives still speak to that broader goal, but they’re much more specific.

In some situations, which this is where Mandy and I say it is interchangeable, some foundations will allow you to put strategies or activities as objectives. So, for example, “I’m going to run a mile every week to get ready for this marathon,” or whatever that might be. In most cases, that would be considered a strategy. It’s the activity you’re going to do to prepare to meet that goal.

So, at the end of the day, the question you’re going to ask is, “What is the desired impact?” If the impact is, “I’m going to increase a reading score or a math score,” that is your goal or objective. If it is an activity that you do or a strategy that you apply to reach that, then that is not a goal or an objective.

Steven: Got it. Here’s one from Kay. Any gotchas or special considerations folks should be looking out for when it comes to federal grants? Any areas where they could get tripped up that you could maybe alert them to?

Mandy: So this is going to be my short answer for you and you’re probably not going to like it. This is a foundation grant writing template webinar, and state and federal grants are a totally different bag of worms and they’re a big, gigantic pain in the bootocky. So that answer is very complicated. It involves a lot more work.

For example, your needs assessment or your statement of need for a federal grant is going to be more like a research project. It’s like a totally different thing you’re trying to write for that.

Marie: Two hundred pages of guidelines.

Mandy: Yeah. I mean, it’s just a totally different concept. So, if you have written a state and federal grant, you will want to take a foundation grant writing class. And if you’ve written foundation grants, you will want to take a state and federal grant writing class because they are just different. If you can follow instructions, they have that in common.

Marie: And your program design should stay true to itself. So the foundation of any grant is the program design. So you can get on our website and go to the Program Design 101, which will answer those questions. If you don’t have the concept of your program, how do you want it to run, what the goals and objectives are, you’re not prepared to write any grant, whether it’s foundation or federal or state. So start with a quality program design and [inaudible 00:56:05] or larger level government grants.

Mandy: And I know we keep saying, “Go to our website.” I just want to show you the Free Stuff tab real quick for those of you that haven’t been on there. This is our website,

Steven: Mandy, I think I’m still seeing your slides. Sorry.

Mandy: Oh, no.

Steven: Didn’t mean to interrupt you.

Mandy: Poo.

Steven: Drag that window over maybe.

Mandy: Let me see if I can go back to the share thing.

Steven: It thinks it’s still sharing your slides, but it’s not showing the . . .

Mandy: Well, I can’t figure out how to get . . . wait a minute. I don’t know. It won’t let me go to it. Oh, well. I was going to show you. But at the top of the page on our website, there’s just a little tab that says “Free Stuff.” That’s where you want to go to get all this stuff we’re telling you about. They’re all in Word doc format, downloadable, blah, blah, blah.

Marie: If you go to the search bar, you hit search . . . so for example, if you put “grants” in our search bar, all the grant vlogs, all the blogs, and free templates and tools will show up. So, if you’re wanting kind of a more larger picture, then just go to the search bar. If you just want a template or a tool that you can download and make your own, go to the Free Stuff bar.

Mandy: Anyway, sorry I couldn’t share it.

Steven: Oh, no problem. I just chatted the link to everyone so hopefully they can get to it there.

Probably have time for one last question. I know we didn’t get to all of them, so definitely reach out to these ladies because they are a wealth of knowledge and they’ve got a lot of free stuff on their website too.

So I’ll maybe close things out with Cathy’s question here. “What should you do if you don’t yet know the cost of the project you want funded?” Should you wait to apply for it, or is there something you can say in the interim, or any advice for Cathy there?

Mandy: You can work on some other aspects of it, like you could work on other aspects of the design, but you’re going to want to wait until [inaudible 00:57:59] so you know what it costs, for sure, unless it’s something like a building project or an equipment where you can get a quote that’s a good estimate, not a guesstimate, but an estimate. And then you could probably move forward with that.

And for those of you that are wanting to learn more, I know Steven has a ton of free webinars every year. For those of you that want to learn more about grant writing, we have a free webinar on March 11th. So, if you’re on our website on the Free Stuff page, it’s going to pop up there. And you can join us for that too if you want to learn from us about grant writing. It’s sort of the same format and it’s also very fast-paced like we talk. But it’s the first free webinar we’ll have of this year. So, if Steven has one coming up, then hopefully he’ll share that with you as well. But it’s the only one we have that will be free.

Steven: Hey, check it out because there’s going to be lots of good info there if it’s anything like this one.

Thank you both for doing this. I know you’ve got a busy day. You squeezed us into an appointment and you’re huddled out in a big room. So I really appreciate you still doing this for us.

Mandy: Thank you for having us. We love being on with you guys.

Steven: Yeah, it was fun. It’s a good crowd. So thanks to all of you for hanging out too. Look for an email from me later on today. I’m going to get the slides and the recording in your hands.

And definitely check out their website, There is a Free Stuff button on their homepage, lots of templates there, lots of freebies. And check out their upcoming webinars. You don’t have to just hear from them on a Bloomerang webinar, because they’ve got their own stuff too.

So we will call it a day there. One last thing is our next webinar, same time, same place next week. My buddy, Andy Robinson, is going to join us. This is a fun one. This is what you should do after a donor says yes. We talk a lot about getting the meeting and getting the gift itself, but what should you do after they actually say yes? Don’t stare at them like a deer in the headlights is probably number 1 out of 12.

But there are going to be lots of good tips on that one, so hopefully you can join us if you’re free. If you’re not, register anyway because I’ll send you the recording even if you don’t attend live because I’m good guy like that.

So hopefully, we’ll see you again on another Thursday webinar, but thanks to all of you for being here. Look for that email from me with all of the recording and slide info. And we will talk to you again soon. Have a great rest of your Thursday. Have a safe and warm weekend. We’ll talk to you again soon. 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.