Micki Vandeloo, GPC recently joined us for a webinar in which she provided tips to help you plan your next project to maximize the chances of receiving a grant.
In case you missed it, you can watch the replay here:
Steven: Well, thanks to everyone who’s joined early. We are going to get started here in about 60 seconds so stand by. Well Micki, my clock just circled one o’clock. Do you want to get started?
Micki: Yes, we certainly can.
Steven: All right, cool. Well, good afternoon, everyone if you are on the East Coast or good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang Webinar: Project Planning to Win Grants. And my name is Steven Shattuck and I am the VP of Marketing here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion.
Before we begin I just want to go through a couple of housekeeping items. I just want to let everyone know that I am recording this presentation and we will be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon, so if you have to leave earlier or if you want to review the content later on, you will be able to do that. Just look for an email from me a little on before the end of the day.
As you are listening today, I would love for you to send us some questions, send us comments and questions to the chat box there on your screen. I’ll see those and Micki will see those and we are going to save some time towards the end of a presentation for a little bit of a formal Q and A. So don’t be shy there. We are going to save some time for that and we got a grants expert here on the line to answer your questions. Probably about 10 or 15 minutes so don’t be shy at all. We’d love to hear your thoughts during the presentation.
And just in case this is your first Bloomerang webinar with us, welcome if that’s the case. We do do these webinars just about every Thursday. They are totally educational, totally free to the public in addition to that Bloomerang offers some donor management software, that’s our business, that’s what we do on a day-to-day basis. So if you are in the market, if you’re interested in learning more, I would love for you to do that. You can get a video demo of the software. You don’t even have to talk to a sales person if you don’t want to. So if you are interested in that, please do that. Just go to our website and click demo.
So I want to go ahead now and introduce today’s guest. She is Micki Vandeloo. Hey Micki, how is it going?
Micki: It’s going wonderful. Beautiful day here in St. Louis, Missouri.
Steven: Yes, that’s good. It’s nice here in Indy too. I’m really happy to have you. We started talking about this webinar last November. We haven’t done a lot of grants and that’s something that has been requested of us a lot, so it’s super to have you.
For those of you who don’t know Micki, she’s got over ten years of experience writing grants. She’s obtained over $4 million in grant funding for both for-profit and nonprofit clients in her career. She published a great guide, “The For-Profit Grant Writing Guide” in 2014 just to help grant writers understand the research and all the process that goes in there.
Micki is a board member of the St. Louis Chapter of the Grant Professionals Association. She is a member of the GPA Foundation Board and she attained her Grant Professionals Certified, that’s what GPC stands for in case you are wondering. She obtained that credential back in September of 2013.
She also received the 2014 Pauline G. Annarino Award from the Grant Professional Certification Institute for her efforts for advancing grant professionals. Just an all-around expert, awesome bio, Micki, I’m really excited to hear what you have to say about grants, so I’m going to pipe down and I’m going to let you take it away and tell us about project planning to win grants, so go for it, Micki.
Micki: Okay, awesome. Thank you so much, Steven. That was a good introduction. I’m really happy to be here with everybody today and this is kind of a sweet spot in, I guess, my repertoire of training for grants because I feel very strongly based on my experience that this is probably the most overlooked aspect of grant writing that there is. If I do a search on grant writing and I look through agendas and curriculums for training courses, I really don’t see a lot of effort being put into explaining how to plan projects to win grants. Now there are courses but generally, they are tied in with the grant writing course, so it’s kind of glossed over I guess, so I’m really excited to be talking about this with all of you today.
In this webinar, we are going to talk about a few different elements and I want to keep my talk fairly short because I want to leave time for you to ask questions. The real key to this is that you understand the role of project planning and that you understand how to make it work for you when you are writing grants. But I know you are going to have some questions specific to your nonprofit or to your organization and I very much encourage you to ask those questions and I will try to leave plenty of time. I’ll try not to go on and on and I’ll try to leave plenty of time.
So we are going to talk about, I’m going to do a quick introduction of myself and then talk about the role of project planning in the grant writing process. I’m going to discuss a little bit how to put together the ideal project team, the elements of a project plan, uses for the project plant and tools and tricks to help you succeed. And I have a really great resource that I’m going to be offering to all of you who attend this webinar at the end of this that I think it’s going to really help you as move forward. And as you write your next grant, it will help give you a really great way to prepare for that grant.
So basically Steven talked about a lot of this, my life has really been all about the numbers. The 25 represents the number of years I have worked in around for-profit companies, particularly in manufacturing. Most people that are grant writers are English majors. They were English majors in college. They might have a journalism degree. I have met a few people that maybe were scientists and now they typically now do grants for universities or scientific research.
My degree actually, my bachelor’s is actually in industrial engineering, which I think is probably the oddest route as of yet to get to a grant writing career. I got my bachelor’s in industrial engineering and I got my MBA and I’ve spent 25 years working in around manufacturers but oddly enough, in that community of manufacturers is actually where I got my introduction to grant writing. Basically, I started writing grants for manufacturing companies to get to train their employees when I was working in a manufacturing consulting firm and so I started writing grants and I absolutely fell in love with it.
I always have kind of this creative plan and so that’s why I got into grant writing and also now, I have written a lot for nonprofit companies but my grant writing efforts now specifically focus on for-profit companies, organizations that serve for-profit companies, particularly manufacturers and large nonprofits.
However, I have worked with small nonprofits. I have done that work in the past so I think I am experienced enough to answer your questions. That just isn’t my current focus of my work at this point. Like Steven said, it’s actually about 11 years now I have been writing grants. I’ve gotten over $4 million and I’m getting pretty close to $5 million in grants for all the companies I have written for. Over $3 million probably close to $3.5 million have been for-profit companies.
In 2009 I have started my business, Lakeview Consulting Inc., and in 2013 as Steven mentioned, I was very proud to have gotten my GPC designation. I am one of a little over a hundred GPCs that are certified throughout the United States and it is a great certification. I highly encourage you, if you are going to be hiring a grant writer at any point, look for a GPC. They have really proven their worth.
So now let’s step into the topic of discussion today. So what does a project plan do? And I think I am missing my putter here, Steven. I’m not sure but it looks like it but I think I can move through without it. Basically, a project plan defines the project. It tells you what the project looks like. A good project planning process uses a cross-functional team and by cross-functional I mean if you are working in a small nonprofit for example, your team might be extremely small. It might be two, three people at the most. You might have your executive director. It might be you being the development director or the fundraiser and then probably somebody that’s actually providing the services to your clients. There’s also some times a financial person.
I’m going to talk a little bit more in detail about the project planning team but that’s the definition of a cross-functional team. It’s a team made up of a lot of different functions in your organization. Your goal of project planning is to determine your key plan elements and we will talk about those before we do a funding search or before you document your application. What I am proposing is a structured process that ensures all your bases are covered and that your plan will be effective.
So basically what we are doing here, I’m looking at not this step of grant research. I’m looking before this. This is before you do grant research. This is before you fill out an application. You put together your project plan before you do any of that and that’s really an important point.
So this slide talks about the reasons why people don’t plan projects because I can tell you at working with both nonprofit and for-profit companies, anytime that I had worked with these companies and I asked them, “have you put together a project plan?” They’ll say we want a grant for X. We want a grant to help teach kids to read. Okay, have you put together a project plan for that? Well no not really. We just want to teach kids to read. Okay, so why haven’t you put together any kind of a project plan? Why haven’t you talked about the budget? Why haven’t you talked about your objectives? Well, we really haven’t had the time and this grant is due next week. We really need to get on this.
So lack of time and most of the time it has to do with some sort of a grant deadline is one of the biggest reasons I hear for not putting together a project plan. Also a lot of organizations really don’t know how to do it. They don’t have a structure for doing it. Excuse me. So basically, when I ask them did you put together a project plan, they kind of give me that deer in the headlights look like, “Really I was supposed to do that? I didn’t know that.”
My clients and the people that I worked with have tended to have a lack of understanding of how it fits in their system or how it’s beneficial. What good is it going to do to me if we do a project plan? I mean we don’t even know if we are going to get this grant. This is what I am hearing from clients. So really these are three, I’ve heard all three of these in some way, shape, or form any time I have started to talk to any client about trying to do a project plan.
So this slide talks about the project team. So I talked about this a little bit more but depending on the size of the organization, a team should never be more than about ten or 12 people and that would be with a really large organization. The reason for that is when you get too many people, as you probably know, when you get too many people in a room, you tend to just get really muddled in side conversations and tangents and it’s just a very hard group to control.
I like to see a project team no more than 12, absolutely no more than 12, six to 10 is really good. If you are a small organization like I said, it might be three to five but you will have representatives. I like to see representatives from these four entities. So basically somebody that does your financials, whoever your, maybe it’s your CFO, maybe it’s your director of finance, maybe it’s your accountant. It’s whoever who is going to work with the budget, who’s going to have to adhere to the budget, who’s going to have to manage the budget, you want that person in the room.
You want somebody from an executive management standpoint. That is really, really key. A lot of times as we all know, and you guys maybe in this boat, you might be the guy who wears all the hats or the lady that wears all the hats. You might say, you know what, I am the director of operations and I really want to delegate this to my staff. I know the plant project planning is important. I definitely want to see it when it’s done but I don’t really want to take part in it.
When I am working with clients on project planning, I really, really discourage that. The reason is that when you put together a project plan, you need to have buy-in very early. Particularly if it is a very large project and that’s very hard to do if you don’t have a decision maker in the room. So if it can’t be your director of operations or your executive director, at least have somebody at that management level that can make a decision and that can speak for that management level, and that way you ensure yourself that you are not putting together a plan that just is going to meet with crickets when you send it on to the management staff.
The third entity is the service delivery staff. You want somebody on that team that’s actually going to be teaching those kids how to read. You want somebody that’s actually going to be doing the work because if you put together a project plan and you get a grant, based on that project plan, that person is the person who is going to be responsible. They are also going to be valuable project team member because they will help you identify the activities. They will help you identify the staffing that might be required.
If absent, those people, if you put together a project plan and they aren’t in the room, you might be assuming it might take perhaps two people to teach kids how to read when it might actually take ten people to teach the audience of children to read that you want to teach. So you need to really keep those people in the loop, the ones that are going to be delivering the services.
And then finally, collaborating organizations. This might not be applicable, but I am a big fan of collaboration when it comes to grants and we can do a whole webinar on collaboration. It’s really, really important. I am also a big promoter of keeping those people involved as much as possible when you are planning the project, when you are doing your grant research, and when you are applying for the grant. Again this goes to buy-in. If you have a collaborating organization that is providing a key service, or a service that’s key to that project, why wouldn’t you want them on the project team? Yes they are an external person, but if you are going to partner with them to do anything, you really would want them to be quote and quote, “in the know” from the very beginning.
So this is a great way to get you collaborating organizations on board. To really maximize their participation, they might even give you some great ideas of how to better your project as you are planning it. So those are some important things to remember about your project team.
Who should be the project leader? Well, my experience is that a good project leader has these characteristics. They are organized. They can manage a lot of different . . . they are typically good multitaskers. They have everything together when they come to the meeting, they have an agenda, they keep their eye on the clock to make sure everything flows, and they are just organized people. They’re leaders.
It sounds a little repetitive but there are people that have strong personalities for example that are not leaders, so it’s good to designate which of those things people on your team might be and the people that just have strong personalities probably don’t need to be the leader. The leader can actually manage the people with strong personalities and make everybody work together but a good leader actually coaches the team, works with the team, make sure that there is somebody directing everything, so that’s a good leader in my opinion at least.
They need to be a good delegator as well. Your leader is not the one who is going to put together your whole project plan. They might be the person that documents it, they might be the person that provides significant input into it, but they are not going to be doing everything. For example, the leader typically is not the financial person because they are very focused on that one component of the project so that leader needs to delegate the budget and the financial information, gathering all that, and making sure it’s all in the project plan. They need to delegate that. So they need to be good delegator.
And finally, that leader needs to be willing to commit to a long-term project lead role for consistency. So if you do get grant funding or if your organization chooses to go ahead and do the project without grant funding, either way, that leader should be willing to carry on that role if everybody is satisfied with the job he or she is doing.
So these are the six elements of the project plan and to help all of you try to outline the elements more consistently every time, I’ve put together a project planning template. That template is available if you go to my website and I will give it to you at the end of the presentation as well but when you click on the link to that website or you put in lakeviewconsulting.net up in the upper right-hand corner, there is a project planning template that is available for anybody that signs up for my weekly email newsletter.
I put out a weekly email newsletter that comes out on Mondays, Monday afternoon typically and it basically talks about leadership, organizational development, grants. It kind of covers a wide variety of topics. I think you will find it really interesting because it is not your typical “here is another piece of information about grants.” It’s much more about the sound . . . last week’s for example was on wisdom, which is key to being a part of a grant writing team, but it’s not particularly directly associated with grant writing.
So that template is available but here are the six areas and we are going to talk about those in just a little bit more detail. So the needs go to, what need does your project meet? So if you’ve done a needs assessment, if your organizations has ever done a needs assessment, you are going to be a lot farther ahead in this process. But even you haven’t, talk amongst your team and say okay who are you going to serve and what are their needs.
So let us take the children learning how to read as an example.
You are going to be serving children, probably children in your community, or children in your county, or children in a school district. Any of those might be the case. So you identify who you are going to serve and then what are their needs. What needs are leading to this project?
So in the case of children learning how to read maybe in low reading test scores, maybe it is the inability of kids to focus on their education because they do not know how to read, so you really need to dig in to what the needs are. And sometimes you need to do that needs assessment or you need to do a survey maybe. If you are working with school kids for example, maybe you need to survey teachers, maybe to do a survey of the kids themselves, so this need though is not internal to your organization and this is really, really important.
I tell the companies and I say it laughingly. I do not mean it in a derogatory manner, but when you are thinking about needs, it is not you. It is not about your organization’s needs. You’re meeting a community need. You are meeting a bigger picture need. But if you want to buy iPads for your nonprofit and there is not a larger need being met, I would advise you not to even pursue a grant because if it is just going to help your people maybe get a little bit more effective but does not result in better service, that doesn’t meet that community need.
So that is just an example and I know some of you might have gotten grants for iPads and so maybe it would not be applicable to you, but I am telling you that that’s . . . I am trying to illustrate that this is not really about you or your staff. It is more about the people you are serving.
To do research on bigger needs, you can definitely go to census.gov. If you are working with kids, kidscount.org, I believe it is. The Kids Count website is a great website for getting data on kids throughout the country. A needs assessment is wonderful and I do not know, Steven, if you guys have done any webinars on needs assessments. But I do know a couple of them, so feel free to email if you are interested in getting some information on training, a needs assessment training as well.
And then finally do not think of terms of lack or your solution, so you don’t think of your need in terms of, “we feel the need is for kids to learn how to read because they do not know how to read, or they do not have the resources to read.” You really want to put the need in terms of the kids and what their needs are and not what is not there. You want to propose what you are going to do to fix the problem, if that makes sense.
And I got asked to repeat the website to find research info on use that is Kids Count, K-I-D-S-C-O-U-N-T, all one word and I believe that is kidscount.org. I believe it is kidscount.org. It is the Annie E. Casey Foundation. If you want to do a search for Kids Count or Annie E. Casey, C-A-S-E-Y, they put that out every year.
So here is a good needs statement, and this one that came from a project that actually got funded that I did with a nonprofit. “Hispanic parents need to learn to speak English to gain independence and support their school age children.” So this is a very clear needs statement. It is succinct.
Oh, thank you. Thank you very much, Steven.
It is succinct. It is easy to put in application because every application, every grant application has some section that ask you for the needs, what are the needs that you are meeting, so you got your answer right here.
So the next one is your project activity and your project activities are going to dictate your project’s budget and again this is where it is really important to have people on your team that can answer to these things. So you will need to . . . basically you are going to need to provide estimates to get the supplies you need to do your activities. You are going to get the amount of staffing you are going to need. So how many people are going to do your service? How much are your vendors or your partners going to cost? The materials? And then any other things.
And the other, I would encourage you to think of everything. For example phones, travel, room rental. If you need to get a room or if somebody is contributing room space, that is important because that is in-kind, if you do not know what in-kind, in-kind is generally somebody is donating something to the project but and they are not charging you for it. Or they might be charging you less and you can call that discounted amount in-kind. In-kind is really important on grant applications because that can actually reduce your cross match.
So basically, that is the budget piece of it and so your project, you need to think in terms of your activities and then your budget, so your activities lead to your budget.
Your project outcome, and I do not know if any of you have heard of the term “outcome.” A lot of you may have, especially if you are in the nonprofit sector, because outcomes are pretty important and they are also very much mixed up with outcomes, I am sorry objective or output. If any of you worked with logic models, logic models are a huge thing and have been for a while in a grants industry. And basically on the right side of your logic model, you have your inputs which are the people that work on your project, you have your activities which is what they do and then you have your objectives, and then you have your outcomes, and then you have your outputs.
Well, your outputs are things like the number of jobs you are going to create, the number of kids you are going to serve, the number of kids you are going to teach how to read, the increase in testing scores. Outputs are your data, what you expect to increase, what you expect to change. But outcomes are actually what will change as a result of your project, so it is not about the numbers. It is the behaviors.
In the case of the kids learning how to read, it is their increased self-esteem or increased self-confidence. It is their greater ability to be social with others, because kids honestly that do not know how to read are probably considered kind of a social pariah, so maybe it will make them more acceptable socially. Maybe it is an increased knowledge. It is an increased ability to actually put the words together and read. And it might also be greater accessibility so if you are working it with a disabled population for example, this is a very common outcome. You might be looking for equipment to help them move better, so they will greater have accessibility, which again, can lead to the other outcome of an increase self-esteem and self-confidence.
So this is the executive summary. This is the summary, the project summary, but it is funny because it is always listed first in either grant application and it is actually listed first in . . . I believe it’s listed first in the template. I am drawing a blank here. But anyway, they list it first but it really should be documented last, so after you put together everything your needs met, your approach, your start and end date, your budget and your outcomes, you summarize all that into your project summary.
So that is your plan, and like I said the template will help you through, it will walk you through all those steps. It gives some definitions in there so you will have an easy time using it with your team, so I hope you enjoy using that.
You put together a plan, so now what are you going to do with it? So you put together your plan and maybe you are going to do research. One of the things that the plan can really help you do is to develop key words to do grant research. One of the keys to doing effective grant research is the use of keywords in foundation center databases or grant databases, or if you did grant station, grant station databases. If you do a search on the Internet, you can use keywords.
But your project description in my template actually has a section on it for keywords. So when you get all done putting together your project plan, if it is children reading, maybe one of your keywords is “literacy.” It is the words that you are going to search for in a database or on the Internet for grants. You can also use the plan to execute the project without any funding. If you decide at the end of . . . if your outcomes do not have any alignment with community outcomes or grant funder’s outcomes, you might just choose not to pursue grant funding. That is a very likely scenario as a matter of fact.
And now you have all this information. You have a rough budget. You have the activities. You have the amount of staff you are going to need. You really have everything you need to just do it if you choose to do that. You can also use various part of the project plan for the application. For example you can use the project description for the project summary for the application. You can use the plan elements such as needs to put into your grant application so doing that project plan makes your research a lot easier and it makes your application a lot easier as well.
I like the idea of having several project plans. I know we all have a lot going on. You guys are all really busy and you might say hey it’d be great to do this and then you know it kind of goes in the back wall or whatever and goes next corner of the office. And the next week you might say, “Oh it would be really great. We talked about that one thing last week. Remember what we talked about.” What I encourage people to do is stop, write it down. Write down your ideas. And you can then compare several project plans.
And I agree, Charlotte, it would really great to have the headers. In the PDF that I sent Steven it does have the headers. So hopefully, I think it was just in the transferring it in to the ready talk software so I apologize. But I’m trying to very clearly state what I’m talking about in each slide. Oh, okay. Thank you, Steven.
So basically, if you have several plans, you can compare those. You can say our outcomes here are of a bigger priority for us for a strategic planning standpoint. So we want to do this project before we do any other ones. So it really helps organized your thoughts and organize your decision making processes.
So this is just kind of a summary and a few tips as well. Like I said, you’re going to get a free project planning template if you go onto my website and use that. I encourage you to use that. I encourage you to modify it for your own use. If you see something else you want on there, just duplicate it or add to it or edit it or whatever you want to do.
Some tips here, give yourself plenty of time to plan. This process should really not be rushed. I never encourage people to respond to grant applications that are due in a week regardless of whether you want to do a project plan because chances are you’re going to really want to put some stuff together in a hurry and you’re going to a lot less likely to get a grant. Give yourself plenty of time to plan.
I would suggest planning right in the very beginning stages, just right in the beginning stages. And then do the research, give yourself plenty of time to plan, do the research, and fill out the application. I also encourage you, if you are putting together a project plan and it is a project you’re going to pursue, that you have regular planning meetings. So maybe monthly, especially if it’s a larger project. I worked on a $2.3 million project and I was the project leader when I worked for a manufacturing company. And we had meetings once a month for three years. And I mean I know that sounds like meetings that might not be valuable but every month all of us got on the same page with the project. So it’s really important to have those regular meetings.
And finally use a team. No project should be planned in a vacuum. I do not want any of you to put this project planning template on your desk and try to fill it out for all of your projects. I really want you to get at least one or two other people in the room and bounce everything off them, absolutely need to do that.
Here are some resources. I actually have two websites. This one is actually for grant writers and development directors. It’s called the Grants4All website. And you can actually link to that when you go to lakeviewconsulting.net. There’s a grants for all logo on the right-hand side of the page. You can click on that and you can join the group. You can put your email address there as well. And I sent on a monthly email newsletter that’s called the Grants4All newsletters. And it gives some grant opportunities. And by the way, they all have deadlines that are at least two months out to allow project for that project planning and research and the application everything. So it gives some grant opportunities, tips and a motivational quote just because I like quotes.
And I do have a training course coming out soon. My book actually outlined what I call a funny equation. After I wrote the book I thought it would be a really great idea to do a training course. So I developed one and I’m in the process of finalizing. It’s going to be a booklet that’s going to have hard copy slides and also DVDs. Training DVDs, they’re only audio because I don’t think anybody wants to be subjected in my bright smiling face for ten different sessions. So basically project planning, strategic planning, it covers both those, which I believe both are very important by the way. Grant research, completing a grant application, it gives some great resources. I do interviews with grant writers. I do interviews with strategic planning experts.
So you can sign up on the website and you’ll be the first to know when you sign up on the website when that will be available. And you just put the link to that website on the board.
The second resource that I have for you is the For-Profit Grant Writing Guide. It does say for-profit, and I know this is a nonprofit crowd. But you can still very much benefit from what’s in that book. It talks again about the funding equation. It goes through a lot of the things on project planning. There’s a chapter on project planning. There’s a chapter on grant research. It’s meant as kind of just a guide. It’s a very small little book. It sells for $9.97 on Amazon. But if put in the discount code, if you go to the website there, and you put on the discount code, you can actually get it for 50% off. So you’re going to get if for about five bucks. The cost of a cup of coffee, quite honestly.
Basically so you can get it at 50% off and it’s just really a little guide. I think 50 pages long. It’s got note pages in it. It’s just a way to kind of walk yourself through the grant process. And it also discusses further how project planning fits in the funding equation. So you can get a little bit different information you got on this seminar.
Finally, I’m also writing another book. And I would encourage you to watch for news. I’ll have it on my website. I’ll be doing updates on my website and on Grants4All. And watch for news on my next book, it’s coming out in the spring of 2016. It’s also going to be on for-profit funding and so maybe not real applicable to this audience. But it’s going to be much deeper dive into sources of grant funding for for-profit companies. It’s going to have section for grant writers that want to write for for-profit companies and some of the key considerations. And I also encourage you to go to