3 Ways to STAND OUT and Win the Grant!
In this webinar, Margit Brazda Poirier will show you how your nonprofit can stand out from the competition so they are eager to fund you!
Steven: All right, Margit. My watch just struck 2:00. Is it okay if I go ahead and kick this party off?
Margit: Yes, let’s go. Sounds good, Steven.
Steven: All right, cool. Good afternoon, everyone, if you’re on the East Coast, and good morning, I should say, if you are out on the West Coast. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “3 Ways to Stand Out and Win the Grant!” And 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.
And just a couple of housekeeping items before we begin, I just want to let you all know that we are recording this whole presentation, and we’ll be sending out that recording to you later on this afternoon [inaudible 00:00:42] get to you. So if you have to leave earlier, makes you want to review the content later on or share it with a colleague or a friend, we love that, so just look for an email from me with all those goodies later on this afternoon. Don’t worry.
But most importantly, we love, love for these webinars to be interactive. So don’t be shy about sending in your questions and comments right there on the webinar chat box on your screen. We’ll be saving some time for Q&A at the end. So we’d love to answer your questions, you know. We don’t want to make up our own questions. We want to answer your questions. So send them in. [inaudible 00:01:17] Twitter as well. I’ll keep an eye on this Twitter feed throughout the hour.
And just some last housekeeping items on the technical side, if you’re having trouble with the audio through your computer, we find that the audio by phone is usually a little bit better quality, more solid connection there. So if you don’t mind calling in, if that’ll be comfortable for you, [inaudible 00:01:39] a coworker or anything, just check the email from ReadyTalk that went out about an hour ago or so today. There’s a phone number in there for you.
If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to you, folks. We do these webinars just about every single week throughout the year, literally only miss a couple weeks [inaudible 00:02:00] by any means.
But what we are really known for in addition to this webinar series is our donor management software. So if you are interested in that, if you’re shopping for that coming up here or in the near future, check us out. You can watch a quick video demo of our software in action. You don’t even have to talk to a salesperson if you don’t want to.
So don’t do that now, because you’re all are in for a real treat over the next hour or so. So one of my favorites is coming back to the webinar series again this year. We love to have her back every year. She did a great session for us last year. We’ve got Margit Brazda Poirier joining us from beautiful Rochester, New York, my ancestral homeland. How’s it going, Margit? You doing okay?
Margit: I’m doing great, yes, fantastic. Glad to be here.
Steven: This is awesome to have you and if you all didn’t catch her session last year that she co-presented with Nikki Van de Loo, check that out. Lots of other good grant advice. But Margit has kind of become my go-to on grants. If you don’t know her, she is the owner and founder over at Grants4Good. She has been working at that company, her own company, since about 2009, obviously, helping nonprofits find and get grants. That’s kind of her specialty. She has written and received a ton of grants throughout her career through lots of different sources, federal, state, corporate, foundation. She has led a foundation herself before.
So she’s been in her shoes. She’s not just on the other side of the table. And if you catch her on another maybe webinar series or at a conference, definitely attend that session, because you’re going to get some great advice, just like the great advice you’re about to get now. And so let’s get to it. I don’t want to take any more time away from you, Margit. Tell us all about your top three ways to get that grant, my friend.
Margit: Sounds good. All right. Well, thank you, Steven, for that wonderful introduction. And thanks for Bloomerang for hosting the webinar series. This has been fantastic. Like Steven said, we had a great time last year with the webinars. And I think we had over a thousand people register then, just like today.
So welcome, everybody. Thank you for taking an hour out of your day to join us. I promise you it will be worth your while. I think you’ll probably leave with more information than you need, but even if you leave with three key things you can do now to help you get more grant success, I will be happy with that. So I look forward to hearing your feedback on this webinar.
So today’s webinar is going to deliver exactly what was promised. I’m going to share with you three ways that you can stand out and win the grant. And I developed this presentation mainly for people who have done some grant-writing before already. However, if you’re a complete beginner, don’t worry. There’s plenty here for you. If you are someone who has been writing grants, and you find that, well, maybe sometimes I get them and then other times I get those dreaded denial letters that say, “We don’t have enough funding to fund your program,” this webinar is also for you, because you may learn some additional things that you can do to increase your chance of winning grants. So thanks for being here.
Today’s outcomes, I’m going to share with you a top strategy that every nonprofit must use in order to get grant funding. Now I say nonprofit, but I happen to know there’s a couple people on this call that own small businesses. This will apply to you, too. If you’re from a university, a hospital, a K-12 school, this will still apply to you. So stay with us.
Secondly, I want to help you understand how your organization can stand out from the competition so that funders are eager to fund you. And lastly, a really critical step that, believe it or not, is overlooked by a lot of nonprofits when doing grant development. So you’re going to learn all that.
So let’s just start without further ado. The nature of grants. So what is a grant, essentially? And this really is for the folks who are new to grant-writing. Now normally, if in a room, I’m waiting for the hands to go up, but I’m going to tell you right now a grant . . . The number one thing I always hear from people is a grant is free money.
Well, technically, yes. It is free money in that it’s money you don’t have to pay back. However, those of you who’ve written these grants know there’s always strings attached. In other words, the grant is free money for a very particular purpose or project, and it requires reporting and follow-up. So you are responsible for spending the money exactly the way you say you will. Knowing that, it’s still a pretty good deal. It’s better than a loan where you have to pay interest or a line of credit.
The other thing about grants is that the vast, vast majority are for not-for-profit, or as I say, nonprofit organizations. There are some for businesses. They’re a little harder to find. I’ll share some tips about that as well in case any of you are also representing businesses. And of course, if you’ve been to a college, you know that there’s grants for individuals, including college scholarships, research fellowships, etc. But that is not the topic of today’s call.
Most grants are highly competitive. And this is one of the things that scares people the most. And there’s a good reason for that. In our world, about 1 in 10 grant applications actually gets funded. Now where did I come up with that number? Because there really is no solid statistical evidence out there.
So where I got this is I’ve been on several review boards where I get to have the opportunity to review your grant applications and determine which ones get funded. And I’ve also worked as a federal reviewer for the U.S. Department of Environmental Education, reviewing those grants. So those kind of experiences really gave me this unique perspective of what are funders are looking for and how can we, as grant writers and applicants, become more competitive.
So on the whole, I find about 1 in 10 is a pretty accurate number because some of the U.S. federal grants that we write will clearly say that they’ll only fund about the top 5% of all applicants. Now that’s pretty small. Then there’s some family foundations that are just local to my area where the chances increase quite a bit. In other words, where I might have 30% or 40% get funded. So now we’re down about a 1 in 3, 1 in 4, and that’s going pretty good. But regardless, they’re competitive.
I’ve also noticed that, with nonprofits that I work with, and there are many, as well as the State of the Grant Seeking Report, which surveys thousands of nonprofits in the U.S., there’s a commonality that we all experience. And that is that there’s a lack of time and staff in every organization. And almost none of them want to spend the time grant-writing. Why? Because it is so time-consuming. And it sometimes sounds like an easy task. Well, it’s just a matter of filling out forms and following directions, right? Well, if it was only that easy. So I find that a lot of organizations put this unique opportunity to find grants on the back burner.
And that’s the mistake because one of the things I found in my career, and I started grant-writing I’m going to tell you the truth, it was the early 1990s, when it was always paper applications. Imagine how many pieces of paper we wasted. And so in that time, I’ve seen a lot of changes in the profession, for better and worse, mostly for the better.
But the number one thing I did notice is that the power of grants to impact an organization and people is immeasurable. It’s immense. So when I started writing grants, I was working for our local county government, County Health Department, here in Rochester, New York, and I was doing Environmental Education and Water Quality Protection work because my Master’s is in science, in Environmental Science. And people thought, well, what are you doing owning your own grant-writing company? Well, I’ll tell you how this morphed is I started getting these grants for alternative energy, for water quality protection, for youth education, and a light bulb went off and said, “Wow, there is a lot to this.”
And that’s why I enjoy teaching groups like you all about this because whatever organization you’re representing right now, whether it’s a mentoring program, a health organization, a domestic violence shelter, alternative energy, you name it, there’s funding out there for you, and there’s funding out there to help the people you serve, which is why you’re in this profession in the first place. So it really is a wonderful, wonderful opportunity. And the more you do it, the easier it becomes. You can trust me on that. I’ve been doing it a long time.
So before we dive into those top three outcomes for today’s webinar, I just want to set the stage for what does philanthropy look like in the U.S. today? Well, there are over $410 billion dollars given out every year in grants and donations. I should say, in 2017, it was slightly less in 2016. 2018 numbers are not yet released, but I expect it will be $410 billion or a little more. It was a very good year.
Also, there are over 87,000 grant-making foundations in the U.S. alone, and there’s hundreds of state and federal grants. I know we have folks from Canada on call, and I’ll talk about some foundations there as well. But I know they’re numbering in the thousands there as well. Also, in the U.S., 1.5 million nonprofits.
So if you look at those numbers, now you’re probably thinking, well, that’s 1.5 million organizations competing for 87,000 foundations. Well, yes and no. Not all those nonprofits are competing with you. Some of them might be only looking for state and federal grants, of which there are thousands offered every year. So these are just some numbers to give you a broad brush of what is out there right now.
So let’s get right into the number one thing every nonprofit must do to get grant funding. Well, this is the biggest one, so I’m going to focus the most time on this. Now I was a real math geek when I was in high school, absolutely loved it, loved equations. And I think my math professors would maybe cringe at this equation I made up, but it’s so simple it’s brilliant. And it works every time.
So smart project planning matched with finding the best possible funder for your org equals higher grant success. So you’re thinking, okay, Margit, that really sounds too easy. It’s not brilliant at all. But wait, let me get into the details. If you follow this, trust me, your grant applications will be a much higher success.
So let’s back into this. If you want to find the best funders right now for the work you do, what do you do? You have to first understand the different types of funding sources out there. So there are government grants, many many government grants offered every year at the federal level. By the way, at the federal level, there are 26 different agencies, departments that give out grant funds. Those include ones like the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and I could go on. There’s 26 of them. I’ll tell you how to access those in moment.
There are also numerous state opportunities in every state, and in Canada, in every province. So there’s lots of opportunities at the somewhat local level. Then there are government grants at your even more local level, your county or city departments.
The second category of funding sources is your community foundations. These are not to be overlooked. There’s a community foundation covering just about every region in the U.S. Because I’m in Rochester, New York, I often go to the Rochester Area Community Foundation. I know all the folks that work there and their program officers. But you can find them anywhere in the U.S.
And then there’s those 87,000 plus private foundations. And these can include everything from the largest, which is the Gates Foundation, to numerous, numerous smaller family foundations. And finally, there’s corporate foundations. And think about any kind of big store or big presence in your community and google them and see if they have a foundation. So if you have Dollar General stores, which we do here, there’s a Dollar General Foundation. And they often have very specific things they’re interested in.
So Dollar General for example is interested in literacy, family and youth literacy, reading programs. The Ford Foundation is very interested in education. So think about what’s near you: Walmart, BestBuy, Lowe’s, all of those. That’s one of your steps to finding some funders.
Now one of the things I like to offer in these webinars, because they’re so short, and I could really teach and do teach several-day workshops on these topics, I want to leave you with some resources. You have the slides. I want to leave you with some resources that you can use throughout the years after today, starting with how to find these funders.
For federal grants, the best possible source is grants.gov. That’s where you’re going to find all of the 26 federal grant-making agencies as well as all of the open opportunities, RSPs, requests for proposals, you’ll see all of those on grants.gov. I highly recommend you subscribe to their free newsletter so that you’ll get all the latest opportunities there. Or you might have a very specific interest, like the arts, in which case, you want to subscribe to the National Endowment for the Arts, arts.gov.
Also, private and corporate foundations. Here are two of my favorites, foundationcenter.org and GuideStar.org. And even as I present this to you, those two organizations are combining to form something called candid.org. Right now you can access both of them through the sites I have on the slide, but they will be changing, and they’re merging so they can provide even more data to you. But these are wonderful, wonderful databases to find foundations.
And lastly, if you’re wondering where the nearest community foundation is to you, or rather, which community foundation may or may not give out funds in your area, this is how you find it. If you click on this link, you’ll see a map of the U.S., and you can click your particular city or town and find out who we’d want to contact. So it’s a great resource.
So just finding the grant funders alone is a lot of time and effort. That’s why one of the things we do for our clients is actually do their funding searches for them so they can have 15 or 20 best-fit funders. But just to share a couple quick tips for you, you may want to look right now at what other organizations are in your region or in the country that are doing similar work to you. So for example, if you have a mentoring program that needs funding, are there other mentoring organizations out there? And if so, who is funding them? Because it’s possible those funders may be worth researching to see if they would also fund your organization. That’s called cross-referencing. So just kind of a quick tip for that.
Things like Foundation Center, you can actually search by region, by topic, by target audience. So those are great search tools. Those are good starting points.
Let’s get to the other part of our equation, and that is the project planning. Now usually when I teach a series of webinars, or in-person workshops, I actually start with the project planning, not the funders. And here’s why. You have to know exactly what it is you want funding for before it’s worth spending your time, spending hours looking for the best funder to fund you.
So project planning, the very first thing you probably do is what is the problem in your community that you have to address? And when we work for nonprofits and with business, it’s always a problem or an issue that requires your attention, or you, frankly, wouldn’t be at the job you’re at.
So let’s say the problem is your community is an extremely high rate of high school dropout rates, high rates of poverty, of violence, drug use, etc. You get the picture. A lot of communities are suffering from this. So here’s a problem, or a need, rather that has to be addressed.
Next, what kind of programs do you have developed that address that specific problem? And which one of those need funding? And specifically, what kind of funding do you need? Do you need funding for capital expenses, in other words, for more computers, for maybe building an addition to your current space or for opening a brand new building? Do you need funding for creating a new program? Or do you need funding for a program that’s already going on but that you might want to expand, maybe you want to hire more staff, or you want to serve more youth that are in your community? Those are all things that are fundable by grants.
One of the most important things that people do miss in their project planning is the target audience. And that has to be extremely specific. If you come to any of my full-day workshops, whether they’re online or in person, we go through each of these things very specifically. In fact, with the target audience, you can make a note, be as specific as possible in terms of what is their age range, their ethnicity, their background, their education level, their interests, what are their challenges?
I always think of it this way. If I’m a funder and I’m reading your grant application, I’m really not as interested in knowing that your organization needs $100,000 fast. Rather, I would be interested in knowing that there’s a very specific population of people in your community whose lives will change for the better over the long term simply because of what you’re doing. And that’s something that a funder can get behind.
So I like to tell people, you want to ignite a passion in the funder reading these grant applications, otherwise they can get quite dull. And to do that, really have them picture whose lives are being changed, what are you exactly doing to change lives out there, okay? So you get the picture.
Secondly, a great tool for project planning is called the logic model. Now whether you’ve heard of this term are not, it is still relevant to your grant applications. The reason why is a logic model is really just a graphical depiction of what you will do and how. It will list your outcomes. And outcomes are simply the exact thing that the funder is interested. It’s what I just mentioned. It’s how will somebody’s life change for the better? That’s an oversimplification, but that is what an outcome is. And then it talks about the activities that you need to do to get to those outcomes. You also list your inputs in the logic model, in other words, what kind of resources you need to achieve those activities to get to those outcomes?
And finally, and this is a really tough part, the evaluation section. And that means, how do, you know, you have achieved your outcomes? How do we know that you’ve moved the needle at all? How do we know that the lives of youth have become better because of an after-school mentoring program, for example? Are they more likely to stay in school? Are they more likely to avoid drug use, substance abuse? And those are types of things that you’ll want to have very specific measurable outcomes.
Now you can probably imagine that’s a whole other training session, which, of course, it is. But I’ve got a quick blog that you can click on after the session. It’s on my website. It’s called Making Friends with Logic Models. And it will go through a couple of the points that I just mentioned that might help you. And it also offers some additional resources. So please take the time to look at that after our webinar.
And really, a grant application, a written grant application is simply an extremely well-planned project. So while you might be saying, “Well, I didn’t sign up for a webinar on project planning,” it essentially is the same thing. Your grant application is the best possible project plan put on paper. So if you love doing project planning, you’re in luck. That’s all this is.
Here are some examples of logic models. The print is a little bit small on the slide, but I just wanted to show you a graphical depiction. So your column on the left says Inputs, and the one on the far right says Long-term Outcomes. And in the middle are all your activities listed out. This is the one that’s used in the Rochester region. Just for comparison, here’s one that’s used by the US Department of Justice. And I find theirs, it’s much prettier. It’s got a lot of colors and shapes, so I would go with this one.
But what’s great about these federal grants and logic models is they tell you the definition. So when you see a definition of output measures and you’re ready to throw up your hands and say, “I don’t know what output measures really are,” they luckily define those for you. They also define what they consider outcome measures and activities and problems and objectives. So I love federal grants because of that reason, is they’re very very clear.
With foundation grants, sometimes it’s a little bit of a guesswork. But there are very specific definitions to outputs, objectives, outcomes. And I’ll talk a little bit more about those at the end, but this is just to show you what these program planning tools look like.
Now just to reiterate, if anyone tells you, “Oh, there’s no funding out there for our program,” do not believe them. There are still plenty of federal grants, state grants, and foundations have very specific rules that they have to follow according to the IRS. And I love one of these rules, and it is that foundations have to distribute 5% of their assets, their total assets, each year. So if a foundation has $10 million in assets, you do the math. Take 5% of that, and there’s definitely funding out there that they have to give out every year. So that’s some great news for us all.
And lastly, on this particular point, the number one thing you have to do to get grant funding, again, is really focus on your project planning, what you’re funding very specifically. And when, you know, that you need for example staffing to hire, you need more staff, or perhaps you want to build an extension to your building, now you can really focus in on finding the right funder that’s going to support your work. And that increases your chances dramatically.
So let’s move on to the next step. By the way, I’m moving through these slides at a fairly fast rate knowing that you’re going to have access to them and also knowing that we’re going to have about 10 minutes reserved at the end to answer your questions, because I can see some great questions coming up in the chat box. And Steve and I are going to get to those at the very end. So hang tight, because this is the most important part.
So secondly, how do you stand out from the competition? Remember that 1 in 10, you want to be the 1 so that funders are eager to fund you. Well, this is something I’ve spent years working with myself, my very first grant application, it resulted in a letter that said, “Thank you for your application, but unfortunately, we do not have enough funds to support all of the requests we receive at this time.” Well, that was my first letter. I’ve received several since then, but I can honestly tell you I receive many many more that have resulted in funding and quite a bit of funding for my clients and for the organizations I’ve worked for in the past.
So receiving those “No” letters are just part of the deal. However, one way to really increase your chances of funding that a lot of people miss is contacting the funders before you apply, not after, but before. And here’s how you do that. You could send a letter of inquiry, or a letter of introduction as we call them, keep it to one page, keep it very brief. You can make it an email and a hard copy. Sometimes I’m finding that the hardcopy letters get more attention than the emails these days. So you might want to just send both. And this would be in a case where you just don’t know the funder and they don’t know you.
You can also get a phone call. Simply call them, leave a message. You might need to leave three messages before they get back to you. But the key with those is make sure you find the right person to talk to.
So remember that slide that showed the types of funders out there? Well, if you’re looking at a foundation funder, either private foundation or corporate foundation, you’re going to want to talk to their corporate engagement officer or perhaps their executives. You’re going to want to try to talk to is the highest person up. In the corporates, you almost always talk to a marketing professional. In a foundation, you might be talking to a program officer. If you’re looking at government grants, federal or state, there’s usually a program officer listed that you can ask questions of.
And best of all, I love when there’s webinars or conference calls before the grant where you have an opportunity to speak with somebody. If you have that opportunity, always, always take it. It will really make you stand out. Because as a funder, as a reviewer, we receive hundreds of applications every year. And those 5 or 10 people in the past that I would have spoken with before I got their application, they really stand out.
Here’s another one good way to approach a funder before you apply. And that is get an introduction from a colleague or a board member. So if you’re here from nonprofits, you all have board members that probably commit various degrees of effort to your nonprofit. Well, some of you are probably shaking your heads right now saying, “Yeah, but my board members, they don’t want to do fundraising. They don’t want to ask for money.” And that’s okay if they don’t.
But what they could do for you is they could be looking at some of the folks in the community that have access to foundation funds or that have funds, and maybe they could arrange for a breakfast meeting or an introductory phone call. Anything that gets you in the door is going to help. You’ve probably heard the term, “People like to give to people.” So that is the most important thing of all.
I do see a quick question coming up here. It’s very timely. What about foundations that say on their websites or application materials that they do not want to be contacted? Yes, you will run into these. In fact, there are, what I see often is that they don’t want to be contacted or they don’t list a contact. In that case, you cannot contact them, but you have to be very specific about your funding research.
What I would suggest doing there is look very carefully as to who has that foundation given to in the past, okay? Have they given similar-sized grants to organizations like yours? Because that might increase your chances. And the way to find that out is by looking at their tax returns. That’s an IRS 990. By the way, you can find those at Foundation Center and GuideStar, those two links I gave you earlier. So you can do that research to see if they’re a good fit.
The other thing you can do is a little bit more roundabout, but very effective, is when you research your fund around Foundation Center or GuideStar or you look at their tax return, you will see a list of board members on that foundation. So just like your nonprofit has board members, every foundation has board members. If you happen to know someone on their board, there’s nothing wrong with calling them or looking for them on LinkedIn perhaps, connecting with them that way. There’s always a way to find somebody on that board to talk to.
And it doesn’t have to be what I call a hard sell. It can just be saying that, you know, “We really believe what your foundation does is in direct alignment with our mission and our work, and I would love to have a five-minute phone call with you.” Okay? So that’s one way to get around that.
The other thing you might find is those unsolicited proposals is another question I just saw coming through, very common question, because sometimes you’ll do research and you’ll find a foundation looks absolutely fantastic for you, but lo and behold, it says we do not accept unsolicited proposals. All that means is don’t send them a grant application. You can still send them a letter of introduction and say, “Here’s who we are. We’d love to meet with you. We think we could make a big impact in your community.” Or what I just mentioned is getting in touch with a board member. So there’s still ways to do that, okay? So it’s a little bit of creative thinking.
When I first started in this in this profession, I was afraid to contact funders, because I thought to myself, well, I don’t want to be a pest, you know. Maybe they just don’t want to hear from me. But when I was executive director of a pretty prominent foundation here in New York, I realized that I want to talk to these people. I want to talk to folks who represent nonprofit organizations, because how else can I learn what’s out there in the community and who is going to seem to be the most effective at doing their work.
So keep in mind, it is really the job of foundations to give out money, 5% a year, to be specific, at minimum, but they have to give out this money. And believe it or not, it’s not always easy. There are times we give out grants, and I’d lose sleep, thinking myself, oh, I wish we could have done more. But remember, they want to hear from you, most of the time. But it’s worth trying.
So how to connect with funders? Well, there’s a lot of different ways. There’s maybe places of employment. There are networking groups out there, professional affiliations. Even unusual things like recreation, sports, or clubs. One of the best connections I ever made was through ski racing. I happen to love ski racing. So after ski racing, there’s always a social hour. There are social connections. There’s networking groups in your region. Maybe they’re specific to people who are working with women’s groups or with minority groups. But it’s worth getting connected with those.
Again, your board members. Maybe you have some other ideas. If you do, feel free to share them here in the chat box, other ways to connect with funders. I’m going to throw one out there right now. And that is through social media. So my Facebook page and LinkedIn, I like and click like on a lot of foundation Facebook pages, because that’s where I learn about what they’re up to. They like to brag about the organizations they fund. So if they fund you, your organization, it’s a chance for you to get more exposure. And it’s a chance for you to learn about what that foundation happens to be interested in these days. So by all means, get on their Facebook, their LinkedIn pages, their Twitter feeds.
And some parting notes on this particular point. Now here’s just a few words of caution. I want to share these with you, because part of them are really mistakes that I’ve seen both in working with my clients and also when I was in the role of being a funder.
First of all, do your research very carefully before approaching a funder. They’re going to be very busy, and you may or may not get a phone call back, but be sure you know your numbers. In other words, be prepared with your budget numbers. What is your organization’s annual budget? What’s your project budget? And how much are you asking for from the funder? Is it reasonable? I know this part may sound like common sense, but you won’t believe how many people get the phone call with a funder, you know, a program director or an executive director, and all of a sudden, they don’t know to answer these questions, and they’re stuck.
Secondly, know your field. So if you are involved in, let’s say you’re involved in educating teens about pregnancy prevention, know who else is doing similar work in your community and throughout your nation, because that will indicate that you’re very familiar with the best practices in your field and where you rank in those practices.
And lastly, know your funder. Research them very carefully using the tools I gave you. By the way, Foundation Center and GuideStar are just two of them. GrantStation is one that I’ve used also. There are similar ones out there. And honestly, you can just google things. You can just do a search sometimes and find news articles on them. The best possible thing is if they have their own website, because that will have the most up-to-date information. But not many funders, not all of them, rather, have their own websites. So research those funders. There’s always their tax return, and that has to list a lot of good information for you.
So I know that’s a lot in a short time. Let’s move on to our third critical step that is overlooked by most nonprofits when writing grant proposals, okay? Are you ready? So when we think of grant proposals, we think our organization needs money. But let’s think about what are funders really buying? So what do you think they’re buying?
Well, it’s quite simple, and it goes back to something we talked about earlier in this hour. They are buying outcomes or impact. So you want to show that with their foundation dollars or with those U.S. federal grant dollars or your state dollars, there’s going to be an immense change that is happening. And here’s the specific change that’s going to happen for a specific target audience resulting in the following outcomes.
So funders are not terribly interested, as I mentioned earlier, in funding more staff, which of course they’ll do, or buying you more vans, vehicles. Of course, they’ll do that, too. However, what they’re interested in is what will that extra staff and vans and space expansion, new building, what will that do for your target audience, okay? So I know you get that picture. But let’s talk about outcomes real briefly.
And when I teach logic models and planning, I go into a lot of detail on outcomes, because this is the most important thing in terms of pitching the case for your project. Here’s an example of an outcome. A definition is it’s really the benefit or changes the results in the project. So here’s an example. Youth in a mentoring program will gain exposure to opportunities in the workforce that may affect their future career trajectory. The youth will stay in school with improved grades and a greater likelihood of graduation. Those are some pretty broad-based outcomes.
Now when you develop your targeted measurable objectives, you will need to say what percent of kids that are in your program are more likely to stay in school and have specific ways to measure that, okay? But we’re jumping ahead into a whole different webinar. But in this hour, I want you understand that outcomes are so, so critically important. That’s what’s exciting to the funders.
Here’s another way to think about outcomes so that you can develop these on your own. Think about, this requires a little bit of imagination, but it’s a fun exercise, think about what’s going on now in your community. What is the problem or the need currently? And what’s the situation that needs fixing? And also, who or what is impacted by that problem? That helps inform your need statement.
So in other words, think of your current situation, your current dire situation, why you’re in existence. And then, this is the imagination part, what if you had all the funds you needed? You never have to write another grant again. What if you had all the funding? What would your current situation look like now? What would be different? And specifically, what would be different for the people that you serve? And that helps define your outcome.
I’ll give you an example. One of my clients, and I have clients that vary from really small grassroots organizations to big, multi-department organizations. But I love this example. This is one of the smaller grassroots organizations called OASIS Adaptive Sports. They serve exactly 60 veterans a year that have returned from recent conflicts either with physical injuries or post-traumatic stress syndrome. And they work with the veterans to get them back out into outdoor adaptive sports. Now there’s a pretty specific mission, right? And their outcomes essentially focus entirely on the veterans and how likely they are to stay with the sport, and it starts to measure some of their physical and mental health gains, too. In other words, do their feelings of isolation get reduced? Does that get reduced as a result of being part of a social network, an adaptive sports program?
So this is a really small nonprofit. Their budget is extremely low, because they use a lot of volunteers. But getting grants for them has not been a problem, because we have a very specific mission, there are specific and measurable outcomes, and that’s what interests the funders. So in other words, funders don’t have to read the application and wonder, “Hmm, what exactly are they doing, and what are they achieving with, you know, the $20,000 that I give them?” There’s no wondering at all. It’s very very clear. And that’s what I would love for you to do when you submit your grant applications.
So let me share a few tips for success before we go into the Q&A. You can, after this webinar, start your project planning work right away. If you need help, you can contact Grants4Good, you can attend any of our webinars. We also have some project planning blogs on the Grants4Good site. You can also start gathering your materials for grant applications.
Now I didn’t have the time to get into this in this time frame, but if you’ve written grant applications, you know that there are numerous attachments that you will need to upload or submit with your applications. Well, why wait until you see a grant that you like? You can get that stuff ready right now. And they include things like your most recent financials, your organizational chart. There’s a number of those things on there.
If you want to download a free grant-ready checklist, you can go to my website. And in the upper right-hand corner, you just click download that grant-ready check list and you’ll receive it, okay? So if you do that right away, have it, download it, keep it handy.
That is also a nice resource for organizations that may be on this webinar that have never ever written grants and they’re not quite sure if they’re even ready, you know. They’re wondering, do we have all the documentation that we need, do we have all the materials that would make us competitive? So please do download that list for your own sake and keep that handy.
Third, you could start to research and find the best grant opportunities for your work now. You can get onto some of the sites and research some of the funders. Maybe you already have a few in mind that you want to look into. You can start to contact those funders, again, only after you’ve researched them very carefully so that you have a question that’s not already been answered elsewhere on their website or in their tax return or someplace like that. But contact those funders by all means.
And lastly, you can get help. I know that time is always of the essence, which is why I like to try to do anything I can to help my clients streamline their process. And that’s why I think webinars and workshops are really helpful, as the feedback I’ve gotten is that it does help people save time and streamline the grant-writing process. Because otherwise, it can get very easy to get lost and spend half a day doing some of this work when you realize you have so many other things to do still.
Some options. There is a seven-session webinar course that another colleague of mine, Micki Vandeloo, has been teaching. And it started last fall. But good news, just like Steven Shattuck recording these webinars, which is brilliant, he’s going to share this with you, we also record our webinars, and you can purchase the entire series if you like. There is a way to purchase the series on my website where you can go right to length that you see here on your slide, grantswebinarseries.eventbrite.com. Because you’re on the call, I really want you to have a discount code. So if you’re there and you’re handy, write down SAVE20, capital S-A-V-E, SAVE20, you’ll save 20% on the cost of the webinar series. It’ll be worth it. And again, you’ll get all the slides, and you’ll get the series.
What I like about that is it covers all of the topics we’ve talked about, like how to find funders . . . Oh, we haven’t even talked about budgets yet. We have an hour webinar on budgets, because a lot of people struggle with budgets. I happen to love doing budgets, but it’s not everybody’s thing. So we’ll cover all those things in the seven-session series.
Also, if you’re finding that you want more customized workshops or webinars for your nonprofit or business, just contact me directly. When I last did a webinar like this, I had some folks in Northeast Louisiana call me, and I have had the best experience with them. They were . . . Rochester, Northeast Louisiana is quite a ways to fly, so it would have been a little cost-prohibitive for me to come there. But using an another wonderful software platform, I was able to run several three-hour workshops with them. And they invited 12 people to the table. So I saw everybody in their conference room. So get some organizations together, and let’s set up a customized workshop. It might be a really great way to work together on getting you up to speed on this work.
Okay, we’ve had some great feedback from our clients. And I’m so happy to share this, because this is the whole reason I do this kind of work, is, yes, our company does write grant proposals, we do do funding searches. But for me, personally, I love to teach people how to do it. I think it’s one of the greatest services you can do in your life, is empower others to then help them do their work, and there’s nothing more rewarding. So I want you to be able to get the grants you apply to so you can help the people that you are so committed to. Thank you for that.
Here’s some elements of grant proposals. Now I put this up here because these are the kind of things that you probably already know, but these are all the things we cover in our webinars. We want to touch upon every element of a grant proposal. Yes, every grant proposal’s a little bit different, but they do have a lot of things in common. And after 20 years of doing this, boy, there’s a lot of things they have in common.
So here’s our one-hour webinars, How to Find and Get Grants, Logic Models, Budgets. If you just want to register for one live webinar, the next one is on April 10th. And this one’s really fun. I’ll be teaching this one, and it’s all about answering the sustainability question. Now for those of you in the room that have written grant applications, you’ve seen this what seems like to be a rather annoying question, and it goes like this. “When the grant funding we give you runs out, how will you sustain the program?”
Now that sounds like a trick question. You just want to say, “Well, we’ll just write more grants,” right? But that’s not the answer that funders want to hear. And quite honestly, we’ve just been talking almost an hour about grants, but I’m going to tell you right now, they’re not sustainable. Grants last maybe 12 months, and then they run out, and then you’re stuck writing another one. So that’s why I want to teach this webinar on answering the sustainability question.
I’ve presented this topic at national conferences to standing-room-only, much to my surprise, because I really didn’t think was that exciting of a topic, but everybody is there because everyone is wondering the same thing, what do we do when the grant funds run out? So I hope you’ll join me on that. There’s a link where you can register directly for that webinar as well.
And lastly, I can warn you right now, if you’re half as excited about this topic as I am, you might just well be developing your own business, like I have, or maybe you’ll start to up the number of grant applications you write for your organization. It really is amazing what they can do and just the impact that you can have.
So I’m going to leave you with, before we get into Q&A, I’ll leave you with my email address, my website. There’s more events coming up. You can click on that. And I’m going to go into some questions. And, Steven, you have been doing great with looking at the Q&A. So I’m going to invite you to shout out some questions that you’ve seen recur that I haven’t had a chance to answer yet, and I would be glad to do so.
Steven: All right. Awesome. I’m happy to do it, but first I just want to say thanks to you, Margit, for taking time out of your day to share all this great knowledge. I always love hearing about grants, not a subject I know too much at all about, so I was scribbling some notes here along with, I’m sure, the attendees were as well. So thank you, thank you. It’s great. And thanks, all of you, for hanging out with us. We’ve got a lot of questions here [inaudible 00:49:47]. . .
Margit: Great, my pleasure.
Steven: So I’m just going to kind of run through them here. Lee is wondering about GrantStation. Do you have any experience with GrantStation? Is that a good place, a good resource? Any experience there, Margit?
Margit: Well, it is hard to say what’s absolutely a good resource and what isn’t, because there are so many out there. And what I have noticed is that many of them will have a free subscription, where you can access some information on funders, and then there’ll be tiers where you pay for different subscriptions to get a more intricate advanced search feature. And I found that in almost all of them.
I do use GrantStation also, and the reason why is I belong to, and I’m just going to do a shout out, the Grant Professionals Association, GPA. Grant Professionals Association. I’ve been a member for well over 10 years, and they have fantastic annual conferences of about 800 grant professionals, and that’s where I often go, and I’ll present there. Well, the reason I mention them is when you join as a member, you get a free GrantStation subscription, which is a pretty nice deal. So something to think about. Yeah, there’s a lot out there. I would just ask you to look around and see what works best for you.
Steven: Storytelling. Here’s one from Anthony. How does the concept of storytelling fit into grant-writing? Have you seen grants to be more successful when they can kind of weave in a nice narrative that doesn’t feel like, you know, more of an application and just kind of answering questions on the app but actually kind of maybe telling a story? Any experience . . .?
Margit: You know, this is a great question, Steven, because I’ve seen more and more emails and conferences and workshops on storytelling in the last couple years than I have in 20 years. So I see that this is really becoming sort of a trend. And I’m glad this was asked today.
Yes. Yes, and no. So the beauty about grant applications is you do want to excite the funder. You want to create some emotion. And you do that with stories. Like I said earlier on, you want funders to picture who is being helped and how, and you can do that with case studies, storytelling, testimonials, etc.
Here’s the challenge with this in grant proposals, very clever challenge, is a lot of our online grant applications have very specific character limits or word limits for every question that they ask. And in that time, I also have to be able to include enough numbers and detailed statistics and data to support my claims.
So I would say, to answer your question, you want a combination of quantifiable statistical evidence for what you’re doing and why and that’s measurable and at the same time have it be qualitative, meaning that there’s a story behind it, there’s a reason you’re doing it. So there is some storytelling in every grant application. You have to be able to list some passionate interests in it. That’s a great question. Thank you.
Steven: I love it.
Margit: And if you can do that sometimes with, you know, added attachments for documents, that’s a great way to get around those word or character limits. But you will run up against those.
Steven: Speaking of perhaps prickly applications that perhaps have character limits and things like you mentioned, here’s a question from Elizabeth I really like. When should you just not even bother when it seems like maybe the application guidelines are very specific, it may be restrictive, you know, online-only? Are there other points, Margit, where you say it’s maybe not even worth it to try to wriggle into that funder’s, you know, particular way and do anything?
Margit: Yes. With online applications, I don’t see those as a problem. I think that’s just most of the grant applications I work with today are online applicants or applications, rather. And they’re really not a problem. You get very used to those character limitations. What I do recommend doing, and I strongly recommend doing this, is always complete all of your answers in a Word document first, complete them offline, so that you can then just cut and paste them online. Because I have seen things just timeout, and all of a sudden, you lost your data.
But more specifically, when I do my grant research for my clients, I do find that there are some I do not recommend they apply to. First of all, I have a whole list of criteria, which I go into in another webinar, of how to find the best funders. But with those criteria, if there’s an application I find for example that’s only going to fund 1% or 2% or 3% of all applications they receive, I likely won’t apply unless I know that my client has made contact with the foundation and that they’ve expressed a strong interest upfront, otherwise I don’t even want to waste the time.
Same with federal grants. If I see a federal grant opportunity, and I see that there are going to be exactly four awards made in the entire country, then I already know that of those four awards, there’s probably one or two that, you know, may or may not be kind of promised already to an organization. And the odds are going to be very slim that you get that. So I would look at those odds before you apply. Good question.
Steven: That make sense. You mentioned quantitative versus qualitative, Margit. Here’s a question from Carrie Ann that I think would speaks to this. For organizations where maybe quantitative data or stories can be hard to articulate, maybe they’re doing things that don’t necessarily result in hard numbers, what would you say to folks that maybe work in organizations like that or if it’s a little bit harder to maybe nail down a really tangible impact versus, you know, other organizations that can say, you know, so many meals served and so many students helped or something like that?
Margit: Yeah, that’s a great question, Carrie. And that’s something a lot of my clients struggle with, too. I can give an example. Some folks work in education programs, or like I mentioned, the mentoring programs, where really the change that happens as a result of your work is more or less a behavioral change. And it’s hard to actually quantify that.
So one way to do that is to measure a change in behavior or the actions of a particular person or group of people, or you might want to measure a change in learning. For example, before they enter the program and after they enter the program, what was their change in knowledge, learning, behavior. That kind of thing can often be measured through, you know, a survey of a degree of 1 to 5, or you can develop your own kind of matrix or rubric for measuring those changes. So that is a quantitative way to measure qualitative changes.
There’s an awful lot out there about evaluation and research. And I even know a friend of mine who has a PhD in Evaluation. I didn’t think there was such a thing a few years ago, but there certainly is. So you can get as deep into this as you want, but I just want to give you that quick example in hopes that that is somewhat helpful for you.
Steven: That makes sense.
Margit: You can also look to . . . Yeah, you can also look at the Kellogg Foundation has a great document on logic models, and I’d be glad to send you that link, and they talk a lot about evaluation there as well.
Steven: I like it. Here’s one from Anne, kind of interesting. Would you recommend, or do you think it’s a good idea, to maybe ask a funder who you have a pretty friendly relationship with, maybe you’re working with them now if that funder would recommend other foundations or potential funders that may be a good fit for your organization as well? So maybe kind of asking for a referral from one funder to the next. Is that common?
Margit: You absolutely can, yeah. You can in fact . . . I think that’s such a funny question, because that’s exactly what I used to do when I was with the Wilson Foundation here in New York, is sometimes I would get a great project, you know, someone calling you with a fantastic idea that just wasn’t in the scope of the foundation for which I was working. But because funders all talk and they have their annual conferences, too, so these foundations know each other, they may well have some recommendations for other ones that you can contact. That doesn’t, you know, guarantee anything, of course, but I I’ve always found it wonderful when someone can do that. I wouldn’t expect it, but I think it never hurts to ask. I think it’s a great idea. Thank you for mentioning that.
Steven: I love it. Well, there’s a lot of questions. . .
Margit: I can see a question. . .
Steven: Go for it.
Margit: Yeah, I see one here. This one’s kind interesting. It’s when I get a lot, too, from Matt, saying, “When looking for a grant writer, what are some attributes or accomplishments you should look for?” This is a great question. I’m going to answer it just because I think it will help a lot of folks out there.
You want to be pretty specific about finding out, getting recommendations, or at least credentials, from any grant writers. Because this profession varies really greatly. And fortunately, for about the last 10 years, we have had a standardized test and a certification called the GPC, Grant Professional Certified. I finally went and did all my paperwork and got my certification a few years ago after many years in the field.
And I can tell you, it’s not easy. It was a really tough test. You have to have already proven at least three years’ worth of work in the field and receiving successful federal state and foundation grants. So the downside is not everyone has their GPC yet. There’s only about 350 people in the U.S. right now that have that. So people who don’t have GPCs doesn’t mean that they’re not going to be great to work with. They very well may be, and they just haven’t gone through this protocol yet. But I would still get a list of, you know, where have they gotten funding in the past and just maybe even get some writing samples.
I have subcontracts and work with a lot of grant professionals. And I just I see the variety out there. So I just wanted to answer that question to hopefully make your work a little bit easier.
Steven: I love it. That may be a good place to end it since we’re about at 3:00 here, and I want to be respectful people’s time. But there’s a lot of questions we didn’t get to. Margit, would you be willing to maybe take some questions by email because we didn’t get some of them?
Margit: Yeah, absolutely. Give me a few days to get back to you is all, but I would be good, [email protected] And you’ll have the slides. And I can also send you . . . Actually, Steve and I can swap emails here, and I can send you that discount code I mentioned as well for my webinar series. It is SAVE20, S-A-V-E, in all caps, 20. And it’s for the series of seven webinars that’s on your slide.
Well, thank you, everybody, for coming. It was wonderful. And I hope to hear from you soon.
Steven: Yeah, this is awesome. Thank you, Margit. We owe you our thanks, because this is a lot of great information. And we’ll keep the conversation going for sure. So feel free to reach out to her, check out to her website, maybe even hire her. I definitely recommend her.
Margit: Thank you.
Steven: So this is great. We’ve got, yeah, like Margit said, we’ll get you the slides, the recording, we’ll get you that coupon code, we’ll get you some other goodies for sure. So look for an email from me later on this afternoon.
We’ve got some great webinars coming up. We’re actually taking next week off. It’s one of the few weeks in the year I mentioned that we have off. We’re going to be traveling to some conferences, but we’re going back in two weeks to talk all about the tax bill and its effect on the sector over the last year. So join us for that. Larry C. Johnson, one my favorites, joining us to talk about what that impact has been and what it might be in the future. So that should apply to all of you. So I’d love to see you to come back if that time and date works for you. If it doesn’t, there’s lots of other sessions that we’ve got planned out through the summer already. So just check out our webinar page. And hopefully, we’ll see you again some other Thursday.
So we’ll call it a day there. Have a good rest of your Thursday, have a safe weekend. And we’ll see you again in just a couple weeks. Bye now.