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 lakeviewconsulting.net. Are there any questions?
Steven: Yeah, there are, Micki. That was great. Thanks so much for sharing all that knowledge with us. It was really interesting. Lots of people have sent questions already and I’ll kind of go through those. But before I do, I just want to encourage folks to ask questions. Maybe if you were sitting on your hands, don’t be shy now. We probably got about maybe 15 or 16 minutes for Q&A.
Micki, the first one I saw here is from Jessica. Jessica is wondering how do you suggest working with teams that don’t give you the information you need in a timely manner for preparing grant applications. What about working with people that are maybe dragging their feet or can’t get that info?
Micki: Yes, that’s a really, that’s a great question, Jessica. Because that’s something a lot of people actually run into. There’s two key tips I can give you on that. One is again to start the planning process very early, as early as you possibly can when you first get the idea and to involve all the people that are key to the process early. You don’t want to bring them in at the end when you’re needing information from them. You actually want to bring them in very early.
And so the big key to good project planning is buy-in. Buy-in is critical. So I think one the reasons why at least in my experience, one of the reason why people drag their feet is they don’t understand the role in the process. I also encourage people to put together a timeline in conjunction with their project plan. It needs to be really clear to people that if we want this grant application put in by this date, we have to have information by this date.
And then again, that goes to the role of the leader as well. You have to have somebody that’s strong enough and disciplined enough to go to a person and say, listen I needed information from you and set in on the timeline on this date and two days later I haven’t got it you’re jeopardizing the grant application. So the three key things, make sure they understand their roles, make sure the leader is a good leader that is able to actually make stuff happen, and then involve everybody early.
Steven: Great, there’s more of a comment here than a question. But I’ll read it to you, Micki. Maybe you can share your advice with her. Corin here is saying, one of the things I struggle with is establishing agreement on who should lead the team between grant writers, program leaders. What do you think about choosing that leader? Are there any hard and fast rules in terms of job titles, or is it more just all the characteristics and willingness that you mentioned earlier?
Micki: Yes, I mean it really depends on your organization. I’ve seen external grant writers to organization being the project leaders. I’ve led projects for other organization. Sometimes it’s very helpful by the way if you want an outside perspective that can be very, very helpful. If you’re afraid of having too many tangents, or not enough collaboration within the team, you might want to get an external like a grant writer or consultant to actually lead your team for you.
Program leaders are a lot of times the team leaders. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes it’s the director of development, because they have kind of that big picture. So it really depends on your organization and how you’re structured.
Steven: Makes sense. Speaking of grant writers since you brought it up. Couple of people asked about that, Melanie has two-part question here. Where should we look for when looking for a certified grant writer, where should we look, what should we look for? And what’s an appropriate fee to pay those folks? Any insight there?
Micki: Yes, as far as looking for a certified grant writer, if you go to grantcredential.org there is a list of grant professional certified throughout the country. I believe it’s a tab at the top of the page and that is one way to find them. And you can actually do a Google search probably for grant professional certified or Grant Professional Certification Institute to get to that website as well.
As far as what’s an appropriate fee, that really varies. If you’re newer to the profession, if your grant writer is newer, then they would probably charge a little less. And if they’re less experienced, they’ll going to charge a little bit less. I really hate to talk about fees because it really depends on the scope and project. So I guess I’m just going to say you’re going to pay for experience, you’re going to pay for knowledge in a lot of cases. I’d be very wary if somebody that comes in and charges you $20 an hour to write a grant because they’re either really desperate for business, by the way maybe for a reason, or they just really haven’t been in the business long enough to do it. But also don’t think it’s right to charge $200 an hour. So I guess, it’s somewhere between 20 and 200 but it just depends on your project.
Steven: Fair enough. Got a lot more questions coming in, I appreciate everyone chiming in. Patty here is wondering would you say the project planning processes is like putting together a business plan. Are there some similarity there? It seems that the answer is yes but what do you think about that?
Micki: It’s a similar process but it’s very specific to a project. For a business plan is more big picture. Business plan is about your organization. And the finances and your plans and your strategy. Now strategic planning is another complement to project planning. There’s a lot of plans going on here but business planning I kind of think of in terms of what you would give a bank to get funding. Or you might give an economic organization to show them how organized you are.
A strategic plan really drives the activities of your organization and kind of gives you that true north. A project plan is the lowest level of details. It is the most detailed part of any of those plans. So your business talks about here’s our business, here’s what we do, here’s how in general we’re going to do. Your strategic plan, you’ll go a little more in depth and say here’s our strategy, here’s our strategic objectives, here’s our goals. And then you drill down even farther to get to the project plan. So I hope that kind of explains it.
Steven: Yes, that makes a lot of sense. Stephanie here is wondering do you have any websites that nonprofits can use to search grants opportunities. Maybe whether a listing of people who are giving away grants, any resources like that exist do you know of?
Micki: Actually, well unfortunately a lot of them are paid unless . . . Foundation Center has worked with libraries in larger metropolitan areas. And you can actually go to for example the St. Louis Public Library and you can access their biggest database for free. That’s a great way to get the information if you’re low on funds or if your budget is very restricted, which I don’t know too many nonprofits that their budgets aren’t somewhat restricted. So that’s one way. You can actually pay for that same Foundation Center. If you’re a nonprofit, it’s a great resource. Grant Station is another one but those are both paid databases. I see somebody raise their hand so maybe somebody got a better idea.
Steven: Oh yes. Megan if you have something to chime in there please do add it to the chat and we’ll say it for everyone. While she’s doing that, here’s one from Carolyn. Any advice for startup nonprofits? I know there’s probably of you listening. Are we to wait until we have been providing services for a while before applying grants?
Can they apply for grants right away, even though they’re young? Is there any relationship between the age of the organization, Micki, and how they can apply for grant?
Micki: Yes, that’s a really great question, because I get a lot of calls from very new organizations. I know it’s not great news but you really are putting the cart in front of the horse if you’re trying to apply for grant right out of the gate.
Micki: It is much better to have strong financials, a good funding plan. You want to look at your funding strategy. In absence of grants, how are you going to fund this organization? If your answer is we are a 100% donation based, you are really vulnerable, I have to say that. Maybe it’s a fundraising but that’s a really scary thing for an organization. But if you have a good fundraising base and you want to supplement that with grants, that is the time to do it, but you need to get a good financial base under you. Funders are not going to fund brand new organizations because they can’t prove that they can run themselves. They want to see organizational capacity to run a project and they are not going to be real confident of that if you’ve only been doing that for two weeks.
Steven: Right, makes sense. Here’s one from Cassandra. Cassandra has set her team together. The project planning team consists of three people. Do you think that having that small a team is why maybe they’ve been denied some grants? What do you think about the actual team sizes? Is three too small? Does that really matter in terms of grant success in general? What about the size of teams?
Micki: More than likely, if they put together project plans or if they put together applications and they haven’t got it funded, a few things could be happening honestly. One is that they maybe didn’t do a project plan and they didn’t identify their outcomes. Or if they did, their outcomes really weren’t consistent with the funder’s outcomes.
There’s a lot of competition for grants, so you need to be very sure when you put together a grant application that you identify how your outcomes are consistent with the funder’s outcome. They need to align very, very closely and you need to show that. So that could be one reason. I don’t think it’s the size of your team. It might be the makeup of your team, maybe there’s nobody there that is actually delivering services. It goes back to that ideal team, but you really need to have all those people on your team. If you’re only three-person organization, like I said, it could be all three of you people but you all probably have that role, some role that’s commiserate with that.
Micki: And again if you are really, really small, collaborations are great. Collaborations are phenomenal. Get people to collaborate with you for a grant. Work with a nonprofit, work with the hospital, work with the school. If you’re an animal rights organization, work with veterinarians. I mean, there’s all kinds of collaborators.
Steven: Makes sense. Here’s one from Sandra. Sandra say we’re a rare disease nonprofit, so our ongoing mission is to find a cure. So hopefully they’re working and put themselves out of business. That’s always good.
Micki: They have . . .
Steven: It’s not project based, but given the funder’s needs for timelines and hard outcomes I assume, how they should progress in terms of assigning this as a . . . She’s saying it’s not project based. What advice would you have for Sandra there, given the nature of her nonprofit?
Micki: I would challenge the notion that maybe it’s not project based. She might not be thinking of it in those terms but when she applied . . . I guess maybe she’s saying she applies for general operating support. In which case, her project is actually their organization. It is actually, she needs to think of what her organization does, and kind of frame it as like a project if that makes sense.
Micki: She needs to look at the outcomes. She needs to look at her budget, make sure she very clearly understands the activities that they’re going to need to undertake to do that research. Is she doing the research or is her organization doing the research, or they’re funding the research?
Steven: I’m not [sure.]
Micki: They’re raising money to do the research? Right?
Steven: Yes, I think so.
Micki: I think their project is actually supporting cancer research or whatever the rare disease is. I think that is their project and they approaches that way, but it will give them more clarity when they apply for grants.
Steven: Makes sense.
Micki: And by the way, they might have a problem because a lot of funders fund directly research for different grants. What they might be doing is covering some area where funders don’t fund, so they’re doing a foundation for it. By the way, that’s absolutely admirable, but they may run up against trying to find grants that will fund them to fund somebody else. You know what I am saying? It’s a little bit . . . Yes.
Steven: Right. Okay, cool! One from Benjamin. Any advice for nonprofits in US territories? Not necessarily in the United States proper, many funding opportunities to just the States. Micki, have you had experience with the territories? Any advice for Benjamin there?
Micki: Can you repeat the question, territories . . . Okay.
Steven: I think, I didn’t get a great . . . I did not get a great grade in geography and I think that’s referring to maybe Puerto Rico, or American Samoa, those kind of territories.
Micki: I don’t have a lot of experience with grants outside of the country. I do know that grants targeted to . . . I know there are grants that are out there for the US territories that are specifically through [grants.] Another source, by the way, of government funding that is completely free is Grants.gov.
Micki: Grants.gov is a wonderful website, and he can actually search by the territories to see what he can search by state or territories. You can search by topic, you can search by department if you’re looking to get funding from, so every government grant runs to Grants.gov.
Steven: Cool, okay and he’s saying great. Check that out Benjamin. He’s saying he’s in the Virgin Islands so hopefully there will be something in there for him.
Steven: Great. I think one more here and then, Micki, I want you be the last word to talk about yourself a little bit more. Patty is wondering if you could just touch on outcomes again as in how to determine them and detail them in our project plans. Can you break down that kind of concept about outcomes real quick?
Micki: Sure. What I tell companies to do when I’m working with them and we’re talking about outcomes because everybody wants to think of them in terms of output. They want to look at how many jobs are we going to create, how many people are we going to serve? That is an outcome. The question you need to ask yourself in that whole outcomes determination is what is going to change as a result of us doing this project?
So for example, I did a grant to teach Hispanic parent English as a second language. The output was that we’re going to train I think 80 parents, on this nonprofit was going to train 80 parents. But the outcome is they’re going to be better able to help their kids with their homework, they will be better able to communicate with others in the community. We live in small communities where there are a lot of Hispanic people, so that’s an example. You really need to ask yourself, ask your team, if we do this, what’s going to change? So to the lady’s point before they were doing funding research, their outcome is going to be that more funding would be possible to do research, which will result in hopefully eradication of the disease.
Steven: Right. Well, cool. I think we got through all the questions and I know we’re getting close to the end time. I don’t want to keep people too much longer especially you haven’t eaten lunch. Micki, I got your contact information up on screen.
Steven: How can folks get a hold of you? Will you take more questions offline? What should folks do after this webinar?
Micki: If you have any questions, feel free to email me at [email protected]. Again I want to reiterate, I don’t write grants for nonprofits but if you go to the GPA or GPCI website, you can find plenty that do. There are a lot of them out there. I would also encourage anyone of you that works with grants or that is a development director, to look at the Grants Professional Association in your area. It’s at grantprofessionals.org. It’s a great association. You can join local chapters for a very little money. It’s a great way to network with the development directors to talk to grant writers. You can meet a lot grant writers at those meeting, and they’re all over the country. So just a little plug for the Grant Professionals Association.
You can reach me at, I prefer email, [email protected] and then like I said, you can go to my website, you can sign up for my newsletter and by the way, when you sign up to the newsletter, there’s a about a two-hour delay before you receive the email back. You should get an email from me with link to the template, so Jessica it’s coming.
So basically, you can sign up for my newsletter and then you can sign up for the Grants4All website and again, keep your eye up for the training. It’s going to be a very low-cost training. I did some market research and found that there’s a real need for people to be able to sit at their desk and do training on grants and that’s what I really want to provide, because not all of us have the time to go to a weeklong grants training away from our offices or they want to do it at night after the kids go to bed type of thing.
Micki: And look at in my blog, in my weekly newsletter that is right there in the website as well. And by the way, I guess one other thing I should to mention is while I don’t write grants for nonprofits, I actually do coaching for grant writers and so if any of you are new to grant writing, or even like development directors, the people that work heavily with grants, I found that grant writing is a very deadline proven stressful business sometimes. And we had a really hard time as grant writers making everything work well together, making everything click all cylinders sometimes. So that work-life balance is a real issue, so I do coaching for and you can find out more by clicking on coaching on my website, and you can find out more about my coaching packages and I’d be more than happy to talk to anybody about that as well.
Steven: Cool. Yeah, definitely check that out. Obviously, Micki is an expert. Micki, this was very awesome having you. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge and all those resources. This is a lot of fun.
Micki: I’d be happy to come back anytime. Thanks a lot, Steven.
Steven: And just so everyone knows, lots more resources on our website as well. We do do these weekly webinars every Thursday. Also got some downloadables. We’ve got our video podcast. You can sign up for our newsletter which is called The Nonprofit Wrap-Up and there’s daily blog post as well. So check that out, maybe something there that piques your interest. And like I said, we’ve got a lot of webinars coming up.
These are just two that I kind of wanted to highlight. We’re going to cover a lot of storytelling later on in May, so Lori Jacobwith is our guest, one week from today. She’s going to be talking about storytelling for the boards specifically, kind of coaching them through how they should talk about your organization when they’re out the world and then we’re going to talk about, two weeks from then, how you as the fundraiser or you as fundraising staff can tell your story in a short and concise manner.
So check those out. There’s also a lot webinars scheduled out into the future. You might find an interesting topic there. Thanks for being here and thanks for taking an hour out of your day. Like I said before, I will sending out the recording and the slides via email, so look for that. When you close out of this webinar, you’re going to get a quick survey. We’d love to hear your feedback, don’t be shy at all and we would love to see you again hopefully next Thursday. So final thanks and we will talk to you again, hopefully next week. So goodbye now.
Micki: Thank you, Steven. Bye, bye.