Go from Rejected to Accepted: 9 Reasons Your Grants Get Rejected (and How to Fix Them) w/ Teresa Huff
Want to go from Rejected to Accepted? Look no further!
In this 1-hour webinar (with 15 minutes Q&A), Teresa Huff will share with you 9 reasons your grants are getting rejected, and how to fix them.
By the end of this Instrumentl Partner Webinar, you’ll be able to learn:
- The most common reasons grants are rejected - from obvious to not-so-obvious
- Solutions to help you fix each of those
- Ways Instrumentl can support you to help recognize and avoid the most common grant application mistakes
Create your Instrumentl account using the link above. Save $50 off your first month should you decide to upgrade when your trial expires with the code GWS50.
Teresa Huff is a nonprofit grant strategist and a grant writer mentor/coach. She has helped nonprofits triple their funding. Over 2,100 students have taken her grant writing courses. She also launched a podcast to inspire others to make a difference.
Instrumentl Partner Webinars are collaborations between Instrumentl and its community partners to provide free educational workshops for grant professionals. Our goal is to tackle a problem grant professionals often have to solve, while also sharing different ways Instrumentl’s platform can help grant writers win more grants. Click here to save a seat in our next workshop.
Click the video link below to start watching the replay of this free grant workshop, or check out the transcriptions below the video.
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9 Reasons Your Grants Get Rejected (and How to Fix Them) - Grant Training Transcription
Will: Hello, everyone. And welcome to Go from Rejected to Accepted: Nine Reasons Your Grants Get Rejected and How to Fix Them featuring Teresa Huff. This workshop is being recorded and slides will be shared afterwards. So keep your eyes peeled for a follow up email in case you wanna review anything from today. In case this is your first time here, this free grant workshop is an Instrumentl partner webinar.
These are collaborations between Instrumentl and community partners to provide free educational opportunities for grant professionals featuring problems that they often have to solve while also sharing different ways that Instrumentl's platform can help grant writers win more grants. Instrumentl is the institutional fundraising platform.
If you wanna bring grant prospecting, tracking, and management to one place, we can help you do that and you can set up your own personalized grant recommendations using the link on the screen. instrumentl.com/teresa. Lastly, be sure to stick around for the entirety of today's presentation. We've got two new freebies for folks today.
One from Teresa and one from Instrumentl. More details to come at the conclusion of Teresa's presentation. Now with that housekeeping out of the way, I'm very excited to reintroduce Teresa. She was last with us a few months ago for her first workshop. Teresa is a nonprofit grant strategist, grant writer, mentor, and coach.
She has helped nonprofits triple their funding and over 2,100 students have taken her grant writing courses. She also is the host of the Grant Writing Simplified podcast, which she created to inspire others to make a difference. And we're a proud sponsor with her as well there. We ask that if it's your first time here as well, if you have any questions, include three hashtags in front of your question, we'll then flag that question out for the Q&A, if Teresa's not able to get to it during the actual presentation.
Other than that, Teresa, go ahead and take it away.
Teresa: Okay. Got it. Wouldn't let me there. Hey, everybody. Welcome. I love seeing where you guys are from and the types of nonprofits you work with. It looks like we have a ton of variety, and I think that's awesome. As Will had mentioned, there's a slide coming up here that kind of gives you an overview of some of my background and history.
And the reason I do this, I've done grant writing for a long time. I started in 2005 and after a while, made a lot of mistakes myself. That's why we're talking here today and learned what not to do and how to do it better. And finally realized I really love teaching other people how to do this grant writing thing, how to improve your nonprofit.
And I can't write all the grants for all the wonderful causes out there, but I can teach you. And then you can go out and write grants for all the things that get you fired up and we can create a much bigger ripple effect that way. On the next slide, it gives you kind of an overview of just some of my background in creds.
And at first, I didn't realize some of these things it, but when I started adding up, I was like, oh, wait a second. I've had that many people go through my program or my podcast is now in a ton of countries, which is so cool, but it took a little bit of figuring and looking at it differently of how could I reframe some of these facts about myself that were right there the whole time.
I just never thought about 'em that way. So I want you to kind of get a little creative and think about your nonprofits. Or even your own career, if you're not working with a nonprofit yet, how can you look at things a little bit differently? And how can you reframe your work that you're doing? So I want you to just take a minute and know I'm kind of putting you on the spot here, but if you wanna think about it and share a fun fact about yourself or your nonprofit and get creative, just take a minute here, drop it in the chat, but maybe think about how many years have you done this?
How many degrees do you have among your whole team and your nonprofit? What is something about the impact you're making? How many people you've served, how can you quantify in a way that you've never thought about before? Sometimes this takes some deeper thinking and getting creative, but I wanna challenge you to keep this in mind and think about this after the session is over, because this will also help make your grant applications stronger.
It will help make your donor letters and specifics, and even your website copy more targeted, more clear because the clearer we can be, the better our applications will be. So think about this and if you come up with something, pop it in the chat. And maybe put a little star in front of it, just so that we know as you're going through, you may think of something in a few minutes, but go ahead and put a star and pop it in so that we'll know it's answering that question.
Today we're gonna cover a few very specific things that we've got on the list here. I promised that I was gonna tell you about the nine most common reasons grants are rejected. Some of these are things I have done or seen, and some are nonprofits I've worked with, but we're not gonna leave you there.
We're also gonna give you solutions to help you fix these and to help you get ahead of them, to mitigate the risks as much as possible, and then Will's got some great information and examples of how Instrumentl, in particular, can help you with these and make it so much easier and to where it can take some of the load off of you because they've already got these tools in place.
So let's get started. Share in the chat, and for some of you, this may be easy if you're just getting started as a grant writer, for some of you who have been in this a long time, this may be a little trickier. But how many grants have you written in your career? And if you don't know it's okay, but give us your best estimate.
If you've written grants for 30 years, think through, and how many would you say, just an estimate, have you written? This is kind of fun. Awesome. Everywhere from zero, 80, thousands. Nice. Quite a lot. That is amazing. The really cool thing about that, we're getting answers all over the place and I love it. The cool thing is no matter where you are in your whole journey of grant writing, there is always room for improvement.
We can always get better. And I wanna just take a little pressure off. That does not mean you have to be perfect, that does not mean every grant is perfect. It does not mean we have to strive for perfection because that's impossible, right? We need to strive to always be better than we were in the last grant, make our writing better, keep improving.
And that's how we continue improving for our nonprofit. And ultimately for carrying out our mission. We keep getting better and better and refining. These are awesome. So let's dive into these mistakes. Number one, off the map. Sometimes nonprofits find a grant, it looks like the most perfect fit, but it's not within the geographical boundaries.
And it literally may just not be on the map. There are a couple of challenges with this. The first is that some funders give really vague boundaries or no specifics at all. And that can be really tricky on their information page and on the guidelines because maybe you're looking through the website, you're digging through the back information, and there are just no specifics.
And so it sounds like, well, we could apply. Should we? Or should we not? So you try it and you don't win, but you keep going through. And the problem with that is that also sometimes the grants are defined or the boundaries are defined, but they're very unlikely as to whether or not you'll be able to get those.
And if you look at past awards in particular, this will give you some clues with that of how likely are we to get these or not. And then other times it may be a really wide range. They may say, yeah, we fund anywhere in the US. But when you look at where their actual awards are, they're really clustered, or maybe they're just around a couple of big cities and that's it.
So it's kind of tricky to really figure out if it says one thing, but their actual awards are saying another. So try to get those two to line up. The other side of the coin is that sometimes the boundaries are very clear, which is incredibly helpful, but that can be a challenge, too, because again, maybe it sounds like just the perfect fit and that might be your city or your county.
It could be your state or a bigger region or maybe a section of the state, but part of that, then, again, you're up against people within that region. And there are still other things to consider besides just the geographical boundaries of whether or not it's a good fit. Sometimes it might say you need to be near their corporate offices.
And is it in a place where they have a factory or they have a plant or a certain location of their headquarters and maybe you're in that state, but you're nowhere near that corporate office or they may want it close enough so that their employees can get involved in volunteering. That can also be an issue, too, if you don't have any employees nearby or if you have any involved or interested in getting involved.
So there are still some challenges there, even though there may be those boundaries defined or not defined. So, what can you do? The first solution is to start gathering clues, all the clues you can, and there are a few places that we can look for this. The first is to, of course, always review the guidelines and their website and any information that they give.
Sometimes you have to really dig deep and look at at the fine print and dig into those details to see. And if you do that, and there's still not information, you can look at their past awards. And when you look at those, you're looking for things like what locations did they award in? You're looking for any kind of patterns to see were there certain cities or maybe certain types of nonprofits that they awarded, maybe kids' programs or the arts and orchestra programs or technology, different types of causes that they tend to gravitate to. And then also look for outliers. Now by that I mean, anything unusual, like do they have an overall pattern, but there may be one or two that don't fit within that pattern?
Maybe they funded someone that seemed in a random location or maybe most of them are larger organizations, but they have funded a couple of smaller ones that are outside of that typical pattern. I've had that happen before and we ended up getting funding because I evaluated all these factors.
It was a new funder for this nonprofit, but it looked like a pretty good, low-risk opportunity. So we were able to get the funding because of that. And it was only because we had dug through and evaluated these pieces. And then when in doubt, call the funder or email, if they prefer that, but reach out to them and just see. Make sure you've done your homework first so that you can make an educated question and educated inquiry to them, but they are almost every single time, they are more, more than happy to talk to you, to explain to you and to work with you on helping you make a better application because the better applications they get, the better their job will be in having quality programs to choose from.
And they're there to help you. Will is gonna give you a quick example of how you can do some of this to be able to evaluate these pieces.
Will: Awesome. So one of the things that Teresa just mentioned is digging into the side of things in regards to looking at past histories, funder histories, and things like that.
And so what you can do is you can actually dig into your, your instrumental count and when you are in a funder's profile. And for example, in the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation here, what you can do is you can actually go ahead and access all of their 990 data being digitized for you. And so in the case where you haven't already created your free account using Teresa's link, you can go in the Zoom chat right now.
But essentially what this will do is it'll help you identify some of those key actions that Teresa just shared. For example, if you wanna call the funder, point number three, you can go ahead and call them right here. If you want to go ahead and look at their giving averages and mediums over the last few years, you can also go ahead and take a look in here and in the case where you want to start evaluating things such as geographical alignment, well, the best way you can do that is you can go to this section that we call past grantees. And in this section, what we're doing is we're taking multiple years worth of 990 data and summarizing that into this -- a map. And what you're able to do then is go ahead and filter for your particular state.
So I noticed earlier today, we've got somebody in the attendance from Florida. And so what you could do for example is you can search within the realm of Florida and output all the past recipients that have received funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Florida. And you can also use the search parameters in order to refine your search further. And what that can be good for is if, for example, you just want to look for the word general because you're looking for something like general operating expenses and things like that. You can search for that and it'll narrow down for situations in which somewhere in either the purpose or in the title of the recipient are receiving funding related to general or the phrase general.
And so this can be really useful when you're trying to find alignment and it can also just be useful when it comes to actually doing a quick look as to whether or not this funder is a good fit for you because you're gonna also get trends like the openness to new grantees and things like that. But we'll probably dig into that a little bit further today's presentation and now I'm gonna hop it back over to Teresa for looking at the mistake number two.
Teresa: All right. A lot of times, unfortunately, the funder just runs out of money. They wanna fund all the good causes. It's not their fault. They didn't really plan for it. It's just there are more requests coming in than what they have money to give out. It's unfortunate, but it's just how it goes sometimes in the nature of the request.
And sometimes upfront, they anticipate having quite a bit of funding and maybe they expect to have $500,000 to give away. But then in actuality, when the money comes through, there's less funding than what they expected. So that's kind of unfortunate, too. We have to make our applications based on the best information we have at the time when we're applying because some of these things, we can't really predict ahead of time, but at least we can do our best to possibly send in a top notch application.
So the solution to this is to really up your game. And this also involves, as Will was saying, digging through to research their past awards and amounts. Some of this you can find in the 990 and in those databases there, which makes it a lot quicker and more clean, having it all in one spot. You can also request feedback if you don't get funded, if your application is rejected, they may or may not provide it. Some smaller foundations just don't have the capacity to give feedback, but some will, and sometimes it had nothing to do with you. It may just be that they truly had a rough year with some of their investments.
They couldn't give out as much funding as they wanted to. And so, there may be nothing that they can tell you, but then other times they may say, you know, we had so many requests for parks and playgrounds that we just had to say no across the board to all playground requests and do other types of funding. So it could be something like that.
Unfortunately, you had asked for playground equipment. That may not have been something they had defined up front, but they might have decided that along the way that that was something that they just couldn't do for everyone. And couldn't choose one over another in that case. So I had that happen with one to where fortunately I had called ahead of time and gotten that guidance from them about the previous year.
So we knew not to ask for playground equipment. That we needed to think a little more creatively. And how can you improve and up your game for next time? So in this regard, remember that question I asked you upfront about how can you quantify or creatively define something about your organization that will help you with something like this?
How can you really step it up? How can you really show your capacity, your impact in a different, more impactful way? So really think that through, keep that question going as we're talking through these, and as you're thinking through how you can practice and improve your writing. Always be trying to step up your game.
These are some fantastic examples of award trends in ways that you can kind of gauge and keep a pulse on what's happening. The one on the top left shows the trend going down a little bit, but looking like maybe it's heading back up a little bit on their financials. The bar chart on the right shows the different categories, which is really convenient because you can see if a funder is leaning in a certain direction or really heavy in a certain focus area.
And maybe you serve one or two different areas with your project. So you could cater your specific application to that area as long as you are not twisting your mission out of shape, you wanna stay within your mission, but make sure it aligns well with the funder and what they're doing. Will do you wanna add anything to that or we good to go?
Will: I think we're good to go here. The main thing that I tell you in terms of these award trends and stepping up your game is also, it goes back to answering that question of what their openness to new grantees is. So we have a statistic as well within the 990 data where you can take a look at what percentage of recipients have been coming from past recipients versus new grantees.
And our general piece of advice from our team is at least 30% or more going to new grantees if you're establishing a new relationship with a funder, that'll just make sure that you're prioritizing the best fits for you as well.
Teresa: All right. And mistake number three, sometimes the shoe doesn't fit. And probably immediately think of Cinderella and the stepsisters trying on the slipper. But sometimes as I alluded to in the last slide, sometimes close enough isn't quite close enough. We're twisting it out of shape. And it doesn't align with the funder's mission or you're trying to shift your mission too much.
When they see that you're doing a certain type of work and all of a sudden you're requesting for something else that you're saying fits with theirs and it doesn't, they're gonna see that. And they're gonna sense that. Another issue is that sometimes your request is outside the funding scope. So maybe they fund work projects and work programs for teenagers.
And you have a work program for homeless adults and a reentry program that's close, but it's not quite close enough if they are focusing on teens. So make sure that you're not stretching too much. And then look for their pre-established criteria to see what they are looking for and what they're prioritizing because you really can't force something that is already not quite a good fit.
Kind of like the unfortunate picture on this slide. Sometimes things just don't wanna fit together. So you need to really calculate that ahead of time. The best way to have a solution for this is to make sure it's a good fit upfront, really do your homework upfront because a few minutes more of research and digging on the front end will save you a ton of time of not working on the wrong applications that are too much of a long shot.
And it will also give you a good foundation of funders that are a good fit that maybe you can reapply year after year and build up that good relationship and see that you're doing work together in the community and building up that impact that they're looking for. Look at their guidelines, always for the grant, look at their mission, their background, their history, look through the types of work they're doing in the community.
Again, look through their past awards and then always just step back. It's easy to get caught up in chasing the dollars and in trying to just find funding and get grants or maybe you have board members pressuring you. Just go get grants. This will be a good one. Try it, but sometimes just step back and do a reality check.
Just take a minute and ask yourself is this a natural fit or is it too much of a stretch? And if in your gut you know it's too much of a stretch, let it go and spend your time on the ones that are a really good fit. You don't need all the grants out there and you're not gonna be able to dig up all the possible grants out there.
You just need the ones that are the really good fit opportunities. Will's got a couple of great examples here of the information you can pull up to be able to find and evaluate quickly which ones are a good fit.
Will: Yeah. So one of the things you can do when you are on your Instrumentl account is set up a very specific project for the programs and initiatives that you're fundraising for.
So what you'll notice is, is that right here, I've got on the left hand side, a number of projects for a variety of different causes, whether that's the environmental project, the food security project, or the homeless and elderly project. And so, when you're setting up your accounts on Instrumentl, what you wanna do is you want to be as specific as possible.
And don't just name it after your overall nonprofit organization. I think that a lot of people start their searches there, but they can really be even more specific. And the reason why is because once you narrow that down, if, for example, you're working with an afterschool program for tutoring and mentoring, you could break that down by your STEM programs, your literacy programs, and your tech access programs.
And when you start to do that, you'll be able to get these curated lists of matches that are going to help you in terms of getting a short list of funders that are aligned in terms of guidelines, mission, and background, and Instrumentl's gonna do a first pass for you in terms of why we're showing you that particular opportunity.
So these are the sorts of things that you'll be able to then draw from when you combine at was what we showed you earlier, in terms of just some of the longer trends or the data insights that you want to pull from when it comes to a historical range of awards. And the reason why you wanna look at that is because as you're fundraising towards your respective goals for 2022, you wanna make sure that the opportunities that you're getting out the door actually the best fits for you because it'll give you the best shots of winning that funding.
And the best ways that you can do that is when you're looking through the historical ranges you wanna see, first of all, does the grant that you're applying for align well with your overall initiatives in terms of fundraising? As well as what do those trends look like over the years as you start to look through some of those differences between past grantees and new grantees and things like this? Why is this useful?
It's useful because in the context where in year one, you're just establishing that relationship with that funder. Well, you might be able to just know that new grantees in this case are only receiving on average three grand. Whereas if we were to renew this grant in the longer term, it seems like repeat grantees have the potential of, you know, getting a lot more funding as well.
And so having these sorts of questions when you're trying to analyze fit upfront is going to a lot easier when you have this data analyzed for you, as opposed to having to open up these old school 990 PDFs where you're kind of scrolling through this endless page of a lot of numbers to see whether or not it's a good fit for you.
So that's what I'd say on top of this third mistake in terms of the shoe not fitting.
Teresa: Drop a two in the chat if you can relate to scrolling through 990s and trying to even sort out which ends up. When I started grant writing and when I first looked at a 990, I was kind of like deer in the headlights. What in the world? But once I got used to them and kind of figured out where to look, it got easier, but still there is so much fine print on those. And some are in searchable PDFs and some aren't and you've gotta go to each individual funder and each year of each funder. And it's really tedious. Yeah.
You guys get it. If you don't know what we're talking about with the 990 just go to Instrumentl's database and use it. Don't try to worry about digging through because they are very long tax documents and maybe some of you are tax people. That's wonderful, but I don't love all the tax forms and details.
So it's nice having a quick tool that you can just have it right there. Do a couple searches and boom. It's got it for you. It saves so much headache if you're not used to those types of forms and documents. Mistake number four with design flaws, drop a three. Does anyone like taxes? Uh, no, not me.
Maybe some of you do. If you do, I would love to know. Drop a three in the chat if you have ever been a grant reviewer. This is a great way to improve your grant writing and learn what funders are looking for. Some of you. And would you say that's a good experience for those of you who have done that, was that helpful for your grant writing and learning to improve?
Yes, that's what I've heard from everyone who's done it. That's been extremely helpful just getting that whole different perspective. And that's kind of how it was for me, too, when I became a nonprofit board member. That put me in a whole different seat of the process. And that was really helpful, too, serving on a board in a completely different capacity from grant writing.
So that's really valuable. The more you can get involved from all those different avenues, the better, because it will just expand your capabilities, your knowledge, your instincts about these decisions that you're making. So, yeah, it's a wonderful way to really step up your game and improve your professional skills.
With these design flaws, one of the tough things about this is realizing our baby might not be perfect. We have poured our heart and soul and skills and everything we have into this grant application. We have done our absolute best and usually under an extremely tight deadline, but we still have to step back and realize there is always room to improve.
Remember what I said earlier, if you've written zero grants or hundreds of grants, there is always room to get better and better and to improve our skills. So stepping away from but it's my baby. Don't criticize my baby and realizing I might be able to polish this up a little more. It's probably a really good application, but I can probably polish it and keep working on it.
So just understanding that will help a long ways. And sometimes there may be holes in the program design. There might be issues with the way you've explained it or what you say you're gonna do, but it's not quite clear. You haven't really outlined the steps and it leaves the funder wondering, are you really gonna carry that out?
Or but you're missing some big pieces. And how are you gonna fill that in? Sometimes the outcomes aren't well defined. So they can't see is there gonna be much of an impact here or are they just trying to get the money? They wanna see. They're looking for an ROI, a return on impact, not just a return on investment because they're not gonna get their money back.
They are looking to make a big impact in the community. So how do you define how that's gonna happen? Your explanation or your descriptions may be unclear. It's super clear in your head. It may be super clear in practice and you may have the best nonprofit, everything runs smoothly. You are making such an impact, but if you haven't clearly explained that in your application, they're not gonna understand it.
Can you convey it? And sometimes the things you have outlined or that you have described are not outlined clearly in your budget. That may or may not work together. And when they look at it side by side, they may say, but wait, they're asking for this other thing in the budget, they didn't even talk about that.
Or they left out this big piece that they said they were gonna do. How are they gonna pay for it? So make sure everything is lined up correctly. The solution for this is sometimes step back, look at your baby a little more objectively, and take this high level view to really see. And if you can give it a couple days or a few days, I know a lot of times we're on kind of a tight deadline, but if you can look at it and see are the main points clear, are there any gaps?
Does it align with the funder's goals? Maybe even have someone completely unrelated to your organization glance through and ask them, "Hey, you know, what do you think I'm trying to say here?" And just have them give you their impression of it and see is that what you were trying to say? And then do all the sections match up?
There's a graphic here that really shows and some grant writers don't quite understand this, but once they see this, then it kind of makes sense. If you were to take any two sections of the grant and hold them up side by side. Say you have of your budget and your need statement, would they match? Would the things you're talking about, the things you're asking money for, match the things you said you needed? Or if you took the evaluation and the project design, would it all match up with the other parts?
So if you picked up any two sections, they would need to align. Sometimes that's just a matter of stepping back and looking at it as a whole, using that different part of your brain, the bigger picture piece, and making sure it's going back through.
All right, so mistake number five is biting off more than you can chew. So understand where your nonprofit is in the journey. Are you a newer, nonprofit, very small, not a lot of capacity still working on those early fundraising pieces? Are you well-established? Where are you in the process? And the way you're presenting your application, are you a risky investment to a funder?
Do you have low capacity to implement, or are you showing that our staff has solid experience or we have good partnerships in the community? We have a good facility to provide these services. Are you able to show those pieces? Is it sustainable? Meaning if the grant goes away, what happens to your nonprofit or to the program?
Does it go away or can you keep it going? And is this grant gonna be your sole funding source? Grant funders don't wanna be your first dollar or your only dollar. You need to have other funding sources coming in so they can be a part of what you're doing. The solution to this is to really show your credibility, flex your muscles, show them that you are capable.
Show them that this will supplement the work you're doing. It's not gonna completely underwrite the entire thing to get your nonprofit off the ground. That's not what grants are for. It's gonna help enhance it and make it better. You've got a good core program going, but with their funding, you can take it this much farther. Together, that's what you need to show. Sometimes that means showing your capacity. Again, showing maybe your staff. Tap into your board and their experience, their education. Maybe they're great advisors in certain areas. The resources you have in place. Address potential red flags and show how you're gonna handle those.
A lot of times, people are afraid to talk about red flags. They just think, ooh, if we don't mention that, maybe the funder won't notice, but you can bet, that's exactly what they're gonna notice because they are looking for reasons to cut. And so they will notice, and they will hone in on that. If there is a red flag, show how you will be stable and keep going without their funding, but again, with it, you can do so much more together and have that exponential impact.
Will's got a quick demo, I believe, on this one to show you how to dig into this a little deeper.
Will: Yeah. So one of the things that you can do when it comes to getting your team on board, showing things in general, are you looking for a tracker at this point, Teresa, in terms of how you track this across the team or what would you find most useful for folks to see here?
Teresa: Yeah, probably just kind of how they can track it and how they can show over time, like team-wise and credibility-wise, maybe just a track record of past awards, how they can show sustainability altogether.
Teresa: Of the organization as a whole.
Will: So one of the best ways to do that is by building a more robust tracker across your organization.
And that's one of the things that when you set up your project on Instrumentl, you'll be able to start organizing things not only for the immediate year, but also for the next year or the next two years, three years and so on. So what you can see here in this homeless and elderly project is that I have a breakdown as to who is owning some of these respective opportunities, as well as what specifically is going on for the chances are for winning this grant.
So let's say for example, we were to go ahead and win this grant. So we've gone ahead. We've gone to this section. We've selected that we've now been awarded. Maybe we've won $10,000, which is exactly what we requested. And we're starting to think about in future years, how do we start logging everything that we have worked on this year for the next year's funding cycle.
Well, to start building that sort of sustainability piece, what you can do is you can go to the the More Option section, and then from here, select Duplicate, and then just select it for the next year and start planning ahead for the following years.
And so what that allows you to do is it helps you reduce the risk that Teresa was talking about and also increase capacity later on because as you're starting to map out your six to 12 month grants calendar, what's going to happen is we're going to see that you have everything in place already organized for what's gonna be coming around in July of next year, for example.
And so everything is going to be ready for you in terms of these respective points. And then you're also gonna be able to upload all of those documents so that when you are starting to demonstrate that capacity or address any potential red flags, that everything is going to be here for your team.
So if, for example, we need to start setting up task around milestones, mission reporting, or in general, going back to the tip number four of reviewing that table and seeing of the two things that are close to each other, are they all into the ones adjacent to them? Well, these are things that you can set up through Milestones and Tracking and Task.
And then as you are summarizing things for showing your capacity as well, what you can do is you can generate reports in which what you can do is pull that respective project out and then isolate it for specifically different things that you've done in the past. So for example, if I just wanna look at what I've been winning or declined on, I can pull a multi-year report and then pull that into my next conversation with my team or with a respective funder.
So that's kind of the ways that I would think about organizing things in your tracker. Once you import this in as well, we're able to track it across multiple projects. And so what that allows you to do is it just allows you to keep tabs on every single initiative that your nonprofit's working on, as opposed to having to constantly kind of shift gears from a variety of different tools into it. It brings all that work into one place for you.
I'll pass it back to you, Teresa, in terms of mistake number six.
Teresa: All right. Number six is looking for a gap analysis and understanding that funders are gonna assume to the risk. And they're looking for reasons to cut. If they've got a stack of a hundred or more applications, sometimes even 500 at the federal level and they have to wade through all these and pick the best applications to fund, they are looking for reasons to cut. And that may not be that yours was not a good application. You may have a better application, but if you have left out some important pieces or critical information, they have a reason to cut it. So don't give them those reasons, make sure you're giving enough information.
They only know what you present to them. They don't know anything extra and they only know how clearly you present it. They can't always read between the lines or assume that, oh, they probably meant this. Or they're probably doing this kind of work, even though they didn't mention that they're not gonna do that.
They only have what's in front of them in black and white on the application as you present it. So really make sure you are building your case as strongly as possible. The solution to that is to fill in the gaps and you'll get better and better with each application. And with each time you refine this, but always make sure whatever you write, whether it's a grant, an email, a donor letter, whatever, make sure it's clear concise, and compelling.
Those three things always. Check your writing for that. The more you do this, the more you'll understand, give a high informational index. And this can be tricky to provide so much information when sometimes we have really tight word counts or even down to the character counts and you've gotta make it fit.
But I give you an example on this. I always say right tight. Make sure you're really writing as tightly as possible, but I have a blog post here where I have it side by side. I give an example of something really wordy and how you can really trim it down, make every word count. Instead of saying, we would be able to do this if we could have this funding. Just say, with these funds, we will boom. Make it powerful, make it tight, make it super clear. And by trimming out all that fluff, you'll actually have a lot better writing. So look for those holes and where can you fill in the gaps? Where can you cut out things that are not meaningful and make sure that you are actually giving what they need to know.
All right. Mistake number seven. And again, with those, you can look in the form 990, do your homework, do all that digging to make sure as much as you can, as many places as you can, that you've cross referenced to get the information you need. Mistake seven is the shotgun approach. Just fire off as many applications as we can.
Get them all out there. Hopefully sooner or later, somebody will stick. I've actually had someone say that to me, just go as fast and furious at anything you can find that. It's not a good strategy and that's why I work so much on teaching strategy, step back, and plan. Because if you wait till the last minute there will be mistakes. You'll miss something. It'll be sloppy work. It won't be as compelling and as well presented as you would like. And I know that's not the kind of writer or nonprofit that you have and not the way you wanna present yourself. And I would also be very careful not to just cut and paste into one application after another.
Make sure you customize. Yeah, you can use some of the same information, your organizational background. Some of those questions will be very similar, but always read through it and make sure it's customized. I've seen this happen in the past where someone had cut and pasted and they pasted the wrong name into a different application.
It was not a good situation. And you don't wanna end up like that. So make sure you really pay attention to those details and the solution to this is to absolutely triple check. Allow extra time if possible. I know sometimes these deadlines are a tight turnaround, but even if you can delegate pieces to team members of, "Hey, can you look through this budget while I'm finishing up this piece?"
Kind of the handoff parts of it like that, that can be really helpful. Always triple check your work and then check it again and then one more time because you never know, there might be that one little thing you missed or ooh, we forgot the signature on that one page. Make sure you've always checked it.
And again, that the sections are aligned like we had before where each section matches up and review those guidelines one more time. I like to print out the guidelines when I start a grant and just highlight anything in particular, maybe the deadline, the type of font, the way it needs to be submitted, anything really significant yet just a simple detail that might be easy to miss when I'm under that tight deadline and trying to get it out the door it'll remind me, oh, yeah, they wanted three printed copies of this one, not just one. So make sure you really noted those up front when you're less pressured that way at the end, you'll be able to notice that more specifically. Will, did you wanna add anything on this one?
Will: And I think we're good with that. I wanna make sure we leave some time for Q&A at the end.
Teresa: Sure. Sounds good. All right. Mistake number eight. I'm sure you guys would never do this, but not playing nice in the sandbox. And unfortunately, this isn't always our own fault. There just may be circumstances or messy situations or complications that maybe there was history before you joined the organization that a previous whoever had bad relationships with other agencies. Sometimes it's complicated. Sometimes there's drama. I don't like drama, but sometimes with humans, we just can't avoid it. Sometimes just poor communication or a lack of communication. It's not intentional. It's just that sometimes we're busy. Nonprofit people wear lots of hats and sometimes the communication may just be a little bit lacking.
Other times there may be a lack of coordination between agencies and they're not speaking to each other very well. Maybe they get along fine. It's just they're not really partnering to refer as efficiently as possible or they're duplicating. Maybe there's already a food pantry. And so then someone else starts a food pantry instead of saying, okay, how can we supplement that work and maybe do a complimentary service and refer to each other.
Funders will pick up on that and they will notice. So the solution to that is to coordinate and you may or may not be quite in a position to do that, but no matter where you are in your agency, you can influence this. You can start those conversations. You can be proactive with communicating, with sending out updates, maybe giving just a one sheet summary of the project.
What can you do in your position to start turning around and helping refresh that and maybe a new direction. Look at what other agencies are in the community. Look at any overlaps in services or any gaps in missing services. And how can you step in and help address any of those potential red flags there?
And then mistake number nine is out of style. Just like fashion or home decor, sometimes grant trends come and go. And sometimes certain trends sort of fade away. And I know one time at the federal level, library grants were a very big direction and a big push in literacy and then it kind of shifted a different direction.
And so, it goes different ways in trends and funding and priorities. And this may also happen even with local funders. And especially, we've seen that the last couple of years where some funders shifted very quickly as certain issues came up. And so their priorities changed. The emergency types of needs in the communities changed.
So they shifted and sometimes shifted the requirements or lessen the restrictions a little bit, which I think was a very helpful thing to maybe not have quite so many hoops to jump through. Sometimes new research comes up that we need to incorporate. Don't just sit with your stagnant research from five years ago because that's what you've used in every grant application and it's worked.
You need to really sure you're staying on top of the research, use the latest research possible, and make sure it's credible research, not just, oh, some agency said that this is what's happening with kids now. Make sure it's credible. Make sure it's legit and from good sources, really double check to make sure you're representing this and this is representing you.
So make sure that you are using that well. And you can do this just by refreshing. Look through your applications, make sure are you staying on top of the trends? Do you need to look at more research and see what's happening? Do you need to diversify your funding sources a little bit and not just stick with one or two funders or one or two major donors?
How can you spread that out? And how can you adjust with the trends in the research or just with your population that you serve? Sometimes the trends change there. People may need different things now than they did three or four years ago. So how are you adapting? Again, I just wanna reinforce make sure your applications and not just your grants, that anything you write, make sure it is clear, concise, compelling, always.
And this takes practice. It's not gonna happen overnight. It takes practice and that's okay, but keep that in mind so that you can keep doing that and keep improving. Now I want you to share in the Zoom chat, all these different solutions and possibilities that we've talked about. What is one solution in particular that's jumped out at you that you will implement in your next grant project?
And on the next slide, we've got these listed out for you just as a quick recap. Which one has really jumped out at you that you think you wanna incorporate? Just pop in the chat. You can pop the number or the name of it.
Got number five, step back. Number nine. Yeah. Keep going, keep popping these in. And these may be different depending on the project you're working on. You may have have one grant where you really need to update the research. You may have another one where you need to maybe step back and look at it a little differently, but how can you be more credible and show more creatively and think more creatively in your applications?
All right. Yeah. Keep popping those in as you're thinking through. And before we wrap up, I have a podcast episode I wanted to recommend in particular, on the updated trends. I did an interview in episode 70, where Shannon McCracken of the Nonprofit Alliance did a recap of trends from the last couple years and going into 2022 what she predicts some forecasts that we'll start to see.
It's an interesting episode if you're wanting to stay like wondering where is this going? She does a really good evaluation. And so three challenge questions for you. And number one step back and evaluate your grant proposals. Just in general, take a minute and just evaluate, look them over, think about them. And number two, where can you improve? How can we make that baby better? And number three, how can you think more creatively about your grant applications? I really want you to take that piece away, especially how can you have fun with this and really get creative, use those creative skills.
Some of you have other talents outside of grant writing and grant writing can be pretty like focused and tedious, but sometimes it helps to just think, wait a second. We do that kind of work, too. And that's really cool if we explain it this way. So how can you start to do that and incorporate that into your applications?
All right. Will, I think you had a couple more things before we wrap up and also watching for questions.
Will: Yeah, we do have some questions that have trickled in throughout today's workshop. I wanted to comment on mistake number nine in terms of solution concept of diversifying funding sources. Something that folks can do when you set up your project in Instrumentl, as you can check out the second tab it's called Funder Matches. And what that's going to show you is it's going to show you a list of funders who might be invite only or do not have a website. In other words, these are folks who are potentially good fit funders for you to shortlist and start thinking about your six to 12-month relationship building strategy as you are starting to build out the empty spots near grants calendar where you may have more opportunities to build longer term relationships. And then the other thing that I would recommend folks do is use the Quick Find. People really don't use this top left corner quite as much as they should.
And what I recommend folks do is go on a site like Charity Navigator, do a few keyword searches that are similar to the impact areas that you serve. Narrow it down based off the state that you are working in. And then it will populate for you a list of nonprofits that are likely doing pretty similar work to you, and then pop in their EIN or their name into this top left quick find.
And from here, what you can do is you can actually work backwards on their respective funding history. So just taking my example of a tutoring program, I can look up this group Tutoring Chicago. And if I go into this past towards received on the right hand side, you're gonna see this section where we essentially break down for you who is funding this recipient.
And so reverse searching can also be a great way for you to diversify your funding sources because what this demonstrates is that the funder has already had a proven track record. It speaks to some of those earlier mistakes that Teresa was talking about in terms of alignment. And it helps you shortlist who is more likely to be giving to your respective cause area.
So that's what I would say in terms of diversifying your funding sources is that if you exhaust your matches section, just keep in mind that you're all is gonna also have your funder matches as long as you're on our Standard Plan and even in the case where you're creating a new account, you're gonna have access to that tab.
And you're also gonna have the Quick Find feature which you'll be able to access in the top left. So that's what I would recommend there. And then we'll go ahead and share a little bit more about in terms of wrapping up for our freebies. So something we can do is I just wanted to share the link for Teresa. In case you are new to Instrumentl today, you can use Teresa's link to start a 14-day free trial.
And with that, what you'll get is you'll get access to everything you've seen today in terms of setting up your project. We're also gonna be offering a random selection of five folks that create their accounts before the end of the week, copies of the Grant Writing Unicorn Method, which is featuring one of our other partners as well.
So if you've never created your account, today's the day to do so. Our team will ship that out for you in a few weeks from now. And also if you're looking for your own freebies for everybody that's attending, since I know we have some customers in the room as well, you can get your freebies in the woorise link there. Essentially Teresa has a grant readiness audit that is gonna be really useful when assessing stacking yourself up to these respective mistakes that we've talked about today. As well as we have a new resource that we're calling the Ultimate Five Steps Grant Calendar Planning Guide, which can help you map out your next 30, 60, 90, and 365 day calendar in terms of some of the focus area.
So all you need to do is submit that webinar feedback form in order to take a look at that. And with that, I think we'll open up to some questions, Teresa, if sounds good to you. Awesome. So just to kick us off in the Q&A section, Ashley asked us earlier today, online portals are becoming more prevalent and they almost always have character or word limits. How do we have clear explanations without giving as much context as we feel is warranted?
Teresa: That can be tricky because we can't necessarily plug in our own tables and charts the way we would in a document. So I always create it in a document first, copy the questions, and that way I can do my messy draft and then really start cleaning it up and checking the word count either in Word or a Google Doc that way I can refine it and make sure it's gonna fit before I pop the final version into the online form.
And that gives me room to really refine and think through, without the pressure of it's in the form, it has to be perfect. I can cut rearrange, really define and make sure which parts are important. And sometimes it's just a matter of tweaking the wording. You're not changing the meaning or the content.
You're just really tightening up that wording. And the other piece is sometimes they will allow you to attach additional documents. I worked on one recently that said, please attach any other information that you think might be useful. And so I was able to attach another Word document that had some graphs and information and research to really support the project.
So that was like being given a golden coin being able to just add it there. If there's a workaround like that, that's ideal, otherwise, really refine and do your messy draft and then start cleaning it up and tightening as much as possible to make every character count. And sometimes it literally comes down to the character. Do you need that comma or not? So what can go?
Will: Deborah asked, how do you find out about opportunities to become a grant reviewer?
Teresa: Ooh, good question. And some people who have done quite a bit of this may have some of this in the -- if you wanna pop it in the chat. I know some people, there are federal grant reviewer postings that you can sign up and apply to be, especially in certain topics.
If there's an area that you have experience or interest in, you can sign up and apply to be a reviewer. I know of someone else who is on a private foundation board and she is on their review committee. So that was a connection that she had that she was able to get involved with that. And now she's transitioning into becoming a grant writer, but she's doing it with a lot of knowledge of what reviewers are looking for.
So it's keeping those connections open, putting the word out, looking for the opportunities, not just at the federal level, but also maybe with your local foundations and agencies and some of those partnerships.
Will: Awesome. And before I head into the next question, I know some folks typically hop off at the top of the hour.
If you need to and are interested in joining our next event on March 16th, we're gonna be covering five ways you can use fund 990 data to get your dream grant. And so you can RSVP in the link in the Zoom chat. Deborah asked, the shotgun approach is actually what my boss wants. He wants me to submit at five to seven applications a week. How would you address that if you were in her shoes?
Teresa: Ouch. That's a lot. I would really encourage them to think about the reason for their approach and to explain, I mean, it's tough in your situation. It's your boss, but by applying for too many that aren't a good fit, you can actually do more harm than good.
So that may be sending them a resource of someone else saying that, too. I can send you a couple podcast episodes if you need it or find some articles online that you can really show, okay, look, we need to really evaluate and find our best fit priorities so we can use our time as effectively as possible because applying for all the grants is not the spray and pray method is not as effective as going about it systematically and very deliberately and strategically. So yeah, I feel for you.
Will: Shelly asked an Instrumentl question. Does Instrumentl have a way to track two-tier submissions, for example, LY and full proposal. What I shared with Shelly in the chat, but just for folks that may not have been following there, is that there's a variety of statuses that you can change in and set up your proposals when you're putting them into your tracker.
And so what you can come up with with respect to your team is you can come up with what should fall into each of these statuses. And then what I would recommend you do is you pair that with our task feature. So if, for example, you're working on an LOI and then later on that develops into a full proposal, all you can do is you can leave that in, in progress for now, and then you can essentially create a task.
And from here you can set something like a general task and make that into, you know, the LOI submission and from there you can go ahead and set that deadline. And then what'll happen is once a week, something that we didn't cover earlier is that Instrumentl rolls up an email digest of all of your tasks as well as deadlines.
So we're always looking out for you in terms of what's coming up next and anything that might be changing in terms of those deadline requirements. So that's something to kind of note is that you can add actually support multiple, multiple types of submission types as well as the stages as it's moving through your respective pipeline.
And then mentioning on that reporting feature that I referenced earlier, a lot of executive directors and board members really appreciate those sorts of monthly updates. You can be a great way for you to stand out as well, and just save yourself some time and prepping that.
I think that is it for questions. If anyone has any final ones, I'm happy to take them in the chat. Otherwise, like I mentioned just a second ago, workshop and replay will be shared after this. We have a next event on the 16th so feel free to join us for that one. And then if you need Instrumentl, like I mentioned before, you can use Teresa's link in the Zoom chat.
I'll pop it in once again. And then, for five of the folks that are using that link today, we'll be raffling away some copies of a grant writing resource for you too. So feel free to check that out. It looks like we are good in terms of questions. So Teresa, thank you so much for once again, hopping on and thanks to everyone who's stuck with us today for today's workshop.
Teresa: Yeah. Thank you, all. Great to be here.