Unlocking Opportunities: 5 Tips for Discovering Capacity Building Grants

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February 26, 2024

Last Updated:

March 7, 2024

Are you ready to empower your nonprofit like never before?

​We're diving deep with Sheleia Phillips, Founder of SMP Nonprofit Consulting, on how you can unlock opportunities with capacity building grants: the game-changer your organization needs.

What You'll Discover:

  • 🗂️ Why Capacity Grants Matter: Understand how these grants are uniquely designed to enhancing your organization's efficiency & sustainability, rather than specific projects
  • 🔑 3 Secrets to Sustainable Funding: Learn how to strategically invest in the operational systems that will give you the greatest long-term successes
  • 🔎 Mastering the Search: Get insider's tips to finding capacity grants with ease, leveraging the power of Instrumentl

​We guarantee you’ll walk away with a capacity building opportunity on deck, ready for you to apply.

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More about our speakers

​Presenter: Sheleia Phillips, MPH, CHES | Founder & Principal Consultant, SMP Nonprofit Consulting

​A servant leader, Sheleia has dedicated herself to the growth and development of nonprofits for the past six years. A graduate from Saint Louis University College of Public Health and Social Justice, Sheleia is equipped with advanced training in public health, program design, and public policy regarding maternal and child health. Sheleia has an affinity for research thus making her an advocate for implementing evidence-based approaches. Sheleia has secured and co-authored over $3 million dollars in grant awards for youth development, education, and health programs. She is also a grant reviewer for federal agencies such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

​Host: Rachel Fidler Cannella | Events & Community Manager, Instrumentl

​Rachel Fidler Cannella is one of the newest team members at Instrumentl! She is a skilled nonprofit professional with over a decade of experience in history, science, art, and children’s museums. Prior to joining Instrumentl, Rachel served as Senior Manager of School & Teacher Programs at the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County and directed creative arts programming for teens & elders at Holocaust Museum LA.

What is Instrumentl?

​Instrumentl is the most-loved grants platform. In 2023, Instrumentl helped over 3,000 organizations win over $1 billion by bringing grant discovery, research, and tracking to one place. Our customers are on the front lines educating kids, saving endangered species, and restoring watersheds. Learn more at instrumentl.com.

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PLEASE NOTE: Instrumentl is best suited for US-based 501c3s with at least a 200K operating budget, or consultants supporting such clients. If you are based internationally, you should have a US-affiliated chapter and 501c3 status to benefit from this platform.

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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Unlocking Opportunities: 5 Tips for Discovering Capacity Building Grants - Grant Training Transcription

Rachel: All right, folks, welcome. I'm so glad to have you. And thank you so much for being here. If you haven't already done so, please introduce yourself in the chat. I'll drop the prompt in there again, and answer those poll questions that have popped up on your screen. With that, we are going to get our event rolling for today.

All right, I'm going to go ahead and end this poll.

Hello, everybody, and welcome to our program this afternoon, or morning, or depending on where you're streaming in from. We're going to be focusing on Unlocking Opportunities, 5 Tips for Discovering Capacity Building Grants.

This is a free grant workshop. That's an Instrumentl partner webinar. So our partner webinars are all in our new funding focus series. These webinars are collaborations between Instrumentl and our community partners to provide free educational workshops to grant professionals and nonprofit leaders. Our goal in this funding focus series is to do a deep dive on a funding area or a sector that our community could learn from, building in support and key learnings to help grant writers like yourselves get more funding.

And for those of you who are new to Instrumentl, we're the most loved all-in-one grants platform for grant prospecting, tracking, and management. We currently help more than 3,000 nonprofits and grant consultants save time in finding and applying for more grants. Hello, everyone, thanks for being here. Asha, Terrance, Trudy, thanks for saying hi. It's great to see everybody.

So to start us off, I'm going to quickly introduce myself, and then I'll get to introduce my lovely partner that's here presenting with us today. My name is Rachel and I'm actually one of the newest team members at Instrumentl. My job is to help create helpful and exciting educational events, like this one, to share with our Instrumentl community. I have a decade plus of experience in the informal education sphere, specifically in museums and cultural centers. And I'm based in Los Angeles, California. So, I'm on Pacific Standard Time. Hey, West Coast folks out there.

So really quick FYIs about the program today, we'll be together for about an hour. And as I mentioned, this is a partner-led educational session. We will incorporate a live Q&A. So, I'll share in a second about how you can drop in questions as we go so that I can moderate a Q&A with our partner at the end of the event.

This workshop is being recorded right now and slides will be shared afterwards. So, keep your eyes peeled for our follow-up email if you want to review anything. I'm also going to enable captions for folks that might benefit from seeing those. So if you know how to toggle those on in Zoom, feel free to do so at this time.

I know we're all really, really busy because we're awesome grant writers and working hard. So, thank you for being here. Make sure you take care of your needs during our program, bring a snack, make sure to hydrate. And, of course, take a bio break as needed. But please make sure you're here at quarter till. That's when we're going to start the live Q&A and share info about how to get our freebie for today and enter our raffle, which we always do at our events.

Speaking of, so if you need an extra reason to stay to the end today, we're going to send a freebie to everyone who sticks out with us. And even better, you might be a lucky winner of our raffle, which I'll share about on the next slide. So today, anyone who submits their feedback form at the end of the event will get a copy of five steps to finding more capacity building grants, which is a step by step list of how to find those good fit capacity grants and the ones that will be most relevant to your organization.

Plus, thanks to our wonderful partner, you could be the winner of this ABCs of Grant Writing self-guided course. So if you stay to the end and submit your feedback form, you'll be eligible to get access to this training. And a bonus for my friends in the audience who haven't flex their Instrumentl Free Trial yet, if you create a new account by this time tomorrow, you'll automatically be entered to win a $50 DoorDash gift card.

I was thinking about a raffle prize. And I thought, you know, capacity building has to start with ourselves, right? So, they can't build capacity on an empty stomach. So hopefully, we can buy you or some of your colleagues lunch. And you might be eligible for that if you sign up for an account. So, I'll drop that link in the chat. Again, if you're interested in entering that part of our raffle. This is for folks who haven't had an opportunity to do a trial yet.

Okay, almost done of my housekeeping here. Just some reminders of how you can participate today. This is your time to learn. So I encourage you to jot down those nuggets of wisdom, take some screenshots of slides if they're really speaking to you, and let's get really inspired by this learning community. You're choosing to kind of increase your professional competence by spending time with us today. And we want to make sure that we are being present as much as possible. So, thanks for being here with us.

We will gather your questions for our closing Q&A. So if you can add questions to the chat with three hashtags at the front, that'll just help me organize the chat and make sure I'm not missing any super relevant questions that I can ask our partner at the end. And lastly, we just want to make sure we're creating the best environment for learning. So, please make sure to stay on mute unless you're called on to speak and please respect each other and our staff in the chat box.

Okay. One last thing before I intro our special guest, I'm trying something a little new with you today. I always read through our event feedback. And I saw that some folks mentioned in the chat that the chat can get a little wild during some of our events, which I personally really love because I love seeing you all getting engaging and chatting with each other. But that also means it can make things a little distracting. So, I'm trying this new thing. You're the first crew that's going to help me test this out.

I've made a special event resources webpage just for this event today. And I'm going to be adding in the links that are dropped in the chat, any nuggets of wisdom that folks share with each other, essentially, anything that might be interesting for you to look back on after the event. So, I'm going to drop that in the chat here. This will also be in your follow-up email. I encourage you to bookmark this page and come back after the event so that you can refresh yourself on those awesome resources we shared.

So today, we're talking about capacity building grants and how they can be such game changers for your organization. I saw this post on LinkedIn, I thought this was so timely from Evan Wildstein two days ago, and I had to include it. His question of what funders are supporting the real capacity building work in nonprofits? I'm honestly asking. Who? Who can relate to this? You can say me in the chat or use the raise hand feature.

To me, yeah, seeing some hands get raised. To me, it really spoke to some of the frustrations that nonprofits are facing when it gets down to the brass tacks of how to find who is really supporting the capacity building work, especially some of those general operating grants, right? It's such a struggle.

And that's why I'm really excited we're talking about this topic today. And glad to introduce our very special guest who is an expert in all things capacity building. So, I'm proud to introduce our speaker today, Sheleia Phillips. She's the founder and principal consultant of SMP Nonprofit Consulting.

As a servant leader, Sheleia has dedicated herself to the growth and development of nonprofits for the past decade. A graduate from St. Louis University College of Public Health and Social Justice, Sheleia is equipped with advanced training in public health, program design, and public policy regarding maternal and child health. Sheleia has an affinity for research making her an advocate for implementing evidence-based approaches.

She has secured and co-authored over $5 million in grant awards for youth development, education, and health programs. She's also a grant reviewer for federal agencies such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a Goldman Sachs’ Black in Business and Bank of America Emerging Leaders alum. Sheleia believes that nonprofit agencies are essential to creating the change we all want to see. She has a deep passion for serving those who serve others and helping community organizations succeed. Sheleia motivates and empowers others with her can-do attitude, enthusiasm, and positive personality, which I can certainly attest to.

Welcome, Shelia. I'm going to let you take it from here.

Sheleia: Awesome. Thank you so much, Rachel. I just want to say thank you for such an amazing introduction. As many times as I hear it, it's always good and heartwarming to hear it from a friend. So, thank you so much. And thank you to all of you who are in the audience and to my fellow, St. Louis Billikens, hey, you all, so excited to have you in the room. And for all of you who have taken your lunch hour or if you're in a different time zone, your morning hour just to sit in and chat with me about capacity building grants.

Today's session will be action-packed. We've done a lot of work to make sure that we're intentional with the action strategy. So, you'll have some key takeaways from today. And I'm super excited to be here with you all.

Awesome, Rachel. Next slide, we can get started. Awesome.

So, here's our roadmap for today. By the time you walk away from our session, I want you to know some key things. Number one, get to know what capacity grants are and how they can be beneficial to your nonprofit. We're going to review a case study from an actual client that I've had recently in their efforts of capacity building fundraising. We're going to talk about how to make your funding last and how to be more sustainable. And then some tips and tricks on how to master the search for capacity building grants. And then together, we're going to have a recap before we hit the Q&A. So, make sure you all stay to the end for some goodies. And what I like to call, Hot Seat Coaching, as we go through the Q&A.

Next slide. Awesome. So, let's get started.

You may be wondering, “Sheleia, I've never heard of capacity building grants. I've just been going after general operating or programs, specific grants, and I really want to know what our capacity building grants and how they can help me in the efforts of my nonprofit.” Well, friend, I'm so glad you asked.

Next slide? So with capacity building grants, these are the type of funding opportunities that are intended to help your nonprofit strengthen your ability to not only achieve your mission and goals, but it does it by way of building your internal capacity such as strengthening your management and leadership, improving your financial systems, developing fundraising strategies, which we'll talk about a little bit later, and even building your technology infrastructure.

These types of grants are important because it helps your organization not only in today, but it helps you become more effective and sustainable over the long term which sustainability is key, right, we all want to be able to forward our mission over -- for years and years to come.

By investing in capacity building, your organization can better achieve your mission have a greater impact. And as a tidbit, you'll become more resilient and better able to adapt to the pivots and the changing circumstances that tend to happen in our landscape. So, think of how capacity building grants would have helped with sustainability over the course of the pandemic, or the shifts in funding, or just the unexpected challenges that tend to follow us as we do this work.

So next, I want to talk about what can be funded or what type of projects and initiatives can be funded through capacity building grants. So, we get some live examples, you all. I hope you have your pen and paper ready.

So off top, this is a very familiar one. Strategic planning project. So if you need to develop a strategic plan or go in and update or renew your strategic focus can be funded by capacity building grants. This can look like receiving funding to hire a strategic planning consultant, facilitating training sessions or conducting research. If you are a nonprofit in any stage of development, you're familiar with strategic plans. And you know that maybe once every couple of years or so, it's always good to just reset and see is the work that we're doing still relevant for the community we serve? And if not, how can we change our strategy in these types of grants help you have funding in an investment to do so.

Up next, it could be beneficial to reach out for funding for conducting a needs assessment. So for my fellow MPHs in the room, we all know how in depth these assessments can go. And they can become a little pricey if you don't have like an internal research staff.

So, think of this as receiving funding support for the essential components of your needs assessment process, like data collection, or even different technology needs to make your research and your findings more -- I don't want to say digestible, or if you are a nonprofit that loves community storytelling, or embedding community into your process. It helps you make that data more accessible to the folks that you serve, and even your funding partner. So, it really helps you to share your story through data and research.

Awesome. Thank you so much, Rachel.

Next, you want to think about hiring a consultant like myself and other grant writers in the room to either provide training on fundraising or your specific grant writing needs. I want to note that these grants can provide -- it's kind of like you're getting money to receive more money. It's like a reach one teach one, right? But it really helps with your overall organizational development, your training, and anything that's aimed at your internal fundraising operations. Just as a -- or excuse me, if there are folks in the room wondering like, “Hey, so we don't have to worry, we don't pay grant writers on commission. That's just a tidbit.” But if you're looking for funding to hire a grant writer specifically, I would strongly encourage you to go after capacity building grant.

The reason I believe these grants are uniquely designed to enhance your organization's stability and sustainability over time is that, you know, according to these examples -- and I hope you all have seen this so far is that it just focus on your capacity, whether that's in people, systems, or in your strategy, versus programs, specific grants, which we all know are more participant or client-focus. And we have to have some tighter KPIs on the service delivery portion versus working in our internal operations.

So at the end of the day, we want you all to walk away knowing the difference between the capacity building side of grant seeking versus the other types of grants. Again, just to reiterate this point, capacity building grants increase your efficiency and sustainability over time. And there are funders out there that support this type of work. If you stick around to the end, we'll show you exactly how to master that search. And then you also want to think about capacity building as your support and investment during times of swift transitions. Okay?

In this work, we all know to expect the unexpected. And it's always good to already have in mind, ways that you can build capacity and folks that you can partner with to make those transitions a little bit easier. Or, as I say, give us a little bit of helmet as our organizations bump our heads through the unexpected events of life in our work.

Rachel: I love that, Sheleia. So, I'm going to pause for just a second on your presentation here so that we can do a quick poll. I love poll. And I want to hear if you all have thought a little bit about those primary areas where your nonprofit could use capacity funding. You know, I want you to think about these, maybe if you haven't before, part of what Sheleia is emphasizing here is that we should have that clear sense of where our priorities lie, when we're applying to capacity building funding.

So, I'm going to go ahead and launch this poll. Let's see here. I think it's going to be this one. It should pop up automatically in front of you. What are the primary areas where your nonprofit could use capacity funding? And you can select all that apply. It could be strategic planning; conducting a needs assessment with your community members; hiring a consultant for something like training, investing in technology, or infrastructure, or both; improving your marketing and communications; leadership training for your staff, or board; or maybe something else. If you put something else, I'd love to hear what you're thinking in the chat. These are going to be things that I compile for our event resources kind of repository later. So, share with us if you're thinking of other things you could use capacity building funding for.

I'll give everyone about 10 more seconds to answer our poll. Oh, I'm seeing some trends. Okay, very interesting. Let's see if I can share this with everybody. I'm going to go ahead and end the poll and share the results. It looks like the winner here is actually focused on staff and/or board leadership training at 66%. But we have a couple of close follow-ups here, including investing in technology, or improving our marketing and communications. All pretty close runners up there. So, thank you so much for sharing. I really appreciate that. I'm going to let Sheleia jump back in with her next section here.

Sheleia: Awesome. Thank you so much, Rachel. And thank you all for participating in the poll. That is also good research for me as we work to support nonprofits in your different just transition. So, thank you all so much.

All right. So, here's my favorite portion of the presentation and where I get to talk about real life examples of clients that I've worked with and providing you all with a case study of capacity building success story. So for the sake of today's chat, let's give you all the parameters, right? So anytime that you go through a case study 9 times out of 10, you want to know was this organization similar to mine? And what were some successes and things that went well? And we're going to walk through that today.

So for the topic of conversation today, we worked with a local, social justice, nonprofit. They had been around for about a decade or so and had came up on this point of transition post pandemic, post social unrest that accompanied the pandemic where they wanted to just update their strategy and really become a focal point of support for other nonprofits and not just the community in 2024.

So for the funder/funding opportunity, they approached the Deaconess Foundation, which is a local foundation here in St. Louis. I'm based in St. Louis. And they not only -- let me say this, they approached the Deaconess Foundation, first. But you all will see through the rest of the case study that they had a multi-tier strategy. And I'll tell you about that in just a second. And again, for the strategic planning process. So, let's talk about what went well and just some lessons learned. Okay?

So in terms of what went well, I would say that the first portion is that they cultivated relationships. And, Rachel, you can change the slide. I'm sorry, I went a little fast, a cultivated relationships with funders first rather than cold outreach. So for those of us who have been in the grant writing game for a while, cold outreach used to be effective. But now that the landscape is changing and folks are being more invested and progressive in community-centric fundraising work, it's important to build those relationships.

So through the process of relationship building, and what I like to call mutual reciprocity over the long term, their funding partners in particular, this funding partner, which they secure the award for, became more invested and interested in helping them grow their capacity. So as you all can hear, I didn't say anything about a strong application but over time in conversations. And really, an intentional approach to cultivating this relationship, they were able to use the grant application as a cherry on top and the relationship as I call the cake base. Okay?

Second, they were really, really clear on their strategic planning process. So from start to finish, they were able to clearly articulate how their strategic planning work would look and how it connected to the overall mission. So, it's two parts. What does the process look like? And how do these key pieces connect to our overall mission? So, you may be wondering, “Sheleia, what does that look like?” They focused on four key areas that were executed in phases. Again, this is long term. And here are just some examples. They identified some new strategic priorities. They wanted to focus on data collection with the help of a consultant, building their organizational strategy, and increasing our capacity to execute that new strategy.

So sometimes when we're in nonprofit work, we'd like to think big, right? But we also want to be mindful in thinking big that we start small so that we can see the step-by-step progression. When you have large goals and you have these objectives, it's not only important to clearly articulate those, but then I want you all to think about how much is it going to cost, which we'll talk about next, and then who are your key people or who's going to be on your dream team to make this vision a reality? Okay? So, hope you all wrote that down. I'm really big on golden gems and Easter eggs. So, I'll let you know when to pull out your notebooks.

And next, when I talk about the cost of this work, they shopped around and gathered scopes of works and proposal quotes to make sure that they're informing the budget of the request, and then they also had some concrete language from the consultants that they reached out to to help them pitch to funders for support. So, that's really important. There's a lot of background work in that.

And then the third point of success that I wanted to highlight for you all is that they utilize multiple sources of funding to bolster the project and then the grant request. So grants were part of their strategy, again, not the whole thing. When we think about submitting grant requests, it's fairly easy to say, “Hey, this funder is awarding investments up to the 30k range. Sheleia, it's just going to cost us 30k to do the whole strategic planning process. Why can't we just do a one stop shop here?”.

But such as life, it's always good to drop your eggs in multiple baskets when it comes to fundraising. So just in case someone, whether an individual side wants to have a match or you have a funder that only wants to fund you partially and see how others are supporting your work. It shows that you have a collaborative approach to fundraising. But then also, you have diverse resources and investments to fund your capacity building project. Okay?

And then again, submitting grants to multiple funders instead of asking them for the whole project. It's just a good best practice for us here in the grant writing industry. Awesome.

So you may be thinking, “Sheleia, that's great. I got some learning to do, or I'll take those successes and tidbits with me.” Let us know where are they now. So, this process started in September of 2022. So, we're a little over a year now. But the entire project should be wrapped and ready for execution. Actually, this month for February 2024. So as you can see, this process took time. And in that time, they had to, one, do a little bit of internal homework, as I like to call it. But in even in their search and in their fundraising, it took time, it took clarity, and intentionality. So when we get to the portion where we talk about mastering your search, I want you to keep those in mind.

And last, but certainly not least, what can we learn from this nonprofit in this case study? I want you all to know, I'm big on we are human beings, not human doings. So, don't try and accomplish all of this at once, right? Sometimes when we think about our projects and initiatives, there's this sense of urgency that can lead to burn out if we're not careful and intentional.

So again, don't try to accomplish all of this work at once. Not only will it save you capacity wise, but it will allow funders to see the natural progression of your work and the feasibility of that work so that they can have a clearer picture of what they're going to invest in. So, I hope that this case study was helpful to you. And if you have any questions, stick around, we'll make sure that we get your question in the chat.

Next slide?

Rachel: And I want to -- sorry, I'm going to chime in super fast. We had Sheleia have her speaker notes here on the case study that weren't represented on the slide. But I will copy those notes into that event Resources page that I was talking about earlier, and I just relink that in the chat. So, make sure you referenced back on that. I'll just make sure to do that super quick after the end of this event. And thanks so much for sharing about that case study, Sheleia. That's super interesting.

Sheleia: Awesome. Thank you. And thank you so much for gathering those notes so folks can have them later on.

Awesome. So, let's dive in to three secrets for sustainable funding. Secret number one, which is always of top priority to me is that you want to demonstrate a clear plan for how a capacity building investment will enhance your organization's operations. So you’re may be wondering, “Sheleia, what's a clear plan?” A clear plan in a grant proposal or a request for capacity building investments should outline the specific steps from A to Z that will be taken to achieve your particular project goals and objectives. So rather than a strategic plan, building your tech infrastructure or hiring a consultant to help you with fundraising and grant writing, you just want to be clear of what that looks like in addition to your proposal narrative.

So, what does that mean? One, we have a detailed timeline. So as you remember with the case study, we had a timeline of about -- close to maybe a year and a half of what those might major activities would look like, the milestones and the deadlines of a project. So going back to their case study, for example, they not only had a timeline for when they felt the strategic plan would be completed and executed, but they even had a timeline for when they were going to seek out the support of a consultant when they would secure proposals and when they would actually choose a consultant. So going down to those, going down to that level of detail, helps you be more clear in your work moving forward.

Again, the timeline should be realistic and achievable. And something that won't overwhelm you or your staff in terms of capacity as you set out to look for these funds. Next, you want to have a budget, making sure that that budget is clear and detailed with all of the costs associated with the project. So rather that is a consultant purchasing the tech infrastructure, any type of research. Or let's just say even subscriptions that will help you with your work, you want to make sure that that's outlined and evaluation. And you’re may be wondering, Sheleia, how can we evaluate our efforts in terms of seeking capacity building support? And when we get the support, how can we monitor how well we're doing in terms of building the capacity of our organization?

As you would with any type of project, you want to set those KPIs realistically with your team. And with those specific metrics, use those to measure the impact. And let's just say a check mark on those specific steps and milestones that we mentioned earlier, to make sure you stay on track with your projects.

And last, but certainly not least, we can't forget our partnerships. I was looking in the chat. In addition to our consulting partners, our board members, and all of the folks internal to our work and who can see the benefit of capacity building, we want to have our key stakeholders like our community members involved in this as well.

At SMP, we firmly believe in client or community-led solutions. So the more you embed your community in this process, the more impact you'll have. And it will be -- it dissenters us as the expert but gives us more of a lens of partnership, and again, mutual reciprocity. So, we all can receive the benefits of enhancing and deepening our organization's capacity.

Secret number two, make a strategic investment into operational systems. So when I speak of operational systems, I'm speaking about things like technology and your CRM, or customer relationship management systems, or donor management systems, to increase your efficiency, but also your productivity, allowing your nonprofit to serve your clients better and build relationships, and overall helping you achieve your mission. So you’re maybe wondering, “Sheleia, what are some tech enhancements that we can make at our nonprofit?” If you're big on AI or automations and you can clearly see how these tech tools can help you go from point A to point B and help you achieve sustainability, you might want to start your research and see how you can frame that into a capacity building X.

Technology is not going anywhere anytime soon. And while it can't replace us as human beings, it helps us do our work better. And if you find spaces within your organization, if you’re boys and girls club and you want to have a cage tracking system or a way for you to reach out to your donors and supporters, this is where capacity building will be most beneficial to you if you upgrade your tech stack.

So, awesome. Secret number three, recognize the importance of long-term planning. So if you've been paying attention what you've heard me say multiple times is sustainability long term and building relationships. Secret number three is what I like to call having success through the crockpot method versus the microwave.

I don't want you to think of capacity building grants just for the right now. I want you to think about how you can utilize these funds to better position your organization in the future. So if I can have about 10 seconds, I want you all to sit back and close your eyes and think, “What would it look like to have a greater fundraising capacity, a greater capacity to execute your mission and your strategy, or even at the smaller level of program delivery capacity over the next three years? What does that look like for you as an organization?”

As you think about that, right, and, again, you all got about five more seconds. So, get the perfect picture in mind. As you think about that, it will help you start connecting the dots to identify your needs and even identify who your funding partners could be as you go about seeking support for capacity building. Okay?

And just as a recap, capacity building grants help you ensure that you're building sustainable and resilient systems that will support your mission in the future and for the expected/unexpected of the work that we do.

Awesome. And as a bonus, because I'm always coming in with a bonus, secret number four. I want you all to harness the power of partnership and relationship through funder cultivation. So, I'm using the case study as an example. Anytime you're looking for capacity building support, you're really speaking to what's the next stage, what's the next step, what's the next chapter of the story of our nonprofit, and you can't do it in silos.

So when you think about who's in your corner, not only do I want you to think about your internal board, the clients and the community that you serve, but think about other nonprofits who can help you and connect you to folks in addition to those institutional funders and grant makers that you're going to approach in the future.

One way that you could do this, this is a free tidbit, is I like to call it love mapping. So when you think about who's going to be on your dream team, who's going to be your -- who are going to be your partners in this work, write that list out. First name, last name, organization, and together with the folks who help you execute this work. It could be your board. It could be your ED. It could be maybe a specific committee that's going to help you with this. Run that list. Here's the secret, through LinkedIn.

And as you start to see how folks are connected, if you have a mutual connection, see if you can reach out to them and request a -- I like to call them virtual coffee because we're all working from home, right? And see how you can connect with those folks to start the conversation and see who you can get on board for the next stage of your organization. So, harness the power of relationship. It cost free. It may take you a little time, but it's free and it definitely see who's in your corner and who you can reach out to and build a new -- build a new relationship with in this process.

Rachel: Awesome. Sheleia, I love that. I love mapping idea. It makes me think about like these bubbles of people in your world that might really help activate the funding sources you need.

Speaking of funding sources and how we access them, I have one more poll for you all before we kind of get into our Q&A and our recap of our learnings. One thing I'm curious about is what do you believe the biggest barrier is to accessing capacity building grants? I have already seen actually some questions that are kind of related to these barriers. But if folks wouldn't mind adding their thoughts into this poll -- I’m going to launch this, and share what you think are some of those barriers. It might be a lack of information about capacity building grants that are available. It might be a complex application process or competition for those funding opportunities. Maybe it's limited eligibility or feeling like I saw someone say that their revenue wasn't necessarily meeting the eligibility requirements of a lot of capacity building grants. Or if it's something else, please do add that challenge that you're having into the grant and add a little bit more context so we can learn from each other and hear about these challenges we're facing.

So, I'll give folks about 15-ish more seconds to answer this poll on some of those challenges of accessing capacity building grants.

Sheleia: Rachel, these are some good responses.

Rachel: I know. Loving these, right? It's just really insightful to hear from other folks what's going on in their funding worlds.

Sheleia: Yeah. And really quickly if I can, if you don't mind.

Rachel: Please.

Sheleia: When we were speaking to -- or someone mentioned not have -- meeting the financial eligibility requirement. If you're still in the room, or if you're going to watch the recording, what I would suggest -- and this is for everybody in the room. Not just one person. Start local. You will be surprised how many community foundations or small family foundations don't have as much, I'll call it red tape, around supporting organizations through these types of grants.

So if you are, here's another free tidbit, if you're looking start utilizing your network of other organizations to see who's in your community that you can start that organic relationship with -- and here's the thing, even if they have a lot of red tape around their grant making process, there's something called money behind the back door that sometimes foundations have, like pots or revenue available to help initiatives like this, even if it's seed funding to help you move forward. But you only can access that through the power of relationships.

Rachel: Yeah, that's a really great tip and something to definitely keep in mind with capacity building specifically.

I'm going to go ahead and end this poll and share the results so people can see what other folks responded with. It looks like our leading challenge here is a lack of information among capacity building grants, which makes me think we got to do more events like this, Sheleia.

Sheleia: Yeah.

Rachel: So, I'm glad to hear that that's a challenge and hopefully something we can kind of chip away at with more information about how to get these grants. But it looks like a close second place here is competition for these funding opportunities. So, I'll talk a little bit briefly about what a competitive application looks like when you're kind of assessing, when you're looking at funding opportunities, how competitive a prospective opportunity might be and whether or not you want to go for it based on that percentage of competitiveness.

Sheleia: Yes, yes, yes. And, Rachel, before we go to the next slide, I do want to make another comment. I was looking at the chat, so --

Rachel: Sure.

Sheleia: …kind of a quick pivot. I just wanted to let folks know, if you're not working from home, one, I apologize that I wasn't being mindful that we're all either in person one hundred percent now or doing hybrid. It doesn't -- let me say this, again, I apologize. But it doesn't change your approach when it comes to love mapping. If you're in person, even better, because now we can come together at the table or in our meeting rooms to do this process a little bit quicker, versus putting more Zooms on the calendar.

So when we make space and see folks in various roles or wherever you're doing your work, whether virtual hybrid or in person, and I just wanted to be mindful of that. And again, my sincerest apologies for that.

Rachel: Thanks, Sheleia. I'm going to go ahead and advance your slides.

Sheleia: Okay. Awesome. Thank you.

All right, you all. So, here's the portion of the presentation that you all are probably interested in the most, and that is mastering the search. These four secrets, I think, or they’re maybe five, are my top secrets on how to find capacity building grants with ease. Step number one, research thoroughly. The first step in finding these types of grants is to make sure that your step is -- that your research is clear from end to end. Not only do you want to look for grants that you meet the eligibility requirements, but you want to look a little bit deeper and seeing if the funder aligns with your organization's missions and goals, but also your values.

As we talk a lot about community centric fundraising, we want to get a little bit deeper to learn about not only or be clear on our culture as an organization and our values. But also that of our funding partners.

And from this list, you want to make a list or say your potential funding sources. And you want to make sure that you're leveraging Instrumentl for that, and we'll show you how to do so in just a few moments.

What this all means is that by using Instrumentl in all of the amazing features, you're seeking out grants that are most aligned with your nonprofit and will yield the highest likelihood of sustainability, structure, and long-term relationships for your nonprofits. And you'll be able to determine which grants to go after first or potential relationships that you want to go after first utilizing this platform.

Next slide?

Next, I want you all to build relationships. This was not number one, but a very close second. Once you identify who your funding partners could potentially be, I want you all to start thinking about, again, love mapping and building out those relationships. So on one end, we're all used to grant research and getting our list. But I want you to take it deeper than that if you have the capacity because we want to be mindful. Attend networking events or conferences. Or, here's how you can flip the script, if you have funders that you're truly interested in or you want them to come and see the work that you're doing as an organization, you can host events which can be free or even low cost, what we call lunch and learns and funder debriefings.

So if you're an organization that has a current funding profile or active grants and funders who've been supporting you for a while, we like to or I like to encourage our clients to hold funder debriefs where they can also reach out to others in their network that could be potentially invested in supporting your work as well. So, there's multiple ways to get around that.

As mentioned earlier with the case study, this worked phenomenally for the organization I was writing for at the time. And it stresses the importance of building relationships over the long term well before you make that ask, right? So crock pot approach, not the microwave.

And this can help funders not only provide more effective support because they're coming into your world, but it'll also through those conversations, through those interactions, you'll be able to tailor your funding request to your organization's specific needs and goals to the right people. So, building those relationships are key.

Next slide? Next, I want you all to be specific. I always say that you won't win grants by pulling on the funders heartstrings alone, but by the vision that you can clearly articulate. We talked about how to have a clear plan, right? So when applying for these capacity building grants, I want you to be specific about how the funding will be used to build your organization's capacity from start to finish. And then what you'll be able to see is that it lessens the amount of questions that funders typically have within their decision making process because they know exactly where their investment is going and how it will make an impact for your organization over the long term. So as we talked about dreaming and taking that 10 seconds to meditate on what we want our vision to be, we want to start small and map out how we can clearly articulate that plan.

Mastering the search secret number four, demonstrating your impact. We all know that funders want to see how their dollars make a real difference. But I'm not talking about hard KPIs at this point. Through your learnings, conversations, and just the work that you do from day to day, I want you all to map out how you're creating impact both qualitative and quantitative to help a funder see how a strategic investment can yield more impact in the future. Again, this isn't something where I'm saying we need 40 -- we’ll see a 45% increase in something, but more so what works or what stories really tailed or exemplify or demonstrate the work that you're doing and how an investment will yield more of that positive or even lessons learn, good or not so good, in the future.

And last, but certainly not least, follow up. We talked a lot about thunder cultivation today. So even after you make your request, whether that's a grant application or talking to a funder one-on-one, I want you all to follow up to ensure, one, if -- one that you all are still on the same page, what does the process look like? But after they’ve received your specific requests, if they have any questions on your -- let's use the strategic planning project, for example, you're able to clear those up. And there's no questions about the word but more so how can we support you through this process. Again, only if you have capacity. And don't overthink it. This could really just be an email, not a lone conversation. I want you all to work what works for you, but still achieve your goals.

Rachel: Awesome. Thanks, Sheleia.

So, I'm going to pause really quick to do just a quick search of how we can find some of those awesome capacity building grants using our database in Instrumentl. And I'm going to spend about two minutes going through this. This is going to be a real quick preview. I know some of you all are already customers of Instrumentl. So, you'll get to see how I kind of do a targeted search. But why I think this might be a beneficial tool? If you haven't explored it yet and seen the magic, you're going to get those automatic notifications for relevant grants. So if you set up a grant tracker today, it will notify you of capacity building grants and general operating grants, training grants, things like that, to help keep you organized and on top of your deadlines. It'll go right into your inbox.

You basically let us do the work for you. So, we have a matching algorithm that will find those good fit funders and bring them right into your tracker. And you'll hopefully have access to all the best options out there. So we currently have a database with 15,000 active public and private funding opportunities that are updated every week. We add about over 100 every week. So, there's a lot in there.

So for folks that haven't already, I am going to drop a link in the chat. You can follow along with me and create your account. This will basically allow you to find capacity grants in our Instrumentl database. And for folks that haven't had a chance to sign in before, this will give you a two-week trial to explore the database and see what's available in our capacity building grant space.

So I've mentioned, I'm just going to show you really quick how this might look. If you click this link and you don't have an Instrumentl account yet, you'll actually see this screen come up. And you'll see I'm just entering my information.

For the folks that do have an account, it's going to automatically pop up if you click that link with your account. So, hang tight about 20 seconds if you have an account already. But if you don't, you're going to go through, add your name, your email, make a password, add your phone number, you know, the basic stuff.

You'll also select your organization type. I'm using an example of a fake museum that I've made called the Highland Park History Museum, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and I've selected my operating revenue.

I'm also going to indicate if I have 501(c)(3) status or fiscal sponsorship and how many grants my organization received in the last year. Once you click that, you'll click the try 14 days free, and then it'll take you to a kick-off call scheduler.

For the purposes of this event today, I've gone ahead and allowed everybody to click the skip button. So, you can click skip on that so that you can get right into the tracker and see how you can find those capacity grants. And I'm going to show you how to do that right here. So catching up with folks that might already have an Instrumentl account -- I'm sorry, it's going back to the same video. One sec.

So, this is an example of my new project that I'm building. So, I've gone ahead and made a new project. For folks that are just signing up now, it might have you just fill out one more page before this that indicates what your fiscal year is and where your organization is located. So, fill that info in. And then you're going to start by basically creating your first project. It's super easy. You're basically setting up the search filters so that Instrumentl can automatically find all the best funding opportunities for you. So, I'm going to indicate the applicant type I am. I'm a nonprofit and I'm a museum in this instance. I'm not looking for grants specifically for faith-based organizations or programs. But I am looking for grants that are specific to Los Angeles County, because that's where my organization is located.

One of the most important aspects here is selecting your fields of work. Because I'm a history museum and I was actually focusing on an arts program that I was designing, I selected arts and culture as one of my fields of work. And I actually was using this project to explore and how we might upgrade our grant database. So, I added technology access and digital literacy here. And I think I added one more. Oh, yeah, I added a history field of work just to see if they were funding opportunities specific to history museums.

I did want to see grants for professional art and cultural organizations. And then I'm selecting the grant size I'm looking for. I know this is going fast. So if you're not following along exactly at this pace, that's okay. This is just to give you a real quick speed drive through how you might set this up. And you want to go ahead and select how specifically you're using these funds. This is where you're going to specifically find those training and capacity building grants. I could have also indicated that I was looking for general operating expenses. I know someone asked about that in the chat. So, that's a good place there for doing that. And then you're going to select the types of funders that you want to see grants from.

It's going to set me up with an automated search here. And I see some folks answering questions in the comments. Thanks for doing that. So, I went ahead and found 55 grants for me. That's awesome. And I had pretty narrow parameters here. So, I started looking at some of the funding opportunities that were in my matches. I found this one here, the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Digital Accelerator. It looks like something that could be interesting in upgrading my digital infrastructure of my Highland Park History Museum. So, I scrolled through some of the things that I might be interested in funding, boosted a really quick glance. And then I think I wrote in some opportunity notes down here. Yeah. So, I just wanted to remind myself of why I saved this grant. Wrote in that it seems like a great fit. But maybe you need to do a little more research. And I'm going to go ahead and save that into my tracker.

So for folks that are just setting up their tracker for the first time, this will be your first grant that's added into the tracker. And you'll see actually that now there's a little number one up here on the top. That's my first grant that's saved on this specific project. And I can keep scrolling through all my matches. Oh, yeah, I forgot it went over there and check it out. So, there, there's my grant. And it has my notes right there. Cool.

One other thing I did just to show you before I go back to Sheleia here is that I wanted to highlight how you can look through the funder information on this. So, I didn't do that when I was looking at the opportunity. But I want to look a little further into the funder profile. This is where you can find the 990 report for this funder.

You can also look at their total assets, their contact information, key people that are at the foundation. And you can look at some of their financial stats. I like looking at their average giving amount. That might give me an indication of if they're even providing a grant that I'm interested in applying for. And you can also look at some of their past grantees. This will give you a sense of other organizations that have been funded by the same funder, and maybe their likelihood of funding new organizations, right? So you can see at the bottom here, there's this Openness to New Grantees. This one is a little competitive. We say that anything under 30% going to new grantees is going to be considered a competitive opportunity. But it's pretty close there. So, I might go for this one.

I'm going to go ahead and stop there, because I know we have a little more to get through before the end of this presentation. But if folks want to explore, I hope you can leave with at least one grant building -- I'm sorry, capacity building opportunity in your grant tracker. And I'm happy to stick around after this event is over and help folks if they need any assistance. And Sheleia has also kindly offered to stay a few moments after the event and answer any additional questions if we don't get to everybody's Q&A.

I'll pass it back to Sheleia for what we have we learned the section here.

Sheleia: Awesome. Rachel, I'm going to do a lightning speed round just for the sake of time. Again, you all will have a recording of the session. If you want to stick around, we'll be here and we'll grab a couple questions from the chat before we hop off from today.

So, what have we learned? Again, lightning round, we have talked about what -- we've talked about capacity building grants and how they can be beneficial to your nonprofit. We went through a case study of a real-life organization that I've supported here locally and what I felt were their key success is and giving you all some tidbits and real-life tidbits on how to move forward as you seek out these types of grants. And then we talked about mastering the search. And as Rachel so amazingly did, walk you through how to leverage the platform to find those right fit funders that will likely support your work.

Next slide?

Awesome. So in today's chat, we talked about a lot. So, I want to make sure that we have time for questions. But, Rachel, before we hop into question so folks can have some information before they log off, do you want to skip forward or stay here with the questions and folks can hang around?

Rachel: Why don't we -- how about this, we can run through -- I have like two or three really hard hitting questions that I think a lot of folks are curious about. And maybe we can get through those. And then I'll share -- yeah, I'll share our last remaining slides and then --

Sheleia: Okay.

Rachel: …we can kind of talk about a couple other questions maybe after folks need to hop off.

Sheleia: Okay. Awesome.

Rachel: That sounds good? Okay.

Sheleia: It feels good.

Rachel: Awesome. So the one I really wanted to touch on was this question from Chris, and he shared some context about his organization that they often seem to be in a catch 22. He said that seeking capacity building, support often feels like it's tailored to larger nonprofits with more resources, which sometimes feels a little counterintuitive. And he needs to have kind of a certain level of revenue that they're eligible for before receiving funding. How would you recommend they find resources for capacity building grants that won't exclude applicants based on that level of funding that they have?

Sheleia: So, thank you so much. That's an amazing question. I mentioned it earlier. I want you all to start local. There are community foundations and small family foundations that have a -- that you'll likely find less red tape around those eligibility requirements that you may find some success with. I'm thinking of one in particular here in St. Louis that supports smaller or grassroots nonprofits. But to be able to even get in connection with them, it starts with that relationship building. It won't necessarily be a coal proposal. So, what I would encourage you to do is do a search on small community foundations or family foundations in your area and that align with your priority. So not everyone will have the same area of focus, but if they're within and they align with your philanthropic priorities or mission focus, start building that relationship and let me know how that goes. But definitely start local if you feel that larger funders or funders who are outside of your geographic scope are looking for more red tape for eligibility. So, start local with community foundations and family foundations.

Great question.

Rachel: Thanks, Sheleia. I have a related question. Someone from the Piedmont Conservation Council asked -- and Lucy had a related question. If you're not cold calling, how do you start to build or create a relationship with a funder? And Lucy's question was about those unsolicited applications that seem to be very frequent these days. So, how would you kind of recommend that not cold calling, but also like starting some sort of relationship?

Sheleia: Yeah. So my apologies if I said cold calling earlier. I meant cold submission. So meaning, you have an application and you're just like, “Hey,” filling out the grant and then submit it, and then they have no idea who you are.

When we look at -- looking at the platform, even with Instrumentl, there's a way that you can even get the list of funders. So if you're not aware of who's in your scope or aligned with your area of focus, Instrumentl is amazing for that. And once you have that list of folks that you're interested in partnering with, it then just starts with a conversation. I share with folks all the time, particularly younger grant writers who are looking for mentoring people, funders are still people. But if you're like me, introverted by nature, but extroverted by choice, it can be a little bit scary to start having the exploration. But just as simple as we would start to build relationships with those in our community is how you can do it with funders. It could be a simple phone call one day or an email to request some type of virtual coffee and talk about your work.

You all as nonprofit organizations are the best. And when I say this, I mean this from the bottom of my heart. You're the best to talk about the work that you do. And when you bring in the power of community, they're the best to talk about those, the things that they experienced and how they're also helping to change the landscape within your community. So if there is a way, one, if you want to not speaking as the end-all-be-all, but can advocate for your community and partner with your community to find ways to have conversations with these funders is just as simple as building a relationship.

Now, for specific strategies, that may differ from nonprofit to nonprofit. But it's just having a focus on organic relationship building and seeing where your values and goals align.

Rachel: Awesome. Thanks, Sheleia.

I know there were a lot of questions that we didn't get to. So, I'm going to curate those and help them -- use them to inform us for future events. I'll also stick around for a couple moments, as I mentioned, and answer questions that folks have. But to wrap us up and be mindful of everybody's time, first, I want to share this information from Sheleia. Do you want to share a little bit about this slide?

Sheleia: Yes, yes. So if you have joined today and you want to work with me and my team to find capacity building grants, or help you, create a specific strategy on how to cultivate relationships with lenders, or even write your grant proposals, please reach out to us. We would love to hear about your organization and your specific project. And you can find us at www.smpnpc.com/workwithus. As soon as you click on it, you'll be taken directly to our portal, and we look at all of your insights and proposals. And we'll get back with you in the next couple of days.

But please reach out to us if you feel that you need support and extra support throughout this process. We don't want you to do it alone.

Rachel: Awesome. Thanks, Sheleia. And I'll add that to our Event Resources page as well, so folks can reach out to you if they want to chat further.

If you are experiencing Instrumentl for the first time, I highly recommend you use this free trial guide. It basically walks through something you can do every day of your 14-day free trial. It just gives you a little sense -- there's a lot to explore, and it can feel a little overwhelming. So, use this guide. I've just dropped it into the chat. Helpful resource for you.

My last thing, I'd really love everybody to share their feedback. So as a reminder, by submitting, you're entering into a raffle to receive Sheleia’s course. You are getting our freebie. And if you create an Instrumentl account by tomorrow, I will be raffling off a DoorDash gift card. And so, I dropped that info in the chat. I’ll also follow up with information in my follow-up email.

As a reminder, here's all this fun stuff that you can win. I really want to hear your feedback, and I value it so, so much. So, thank you for taking the time to do that.

My very last slide is just what we have coming up. We thank you for spending your afternoon with us. And I'm so glad you all are here. If you want to join us for the next event, I'm meeting on Tuesday with Patrice Davis and Rachel Werner to talk about federal and government grants. And then on Friday, February 23, we're going to be hosting an awesome panel discussion focused on AI and grant seeking. And actually, one of our panelists is in the room with us right now. Very fun.

So, it's here to say. Are you going to hop on the trend and kind of how are you navigating it? So if you're free, it's just putting your name on the list. I'm going to drop that in the chat. Otherwise, anyone that needs to hop off, thank you so much for being here. Sheleia, thank you so much for your expert insight. It was so wonderful having an event with you.

Sheleia: Awesome. And you all, thank you so much. Be sure to fill out that feedback --

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