How to SOAR to Effective Grant Planning and Prospect Research with Rachel Werner
In this Instrumentl Partner Webinar, we learn from Rachel Werner as she breaks down the typical grant lifecycle, planning considerations, prospect research tips, research in action, and more.
By the end of this Instrumentl Partner Workshop, you'll be able to:
- Know what questions you should be asking in planning phases for grants
- 4 clear steps for organizing your grant planning and prospect research
- Understand what is most important to learn about funders
- See how Instrumentl's platform can save you time and money in identifying the right opportunities for your programs
By using that link, you'll save $50 off your first month should you decide to upgrade when your trial expires.
Rachel Werner is the owner and CEO of RBW Strategy, LLC. She has over 18 years of grants experience, and she and her team have collectively helped nonprofits garner over $160 million in grant awards and managed over $2 billion in grant funding. She is an active member of the Grant Professionals Association, Association of Grant Professionals, and is a Certified Grant Professional and Project Management Professional.
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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How to SOAR to Effective Grant Planning and Prospect Research Grant Training Transcription
Will: Hello everybody, welcome to our third Instrumentl partner webinar. These webinars are free educational workshops that are given for grant professionals, in which Instrumentl is partnering with our community partners to provide different educational content on topics related to everything grants.
Prospecting, the discovery process, the actual management process, as well as the reporting process of things, and so this is the third of our series, and we're really excited to bring on Rachel Werner today from RBW Strategy. Rachel and our team have collectively helped nonprofits garner over 160 million dollars in grant awards, and she's also managed over two billion dollars in grant funding with her team. So she comes with the depth of experience as an active member of the GPA, the Association of Grant Professionals, as well as being a certified grant professional, and project management professional. So we're really excited today, because we are going to be talking about how to SOAR to effective grant planning and prospect research. So from here, I’m going to kick it off, and share my screen, and Rachel, why don't you take it from here?
Rachel: Okay, great, Will. Thanks everybody. Thanks for taking the time to join today's session. I think that this is a really interesting discussion, we are going to have some demonstrations. Later, I’m going to be asking for some engagement in the chat box. So it's really an opportunity to kind of dig into grant planning, because I know as a consultant, we've been working with a number of different clients that are either new to the grant-seeking process, or perhaps looking to invigorate their grant seeking process, and just say I don't even know where to start, and I always think we have to start with a good strategy, a good plan before we dig into the research and the writing.
So that's really what we're going to talk about today. So on the next slide I’m going to ask you to share a little bit more about you, because I’m going to be referencing this during the presentation today. So if you could share your name, your organization, and what's your top grant seeking priority this year, and I’m sure you have several, but perhaps just share one that you want to highlight. Also, if you're willing to serve as an example, so if we refer to your project in particular, your organization, please include “Yes,” and we will be referencing that at different points during the presentation today.
We're going to take a minute, and you can continue just adding some information in the chat box while I go through, but, as I said, we're just really looking to get a sense of who's on the call today. So, let's see. We've got Florida State University. We've got the Colorado River. Wow, we've got a whole lot of folks from different places. So thank you. So if you could share your top grant-seeking priority, that would be great as well. That would be extremely helpful to reference. Thank you. As you start to dig in, I’m going to continue talking through the slides. So let's talk about what the conversation is going to be today. I’m going to have about 20-25 minutes of content and then Will is going to lead a demonstration of an Instrumentl tool. We're going to talk through that and use some of the examples that you share in the chat box as examples that we're going to use in the demonstration, and then I’m going to leave about 10-15 minutes at the end for Q&A, and that should be enough time to be before the end of the hour, because I am a stickler for keeping things on time, and keeping on schedule.
So we'll definitely do that, and then you can always follow up with a question or comment after the session, if you had something burning that was not addressed. I appreciate that. So we're going to talk through the grant's life cycle first. Why it's important to think about this in the strategic planning cycle. So you can continue going on, Will, that's fine. Let's talk about the grant’s life cycle. I always like to start with this graphic. So there's five phases in the grant's life cycle, and the one that we're going to be talking about most today is number one, which is the research and strategic planning, because that's really the focus of what we're here for. Then the other phases that I know a lot of people think about, is the application development, which is the actual writing, the award, and project startup, which sometimes doesn't get to be top of mind, but is also critically important. Then we have the monitoring phase, and reporting, and then we have project close-out, which is, in particular, very important for government grants, because of the stringency regarding those closeout requirements. So let's go through these phases a little bit more in-depth, and as I said, we're going to be doing a demonstration, so that can kind of hit on some of the areas related to the prospect research, but really, the first phase is just getting a sense for your organization. What is it that you're trying to accomplish this year? What's your strategic plan? What are the priorities? How does your fundraising plan align with your strategic plan? It's really just kind of getting those ducks in a row.
I think that is critically important, and to me, this is the most important phase of the grant's life cycle, because it sets the tone for how your grant seeking and grant award monitoring process is going to go for the organization. The next phase, which I think that people tend to focus more on, is the writing. So that's when you're trying to gather all the information about the program, putting together applications, getting your core content, getting your budgets, confirming the deadlines, all of those pieces that go in the application, and then the next phase is really focused on the award. So, if you are lucky enough to receive a grant award, that's when, if you do a collaborative proposal, you're letting your stakeholders know. You're also engaging your programmatic, your finance folks, and other people across the organization, to make sure they understand what needs to happen during the award phase. Also think about the data tracking, managing the budget, that sort of thing. When we get to phase four, this is when we talk about award monitoring and management, and I think this is the second most important phase, because this is really, how are you actually being a good steward of those funds? How are you making sure that you are achieving what you said you were going to do? Are you meeting those targets? Does your budget match your actuals? Are there any discrepancies, or are you providing progress updates to the program officers? Just really making sure that you are getting all that is needed with the award, and that you're following up as needed. So in the next phase is the closeout phase. This is really just tying all those loose ends, because there's a lot of close-out reporting requirements for federal grants, and just making sure that you've expended the funds as you said you were going to do, that if there's any final project-related activities, that those are completed.
So it's really just putting a pin on those final things. Just so you know, these slides will be shared after the recording, will be shared, so I’m trying to go through these a little bit quickly, just so that we can make sure we leave time for the demonstration. And also Q&A, so please be mindful that you'll be receiving these after the session.
Okay, and then what should we really be considering? I want you to think about your organizational capacity, and think about all of these phases, what's the time or the resources, either personnel or systems, technology, also the type of effort that's needed. Do you need a lot of time? Some tasks, can they be automated? Also think about your priorities as an organization, and the knowledge of the team members. Are there skills that might be lacking? Do you have to bring in outside support? Think about all of these things. When you look at your life cycle, just think about it for your own organization, I’m curious to see if there's an understanding of your specific issues that might happen at each of these different stages. Like, do you see… Do you think that you might need more resources for the prospect research side? Do you think you might need more research resources for the writing side? So those different areas are something to think about. I would be very mindful of that when you're looking at the life cycle.
Okay, so let's talk about the grant strategy. This is like where, this is really the heart of what we're talking about. When we start thinking about the strategic planning questions, these are some of the questions that you want to think about as you might be updating your strategic plan. You might be adding to it from a previous iteration, especially in light of COVID, and especially in light of some of the changes and pivots your organization has had to make, and I know for a lot of my clients, they have a July 1st start date.
So think about how you might be planning some updates regarding your grants and your fundraising activities starting July 1. What is that going to look like? Think about the resource identification, and the gaps, and services. Also think about, as an organization, operationally, financially, where are you getting a pulse? Understand the why of what you do. Has that changed? Think about how you're tracking your progress, and moving along, make sure that everybody has access to information. So let's think about this in a little bit more detail. In terms of your resource gaps and needs, try to look at them from an operations standpoint, programmatic, and then staffing kind of mixed into that as well. When you think about your resource gaps, are they related to people? Are they related to technology? Facility? So what exactly are the specific resource gaps that you might have? Then think about your goals and priorities. Try to bucket them into things like your operations, your fundraising, or financials, and then programmatic, because those could be very different.
Sometimes when you look at your organization, it's helpful to kind of look at it through different lenses, and get other people involved in the conversation. When you look at your data, how are you tracking it? Are you tracking it through system? Are you tracking it manually? Is this consolidated? In terms of your progress, do you have an evaluation measurement system? How are you tracking this information? Do you have a plan? Is this part of a logic model that you try to set up to kind of measure progress? And we're going to go through what the various components of a logic model are. Also, how often are you doing this? Is it monthly? Quarterly? Semi-annually?
So what's the cadence for this? That's something that you probably will want to consider, and when you think about the needs assessment, I think that's the most critical step to start this process, and I think looking at it pre-COVID, versus where we are now, and have there been any shifts? Have the needs of your target population changed? Think about doing a needs assessment for your organization, and your target population, how are you gathering information, and how are you sharing it with the right stakeholders on the team to make sure that you're moving along as you should, and that if any pivots need to be made, that you're addressing them, Then, as part of the needs assessment process, it's also thinking about the information gathering. What kind of data, and how you're tracking that.
The next step, as part of this process, is the planning, you really want to think about your greatest priorities. Are you going to be looking at your strategic plan, making changes to that? Are you going to be moving forward as you did before, and perhaps there's only some slight tweaks? How are you kind of using other tools to help you think through the priority setting and the planning?
These are some neat tools that we've used in the project management space that I think might be applicable in the strategic planning space as well, that can kind of help organize your thinking. With that, we're going to kind of talk through the Eisenhower Matrix. I don't know if you've seen this before, but it's really helpful to kind of think through how you can prioritize, and this is going back to when I mentioned before about this from an operations, programmatic, and fundraising financial perspective. How are you trying to address those funding gaps and how are you trying to meet the needs of your target population? This kind of helps you determine what the core activities and services that you can provide that are going to meet those priorities are, and then you can kind of look at them in four different quadrants as the “Do, schedule, delegate, eliminate,” and so thinking about this in that way, this is kind of a fun exercise that you can do with other people on your team to help kind of orient your thinking a little bit more, and I think it'll be helpful for you, and this is kind of a fun exercise. You can even do this virtually, using a zoom white board, or through teams, or Google drive, or what-have-you to kind of help you and your team members kind of brainstorm this a little bit more. Then the next one is thinking about your logic model. If you haven't put together a logic model, I think it's really important that you do so for your organization by looking at your resources. Then you know what you're putting into the work. Then your impact, what would you like to achieve? These are layers of thinking about it across the board, and so, one of the resources that I really like is the Kellogg foundation logic model. It's an oldie but goodie, and I think they have a guide, and the link is below that you can reference, and hopefully that can help you. If you haven't developed a logic model, you can use that for your work. Then this is the name of the session, which is SOAR. So I think that the SOAR analysis is really really fun to do, we just did this with a client of ours, and we did this with a client that had 20 staff members, so everybody had some kind of an input, so that's what I like about this, is that it's positive in nature, because you might have heard of a SWOT analysis, which is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. This is thinking through strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results.
So really thinking about it from a positive standpoint, it is kind of piggybacking off the priority setting in the Eisenhower Matrix. What are the assets that your organization can bring to the table and how do we know that we're going to succeed? Where can we capitalize and leverage our positioning? What do we really care deeply about? So I think thinking about this would be an interesting exercise for you and your team.
Okay, next slide. So now we are going to talk about fundraising goals. This is a big part of it. So once you set your priorities and you understand what you're going to be focusing on, think about your fundraising goals, and try to look at them as, what are your conservative goals? And also your target goals, or maybe even a stretch goal that's more of an aspirational goal, and you can organize it by campaign. So the next slide really breaks this down a little bit further and provides a sample spreadsheet that… actually, sorry, it's the slide after this.
The next slide also allows you to think about your programs. So are there major changes happening right now related to COVID? Are you thinking about next steps? I imagine that you are, and I imagine many of the services that you provided have had to change or pivot and so, how does this impact your resource capacity, personnel funding, all of these kinds of things related to the programs? Because that should also be part of the campaigns and the targets. Think about how you're going to raise funds for these different types of programs, and the different types of fundraising campaigns that are used to support them throughout the course of the year.
This is the spreadsheet that I was referencing before, it's very quick and dirty, and I’m sure that you might have something similar, but it really breaks down into the different types of funding streams… Looking at a trends analysis and looking at 2020. Now, 2020 was a little bit of an odd year, because there were a lot of covered relief funding, but I definitely think that there's going to be more opportunities in 2021. Definitely think about a tool like Instrumentl that is going to be highlighting some of those opportunities, especially putting in certain keywords that an opportunity, especially on the federal side, will likely come up, and think about what your minimum goal is to kind of keep the programs running, and what's your stretch goal? So if you're looking to expand into the corporate giving corporate sponsorship space, think about what your 2021 minimum goal is, and your stretch goal, and think about what resources you need in order to get to that stretch goal.
Now think about how are we going to track this? Because there's a couple of different things. One is actually doing the tracking, whether you have a system or tool… are you using teams? Google Drive as a way to kind of share information? Do you have another kind of tracking system that you're using to track task progress? Also your financials, your fundraising activities… Do you have a dashboard that perhaps you're using to capture all this information? Then think about the systems and the procedures to ensure that people are tracking information the same way. So there's a couple of different things. It's the actual tracking, and there's a process for doing the tracking, and so the next one… I have another chat question here… So how have you had to make strategic changes to your organization during the time of COVID, and if so, what has that been? It's been personnel changes, programmatic changes, fundraising targets, I’m curious to kind of get a pulse of where people are, you know as we look at things. So feel free to bring in… I see programmatic changes… I’m going to just take a look at some of the things that come in. Yep. Change the way we serve clients and raise funds. Thank you for sharing that.
Yeah, programmatic, I see a lot of programmatic changes, so that's completely expected… and staffing… Yep. Remote work, looks… also staffing, fundraising. Yep, so this seems to be pretty common from what I’ve seen before, just a lot of programmatic changes, moving to virtual fundraising, I know that virtual events have been very much top of mind, so I appreciate this feedback.
Thank you all for adding some of these notes here, because I think it's helpful for me to see where you are as organizations, and the kind of challenges that you're facing, because I think that what's happening with your organization is probably similar to what's happening with many others. So now we're going to talk a bit about effective prospect researchers. This is where we're going to kind of pivot to how the strategic planning efforts can help you become more effective prospect research. So the next slide we're going to talk about, how can you become more effective grant seekers? And as I said before, a lot of times people come to us and say, we need you to write a grant, but the grant writing is actually a component of the larger grant-seeking process.
We need to kind of look at the totality of the grant's life cycle in order to figure out how these pieces fit together? It's also just thinking about working smarter not harder, and really thinking about what is the end goal, and this is why the priority setting is really important to think about. What are you trying to achieve? What is the impact you're trying to have? If you think about that logic model, it always ends with impact. What is the impact you want to have? And then thinking about doing the research appropriately. So you not only find the right funders, but you eliminate the wrong ones. I can't tell you how many times people have come to me and said, we should go after this, and it turns out it's not the right fit, just by a quick review of their website. So try to eliminate that, so that you can spend your time on the right kinds of cultivation strategies, and also in thinking about your infrastructure. What core information you want to have available, and just thinking about the process, and the plan for going through this approach. And so when we think about prospect research, Next slide… What exactly are we trying to do? We're trying to gather and analyze, we're trying to get as much information as we can about funders that are openly available. We're trying to make sure that this information is accurate, and when we review this information, we can easily determine… is this in line with our organization's goal and mission? We're also trying to figure out those that are the best fits in order to increase the number of applications that we submit and the chances of success. We also want to think about strengthening the relationships we have with funders, because that's really critical. It's an important part of the process, the engagement, the cultivation, with those funders.
Next slide. So what can we find out about funders? And we're going to go through the Instrumentl demo to kind of share more about these funders, but we're trying to get general information, contact information, email, phone, website, all the kind of good stuff. We're trying to get information on the giving cycles, the deadlines, the priorities. What are they focused on? Are they focused on children? Are they focused on animal health? Getting a sense of that, and also looking at the 99… the 990s to kind of review and understand who their past grantees have been, so that you can see if you're in alignment with those previous recipients. And also getting a sense of their current trustees or board members to see if someone from your organization might know somebody from that foundation. And also the staff members of the foundation, and most importantly, thinking about the eligibility and other requirements. Is this an invitation only? Is this something where you are eligible for funding? And that you meet those requirements as outlined in the description for that opportunity. And also, very critical is the geographic area of focus. If you are based, like me, in Maryland, and you see that this funder focuses 95% on California, probably not going to be a fit for you.
Let's talk about the criteria. We're going to talk a little bit more about, how do we kind of figure out and determine what are the best prospects? Because I know sometimes people say, “Well, this might be a right fit…” Well, let's actually put some data to it. So in the next slide, these are some of the different ways that you can weigh criteria… areas of interest, award amounts, grantees, and what I suggest doing is, thinking about putting this in actual numerical values. So, let's say that you're… And I’m going to look through here to see somebody's from the chat box. Sorry, there's a lot of responses here. So I’m looking at somebody's response concerning their priority area focus to secure funding to support youth in Detroit…
Okay, so let's say we're trying to support youth in Detroit, and let's say the area of interest for that funder might be an after-school program. Well, this is an after-school program. If it's a choice between zero, meaning not a fit, five, meaning sort of a fit, and ten, meaning exactly a fit, that would be a 10. But let's say that you were looking for awards in the range of $25,000 - $30,000, and that the award amounts tended to be $5,000-$10,000, maybe that would be a five, because, well, I might go after it if I feel like it could be a secured win, but is it worth my time?
That's how you should weigh these, and it's a good way to come up with it. So if you have a board member that says we should go after this funder, you have a numerical value that can be assigned to that funder, and you can say if this funder, let's say there's six of these, if it's between, you know, 45 to 60 scored points, that's a good one, that's a good prospect. Then you can scale them that way, and it's a great way to collectively come up with a determination of how you would want to prioritize those prospects. And then, on the next slide, there… I am going to quickly go through it. This is just what could be included in your grants calendar, and this is something that can be an output of Instrumentl as well, because it's included as part of the tool, and then this is just some critical information that you want to have handy as you build out your grants calendar, once you've identified those prospects. And then the next slide… What you want to do is, think about incorporating the prospects into your calendar or software. So if you don't have one, you could always create one in Google Sheets or Excel, or you can use a tool like Instrumentl to track information. So it's a good way to kind of consolidate everything. So now we're going to talk about using Instrumentl in action, and we're going to use a couple of the examples that were in the chat box to show how this gets done. I can say for our team, we have 12 different folks scattered all over the U.S that provide outsourced grants, support to different nonprofits, and I can say that we love this tool, because it's a great way to consolidate the research, it's a great way to track information. It's quick, it's helpful, and I think that it's a value-added to any organization.
So, Will, I’m going to leave it to you to do a demonstration of the prospect research in action.
Will: Sure, Rachel, why don't you select somebody from the audience, from the chat, and then we can walk through setting up a project together. Think through some of the keywords that we might come up with for somebody in the audience today.
Rachel: Sure, just give me a second, I’m just looking through a couple of them, because they're a little bit scattered, okay? Here's one, I’m going to use your… Linda, looking for funding for capital projects. So this is for lab equipment for the new Center for Science and Technology, and funding for the building.
Will: Cool, so the first thing we're going to do is, we're going to create a new project in Instrumentl, so if you don't already have a free account, you can do so by using Rachel's link in the chat today. We'll also send it in the slides, but essentially, you're going to go and create a new project, title your project, select nonprofit, and then in this case, I don't think it's going to be faith-based, so we can go ahead and select now.
Rachel: Hold on, it's a university, so just so you know… so that's something important, you want to designate if it is a university.
Will: Yeah. Yeah, are you… do you want to use a nonprofit example, since most of the attendees are from the nonprofit? That might be… Yeah, why don't we? We'll see if we can find another example.
Rachel: Okay, let's see. How about nonprofit helping the homeless, and elderly seeking startup funding.
Will: Okay, so here we have a project for the homeless and elderly. I’m going to go ahead and select nonprofit, and then no… and then in terms of the location, the project… Did they mention a location at all?
Rachel: This is… I don't… I don't see a location.
Will: Alright, so let's go national in scope. So that'll be the United States, and then, for fields of work, we'll probably find things in community and human services, as well as, potentially, in some health… So as we scroll through here, Rachel, if there's anything that would be interesting, why don't you let me know and I’ll select it for you?
Rachel: Okay, so if we're talking about funding for the homeless, and helping the elderly… so basic human needs would probably be a good one, because that can cover a lot of different areas.
Will: Community services, probably.
Rachel: community services. Food access and hunger could be.
Will: Okay. Homelessness services, definitely.
Rachel: Absolutely. Human and social services…
Will: Social services, yeah. Somebody in the chat actually DM’d me and said, addictions, substance abuse, potential…
Rachel: Thank you.
Yeah, so there could be a number of different things, and you can think about your target population, because I’m sure you can come up with 10 terms that easily identify with the target population, because I know that we work with an organization that provides basic needs of services to people experiencing homelessness, so it can cover a broad range of areas, so I think
Will: I just selected poverty alleviation and services.
Rachel: That's a good one.
Rachel: Senior services, right? because it's elderly… Supportive housing and shelters,
Will: Perfect. Let's go through health and see if there's anything interesting here. Could be… it might be good in terms of dimension.
Rachel: Yeah, [inaudible] dimension.
Will: That could potentially-
Will: Alright, just taking some of the feedback from the chat as well. Alright, great. So from here, we'll select “No,” for agricultural producers, and then if there's any minimums, this is where your organization… [crosstalk] [crosstalk], and from here we have the grants, so if we want to go ahead and set a minimum, we can do that. Rachel, do you typically set a minimum with your folks, or do you keep it as no minimum?
Rachel: I put no minimum but the maximum, Will, I do put a maximum in there, if there is a range.
Will: Got it. Okay, so because we don't have the criteria from the person, we'll just leave those as is. Most of the time you're going to select program and gen-op, I think, for most programs, but what do you think would be applicable in this person's case?
Rachel: I would put gen-ops and project program.
Will: Cool, from here you pretty much just save it, and then we'll essentially have set up a search, and this search will only go through the active grant opportunities that you can apply to, so going back to what Rachel referenced, in terms of going through things that are actually open for applications, that's what you're going to see on Instrumentl, as opposed to some other tools that might show you inactive opportunities as well. So we sift through some of that initial stuff for you. So as we start to sift through this, it's going to lead us to our matches tab, and you'll see here that we've essentially found 175 grants for this particular project, and pretty much the first thing I always recommend people do is check out the filter section here, because you can actually isolate it based off the funding use and the funder type.
You can do it based off of the program side of things, or the gen-op side of things, or you can isolate for just the corporate grants if you know that your organization is better at that than others, and then as you start to work your way through this, what you're going to notice is that whenever it's possible, we're going to show you information about the funder that's summarized for you, in terms of where past grantees have come from, including information about, like, the medium grant amounts, where the funder’s based out of, and the grant eligibility information is all here, too. You'll also be able to go into the “view 990 report” section, in which it'll pull the latest reports that are with the IRS on file. You'll see some of the information that Rachel was referencing earlier in your prospect criteria, which was things like, seeing if you know any of the key people, for example, or looking at the over the years trends for the giving patterns, or even just going through the states and seeing if there is a particular state of interest that we want to filter for. So this person didn't include their specific location, but if, for example, we were looking for Florida funding, we can focus in on just the ones from Florida, and another tip for Instrumentlers out there, that I always recommend is, if you see something clickable, like this link, always click through, and the reason why is, because this is a recipient profile in which, what you can do is, you can check out what other awards they have received from other foundations, so this can be a great way where, if it's a bigger organization, they will have a more comprehensive list of past awards, and what you can do is, you can go through these past recipients, and essentially do a reverse search based off of them. So going back to that funding criteria that you shared in an earlier slide, Rachel… When people are thinking about the different organizations that might have similarities in funding and whatnot, that can be a helpful way to do things, as well. What else do you look for when you are working through Instrumentl with your team?
Rachel: Some of the things that we look for, I really like when they are the highlighted keywords that are definitely a match, because we actually use that in our reports that we export to different clients, because then they can see what the keywords are that have been highlighted, and so things like here… senior services, dementia, Alzheimer’s, because that's going to help us when we get to the writing phase, determine how we want to shape and pitch the proposal to potential funders.
That's something that I see as really interesting. I actually did a little Instrumentl report for a review of Instrumentl, just a demonstration for their specific report last week, and they just found it fascinating how you could really go through each different funder and get some of that information right up front. I also like the fact that unsolicited are not included, so I think that, as you know, that can be quite a challenge when you're trying to overcome that barrier, so being able to find open opportunities for competition, I think, is really critical. When you're at that face you don't have to figure out, what's the cultivation strategy? Is it worth it trying to pursue? I think that this is a really helpful tool.
Will: Totally, and something that's super helpful to remember for everybody, is that we are only showing you those active opportunities, and so every single week, once you set up this search for homeless and elderly projects, you're going to get an email reminder when there are new grant matches that fit your criteria, so instead of having to do your own sleuthing, we've seen it termed as grant sleuthing before, we take care of that side of things for you, and then whenever you have something that you want to save, you can save it into the tracking side of things, as well.
Down here, you can write a note. It might be “review on Friday,” and then you click that save button, and you'll be able to select the status. If you want to do that, change the submission goal… maybe we want to be a little bit more proactive, and set it for the first, and then we'll save that. What you'll see is, you will see that that grant then moves to the grant tracker. So this grant tracker is pretty much a more-upgraded version of old school spreadsheets, and that you can essentially do a lot of the grant management side of things that Rachel was referencing in her presentation earlier, around the notes for your team, and the collaboration side of things, all on Instrumentl.
If, for example, you're working with another team member, and you want to put in the task for submission, but you want to have it be one person on the team, like Jane Doe I can schedule Jane Doe to take care of this by the 30th, and then set that in place. So it'll only notify Jane Doe and whatnot, and what's nice is that, as you're working on this grant, everything is in the same place, so the 990 report is here, the saved history across all the different years, as well as everything that you have regarding the notes for this. Then if you ever want to generate a report, you can do so in this top right corner. All you need to do is click that share report button, and then you would be able to generate a report based off of the different project, or the year that you are working on. For example, we have our homeless and elderly project, we might want to pull the ones that we are researching, and then for 2021, and that would allow us to generate a PDF or a CSV report.
This can be really helpful when you're just trying to organize your thoughts. I’ll show you an example. When you have a lot more grants saved here, pretty much it allows you to just have everything in one place, and organize by whatever it is that you might find most valuable here.
Rachel: There's a question that came up that I want to make sure is addressed… Is showing all opportunities… because someone… Mary Kay says, “Does Instrumentl will only show foundations accepting applications? What if we want to see all foundations giving in a specific area for a project?” Someone else was interested in that response, as well. Basically, for those that might have it where unsolicited applications are not accepted,
Will: Sure. So if you want to add a particular opportunity to your own grant tracker that wasn't in your matches, all you need to do is go to the “quick find” in the top left, search for the foundation based off of the EIN number, or by the name, and then when you pull something up, like I can pull the Clif Bar Family Foundation up, what you can do is, when you see this funder profile, you're going to see a save button in the top where you can save them, and then you can still add them into your tracker.
You can name it whatever you like and then add that individually, in terms of that side of things, but in terms of what the matching algorithm will give you… The matching algorithm will be exclusively for the ones that are open, in terms of the matches that are being displayed for you. Cool. Awesome. Well, Rachel, is there anything else that you would want to share, based on the way that your team uses it? I know that you guys recently just moved from, I think, 20 projects, to 30 projects... I’m curious if you had anything else you wanted to share in terms of the highlights on anything that you would want to look up here?
Rachel: I mean, what I think is, it's really shared, the way that we do prospect research, so before, we would kind of traditionally do a semi-annual or annual prospect research refresh, where we cull through. When we come up with 20 prospects this way, we can kind of have that project open, in Instrumentl, and therefore we provide updates based on the keywords that have been identified, and therefore, we can share more up-to-date information with clients on a regular basis. I think that to me has been a different way that we've approached this work, so it is sort of like an ongoing researcher, if you will, through AI, rather than us doing the specific research, and then you'll get notified via email when those recent changes have been made.
If there's a different deadline, or if there's a new funder identified based on the search criteria… I’m going to wrap it up, so I leave time for Q&A, so I apologize, this has been really quick. I’m trying to share a lot of information in a short amount of time, but you will get the slides and the recording. If there's anything that you missed, please let me know, but here's the takeaways, really. The important thing’s to really make sure that, if there's anything that comes out of today's session, is make sure you identify your priorities and your funding needs. Make sure you figure out what the strategic priorities for your organization are, how have they changed, and how also it impacts your fundraising targets? Then figure out, what are the criteria for you to determine what a good prospect is? How are you going to figure out, once you do all this great research, how you're going to determine which ones are the ones to pursue? Also think about the information on prospects, how you can apply some of the grants, and the grand strategic planning, and so forth using Instrumentl, and try to apply those two together. Think about the kind of planning that you do as an organization, the writing preparation that you do, and make sure you find a way to track information, how you're going to maintain it? What kind of system? Are you doing this online? Through a tool? Are you doing this manually?
How is that information being shared with others for your prospects, for your application process, and tracking it, as well as thinking about your fundraising targets. There's a couple different pieces to think about tracking. So I think that's mostly it, in terms of the content.
Will: So, cool. In terms of, before we open up for questions, let's do the wrap-up steps, just in case some people need to leave before that, and then we can open up for any Q&A, and we are open for questions as well. Rachel, why don’t you take over in terms of some of the next steps here?
Rachel: Sure. If you need to reach me, my contact information is located here in the slide. I also offer pro bono discovery calls, coaching sessions, if there's something specific, you can always send me an email. I do respond to those emails, and you can also set up an invite for a brief chat if there's like, a burning question that you have that might be easier to discuss over the phone, happy to do that. You can connect with me, and there's also the Instrumentl link, so that you can use that to be able to access your demonstration and try it out yourself.
Will: Cool, and we do have some next steps, and for those that stick with us until the end, we'll go over our raffle for this time, as well. First thing is, if you haven't already created your account, you can sign up for your 14-day trial using Rachel's link instrumentl.com/rbw. If you already signed up, and you just want to save $50 off your first month, you can do so with RBWSTRATEGY50. Then please submit your feedback form for today's workshop, since that allows us to figure out what sort of programming you would find most valuable in future sessions. As well, if you haven't already signed up for some of our future sessions, we have sessions all the way through July scheduled out, so be sure to check out our events calendar for that. For today's attendees, we are raffling away a 60-minute Grants and Fundraising Strategy and Coaching session with an RBW Strategy associate, so that can be a great way for you to apply some of the things that we have gone over today. We are also raffling away a one-on-one subscription to Instrumentl, so to be eligible for this, all you need to do is one of three things, or all three things, if you want to increase your odds. You can start your Instrumentl trial with Rachel's link by the end of tomorrow, or you can submit the webinar feedback form, which you will receive in a few minutes from now, and then you can also Tweet or post on LinkedIn sharing what you learned from today's workshop. We'll announce the winner on Friday, but other than that, do you have any questions? We can take people off mute, or you can feel free to put them in the chat box, and we'll answer them for you.
Rachel: Okay. Okay, I guess it's a question. Program staff often ask us to prospect research before they've developed project plans, so then you don't have the full scope of information. It can be frustrating. I’m curious, this happens quite a bit, because when we talk to programmatic folks, they say they might not have a lot of time, and they think, well, if you're doing the fundraising, then that's your job, it's not my job. I’m wondering if there's kind of a quick and dirty checklist that you can share with them that might help them hone their thinking, but be something that they could respond to more quickly… or something that'll give you a little bit more information, like, for instance, when we were starting to do prospect research with different clients, I had a jot form, which is like a survey monkey tool to kind of ask and solicit feedback, because you really, if you don't have the full scope of information, it's going to be very difficult for you to do the research.
So I’m wondering, what kind of quick and dirty form might be helpful to solicit that kind of feedback from program staff who don't have a lot of time? Any other questions?
Will: I had a question for you, which is, when you are forming those goals or the prioritization criteria, how do you actually, if you've never formed something like that before, who do you ask? Like what stakeholders are you asking those questions to? or is it something in which you're taking the point on it first, and then just presenting your first draft? What does that look like?
Rachel: You're talking about the Eisenhower Matrix.
Rachel: Okay. It really depends on the organization, but I think it's very helpful to have different stakeholders at different levels of the organization. It also depends on, if you're trying to get a full scope, if you're trying to look at it from an organizational standpoint, across operations, fundraising, financials, and programs, who are some good representative stakeholders that could be part of this focus group? I think that that would be some people that may be doing the direct work, it could be some people in the c-suite, it could be maybe even one or two board members, and it could be a couple of other operational folks. So you want to have a good mix of people, because I think that it's not helpful, if you're talking about programs, to not have the people who are actually doing the actual programs to be part of the conversation, and that goes with almost anything.
Will: Paula asks, “If a funder denies your LOI in one year, is it appropriate to submit it again the next year?”
Rachel: If it's the right fit, yes. As long as the criteria is there, then I don't think that that's an issue, and you might want to even try to reach out to the funder, if they allow it, to kind of engage and cultivate a relationship with them to just say, “Hey I’m submitting an LOI, is this still your focus areas? We just want to make sure that we're in line with your priorities.” Because sometimes what they say on their website could be a little bit different than what you're actually submitting, and you just want to make sure you're not wasting your time.
Will: Liz is wondering how one would assess how to find, like, a good grant writer? What are some of the questions that you might ask when you're assessing that sort of fit?
Rachel: I’ll tell you what people ask me. I think that the thing that's important to think about are, one, what is your pricing? What's your budget for this type of support? I don't like the question of, “What is your success rate?” because I think it's more important to think about the process that one goes through, because success rate is really determined on a lot of different factors, and sometimes they're outside of your control. I would ask them, how they do prospect research, how they would engage with different stakeholders to gather information, getting writing samples of their previous work and being very focused on what kind of support you need, because some grant writers are mostly focused on federal grants, some are focused on family foundations, and more of the sort of storytelling approach, so I would be very clear about the type of writer that you're looking for.
Will: Okay, any other questions from the folks in the chat? Or there might be some earlier that we may have missed. Let's take a look. I guess… Well, I have a question about the SOAR model portion. So when you get to the SOAR model, and you're… let's go to that slide… and you're asking these questions, obviously, like, these questions are all very helpful, but how would you prioritize which ones are, like, your sweet spot questions as you're working with your clients? Like, which ones do you find if you were to put an asterisk on, like, the top two or three questions in each of these, what would you say are the ones that you always draw attention to in your consulting sessions?
Rachel: I think that the first one is strength. Let's say, what are we most proud of as an organization? Because I think what's interesting is that different people within the organization are going to have different responses. I think that that's really important to get that feedback, because, depending on if you're coming in from a programmatic stance, from an operation stance, or a financial fundraising stance, or what-have-you, it really helps to kind of get that feedback, because people might draw in different results, and different feedback based on that question. I also think that the question about what makes us unique, what is a differentiator, is also very very interesting, and I think that that's a good one to ask, because a lot of these are similar in nature, so I think that I would say that the… just pick a couple that would be the most relevant for you. Because it also varies between different types of organizations, I think that those two would be a good one to start with on strengths.
Will: Got it. We've got a question from the audience, which is, how can a young, upcoming organization break into the muddle of winning grants in a market where there are already established partners?
Rachel: What I would suggest is thinking about whom you can partner with, because I think that collaborative proposals are very important right now, and funders really like them. So if you work in a space, and you're focused on the same target population as a more well-established funder that has, perhaps, a proven track record of grant wins and awards, perhaps thinking about doing something collaboratively with them is a good way to start. I also do think that having those conversations with funders is really important. Don't rely just on the writing, because a lot of times when we write proposals, like, for instance, one of our clients, they've been communicating with this large foundation in DC for a long time, established a relationship, and then they said, “Okay, we're going to give you this amount of money, and then the proposal also just becomes ancillary to that, because they've already established that relationship. So I think that it's just something to think about. Cultivation could just mean contacting the program officer and just having a dialogue. It doesn't necessarily have to be a wealthy, high-net-worth funder or board member, well connected, it could just be a simple conversation. A lot of the community foundations and private foundations will engage in those conversations with potential grant recipients.
Will: Laurie asks, “Are there any specific startup grants for new organizations that you know of?”
Rachel: It's hard to say without doing the research, okay? I couldn't answer that because it all depends on where you're located, and what the landscape is in particular… because you're talking about capacity building, I think.
Will: Cool. One person asked, “My organization is tiny, there's no endowment, and the board is mostly educators without contacts to grantmakers. Under these circumstances, is the best tactic a phone call or an email and how do you get in in the first place?”
Rachel: If they offer a phone number, you can call. Corporate foundations are a little less open to feedback in advance, so an email could be appropriate, but definitely for a private community foundation. Family foundations can be a little tricky, or a government agency, for sure.
Will: Okay, we have a few, one or two more minutes if anyone has any final questions, and then we can wrap things up.
Rachel: Thank you, everybody, for your feedback, your responses, and your engagement. I really appreciate it, because I think that it's great for you to connect with each other, just as it is to share your information with me.
Will: Rachel, I guess as we wrap things up here, what would be your top piece of advice for people, regardless of where they're at in their fundraising strategy? Like, what would you say is always one of those nuggets that you like to share with everybody?
Rachel: I would say, if we're going back to that grant's life cycle, research is a critical linchpin in your grant-seeking process. Spend time on the research. If you're going to do it, do it well.
Will: Awesome. That's great, great one to end on. Thank you so much for attending, everybody, and make sure you submit that feedback form afterwards, since we will share that feedback with Rachel, as well, so she can continue to work on more topics that are of interest to you guys, and we'll see you guys, hopefully, in our next one on May 11th. Other than that, we'll see you guys next time. Thank you so much, guys.
Rachel: Thank you. Thank you for participating.