Getting Stellar Support Letters for Your Grants with Rachel Waterman

In this Instrumentl Partner Webinar, we learn from Rachel Waterman as shares how to unlock the power of support letters in getting more grant funding.

By the end of this Instrumentl Partner Workshop, you'll be able to: ​

  • Understand where stellar support letters fall into a grant narrative strategy
  • ​Start implementing strategies to obtain support letters that help your grant applications stand out
  • ​​Understand how Instrumentl saves you time and money in identifying the right opportunities for your programs

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Rachel Waterman has over 25 years of community development and grant writing experience, is Grant Professional Certified (GPC), a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), a Grant Professionals Association (GPA) Approved Trainer, and an expert in grant management. Rachel is the CEO and Founder of GDS Grants.

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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Getting Stellar Support Letters for Your Grants - Grant Training Transcription

Will: Hello, everyone, and welcome to getting stellar support letters for your grants with Rachel Waterman. This workshop is being recorded and slides will be shared afterwards. So keep your eyes peeled for a follow up email later today if you want to review anything from this presentation. In the case where it's your first time here, this free grant workshop is an Instrumentl Partner webinar. These are collaborations between Instrumentl and Community Partners to provide free educational workshops for grant professionals. Our goal is to tackle a problem that grant professionals often have to solve while sharing different ways that Instrumentl's platform can help grant writers win more grants. Instrumentl is the institutional fundraising platform. If you want to bring more out of your grant prospecting, tracking, management and bring it all into one place, we can help you out. You can set up your own personalized grant recommendations using the link that is shared in the chat instrumentl dot com slash GDS. Lastly, be sure to stick around for today's entire presentation. At the end, we're going to be sharing with you the three prizes that we're raffling away. They're valued at over fifteen hundred dollars. So, more details to come after Rachel's presentation. Now, with that housekeeping out of the way, I'm very excited to introduce Rachel to the stage. She has twenty five years of community development and grant writing experience, is a grants professional certified fundraising executive, a grant professional association approved trainer, and an expert in grants management. She is the CEO and founder of GDS Grants. Rachel, take it away. And if you have any questions along the way, folks, just leave a double pound sign in front of it, so that we can easily keep track for the Q&A section at the end.

Rachel: And all it was missing was a drum roll. Thank you, Will. I appreciate that. So Will is going to promise to help me with moving a little bit through the slideshow. So other than that, I'm super excited to be here with all of you today. We are going to talk about getting stellar support letters for your grants, and if you could, in the chat, if you haven't already shared with us who you are, where you're coming from, and how you're doing with support letters. If you have any questions, I'm going to be trying to read them, and Will is going to try to help us. And we're going to try to make this as participatory as we can. You are welcome to turn on your cameras and you're welcome to send comments in the chat. Questions, as Will said, do a double hashtag to make it easy for us to to find them. OK, so are we ready to go? And feel free to have lunch. I know it's lunch time for a lot of people. Here we go.

All right, so a little bit about me. As Will said, I've been writing grants for a long time, and I am coming to you from Florianopolis, Brazil. A little bit why I wanted to talk about support letters is because when you write lots of grants, you develop feelings about different components of them, right? So I want to start today with just asking a little bit about how you feel about support letters. So these are your choices, OK? A, I dread it when support letters are required. It's such a waste of time. I don't see the point. It just gives me more work to do. Right. Choice, number 2, B. I love talking with my clients or my partners to ask for their support letters. It re-energizes me about my program. Or C and it is July. Last year, but the shortest application periods imaginable, I'm exhausted and I have no idea why I even thought I had time for this workshop today. Or D, all of the above. So I'm going to give you a second to do your poll, and I'm going to go back to telling a little bit about me and GDS.

So GDS, we support multiple non-profits at once and we are always working on multiple applications at the same time. We do about two hundred and fifty to three hundred proposals a year for our clients. And there's not often any time when we're not having to gather support letters. And so when it's time to gather support letters, of course, you know, you need to do it quickly and you need to do it well. And so we've developed a system and we're here to share it with you today.

So, Will, what are the results of our poll?

Will: As you can see--

Rachel: Seventeen percent said they dread it. All right, so we've got a positive group. Eight percent are burned out. Those are the honest people in the group. And then we've got our do-gooders. Thirty four percent are really excited about support letters. That's great. So you're going to be even more excited today with our tips. And maybe you bahumbuggers for eight percent, hopefully we'll give you some new perspective on support letters. And I'm kind of with you, D, all of the above. Kind of just depends on what second that I'm answering the question, right?

All right. So let's move forward. We're going to give something to everyone here today. Oh, that went too fast. So I started by asking you guys how you feel about support letters. So just to make sure we're all on the right page, I wanted to start with the definition of feelings. So, it's interesting, because I went to go look up the definition of feelings for this workshop, and there are lots of different definitions of feelings. So, feeling: an awareness by your body of something in or on it. That's like after working from home for the last twelve months, my pants feel tight. I put these to put some context clues in for everyone just so that everyone can make sure they find the relevance in their own life. Feeling: an emotional state of reaction. That's like I just subscribed to Instrumentl and I'm feeling really confident about grant seeking. Or feeling might be wanting to help someone who's sick or hungry. Like you feel for that agency whose application just got torn to shreds by the review panel. Or maybe feelings: the plural state of the word, meaning the person's state of emotions. Like I try not to hurt their feelings when I told them it was a ninety nine point nine percent chance they weren't a good fit for that grant opportunity. Or feeling: like an unreasonable belief or expectation. Like I have the feeling we're going to get this grant. Right, and they're not going to even--what does it say, because my chat box is in the way--they're going to give us even more than we requested, right? All right, let's see. But the reality is feelings are temporary, right? All of these feelings, so we are not going to talk about feelings anymore today. Feelings are not temporary. We don't need a temporary solution. We need a permanent one.

So we are going to talk about strategy, system, and scale. All right. So grant writing, we all know is a long range game, which means you need to have a long range plan, right? So, no, nothing temporary. I say this in jest, but I also mean it, like no matter how you feel about the support letters, whether you're an A, B, a C or a D person, the important thing to remember is the feelings aren't going to get you the success, but a strategy will. So we're going to talk today about what a good strategy is for getting stellar support letters. We're going to share with you our system for doing that. And then I talk about scale, right? Because, well, we'll talk about scale. Let's leave that as a surprise. All right.

So strategy. So let's talk a little bit about the pros and cons of support letters. Throw them out to me. My eight people, my letter was C, right, my eight percent of people who hate support letters, you're not even sure why you're here, tell me why you hate support letters. What's there to hate about them? Give me the cons. If you hate it, what was it--you get stressed about getting them from people in time. OK. Yeah, you know, you have to put your trust into someone else, right?

Will: There's other people mentioning.

Rachel: In the time--everyone's really concerned about the time. Hold on, the same letter over and over. Right. Time. Drafted language just gets--no one ever adds anything, no one adds anything. That's like the same letter again, right? People write crummy letters, bad letters, yes. People don't know what to say, and I'm not sure how to--great, OK, we're going to answer that question. People just want you to write the letters. That's not a complaint. Hold on. I don't hate support letters, I just wonder why I have to write templates. OK, that's right. All right, what else are some of the things you guys hate. Hate time, it seems like the really big one. The fact that the letters seem to be the same and that we get bad letters. Right. Do we have any other major things why people hate them? OK. Yeah, hard to make them stand out, that kind of fits in with bad letters and them all sounding the same, right.

So what about some pros? You don't know the perspective of the writer. I'm writing that down. What about some pros, the people who love them? There were thirty four percent of you, so what do you love about them?

Will: Some people are mentioning the ability to present a new perspective and show information that might not otherwise show in the application. Sharing their story.

Rachel: Yes.

Will: Katie's impression is that they can make or break your application.

Rachel: OK, well, if they're going to break your application, you don't put them in, but they can make an application for sure. Shows their support in the community, excellent. Right. Sharing personal stories creates an emotional connection. It's an opportunity that sometimes you don't have in your application. Let's see. Yes. All right, affirm the impact of our organization. Yes, reaffirms the mission. So it takes a lot of time. It reaffirms the impact and mission of our organization. Right. The letters can be crummy or stakeholders have the opportunity to learn about who you are and your projects and your ideas.

So the thing that's really special about support letters is that they really can provide a dynamic to your application that you cannot really achieve from the other components of the application. I mean, each component of an application is special in and of itself, and there's ways to maximize it, right? But let's talk about how to maximize the support letter component. Oh, wait, what did Vicki say? Yes, that's a good one. They're an acknowledgment that no single organization can solve any one large problem. And you can highlight your partnerships through those support letters. So, you guys mentioned a lot of the cons that we listed here as well.

Some of the pros, I did want to go over really quickly, that may or may not have been mentioned. But they're an opportunity to connect with your supporters, right? Share updates, news, and results. They're an opportunity to ask for support. Solidify allegiance. I'm going to show you some examples of these different aspects of support letters. It's a reminder--someone said this--it's a reminder of the impact of our work. The fact that they can be optional means that you have the option to stand out from the stack instantly just by doing it. And then if you do a good job at it, you get to stand up even further out of the pack, right? That was the next bullet. Look at that. So few people are good at support letters, and if you can be good at it, you can be the best, and you can really make your application stand out. Something that I love about support letters is there's not really any rules. I mean, sometimes there's rules, but typically there's no rules. And it really allows you the opportunity to be creative in what your support letters look like, what they contain, how they connect with readers and things like that. Connection. Some of the people touched on this in their comments, but it's really great and it's an easy way to share the program or the organization's successes. It's an opportunity to connect with a heartfelt or emotional story. It's a way for the recipients to connect directly to the granters. And we're going to talk a little bit more about that in just a minute. And it's an opportunity to include things that you may not have been able to or weren't allowed to or from a different angle than you were able to within the narrative, and the narrative restrictions. And, you know, other people can say things about you that you just can't say about yourself. So, the support letters are an opportunity to take advantage of all those things.

OK, so I'm going to assume now that I've won your hearts for support letters and you're coming with me on my journey to, OK, now I can love them, show me how to get them. All right. So, the most important thing for getting support letters is that they're meaningful. That's how you make them stand out from the stack. So, to make them meaningful, it's important for you to know the message you're looking to convey, and how to do that, and how to deliver it, OK? And, often, you'll want to deliver that. Yes, you're going to get the slideshow. And you're going to want to deliver that. You may have one message, but it may sound different from the different people that your support letters come from, and it may be delivered differently. So, that's where strategy comes in.

So some things to think about. You know, what important program features do you want to make sure get highlighted? What story do you want to make sure gets shared that either wasn't asked for in the application, didn't fit in the application, wasn't allowed to be included in the application. So again, what information could you not fit in the narrative, or was it in there and you want to re-emphasize it. That you can use the angle of your support letters to gain that extra emphasis? Or is there a gap or a weakness in your proposal that you can address or fill with a high quality support letter? And then, we, as a team in my office, we go through the actual NOFO priorities and its evaluations and scoring rubrics. And those aren't the same things. Like we actually look at the priorities, like what it says for eligibility requirements and its priorities for funding. And we look at each of those like keywords that's in there, and we make sure that we have a support letter that ties in to each of those key areas. And then same thing for the scoring rubric. We make sure that our support letters each sort of contribute to that story from each of those items in the request for proposal or in the grant application. OK, and so it's a very strategic approach to looking at what we want our support letters to include and how we want them to build upon what's already in the application.

And then you consider, well, who's best to convey that message? And, you know, partner letters are often required, but support--and that's the difference. You know, are partnership letters requested, or are support letters requested. And there is a distinction there. Because support letters are an advocacy of your program. They're not necessarily I'm an involved service deliverer or a person who helps make this, a partner that makes this program happen. So there's a distinction. But we're talking about support letters, the broader version, I mean, the broader definition there. And so support letters may come from partners and partner letters are great because they're an opportunity to talk about how the program is implemented. They can indicate greater capacity, leadership. You can build upon your partner's leadership and results as well. But they don't have to be partners. And here's where you can start to get really creative in support letters. So when we have support letters, we look to include support from clients, current clients, former clients, family members of clients. This is an easy way to hear the client's story. It's an easy way for you to document that you include your clients in the level of the program beyond as a service recipient. And it gives them an opportunity to advocate for those support for other people like themselves to take, you know, it's an empowering thing. You're not going to ask someone that's not a success story to write a letter. So, you know, it's really like a badge of success. And it shows that you're listening to people. So client stories, family members, former clients, alumni success stories. Staff, you can include a support letter from staff. Again, depending on what the grant's about and the funders. This is a great opportunity to show equity and capacity. You know, what it's really like at your organization, not just what you say it's like. Program volunteers. Board members. Get a support letter from another funder. That's always a really great way for people to talk at a different level about the merits of your program and have it not come from yourself. And elected officials. I love getting letters from elected officials, especially for going for a government grant. There's nothing that says you can't have a letter of support from even a government official who will be eventually looking at the application. If you get it in the right time frame, if you get it outside any public periods of non communication. That's called different things in every community. Or it can be any other person that's influential in the field or in the community or in an association of the industry that's going to yield influence or document a point for you. OK.

So here's just a few examples I wanted to show off some of the letters that we've received recently. This is a standard sort of partner letter. And I put it up just to remind you that strong partner letters specify how long they've been in partnership, the parameters of the current partnership and then the specifics. And so I laid that out here for you to see, that these are really like non-negotiable components to a good support letter from a partner. And then over here, I wanted to draw your attention. This letter--there was an issue that we felt was not as strong in our application as we wanted it to be--was the funder's priority on organizations with, you know, with this ACEs training in place. And so we made sure that the support letters specified the role of the ACEs training in the work that we did to have that extra touch about checking that off so they knew that we were cognizant of that priority of theirs.

OK, so using support letters that aren't so current. So what we do is if we're doing a support letter for a very important application, we'll ask for it to be directed for that one and then we'll ask them if they mind, if we maintain an unaddressed one on file and if we're allowed to use it. Some people will say, yes. We'll ask them if they want to see it again and sign it, or may we keep a digital signature on file? We ask them what they're comfortable with us keeping and in what format we're allowed to keep it. And then we make a note of it. And if we're allowed to use it, then we'll use it. And if we're not, then we'll readjust it and put the thing and send it to them again, we'll just make sure that we time it. Let me see. OK, yes, good point. OK, all right. So here's another example. This is from an alumnus, and I apologize about the black circles on people's faces. I didn't know how to blur and I wanted to protect people's privacy. So some of them have pictures. So we like to include pictures. Pictures are a thousand words. And it's a great way for them to connect quickly with who's communicating with them. This is a letter from an alumnus. And you'll see that this is a great letter because it can be used to support a lot of different grant applications. She talks about being in the program as a three year old, coming back to volunteer as a teen, and then how it's impacted her being in medical school. So obviously, she's a success story, and there's a lot of versatility to this letter. OK, and there are more.

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Here's one that is from a parent of a client and it enables the--parents are great because they can give you a perspective that you really just can't get another way sometimes in your narrative. And it's really a human story. So I like this down here. As a parent, this is a way to really connect with your funders. Of course, it does depend on who is your funder. You know, part of the strategy of picking the right angle for your support letters. But this is a great--no. So hold on one second, I will answer the question about a template for people to sign waivers in just a second. Make sure I get back to that, Will, if I forget.

OK, and then here's one from an elected official. And you see his letter specifies the mission of the department that we were writing to funding for and encourages them to fund the proposal. So we were actually applying to the county, and we got a county commissioner to write to the department saying that he supported the application.

And there's an example from a city commissioner also in the packet that you'll get with the slideshow. And that one's from a city commissioner we were going for county funding, and we got the city commissioner to write to the county. So we're always trying to go one step up. And when we're going for state funding, we'll get our county commissioner or our state reps to write for the state.

So, this one was from a parent. And I really like this one a lot because it really shows that human connection. If you look in here, she talks about how she can see the growth in her daughter from her daughter's participation in our program. And so there are things that's undeniable. You don't have to have to justify it, prove it. There's no denying the story, and they're impactful. I believe they're impactful, I hope you like them, too. OK.

Oh, but hope is not a strategy. So you need a system to get really good letters like this without taking a lot of time, right? A lot of you complain about the time. So I think I did just address how letters cannot look the same, right? Getting them from different people, from different angles, making sure they come from different perspectives. They're written from the perspective of the person. There's also another example in the slide notes of a letter from a young man who's a former client of a program for a school for students with significant learning disabilities. So his letter is not very sophisticatedly written. It's his words, it's from him, it's short, but it's sweet. It says all that it needs to. So the program helped me get a job that I love, and I'm working in this job for eight years now. And that's really all that, I mean, how much more do you need to say about the impact a program can have?

OK, so how do we get good letters like this quickly, and how am I doing on time? I'm good, right? Oh, and you just gave me the time. You're awesome. We're OK, we're good. OK, so system, let's talk about system. So, here's how we do it. Because we're consultants, we'll have the client or the executive director, the director of development, the person at the agency, we ask them to reach out to the potential support. First of all, we sit down and we strategize what we need our support letters to give us for a particular application. And then we strategize who's the right person to get that type of support letter from. And we map it out with the executive director, our client, and they suggest the right people for the right support letter. Then we have them contact them and explain to them we're writing a letter. We prepare a little blurb about what the grant is about, and we ask them if they would agree to providing that support letter. Once they say yes, then we come in as the grant writers, and we ask them if they'll have just a quick call with us first to introduce herself and ask a few questions. And then in that introduction, we offer to create the draft for them. Right. They almost always say, yes. They're really grateful if you're willing to create a quick draft.

But how do you create a draft? Somebody put how do I get it? I don't know their perspective. So when you actually call to ask if you could just introduce yourself, you're not really introducing yourself. You're already going to conduct a quick interview and you're going to be able to get in two minutes all the information you need to be able to write that high quality, stellar support letter. So you're ready. Then you just ask them if you can ask them a question or two, so you offer to create the draft. They almost always say yes. If they say yes, you say, well, can I just ask you a question or two and then I'll be able to draft it for you and get it right back to you. If they asked for a time, always try to just say, oh, well, OK, sure, let's address and then can you just answer this one question, and then still try to get the question out because you might be able to get the letter done. If you're organized and you know what your question is, you can pretty much get them done. So be ready. You might only get that one shot to talk to the person and know what your most important questions are. So prep your questions when you already know what they are, you can easily get them. And it's important for you to know what you want them to tell you, what you want them to tell you about, so that you craft the right question. OK, so then you just pre-write the letter. And then you are writing the name, the address, the ID, you're putting all that in, you are putting their name, ask them to correct it, put a little note, please make sure I've written this the way you like to be addressed. Then you already have all of these things in. So you get all this written before you even pick up the phone and introduce yourself. And then you can clarify the relationship with them, you can fill in any information that you don't have, the blanks, and you can do it super quick.

And make it conversational. You can elicit from them the answers to your first three questions before the interview ever begins, if it's conversational enough. Right. This is a supporter of the organization, and all they're concerned about is it not taking a lot of time. So, if you can squeeze it in, then it's fine. And then, if their answers are brief or lack detail, encourage them to share more, and be ready with a question that you can connect with them on, and write down their exact words so that you can get their tone.

If you make sure that you discuss everything with them, that you need to write a point about, that when they get the letter back, they will remember saying it, because they'll remember that part of the conversation. And there will be very little edits, so it's not really time consuming. It will take you, I promise, less time for you to have a quick conversation with someone and you to write the letter, than it will take you to chase the person and be stressed over whether or not it's coming and have a back up plan and all of that, than just to do it for them and be ready to go.

So craft the draft letter, use their own words as much as possible, then ask them to review the letter for content, tell them to make any edits or suggestions. I have a team member on the line with me who's the person who does this. And she can put in the things how quick this usually goes and how often they usually make adjustments. It's almost never, I believe. And then you just ask them the appropriate questions. You can ask them to include a picture if you need a picture. If you already have a picture of them, you can ask them to review it and approve it. At that point, if you have a waiver policy, again, you can just ask them to sign it when they sign the letter and boom. The other thing that's really helpful is to offer to print and sign it for them. We find that the printing and the signing and the sending back takes a lot longer than any other part of this process. And that's just because people are on the go a lot more. People don't really have fax machines once they sign it. It's a kind of a pain. We let people just take a picture and send it. But if you offer for them, do you have a digital signature? Once they've read it and they say this is great, you can say would you like me to print it and sign it for you? They've already read it and it's their letter. So it's whatever they're comfortable with, but offer them as much as you can to facilitate the process for your people. OK? All right. Yes, and we try to do as many of our meetings and interviews on Zoom so that we can record it so that you're not taking notes at the same time as you're trying to communicate with the person. That's definitely important. Let's see. Oh, wait, I turned the thing off. Hold on. See. All right, I lost my chat, though, and there were questions coming, hold on.

Will: One of the questions is what tools do you find most helpful for digital signatures. Like a DocuSign, a preview?

Rachel: So what we do is we ask them just to send us their digital signature because--or if we ask them if they already have a DocuSign, some clients do all their documents a certain way. So ask them if they already have something that they use. Whatever they already use is going to be the fastest thing for you. Right. And then if they don't use something already, then you can ask them for a digital signature. If they don't have one, you can ask them to allow you to sign it on their behalf. If it's like a partner, an agency representative, that's not usually what they'll do, but they have someone that will fax it. But if it's like a client or a family member, they're usually really comfortable with that. And yes, we will ask them to put the letter on their letterhead or we'll ask them to email it to us so that we can whip it up for them. Again, anything you can do for them, they are grateful for, and you are grateful for too. All right.

So, any more questions? So then basically, once you have a strategy, and you repeat that strategy over and over and you have a system, then you're able to scale, right? You can't scale without a system. And you can't build a system without a strategy. And if you don't scale, then you can't get ten stellar support letters for that application you just found out is due next week and requires them. Right? That's the way it always happens. So, by having the system in place, A, some of your support letters are already going to be on file. B, and we actually collect some support letters as part of our client onboarding process. And we do that because then we're already meeting some of these key testimonial people. We've already built a relationship. We've already drafted the letter. Then if something comes up and we need to tweak it or we want to use it again, it's not the first time we've called them. We don't even have to go through the executive director or the clients. We don't need to go through them to even make that connection. We can just pick up the phone. We don't use letters without signatures. I guess you could, but they're certainly not as strong, because a letter without a signature, anybody could have written them. So we I don't think we--have we ever used a letter without a signature? I don't think that we have.

OK, so once you have the system in place, then you can scale and then you can get ten excellent support letters quickly. Or you can revive what you have, you can reuse the ones that you were allowed to get a general one for. You'll see some of the examples that we have are somewhat general, and others can be quickly edited. And then you save your time just for the two or three ones that you need to get new. Right. OK. And the other thing is that with a system, you can delegate and replicate, right? So you can have other people trained to do this process and you can have more than one person gathering letters at the same time. OK.

So here are just some tips. So don't use form letters, don't use unsigned MOUs or LOAs. We stay away from the templates in the fill in the blanks because some people literally fill in the blank and leave the blank and sign it. And then we don't ask people to write the letters. We only end up with them writing letters if they kind of insist, but we really enroll them in letting us write them for them. And then we never tell them the actual grant deadline. We don't lie, but we cautiously use wording to not provide the deadline because, of course, you don't want to be doing this right on deadline. You might have to put them in order, or talk about them in the narrative, or you need to combine them in a PDF and upload it with other attachments. You want to be doing it at the last minute.

So some do's. So for every conversation, try to find out something you didn't know before about the person or the relationship. Be truly curious. That helps, that conversational tone. Be careful about terms used. Sometimes you as a grant writer refer to things in one way and maybe the client, the staff, the board member, the partner might refer to things differently. So make sure you're talking about the same things. You can write things--yes. OK, so MOUs and LOAs. So an MOU stands for a memorandum of understanding or LOA is a letter of agreement or a letter of commitment. Now that usually implies a more formal relationship between two partner organizations. So an MOU is just shy of a contract, but it's a written document that shows an understanding between two parties. A letter of support, however, is not really at the level of a contractual type of agreement. It's a letter of reference more than an agreement between two parties. OK, when we can, we get a second letter written to the grant committee. Again, we always offer to print and sign. We ask if we're allowed to keep an undated copy. We ask if they're open to us requesting an updated letter when needed. Of course, they always say yes, but it lays the groundwork for you to then do so. We find out from the client if it's OK to share a copy of the proposal. When the grant comes in, and this is something that we all get to be better at as well, but when the grant comes in, we always contact anyone who gave us a support letter and we let them know that we got the grant and we thank them for their effort in making that happen. Of course, we say thank you when we get it, and we offer to provide reciprocal support letters. This is important for partners. And we did include a reciprocal support letter in the letter examples that's attached to the program. When you're working with partners, especially if someone has a more advanced grant writing or more aggressive grant writing team than the other, they might feel like you're always asking them for stuff. So offer to write them a letter that they can include in their applications. And then we try to touch base with some of our key support letter people at least once a year when we're not asking them a question about their support letter, just to connect with them. That might mean you put them on your intro letter lists, your holiday lists, put them on your newsletters, give them a call when you're calling your donors, things like that.

OK, so we've talked about strategy, system, and scale. And I really feel like on all three of these points, that's what getting stellar support letters and Instrumentl really has in common, is that Instrumentl utilizes strategy, system, and scale. And so I'm going to turn it over to Will for him to talk a little bit about how Instrumentl also uses strategy, system, and scale to help with your grant seeking needs.

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Will: Awesome. Thanks so much, Rachel. When we talk about strategy, system, and scale, I think that one of the most common pieces of feedback we hear from different grant writing teams and nonprofits is that they're using a variety of different workflows or work streams in order to get everything done. And that's essentially where Instrumentl comes in. So, if you're new to us, we provide grant prospecting, tracking, and management in one place. And we do that through our unique matching algorithm as well as our tracker. And what we find is that nonprofits that use us are able to save three hours a week in terms of their time, as well as increase their grant application output by seventy eight percent.

So I wanted to quickly go over a few of the things that you can do on Instrumentl that relate to the topic of support letters, but also in general of just streamlining and building a system for yourself as you start to build up your grant pipeline. When you start out on Instrumentl, you will be able to create a project, and that project is going to be a series of criteria based on your nonprofit's specific area of impact, as well as fields of work, things like the size of the grants you're looking for, as well as your funding sources. And the reason why is because what you end up getting is, you end up getting something that we call the matches view. And every single week, if you want to build a system for yourself, what you get is a set of matches that only show you active grant opportunities that your nonprofit might be a good fit for. So if you imagine if you have like a three to five person development team, you might have somebody that's spending a lot of time every single week doing this sort of initial first pass for the rest of the team. Essentially by introducing Instrumentl into that side of things, you're able to get an automated method to do this in a much more scalable fashion. And so, every single week Instrumentl is looking out for you in terms of new active opportunities and giving you that information about the grant eligibility information, about information about the funder as well, and anything that might be relevant to you as you start to work your way through each of these opportunities.

And so what you'll see here as I start to show you some of the videos, is everything on Instrumentl is easily accessible, right? Rachel has emphasized today the importance of putting your supporters up for success and putting them in a position for success. And that's the same thing in terms of our ideology, in terms of the people that use Instrumentl. So right off the bat, in the matches view, you'll be able to filter quickly. So you can filter, for example, based off of funding use, funder type, as well as the newness to you and what not in the results. And as you work your way through your results, you're also going to be able to see whenever there is more information about a particular funder, that information getting summarized for you. So you can see here how with the Bank of America charitable foundation, we digitized that information for you so that you don't have to go on ProPublica or a variety of different websites, open up ten different PDF tabs, and figure out whether or not this is a good fit funder for you. So all that information is digitized here into a central location for you, which really helps in cutting down the amount of time it takes in developing your prospecting process.

So that's one side of Instrumentl in terms of the matches, but when you start talking about getting stellar support letters, as well as the actual tracking and management side of things, that's another area that I think that a lot of people don't know about Instrumentl, where we are continuing to build new functionality that continues to support grant writers in their process. So this is our track review. And the reason why it's really powerful is because it's essentially a digitized, leveled up version of what a lot of grant writers might do in Excel. But the reason why it's more powerful is because as you start to save opportunities and Instrumentl into your tracker, you're able to do all sorts of things with each of these opportunities. For example, you can do it based off of the particular year, you can leave notes for a team member on the topic of some of the to-do items that Rachel literally just showed on the slides. What you can do is you can set up tasks for your team to essentially set up different milestones and have every single milestone like prep, support, letter, draft. Set that in place for whatever timeline you want and choose a specific person and notify related to that. So when you're talking about really scaling up the process, you can imagine with me for a second, creating a variety of different tasks of the ten things that you guys always do before proposal and just setting that Instrumentl. And every single week, what's going to happen is we're not only going to tell you in an email all the new matches of grant opportunities, we're also going to summarize all of these tasks and upcoming grant deadlines that you have coming up for your funders. And so in the case, where you're really trying to bring all of your work flows of grant prospecting, tracking, and management to one place, Instrumentl can be a good way to use that and to take advantage of some of the features that might require a little bit more administrative work for you right now.

Another cool thing, for example, is in our researching tab, any grant you save an Instrumentl, we are always looking at the next deadline for you. So, Rachel mentioned the point where you never want to share in the letter of support the actual deadline or be too close to the deadline day. Well, that's something where as you are starting to build out your pipeline as well, we're always looking out for you and we will auto archive grants where it might still be in researching and you haven't actually started working on your craft and whatnot. So, Instrumentl is really helpful for US based 501(c)(3)s. If you have your own tracker, you can upload it into Instrumentl as well. If you want to look up any information about a particular fundery, you can use our click find to quickly identify information about past funding histories of organizations. And you can also dig into past recipients to see who is funding them, making it really easy for you to figure out specifically whether or not this is an opportunity you want to pursue and whatnot. And so if you want to try on Instrumentl, you can try it out with Rachel's link. It's instrumentl dot com slash GDS, and that'll give you fourteen days for you to try us out and see whether or not it will be a good fit for you. But now I'm going to go ahead and pass things over to Rachel to summarize some key learning takeaways, and then we'll announce some details regarding the raffle and open things up for the Q&A.

Rachel: Oh, OK. So, are you guys seeing my screen?

Will: Not quite yet.

Rachel: No? Oh, no. All right, you see, we made the mistake of letting me get off the thing.

Will: I can also share my screen as well.

Rachel: No, I'm going to do it. I can do it. Here we go. Are we there now?

Will: Yes.

Rachel: All right. Or maybe I can't, it's not coming all the way up, but. I have to share. It's not opening.

Will: Sure.

Rachel: All right, well, I may have failed at Zoom, but I do not fail support letters, so here's three learning takeaways. One, support letters are your friends and they can greatly enhance your grant proposals. Two, the more prepared you are and the easier you make it for your supporters, the more likely you are to get exactly what you need quickly. And three, with a system in place, you can complete many meaningful support letters quickly. So with that, I leave you with my contact information, if you would like any more information on this topic or connect about something else. Here is my direct contact information and also the code again, to sign up for Instrumentl to save fifty dollars off. And we have a raffle, right?

Will: Yes, and I can go ahead and give the details to that raffle. So, in case it's your first time attending, we have this workshop follow up link that will be sent out shortly after this workshop. In that, it will include a link to a feedback form, as well as a link that you can use for Rachel's Instrumentl sign up and pretty much an option for you to share what you learned today on social media. Rachel is active on LinkedIn, and I believe GDS also has its own Twitter. So you are welcome to tweet at us in terms of what you may have learned. And then you should look out for your email, because we will be sending these slides, the replay, as well as the support letter examples that Rachel shared today. And for that, if you take part in our raffle, it's going to be open until the end of the day tomorrow. What you will be entering for is the development of a customized grant action plan for your nonprofit organization and or three coaching sessions. So three different winners there and then Instrumentl will also be raffling off a one month subscription. And so these details will be sent in a follow up email, Catherine, great question. And I'm going to start opening it up to questions. If you want to enter the raffle, I will also be posting a direct link in the Zoom chat right now to save you some time. And yeah, that'll be it. So I have some questions that are lined up as well. So Rachel, if you are ready for it, I can start shooting it off.

Rachel: I'm ready. And thank you to everyone and thank you for participating. And I'm excited. Let's hear the questions.

Will: Awesome. So Terry mentioned earlier on, she asked, "Should letters of support be addressed to the organization's CEO or to the funder? I've seen it done both ways and I'm not sure which is correct when I create a sample template for the organization I'm requesting the letter from."

Rachel: Typically, we have them directed to the organization you're applying to, unless there's a particular angle of the letter. You can have a support letter that doesn't come in, that's not in support of a particular grant application. That's more like a thank you letter or an actual letter that was to the organization that you could choose to include. But if a support letter is being strategically developed for the purpose of a grant, I would have it directed to the funders.

Will: Got it. Sheila asked, "Do you have a standard press release template for clients to sign?"

Rachel: No. Each of our clients has their own policies and protocols for that. So we follow whatever theirs is. But we always have it in writing. We always contact them first by email and ask them for their support. And then, of course, the draft email goes by email as well, so there's always a paper trail that people have provided the letter.

Will: Awesome. And this was actually asked really early on. I think it would be helpful for some of the more beginner grant writers as well. But when do you actually even use a support letter? Do you do it before you submit the grant or with the grant you're submitting? A lot of grants that this person applies are on an online portal where they don't allow for a support letter. So they're not really familiar with the term support letter and would appreciate a general definition.

Rachel: Sure. So some grant applications, even if they are to be applied for through a portal, will request or even require support letters, and they'll have a button for you to upload. Others may allow you to upload whatever materials that you think are appropriate. And in that case, a support letter or two from a different angle may be what you select to upload with the application. If you're applying to something online that does not allow you to attach anything, then this would not be relevant for that particular application. It's never a good idea to give funders things they don't ask for, but you can also use a support letter, like if you're doing an introductory letter that goes through the mail. It's not typical that it would include a support letter, but if you were looking for something to include, you might include it there as well.

Will: Suzy asked earlier, "Did you mention a form that you have the person writing the letter sign?"

Rachel: No, we do not have any forms, we do not use forms. If a client has a waiver or some sort of a communications protocol form that they request, we can take care of that at the time that we were interviewing them, at the time that we asked them to sign their own letter. But in general, we do not have them sign any forms, and we don't write forms for them to sign. We just write a letter that looks like they crafted the letter.

Will: Got it.

We have a few more minutes for some questions, so feel free to go into the Zoom chat and leave them for Rachel, and I can read them out. Otherwise, that does conclude today's presentation. I'll leave the chat open for a few more minutes to see if there are any final questions for folks to type in.

Rachel: And we have one minute. We had perfect timing. Look at that.

Will: Awesome. And the other thing that I did mention in the chat, but I know sometimes people aren't following the chat. If you enjoyed this grant workshop, we'll be back in about two weeks, August eleventh. That'll be Behind the Grantmaker's Curtain: What Funders Want. It's going to be with Matt Hugg, who runs nonprofit courses, which is also a great grant training resource and general nonprofit staff training resource website as well.

Andre, yes, the presentation will be available to you. It'll be sent later today once we process the video file and everything else. Suzy, you can start the trial anytime, but you're recommended to start it if you can, within the next day if you want to enter the raffle, it's just extra perks for you in terms of timeline to try us out. And yes, workshop webinars are recorded and sent out to all registrants, so make sure to do that if you are unable to make it, but you want the content of the recording as well. Awesome. Well, it looks like we're all done with questions. Thanks so much for attending, everybody. Thanks so much to Rachel. And make sure you fill out that feedback form so you can enter the raffle. And also, that helpful feedback is valuable to Rachel, as she works on other workshop ideas and whatnot. And you can already enter the raffle if you already use Instrumentl. There are other ways to enter, like sharing what you learned on LinkedIn or on Twitter, as well as some other options that you'll see in the follow up form and whatnot. Awesome. Well, thanks so much, everybody, and I hope you guys have a great rest of your day. Bye now.

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