Grantwriting: Not Just for Mainstream Nonprofits w/ Allison Shirk

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February 28, 2022

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​Think that grants are only for large, mainstream nonprofits? Think again!

​​In this 1 hour webinar (including time for Q&A), Allison Shirk will teach you how the process of reviewing grant applications is changing so that more organizations are able to compete and how you can stand out and make your grants more successful.

​By the end of this workshop with Allison Shirk, GPA Approved Trainer and Adjunct Professor of Grantwriting, you’ll be able to: ​

  • ​Contrast how the process of grant review is changing today to support Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility.
  • ​​Discover how to capture the complexity of what your organization does and write it simply so others can understand
  • ​​Design a framework for grant proposals that makes grant writing more efficient and less time consuming, while still compelling and persuasive

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​Allison Shirk is a Grant Professionals Association Approved Trainer and an Adjunct Professor of Grantwriting with Western Washington University and Seattle Central College. She is the founder of Spark the Fire Grantwriting Classes and has more than twenty-five years of experience in grantwriting and nonprofit management. She is a grant reviewer for School’s Out Washington and 4Culture.

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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Grantwriting: Not Just for Nonprofits Transcript

Allison: Not just for mainstream nonprofits. Thank you so much to Chandler and Instrumentl for putting this together. This has been a topic that's been on my mind for a while, and it's going to be a pleasure to get to talk about it today. So again, please use the chat box and introduce yourself if you haven't done so already.

A little about me. My name is Alison Shirk. I'm a grant writing professor and you can sign up for my classes at I offer two classes. One is a certificate in grant writing course, and the other is for aspiring freelancers and it is called The Business of Freelance Grant Writing. I'm also a grant reviewer. And so I want to share a little bit of that experience with you today, reviewing grants. And you can also see my values here on this screen. Equity, I'm an optimist, and clear communication.

So again, here's the link to download the worksheets for today. And that includes the slides so that you can refer back to them later. Just a quick Zoom orientation because we are going to use the annotate feature today. Beginning in the bottom left of your screen, you can adjust your audio and visual settings. In the middle where it says participants, if you click on that, you can change your name and add your pronouns if you'd like to do that.

You can use this chat icon to ask questions and make comments. You can turn on the closed captioning here if you'd like to be able to read along with the speech and let's see. Let's see we've got reactions right here, so you can give a thumbs up. And finally, in the top right hand corner of your screen, you can switch the view.

So if you're just seeing the speaker right now, you are in speaker view and you can click this to change to the gallery view, which is more of the Brady Bunch grid if you prefer that style, especially when we're not looking at slides so we can all look at each other and have a conversation, which is my goal today.

So the annotate feature in the very center of your screen, you will see a dropdown that says view options. That opens up this options menu, where you can see the annotate right here. And when you click on that, it opens up this annotate menu where you can select text or draw or stamp. If you're watching today on your cell phone, the view options is this little pin in the bottom left-hand corner of your phone screen, and that will open the annotate.

And if you'd like to use the chat from your phone, you're going to want to select these three dots in the bottom right-hand corner of your phone screen. And that will open up this menu for chat or raise your hand and so on. So let's go ahead and try that. Open up the annotate feature again, view options, annotate, and let us know what is your role within your organization? So we can get to know each other a little bit today. Who do we have here today?

I see fund development team, director of administration, director of development. A lot of folks on the fund development team. That's great. We've got some folks with the program team and the leadership team. I see a line maybe that means in between the board and the fund development team. That's how I'm going to interpret that. 

Great. The fund development team is really filling up.

Mary: I have a question. 

Allison: Yes.

Mary: I've lost you. I was trying to find the notes to go with it, but where are you now? 

Allison: Let's see, you should see a zoom icon on your computer. It's a blue bar. Are you on a Mac or a PC? 

Mary: I'm on a PC and I'm already in. I'm listening to you, but you had mentioned something in the middle of the screen and I lost you there.

Allison: Uh-oh. Chandler, maybe you can text with, what is your name? That's speaking?

Mary: Carrie Spencer. I'm a little slow at this. 

Allison: Oh, that's totally fine. I think maybe Chandler can send you a message through the chat. Can you see your chat? 

Mary: Yes. 

Allison: So maybe he can help. 

Chandler: I'll follow up with anybody who's having trouble with the annotate directly in the chat. So just send me a message if you're having a problem and then I'll follow up with how to do that. 

Allison: Thank you, Chandler. So great. I'm going to ask you to pause on the annotate for a moment, and I'm going to clear this screen.

So that we can move to the next slide.

Okay. So what you're looking at now on this slide is the nonprofit organizational life cycle. And if you'd like to learn more about the life cycle, please see the reference at the back of your workbook. This is a very helpful tool that lets you compare your organization to others of the same age and learn about the challenges and opportunities at each life cycle stage.

So go ahead and use that annotate again and mark where your organization is on the life cycle. Whether you're a startup, maybe you're starting to develop your core programs and you're in the adolescent phase. You're developing your infrastructure. You're deepening your impact and you're starting to expand, which puts you into the mature category.

And once you're in the mature category, hopefully you're renewing and you're staying mature and avoiding what happens what we call mission drift. Oh, gosh. Sorry about that. Mission drift which might send your organization into stagnation and eventually into dissolving and defunct. So we want to keep here in this mature phase where either we're expanding our services or we're digging deeper and we're making a greater impact with the services that you receive.

So I see a lot of mature. I see some startup infrastructure which would be that in between adolescent and mature. 


Just watching as people annotate and indicate where you are on this cycle, we have a couple people that are feeling like your organization is drifting a little bit. And that definitely happens. So we want to get back into the renewal.

Okay. I'm going to pause the annotate now. So if you can pause your doodling, I'll clear this screen and we'll go onto the next slide. Thank you.

Okay. So here are our learning objectives for today. By the end of this webinar, I want you to be able to understand how grant review and grant making has changed since COVID so that your organization can learn some strategies for success. And I hope, be encouraged to apply for more grants.

In the upcoming slides, we're going to look at some recent statistics from the center for effective philanthropy that came out in November of 2021. And I'm just clearing that last little annotate that was there. So there's a link to this report at the back of your workbook as well. And you can read this full report if you'd like to, but we're going to talk about some statistics that I found interesting in this report.

And I'm going to have you guess, so you can use the annotate again, and if you're having trouble with the annotate, you can always use the chat to participate as well. So using the annotate, take a guess. What percentage of foundations reported working differently with grantees in 2020 compared to pre-pandemic?

I see a lot of 75. I see some 50.


In between 50 and 75, I've see maybe a 35%. Someone put a heart right by the end of the arrow. And I see Mary said 75% in the chat. Thank you, Mary. So great. I'm going to ask you to pause on the annotate now and let's see what the answer is.

Oh, something happened

96%. Does that surprise you?.

96% of foundations reported working differently with grantees in 2020 compared to brief pandemic. So what does differently mean? Right? How differently?

The report noted that there was a shift in mindset. So the grant makers were listening more to grantees and applicants more than they had in the past. And as a result, they were offering greater flexibility in their grant making practices. This resulted in streamlining their application and reporting process.

And finally, they were offering more general operating grants, which means unrestricted grants. They increase the overall amount that they were giving and they went back to a practice that had nearly gone to the wayside, which was multi-year giving, which if you've received a multi-year grant, it's fantastic.

This next slide shows what percentage of those grant makers actually sustained those changes into 2021. So 3% didn't sustain them at all, 35% some, 75% sustained. Most of those changes and 21% sustain all of those changes. And this is so impressive to me because as someone who's been writing grants for more than 25 years, there has been basically no change in the grant writing process for decades and all of a sudden with COVID in just these last two years, we're seeing these major changes in how grantmaking is happening. So it's very exciting. It's always a silver lining, right? So I have one more guess here. Actually, we have two more. So guess again, what is the percentage of foundations that increase their giving budget?

Use your annotate. What do you think?

Arielle says 75%. Janet, 75%. Bobby says 50%.

So kind of hovering between the 50 and the 75. A lot of people saying 75 or more.

Let's see the answer here. I'm going to stop the annotate for one second.

67% increased their giving budget. 24% did not change and 9% decreased their budget. Mary, did you have a question? 

Mary [indistinct]?

I see your hand is raised. So I was just wondering if you had a question. You're on mute. 

Mary: Looking. 

Allison: Different Mary. Mary [indistinct] has a hand raised and you're on mute, Mary, if you wanted to say something. 

Okay, I'll just keep going.

So this is the last pop quiz I have for you. And then we're going to move on past these statistics. What percentage of foundations change their application and reporting processes? So how they accepted applications or how many questions they asked and how they're reporting it.

So this is really filling up. Covering around, looks like most people are thinking 50% lower than 75%. A couple, lower into the 25%. It looks like most people are thinking that not as many foundations change their application and reporting process as some of the other statistics we've talked about.

So great. I'm going to stop the annotation for just a second and clear.

And we'll see the answer here. 76%. So almost everyone was right there. 76% of foundations changed their application and reporting process during COVID.

Of those that sustain those changes, so the first bar you're seeing the application process. 39% sustained most of those changes to the application process. 36% sustained some of the reporting process.

So what reflections do you have on this? Did this bring up anything for you? Raise your hand if you would like to respond to how you feel about those statistics.

Mary? You'll have to unmute yourself.

Mary: Can you hear me? 

Allison: Yes.

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Oh, okay. Sorry. Again. The problem that shrine has been having is that even with the foundations that I received grants from before, they state that they're giving to COVID requests, and even the ones that would have been giving to the shrine, they have changed to giving COVID requests only. That has been an issue. 

Allison: Yeah. Yeah. And this typically happens. I remember this happening in maybe around 2008 when the recession hit. A lot of the foundations because it actually really affected the stock market at that time, which COVID didn't so much, in 2008, a lot of the foundations actually lost a lot of their assets and so they only funded basic need organizations. So food banks, shelters, and so on. And I think that when COVID first hit this time, we saw the same sort of thing. There was this, oh, my gosh, what's going to happen? This insecurity. What's going to happen to the stock market? And so kind of the jerk reaction for foundations was to go back to only doing basic needs funding. 

And now that -- what are we, we're in a couple years into the pandemic, I'm not seeing that as much. I'm seeing foundations opening back up to things that are not COVID-related. And so, I think you'll continue to see that trend, Mary, that things are going to start opening back up and not just be focused on COVID.

So what we'll have to wait and see, but that's my guess.

Okay. Thanks for that question, Mary. So I want to talk about my experience when I review grants because I have seen a lot of changes personally as a grant reviewer. And I wanted to share that with you in particular, what I noticed change was in how reviewers were selected and the instructions that we were given.

So for reviewer selection, I saw more foundations actually seeking peer reviewers, meaning individuals that worked at nonprofit organizations or government organizations to review their peers' applications. They were looking for individuals who had particular insight or experience working with these communities that are listed on this slide, LGBTQ youth.

This was a foundation that was specifically funding youth services. So youth and poverty, BiPOC youth, these were the questions that they were asking in terms of determining who would be selected to review these grants.

They also asked potential reviewers if they had any lived experience in these areas listed. So did the reviewer themselves have a childhood experience with poverty, English as a second language, and so on.

This quote was read at one of the reviewer orientation training that I attended this year. On the slide, you'll see just an excerpt of that, but I'm going to read aloud the full. "Mainstream organizations value people who speak English, can quote research and best practices, and have fancy degrees. If your organization values academia more than lived experiences by people of color, experiencing racism and classism, your organization is part of the problem.

If you can only listen to people who sound like you and speak like you, you are part of the problem. Overvaluing the methods and ways white people think and frame ideas is radicalized power. Ideas, brilliance, and experiences come in all different packages. Some with fancy degrees attached and some without, some with an accent, and some in a language other than English, some via PowerPoint, and some via theater or spoken word." And this quote is by Heidi at Fake Equity. And there is a link to that on the bottom of the screen if you want to read that.

We also attended anti-biased training where we learned about these types of biases. You might've heard of these biases before, but considering them from where putting on your grant reviewer hat, "confirmation bias," an example of that would be knowing the great work of an applicant, the work that they've done in the past, and assuming that that application is equally great, resulting in a less critical review, than an organization maybe that the reviewer wasn't familiar with.

Another example of bias is the "like me" bias. So how that might show up with a grant reviewer would be familiarity with a particular youth development sector or region that leads you to favor certain types of youth development programs over others, not based on their responses and the application. Some other types of biases are racial and ethnic bias, gender sexual orientation, bias, age bias, geographic preconceptions, and language bias.

For example, assuming a relationship between a professional writing and the value or impact of the youth development programs resulting in a less favorable view. So when you read a grant application, a lot of times you can tell if it has been written by a professional grant writer or if it's been written by someone who perhaps has not received grant writing training.

So to mitigate bias and the peer review, they provided some tips for minimizing the influence of bias and assumptions and that included learning about unconscious bias and its impact on peer review, spending time considering your own biases, periodically evaluating your judgments and considering whether unconscious biases might influence your decisions, slowing down your thinking as a reviewer, and spending sufficient time evaluating each application, maintaining your standard and applying the criteria consistently to each applications throughout the review process, and being specific in your evaluation reasoning.

So basically, we reviewed grants for the ideas rather than the grammar and spelling. And then, the way that typically the grant review process works is --

I hear someone talking.

Using a rubric, each reviewer independently scored each application. And then we met in a group. We came to a consensus on the final score of that application. And then it was just really straightforward. The organizations who scored the most points received the grant award until the grant budget was exhausted.

What are your thoughts on this process? Is it different or similar to how you imagine?

Man: Does anyone want to share your thought?

Allison: Mary, I see your hand and I wanted to see if anyone else wanted to speak up? 

Woman: I would just like comment that seems so that always imagined it would be. I've never been for [indistinct] grants. We fund grants here at my organization. And I get to sit and observe. I don't get a say so. So it is interesting to hear what you say happens in general.

Allison: Yeah. Thanks. Thanks, Trace.

Anyone else? Want to comment before we move on? Yeah, Arielle. 

Arielle: What you're saying makes a lot of sense to me. It seems that people would definitely lean on their own biases and some training to go against that would be helpful, but that it's just human nature, I think. And then the other part also just makes a lot of sense to me that people score high. And then when the funds are gone, the high scores get the money and the low score don't. Yeah. To me, that all makes a lot of sense. 

Allison: Yeah. Thank you for participating, Trace and Arielle. I appreciate that. 

Janet: I have a comment. 

Allison: Yes. Is that Janet? 

Janet: It's Janet, yes. I really welcome what you have described. That kind of review is amazing to me. I've been part of a couple of grant writing classes and they really hammered home about how everything has to be perfect and that if it isn't perfect, they stop reading and don't even go farther. So I like what you presented. I think that's how it should be. 

Allison: Yeah. Yeah. And I have to be honest with you, Janet, it's more difficult to really train yourself to overlook grammar and spelling and focus on, you know, I think where it said slow down your thinking. We were told to slow down your thinking. Was really critical to put those distractions aside and really focus on what is the idea of this grant? What is this organization doing?

And when they are describing why this particular strategy is so effective for their community, you really have to listen and not make these assumptions. So, yeah. Thank you for saying that, Janet. 

Woman: Allison, do you have any idea whether this is a general trend or a select few elite, maybe larger well-endowed foundations that are going through this process and a family foundation who looks at it and says, I'm sorry, if you're not going to write English, you're not going to get my money. I could see a backlash to that as well. So how much is this a trend across the board?

Allison: You know, I wish I knew the answer to that and I don't. This information and these last slides are just based on my own experience. But every single foundation that I review for has changed this and really is making sure that reviewers are attending anti-biased training and slowing down their thinking.

So I can't speak for everyone. I hope that more organizations, more foundations are doing this. Okay, we're going to keep going. I appreciate the comments and I'm going to share my screen.

So we talked about how grant review is changing. And now I want to talk a little bit about how your organization can maximize being more time-efficient and being prepared to write a grant as there's this shift happening in the grant review world.

I'm going to show a one and a half minute video. Hopefully it'll come through very clearly and I'll make sure the volume is up. I'm going to stop sharing that. And as you're watching this video, I want to let you know that this video is about product development. So it's not necessarily about philanthropy or grant writing, but I want you as you watch it, I want you to think about grant writing and philanthropy.

So can you see this screen? It's black with a big circle. Thank you. I'm going to hit play.

Man: Everyone wants a simple product. Everyone wants their product to be Apple-like in its simplicity and ease of use. But what few people actually talk about is the process that it actually takes to make a simple product. We don't mind complexity if it makes sense to us, we can understand it. What we really mind is overly complicated products.

And there's a big difference between complex and complicated. Something like an airplane cockpit. So for pilots, that's not a very complicated thing at all. It's a complex thing, but it's not a complicated thing, they understand where everything is in relation to what it is that they're doing and need to do. A lot of companies are looking for this really this wow factor, but instead they should be looking for what Christian Lindholm calls the kind of, of course factor.

Like, of course it works that way. And I think that really gets at the heart of simplicity.

The irony of creating a simple product is that you actually have to go through a complex product in order to get that simple product at the end. I call it kind of going to the far side of the moon. In order to do that, you have to understand all the complexity around it from users, from the feature requirements, the scope, to the context of use, all these things can really add complexity.

I think there are three things that make up a simple product. The first thing is that there's an underlying structure to it that's understandable when you first approach it or when you start to use it. You can say, oh, well, there's this -- I press button A and B happens. So there's this logic that you can understand when you begin to use it.

The second thing I think that simple products have is that they're really optimized for what most people are going to do most of the time. So they've looked at all the possible things someone can do with it, but said, you know what? Most of the people are going to be really happy if we do this one thing really well.

And the third thing I think is that the world is complex and the task that it might be doing is a complex thing, but it doesn't reflect that complexity back at you. It takes some of that complexity into itself and solves a problem for you so that you're not presented with all the choices you could possibly make in that situation.

So I think those are the three things that really make a successful, simple product.

Allison: So hopefully you can see the PowerPoint. Again, these are the three points that he made about creating a simple product and I've changed them a little bit to make them more relevant for grant writing. So one of them was to have an understandable underlying structure. How does that apply to grant writing?

Raise your hand if you'd like to respond and comment to that, having an underlying understandable structure.

And you're muted. There you go. 

Bevin: Yeah, for me, it's mostly making sure that whatever the point of my proposal is that I know it in my brain and I find the quickest way to bring the funder to my point. So that there's a really easy to understand story written throughout, or I give them what they're asking for in the exact order they're asking for it.

Allison: Beautifully stated Bevin. Thank you. And I saw was it Samuel? Did you want to comment? 

Samuel: You know what I did, but she took the words right out of my mouth and I think it ultimately is, you know, KISS, keep it simple stupid. We want this thing or your message to be really simple and understandable. And so that it's just easily understood by the reader.

Allison: Yes, thank you. Thanks to both of you. And then the second one was optimized for most readers most of the time. And to me that one in grant writing terms is that the grant should not have so much jargon. Honestly, I think that it's really difficult for us as program staff, as being in this role that we're in a nonprofit we don't even know that we're speaking with jargon all the time and writing with jargon all the time.

So try to really, again, slow down our thinking and eliminate that jargon so that if your nephew or niece or someone read what you were writing, it would be understandable to them. The last one is that the system takes the burden of complexity meaning that the writer filters what is relevant. Does anyone want to comment on that one?

I see that Emiline said any understandable structure has to be user-friendly. Yes. Anyone else want to comment on the system takes on the burden of complexity? 

Liara: I think if we, like, if you took one section of a proposal, let's say the needs statement. You can shove so many statistics and data and how much is good enough, how much is convincing. And I think the answer is just enough to convince the audience. So don't put another piece of data in there the minute you've convinced them. So I think it's the ability to kind of pick and choose your best stats and your best case and put it out there and nothing else. 

Allison: Yes. Great. Thank you. Thank you for participating, Liara. 

So some of the ways that I want to encourage you. Oh, Catherine, did you have one last comment on that? Go ahead. 

Catherine: Thank you. I did. So I wanted to add that in terms of a lot of the federal and state grants, the complexity's already written in the model itself. So when they're asking for your fax statement or in a logic model and they're building a succession, like a table for you. And I remember the first time I wrote a really like a SAMHSA grant and I felt like all these different layers were being added to me until I looked at it globally and said, aha. And like a light bulb went out and I'm like jamming myself up trying to go from A to Z. And figure out without in between how to make this happen. If I just follow the complexity of the process, there is a reason and now, it's not odd to me. Well, actually, one I did the other day was super odd to me, but it's less burdensome at this point. So it's complex enough. Why jam yourself up with flowery language or whatever? So, anyway, thank you.

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Yeah, thank you. Yeah, I think especially as proposals are moving into this format where you only are allowed so many characters and spaces, we have to learn to write very efficiently. So if you can say it in one word rather than forwards, that's the direction we need to go. And yet, at the same time we want our writing to still be compelling and persuasive.

So there's definitely a balance there. So one of the things that I recommend and that I teach to my grant writing students is to break your grant proposal into five sections. And for me, those five sections are your organizational qualifications, your community needs statement, the budget and the budget narrative, the project description, and the evaluation.

Once you have those basic five sections edit, edit, edit, and we add these powerful elements to each of the five sections. So for your organizational qualifications, I teach students how to write a powerful story. And we're going to talk a little bit more about storytelling in just a second. Powerful research.

So just like someone was just saying a moment ago, finding the research, the literature review that is the most compelling instead of repeating the same information with five different studies, find the one that is the most compelling. A powerful connection is between what you're writing in your grant proposal and what is showing up in the line items in your budget. That should connect so clearly that your grant reviewer should be able to look at the budget first and know exactly what your proposal is going to say. 

For the project description, powerful imagery, right? We want to take our reader there. We want to bring them to our homeless shelter through our words so that they can feel it and be there. So providing powerful imagery and then with the evaluation process, we really want to show a powerful impact.

So storytelling. If we have some fiction writers here, you might be familiar with this story arch and that's the beginning, the rising action, the climax of a story, the falling action, and then the resolution. And if you notice, I've put those five sections of the grant proposal we just talked about in the last slide along this plotted line of the story.

So as you're setting up your setting and your character, that's your organizational description. That's the beginning of your story. The community needs statement is the rising action. It should build some tension and let your reader know that there's either a challenge or an opportunity.

The climax of this story is the ask. Here's how we're going to solve this problem or here's our piece of the puzzle that we're going to contribute to moving the needle on this important issue. The project description is the following action. So here's the nuts and bolts of how we're going to do it and the evaluation.

And then the closing of your story is the resolution.

Give you a moment just to look at that.

When I talk about storytelling, I have to also bring up this element of the savior narrative. And I'm going to show you some statistics on the savior narrative that I hope you'll find as interesting as I do. So storytelling is powerful. It's been a part of humanity since the beginnings. In fact, it's so powerful that it's important to be careful and mindful about the story that we're telling.

So they did this study at Stanford, Thomas et all in 2020. And what they found was that when a nonprofit organization in their marketing materials used language that is increasing the dignity of those that they served and decreasing the shame, that the clients actually increase their motivation and their confidence and had better program outcomes.

The study also found that when grantmakers read that same language, that if the language emphasized poverty and neediness, the grantmaker was giving the same amount of money. They were equally compelled to give as an organization whose language in their marketing materials and grant proposals emphasized empowerment.

There was no difference. So writing a story that emphasizes the poverty and neediness was just absolutely not needed. And in fact, it was worse.

Woman: Allison, I'm sorry. Was that test on the same donor or that the same donor will give the same amount if they're presented a charity case or a philanthropy case for the same donor?

Allison: Yeah. The link to this study is in your workbook if you want to read it. I thought it was so interesting. So if donors are equally motivated to give an empowerment language produces better program outcomes, there's absolutely no reason to use disparaging language.

So going back to this story plot again that you saw just a second ago.

Use the workbook and jot down your thoughts. What story do you think your organization could tell that would be empowering?

Cecilia, I see your hand raised. Would you like to speak? 

Cecilia: Yes. Thank you very much. Yeah, that's the big challenge for me is I always say at a healthcare organization that we serve the underrepresented and the un and underinsured, we've gotten rid of language like suffering from diabetes and language like that.

But I'm not really sure what language to use to still convey the economic plot and struggles that we're trying to overcome by giving assistance, offering services. So I'm really confused in the workbook and I wasn't able to download on my phone, but I will. Do you have some language that can be used that is more empowering and all, and still represents or portrays the urgent need? 

Allison: Right, right. Would someone like to comment on that? 

Who out there can give us an example of empowering language? 

Suzanne: So I would just make a comment. We use words like resiliency because our food shelf helps to build the resiliency of families with our wraparound services, et cetera. So anything that will empower the family. So resiliency is one of my favorite words, actually. 

Allison: Yeah. Thank you, Suzanne. And I see some people are putting some ideas in the chat, so you can do that as well. Using person-centered language. So instead of saying homeless individuals, we say people experiencing homeless.

So they are a person first. It's person first and then the circumstances that they are in, but even more than person-centered language I think it's offering a story of hope and referring to your clients as the individuals that they are with complex needs and opportunities and challenges and strengths. I saw a couple of hands raised and then they went away.

So. Nancy. Yes. 

Nancy: Yeah. I'm a volunteer now, but I was executive director of an education based nonprofit and two funders and with our students and two funders, we emphasize things like the number of days they attended, the consistency in which they attended. So the point there was to talk about how our clients are taking advantage of the resources, but that's self-efficacy.

And then talking about if they recruited you, participants themselves, from among their peer group, if they posted on Facebook. So we really tried to highlight the ways to our funders. We really tried to highlight the ways that our students found us, took advantage of us, and continue to grow their own sense of self-efficacy.

Allison: Great. Thank you. Thank you, Nancy. And Bevin. 

Bevin: I wanted to mention something Tory also had it in the chat but I just wanted to emphasize that also it's really important to just do the language. There are a lot of people who like person first language, but there are some debates, especially for example, disabled people. Some people prefer one. Some people prefer another. So making sure that you're consistently doing research on a rolling basis. 

Allison: Yeah. Thank you. Catherine in the chat said our programs are catalysts for change working alongside stakeholders and our clients experiencing housing challenges by educating them, et cetera.

So thank you, Catherine, for that.


Someone earlier, Mary, I think, mentioned the logic model. This is my version of the logic model. I call it a grant writing framework. And so, it's very similar to a logic model, except for that again, I've added those five sections of the proposal on top of this overlay. A lot of times, you don't see logic models with the evaluation piece and the impact.

So I've added those as well. For your organizational description, you've got your resources, your staff volunteers, and what this framework does is it helps you plot out how you're going to tell your story yet still keep the golden thread that walks your reader from the community need and your organization's qualification to the impact that you're going to have.

So just to give you some examples of what would go in here for your community need. And I use this with bullet points. I don't write long sentences with bullet points. It's easier to see the connection between the columns. So what are the statistics that are the most important thing that you're going to bring up in your grant proposal?

Put them in bullet points in a way that walks your reader logically from here's the problem in the community or the opportunity in the community to these are the strategies and why these strategies are going to work. Arnold. You're muted.

I can't hear you, Arnold. I think you're still muted. I'm going to come back to you in just a second when I see your mute button go off. The budget, the income and expenses, that's pretty straightforward. And then for the project description, I have three columns here. I have the strategies that are going to be most effective.

So that's not your list of your programs and services. It kind of goes back to the theory of change, which is another type of logic model or strategic planning document. What are the strategies that are going to be effective? What is the overarching goal? And then of course we have our smart objectives, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time limited.

You've got your evaluation and what determines success. And part of what I teach to my students is really being clear about how that success is measured and what artifacts you're going to use to show that success so that if someone came in after you and ran the same data, they would come up with the same.

The same information that you did in your evaluation. And then what is the expected long-term, if the project is a success, what is the long-term impact? So Arnold, you have a very noisy background, but I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Arnold: Yes. I'm trying to determine what it meant by a climax [indistinct].

Allison: Right. Thank you. So that was on this story slide. This one right here. So the climax is the moment in a story where, oh, gosh, how do I say this? The main action happens. So what we've been waiting for for the whole story, all of a sudden we have the chase scene or whatever it is. In grant writing, that's where we built up this story. We've talked about how our organization is qualified. We've talked about how it's not just us saying that but we have data with the community need to describe the challenge or the opportunity we hope to address. And when we get to the ask, then we're saying we are requesting $20,000 or whatever the amount is, and this is how we're going to use it.

This is our solution, or this is our strategy for addressing this community need. Does that help, Arnold?

I hope so. Okay. So we're getting close to the end of our time together. The key takeaways I want us to remember to write it simply, filter what is relevant, break it into these five main sections, use storytelling and use empowerment language in your grant proposals. At the back of your handbook, you can find information, more information about me and my classes.

My grant writing classes are unique because each student actually writes a complete grant proposal that is reviewed by me and your peers that are in the learning cohort. And so, whatever grant writing class you choose, if you're looking for training, I hope that you'll choose one where your writing is actually being reviewed.

I don't think that we can be great writers unless someone is reading our writing and giving us feedback on our writing. So look for that in your grant writing trainings. I also teach a course on freelancing. If you're interested in becoming a freelance grant writer. Chandler, could you post the link to the handbook again?

It which doesn't have A at the end. The brand name, Instrumentl. So, we can open it up to questions and Chandler did you want to -- and Karen, the slides are in the workbook also, so you can see that slide when you download the workbook. But yeah, I can go back to that again. Chandler, did you want to jump in? 

Chandler: Yes. So we had a couple of questions and I'll get that posted in the chat. Just one second. One of the first questions that we have how to deal specifically about the pandemic time, what caused the shifts in perceptions and in the grant writing space? 

Allison: Well, I think that uncertainty and a lot of our non-profits were having to close the doors and people were, there was a lot of fear. And I think that grant makers wanted to step up and get the money where it was needed so that a lot of the grants were going to sanitizing equipment, face masks and so on so that individuals could continue to come and get the basic services that they needed. I think that was the impetus.

Chandler: Awesome. Thank you. Another question that we had had to do with the high percentage of changes in the application process. Is that kind of a similar lens? 

Allison: Right. Well, I think the way that the applications changed is they were trying to get the money out to the community. So there were fewer questions that were being asked.

They cut out a bunch of the questions and tried to just streamline and get right to the main point of what they needed to know to get the money out there. I also heard a grantmaker saying, hey, we'd love to get a grant report. If you've written a grant report for another funder, just send that to us in the exact same format. You don't even need to change the title at the top. So just trying to make it easier for the nonprofits and the organizations to get what they needed to get done so that they could continue to serve those in need.

Chandler: I think we might have time for one more question. We had a question about empowerment language. A few questions came up there. As far as we have one specific example of helping hungry, illiterate children, what would you try to avoid? And what kind of language would you try to use there? 

Allison: Wow. I prefer to answer that one offline just because we're running out of time and I'm going to have to think about it. So yeah, we'll come back. We'll answer that one aside.

Chandler: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Allison. That is the end of our time. So, thank you so much for attending today's workshop. As promised, we're going to have this freebie that was just listed. I'll post that in the chat. So you can actually do that by filling out our feedback form right here.

Man: All right. And fill that out and we'll get you that freebie for today. If you enjoyed this grant workshop, you'll love our next ones. We have one on February 16th covering growing your confidence so you can grow your mission with Katie Appold of Do More Good. We have one on February 22nd covering how to level up your grant prospecting in under 60 minutes also at 1:00 PM Eastern time. You can register on our events calendar which will be included in that follow-up email. And with that, I just want to thank everybody so much for attending and thank you so much, Allison, for the wonderful presentation. We hope you got something out of this. 

Allison: Thanks so much. Have a great day, everyone. 

Chandler: Awesome. Thank you, everybody. Bye-bye.

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