How to Go From Zero to Hero with Your Grant Strategy
In this Instrumentl free grants training hosted by Delaney Mullennix from Nonprofit Hub featuring Will from the Instrumentl team, we dig in to discuss what about grants make them such a powerful source of funding, as well as what we can all do with our nonprofits to ready ourselves for grant success.
By the end of this Instrumentl Partner Workshop, you'll be able to understand:
- Why grants are so powerful, especially in 2021
- What is prospect research and why is it important
- 5 clear steps you can take to prepare your nonprofit for grant success
- How to start finding good fit funders fast using Instrumentl
Will leads growth at Instrumentl, the online institutional fundraising platform for bringing grant prospecting, tracking, and management to one place. Instrumentl helps over 1500+ nonprofits save time in finding and applying for more grants, with customers increasing their grant application output by 78% after a year of using the software while saving three hours per team member every week.
Will oversees community partnerships and can often be found hosting Instrumentl’s bi-weekly partner workshops which feature top thought-leaders in the grant writing space. Hundreds of grant professionals tune in to these events to learn openly and collaborate with one another. These workshops featuring many of the few Grant Professional Association Approved Trainers and Amazon Best Selling educators allow Will to have a deep understanding of some of the many challenges nonprofits seeking grants face.
Instrumentl Partner Webinars are collaborations between Instrumentl and its community partners to provide free educational workshops for grant professionals. Our goal is to tackle a problem grant professionals often have to solve, while also sharing different ways Instrumentl’s platform can help grant writers win more grants. Click here to save a seat in our next workshop.
Click the video link below to start watching the replay of this free grant workshop, or check out the transcriptions below the video.
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How to Go From Zero to Hero with Your Grant Strategy Grant Training Transcription
Delaney: Again, hello, everyone. Welcome to the Hubinar today with Will where we’ll be talking about going from zero to hero with your grant strategy. Again, my name’s Delaney. I’m the Director of Partnerships here with Nonprofit Hub and DO MORE GOOD. This webinar will be recorded and emailed to you for your convenience and future reference. You can use the chat function or the Q and A feature for your questions, and I’ll be monitoring that throughout the entire presentation, and Will is going to do his best to answer all of your questions if there’s time left at the end.
Today’s webinar was made possible by Instrumentl. Instrumentl is the online institutional fundraising platform for bringing grant prospecting tracking and management to one place. Instrumentl helps over fourteen hundred nonprofits save time in finding and applying for more grants. Organizations have increased their grant application output by 78% after one year of using the software while saving three hours per team member every week. I know that saving time sounds nice for most of us here today.
Will leads Growth at Instrumentl and oversees Community Partnerships. He can be found hosting Instrumentl’s bi-weekly workshops which feature top thought leaders in the grant writing space. Because of this, Will has a deep understanding of some of the many challenges that nonprofits seeking grants face. Welcome, Will. Go ahead and take it away.
Will: Awesome, thanks so much, Delaney. I’m going to share my screen from here. Today we’re going to talk about how to go from zero to hero with your grant strategy. I can’t actually see the chat easily on Zoom, so you will have to monitor that for me. Getting things kicked off, I want to share in the Zoom chat real quick what is your name, what organization are you coming from, what’s your title, since I know everybody is coming in from a different place with Nonprofit Hub, and what is your biggest challenge related to grants. I think that this is obviously a strategic focus that a lot of nonprofit organizations are looking to improve in the rest of 2021, especially post-COVID. So I’d love to hear about where you guys are coming in from and exactly what’s going on right now with your organizations.
Awesome, so Rachel from Soldier’s Best Field is looking for new funders. Looks like Christie from Book Mobile Babe, not knowing how to find grants, definitely, definitely applicable. No real challenge. Awesome to hear that you have no real challenges there, T. A. Finding appropriate funding, so I’m seeing a lot of trends right now in terms of that. In terms of grants just being added to responsibilities, that’s a common thing that I hear as well. It looks like tracking, funding, detailing, reporting, definitely. Finding grants that fit, Jess, that’s a great one in terms of what she’s dealing with. It looks like going after the right prospects. The right prospects, that is such a common theme, and that’s something that, in these workshops that I'm running on a bi-weekly basis, like, every single person always talks about that, because that’s definitely one of their biggest things. So, as we are going further along in this presentation, I’m going to detail for you what’s on our agenda today, but at a high level.
My name is Will. I’m from Instrumentl. I host these bi-weekly grant workshops similar to this one in which I’m literally just talking about the problems that you guys are mentioning in the chat. So, that’s essentially my background, but we’ve gone over that. This is what seems to be resonating with you guys as you continue to put into the chat some of the challenge you’re facing. It seems like you guys are feeling somewhat ill-prepared in your organization’s ability to consistently find good fit funders and apply for grants, and that’s coming up because a lot of people are talking about that. Aside from that, you’re possibly in a situation where you feel overwhelmed, right?
There’re so many things that you have to do when it comes to seeking grants. You have to find the opportunity, vet the opportunity, see whether or not that we actually have the bandwidth within our team to actually apply for that grant, and then actually apply for that grant and do all the reporting behind that as well. So learning that process can be a little overwhelming. Or you might just feel writer’s block in which you’re actually further along, and you’re ready to write your grant in front of your screen, and you realize that just as much as you want to write that grant, you’re staring at a blank screen and it’s hard for you to think about some of the things that might be relevant in the application that you’re submitting for your grant. So all these things are things that you shouldn’t feel alone. That’s definitely something that is important to remember here is that you might think to yourself that grants might not be worth all this effort. But really, you are not alone, and it absolutely is worth the effort.
Some of the things that I want to highlight for you as we get kicked off is there are over 87,000 grantmaking foundations out there that are giving money to nonprofits every single year. Even on just Instrumentl’s side of things, we have 11,000 active grants that we are adding 50 to 100 grants to every single week. So that just goes to show you that at a macro level that there are tons of opportunities out there regardless of what product you’re looking for. I sometimes hear from development directors and things like that that they struggle with expanding their search beyond the local opportunities that they know of. That’s something that, we’ll talk about how we can solve that problem later on into this presentation. As we continue to work through, these are some of the things that you need to understand about where nonprofits are in 2021, as we look ahead to where grants fall into the strategy of fundraising as well as diversifying your nonprofit’s revenue streams. So, some key statistics from some consulting groups as well as Candid, 49% of nonprofit costs continue to get cut this year post-COVID. Also 54% of nonprofit leaders have implemented changes to organizational goals and activities. In a study of analyzing the impact of the pandemic and whatnot, something that was found was that an estimated 11 to 38% of nonprofits could close based on different baseline scenarios that they ran through. So this is something that is so important when you're thinking about, “How do we go past just raising money from individual donors or go past those events that we have to rely on every single year and diversify our revenue streams?”
So that leads me to the agenda for today’s workshop. “Where we’re going today.” The first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about “Why are grants so powerful?”. We’re going to then transition to talk about, “What is prospect research?”. Then we’re going to talk about how to prepare your organization for grant success. I have five clear steps that you will be able to walk away with. Then we’re going to wrap things up by showing you how you can find good fit funders with Instrumentl. I’ll show you the easiest way to do it. Of course there are other ways and I'll talk about some of those other ways as well, but we’ll go through an example of exactly how we’re going to take care of this. So let’s go ahead and kick things off as we get into why grants are powerful. I like these emoticons. I think they make it a little bit more fun. So as we dig into why grants are powerful some of the things that might be important for you to understand is that there are a broad set of funding opportunities that come with grants. It is not something in which... in many cases it’s not super restrictive if you are looking for general operating grants or if you are looking for general grants that are just unrestricted for different opportunities. So there are just a few of the different types of grants here that I have outlined for you. There’s things like education grants or outreach grants. So raising awareness around your programming or in the case where you might be doing some after school programming, things like that. There’s also things related to just program expenses, general operating, which essentially covers almost everything. There’s also capital projects. So if, for example, you are a church that’s rebuilding something in your church then that is something that grants can help fund. Also, training capacity building in which you are just leveling up your organization and you’re trying to continue to advance the overall organization in terms of the staff on call and whatnot. So what you have to understand about grants is that grants are incredibly powerful because foundations have to actually give every single year.
In one of our partner workshops, one of our partners shared this rule which I’d like to share as well called the “Minimum Distribution Rule.” And what this is is essentially a rule that is required in which foundations actually have to give 5% of their average market value of their net investment assets every single year. Now because this is a distribution, some of those costs will go to admin costs and things like that, but the bulk of it will actually go to grants. So the reason why this is powerful is because it means that there is that funding available going back to that slide of there being 87,000 plus grant makers that you can apply for. So one of the things that you should be looking for as you are working your way through different 990 reports, as you're thinking about, “How can I potentially find these organizations that will have enough money to give?”, is to look at their 990 report and then look at their key assets. Then what you can do is you can just take .05, which represents 5%, multiply that number by the assets, and that will give you a ballpark of how much they will be giving at that particular year for grants.
So as you can see in this example, I have actually pulled this example out from Instrumentl. It’s the New York Community Trust. So what you can see here is that in this situation, this organization with 2.9 billion dollars in assets would be giving around 146 million dollars in grants using the 5% rule. As you can actually tell in that second line there with the total giving, they actually gave a little bit more than that in the past year. So in the 2019 year they gave 173 million dollars. So, real quick trick if you are ever working your way through those 990 reports, this is one of the best ways that you can figure out for yourself if this is an opportunity or a good fit funder when it comes to, “Is there enough money for me to go around in this particular situation?” What you can tell here is that this is huge, right, because right now the markets are going really, really well. So as a result, the assets of these foundations are growing as well, which means there’s more money to go around as well. The other reasons why grants are so powerful is because many foundations are actually very consistent in their giving. Something that I notice when I’m going through different foundation pages for past awards that they have granted people is that there are multiple-year horizons in which they are funding different organizations. So something that you should notice, I am having these conversations every single week with development directors, talking about the grants that they’ve been winning at a local level, is that they’ve been holding some of these local opportunities every single year consistently. It’s been like the past five, seven years. So what that should cue in for you is that if you are able to establish grants as a viable channel for you, then that’s something which you can consistently work that into your budget when it comes to where you’re going to source your revenue from. So I noticed that there are a lot of patterns in which foundations, once they establish a relationship with you, they will love to continue that relationship as you continue to make an impact in your community. The other thing that I really like about grants versus something else is that grants can be really systematized, right, systemized. So there are clear steps that you can always take when it comes to submitting grants.
We’re going to go over a couple of the steps that you can take when it comes to taking that first step so that you can go from zero to hero like the presentation’s title. Then the other thing is that grants can help organizational accountability. So I think grants are a lot more powerful than similar conventional... other sources of nonprofit funding just because you get immediate feedback loops as to whether or not the things you are doing are actually driving the impact because you have to report those things in many cases for these grants in order to renew them the following year. So unlike something where you might host a community event and then that community event passes and you don’t have to actually share necessarily any follow up past that event, grants are something in which you do have to do that because you’re, in most cases, getting funding from an organization, and from there that foundation would like to hear updates as to how things are going. So that is some of the high-level in terms of why grants are so powerful.
Now that we understand why grants are so powerful I want to dig into exactly what is prospect research, what are we looking at as we work our way through prospect research, and then go into some steps we can take to prepare organizations for prospect research. As we do so, if you are starting to understand the power of grants, I want you to leave in the chat either what your situation is or what you’re thinking about as you are processing what I just went over in some of that data. I love to hear from you guys and we’ll definitely bring up if you have any follow up thoughts in the Q and A section. So let's go ahead and go into “What is prospect research?” as we transition here, and we’re going to talk about specifically the context within grants.
So prospect research is a broad term in nonprofits, but prospect research in the context of grants is really finding, assessing, and qualifying public, private, and corporate foundations to pursue more strategic and planned giving. So in this chart, what you can see here is there’s this little pinwheel. It’s going around. Essentially, this is the typical grant life cycle in which you are generating your idea, finding your funding, developing your proposal, submitting your proposal, and then managing your award. So like I said before, as you are starting to work on programs, you are naturally going to be looking for ways to find funding. This is what prospect research is, finding funding. From there, you will work on your grant proposal. Then you will submit that grant proposal, and then, should you win, you will manage your award and do that sort of reporting from there. So what this is in terms of prospect research is this section right here on finding your funding. The reason why prospect research is so important... I like this quote from Network For Good, ABCs of Prospecting which is, “Virtually every nonprofit has high-capacity donors hiding in plain sight. A whopping 40% of donors in a recent study admitted they could give more than they currently are. Our job as fundraisers is to identify those prospects so that we can start moving them up to greater levels of giving.”
This reminds me of... in one workshop of ours we had somebody in the audience who essentially realized, using Instrumentl, they looked up the foundation profile of this organization that they had been volunteering for for the last five years and they realized that they actually gave grants. They just knew before that that they were an organization that made an impact in the community, but they didn’t know anything about the grant side of things. So it was literally from looking up that profile that they were able to recognize that they could just continue the relationship that they already had with that foundation and start asking for grant money. So this is a perfect example of how they’re hiding in plain sight.
What information is available on funders? So there’s a lot of information actually out there that’s available on funders. I know that a lot of people, when they come to us, they’re not really sure what sort of information is important or relevant. So what I've put on this slide are some of the things that I think are most important as you’re starting to assess fit and fit of funders. So one of the first things, just like key stats on assets and giving patterns. So you’ll notice for example, right, that we just looked at the assets and giving patterns at the highest level for that organization, but you can actually look at that over a multi-year time horizon as well. Pretty much every foundation will have to submit that 990 report to the IRS which allows you to identify and work backwards from those trends. The other thing that’s really important, though, is the names of key individuals. So sometimes you’re going to have somebody on your board that knows somebody else at this other foundation that gives grants every single year. So that is a great situation for you to call up your board member and be like, “Hey, can we get an introduction to XYZ person at XYZ foundation?”
The other thing that you’ll notice is just the giving trends in cycles over the year. So there is tons of different trends that you can identify, but when I’m working with different development team members and grant writers with their grant process what I tell them to do is I tell them to look at the past grantees and find what sort of projects were funded so that they can see where there’s overlap with the sorts of programs and projects that you might also be looking to look for as well. The theory behind that is, “Why would I even bother looking for just every single organization that might be funding any general purpose when I can actually zero in on the ones that have preexisting histories of giving to organizations like mine?” So that leads me to that other point on geographic areas of focus. Some foundations only like to fund certain areas, and if you can quickly tell that from the high-level view of whatever data source you’re referencing then that can save you the time of potentially spending a few hours writing a grant proposal that’s not going to go anywhere because maybe you’re in Texas and they fund everybody in California. So making sure that you have good fit funders is really, really important as you’re working your way through things. Then obviously the last thing that’s available to you is the overall grant eligibility requirements. So oftentimes with these proposals, you’re going to get information about the opportunity at stake in terms of specifically what they are prioritizing in terms of their mission and impact and how that may align with your respective program and project. So as you’re working your way through things you may find something along these lines.
This is a digitized version of a 990 report on Instrumentl. There is a link in that bottom right if you want to try things out for yourself later on as we go through the demo. It’ll be helpful for you to use that link. Essentially what we do on Instrumentl is we digitize the bulk of these reports so that you can pull the data faster than some of your counterparts that might be using those old school PDF reports, because what you can see here is you can see those key trends in terms of assets and giving. You can see contact information, key people, and you also see this beautiful map of the US which shows you past grantees. What you’re able to do here is you’re actually able to quickly filter by state. So if, like my example, I was that nonprofit in Texas and I wanted to filter here and I saw that they actually have a prevalence in California... That's actually really funny. This is the exact map because I did not plan that, but what you’ll see here is that you can actually cut down by the different purposes as you’re working through the 990 reports. So we’ve gone over exactly why grants are so powerful. We’ve gone over the high level of prospect research. That naturally leads me to “How to prepare for grants''. So let’s say you’re in the audience today and you’re attending because you’ve heard about grants, you think they’re interesting to you, you think your programs that you’re working on potentially are great opportunities to be picked up by funders, but you have no idea where to start when it comes to grants. That is a very common place to start and you shouldn’t be stressed about that. It’s really something that you can actually systemize quite nicely.
So what I like to bring up is this quote from the book Atomic Habits. If you’ve read Atomic Habits, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below since I think it’s a great book if you’re ever thinking about just leveling up yourself, your organization, or whatever it is you’re working on. James Clear writes in Atomic Habits, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the levels of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there. This year, spend less focusing on outcomes and more time focusing on the habits that precede the results.” So this is so important, right, because, a lot of times when I’m having conversations with development directors, they love to say, like, “Our goal this year is to 2X our grant money,” and then I ask them specifically what they’re doing to get there and they’re like, “I don’t know. That’s why I’m coming to you.”
Well that’s not exactly the best place to start, right? It starts with the steps that you can take to prepare your organization to be grant ready, and that is something that takes some time. It’s something that you... it’s okay to take time as well. I think that some executive directors and development directors push themselves to do it in a day or so, or do it in a week or so, but that’s just not a realistic timeline. So something I want you to think about as I go through these steps to take is I want you to understand that the steps I’m going to share here are steps that you can take your time on. You don’t necessarily need to just go out and email me a week from now and be like, “Will, I did it all. I’m ready to go. Let’s get grants.” So this is something in which, as you are getting organizational alignment, it is really important for you to think about how to do it intentionally and methodically so that you build a collection of habits that prepare your organization well for grants.
So let’s go into how to prepare for grants, some of the tips that I have for you here, and then we’ll go from there. It’s awesome to hear that some of you guys have read it in the comments below as well. Awesome. First step, first step when it comes to preparing for grants is to make sure that you are discoverable. I can’t tell you the number of times in which nonprofits are still working on their website. It’s really hard for them to kind of piece together a page for their mission, a page for their impact, a page for just like their history for their organization. So the key questions I want you to make sure that you are able to answer when it comes to preparing your organization for grants is, “Is it clear within a minute of visiting your website what your mission is and how you will measure your impact?” If that is not clear within a minute, you need to redo your homepage, all right? The reason why is because as... so what’s happening this year, actually, is more foundations are digitizing their 990 reports. The IRS is mandating that and more and more organizations are essentially moving to more streamlined processes. So naturally, when they go to the evaluation criteria as well, they also take into account these sorts of profiles of how easy it is to find information about the organization, as opposed to just the things you’ve written in your grant proposal. So making sure that it’s really clear what your organization is doing and how you measure your impact is super important in terms of preparing yourself.
The second thing that I think is really important as well is to find detailed case studies along with your contact information. So aside from just having contact information for your organization, do you have a couple highlights as to what some of the major programs that you are potentially going to be using in your grant proposals, the impact is in your community? And if that’s not clear, how can you make it more clear? One of the organizations that I worked with recently, they just were revamping this with their case studies because they needed to essentially measure the impact of what last year’s funding came in from for grants related to COVID funds. So they wanted to prepare themselves for what it looks like post-COVID. So having these sorts of things in place is really, really paramount as step number one. The next thing you want to do, though, is you want to also ask for your board or community’s help. I think that a lot of times when people are trying to look for more grants, they try to do it all themselves because we all are the sorts of people that think that we’d rather not ask for help if we can, right? That’s something that I think is a mistake because a lot of times there is help at a closer level with low-hanging fruit just nearby, and the easiest way that you can do this is literally to ask for referrals.
So oftentimes I think of grants from the standpoint of three layers in which you first want to start at the local level, then build to the regional, and then build to the national, because what the local is going to do is it’s going to prepare you so that you have some general proposals in place that you can then use at the regional-based level, and then from the regional-based ones, you’ll then be able to level it up to the national level. So a lot of organizations that are coming to us at Instrumentl are organizations that have potentially fleshed out some of the local opportunities, and they’re struggling to find more regional and national opportunities, but because they’ve already done a few local grants, they know the general mechanics of how grants work.
So as you’re working your way through preparing your organization for grants, what I want you to do is I want you to ask your board for different suggestions as to foundations that they might be connected with. Ask for just introductions to learn more about what those foundations are focused on. You don’t need to necessarily ask for funding right out the bat. In fact, oftentimes it’s just starting an initial relationship because you never know, a year from now when you might be ready for that national level, how helpful it would be that you already are in connection with that person or the persons that are important at that national level.
The other thing that you can ask for aside from introductions from your board are staff, volunteers, and community. All right, so, you’ve made sure you’re discoverable, you’ve made sure that you’ve tackled your low-hanging fruit. The next thing you need to tackle though, is you need to strategically outline your funding strategy. Here are some of the questions that I think are really important for you to consider and make sure that you have clear answers for at this point in time. Number one, what are your biggest resource needs?
If you’re looking for grant funding, the idea here is that it’s going to help offset some of the needs in your other funding areas, and so something you need to identify, what is points one, two, and three in terms of your priorities? That naturally leads to what your overall goals and priorities are for the year. So not just necessarily resource needs in the immediate sense, but also the hierarchical sense of the organization and where you guys are going. How are you guys going to track that? How easy is it for you to track that, right? That is something that you will want to think about. The reason why, again, is because if you remember that fly wheel from the grant life cycle, you will have to report these things. So tracking it along the way is way better than the case in which you are tracking it later, because I can’t tell you the number of times that a nonprofit has been stressed out because they’ve got a reporting deadline at the end of the week and they haven’t been tracking anything since they received the funding. So that is an important thing as well. The other thing is, “What outcomes will you be able to report?” So it’s really important for you, as you’re working your way through, to think about specific outcomes, being really, really, specific.
We actually had a workshop with Grant Writing for Dummies author Bev Browning where she just went over how exactly you write smart objective statements. I’ll include replays to those workshops to send over with Delaney and the Nonprofit Hub team. Definitely check those out because it’ll help you zero in on specifically how you phrase these sorts of things. Then the other thing to consider is when will you be able to report the outcomes, right? It’s all about lining everything up before you get started so that you aren’t blindsided when it comes time to actually do these sorts of things. So this is what it might look like in terms of creating a strategic focus, creating some sort of high-level picture as to how you set your goals. You might have some sort of table in which you have your different funding sources.
There’s all different types of grants. There’s foundation grants, federal, corporate. You’re going to have your major donors, your in-person events, online fundraising, things like that. What you’re probably going to want to think about is how much did you raise in each of these channels in 2020 and then what’s your baseline goal for 2021. Then from there, what’s your stretch goal? Then think about which of the projects or programs that your nonprofit is offering this year that you would be able to supplement or get funded from each of these sources. So this goes back to that quote in which we want to build a system for ourselves.
We want to build some sort of structure, organization, for us to think about things, because if we don’t have structure, it’s chaos. So it’s really important for you to come up with whatever method that might work for you here.
A pro tip that I can suggest, this has come up multiple times in our different workshops from different grant [inaudible], is as you are thinking about your programs, I want you to think about your programs as projects, right? So projects are like temporary initiatives with a clear beginning and end that lead to a specific outcome, and programs are ongoing efforts that will typically include projects. What’s different is that these programs are the things that fulfill your nonprofit’s mission. So I think a lot of times people generalize the things that they are looking for grants for, but they struggle in getting really specific and thinking about their programs like projects.
So I’ll give you an example of exactly what this might look like. Every Monday during the school year, I volunteer for this nearby nonprofit. I work with this fifth grader and we do these tutoring sessions. So the example I pulled for today’s presentation is an after-school tutoring program, and the problem that this nonprofit might have is getting sufficient funding for general operating expenses, right? So this is a problem that they’re going to face year in and year out, obviously, in terms of fundraising, but instead of just putting that as their general think that they’re looking for, “Hey we’re looking for funding for general operating expenses,” you can position it from the standpoint of a project with clear goals, right? So what you can see here is I have given two examples of how you might position your program as a project. The first one is doubling the capacity of weekly online tutoring programs, and the second one is maybe a reading drive to gift a book to every student twice a year. So what's clear when I reposition it is, instead of just saying I need funding for general operating expenses, I’m being specific as to what the clear outcome is in terms of what is success to us when it comes to applying for this grant, and what does it look like in terms of specifically what this money is going to be going for. So when you are being more specific, it will make it easier for you to write your grant proposals as well because what’s going to happen is your funders will also recognize, “Oh, they understand that there is clearly a beginning, middle, and end here with our funding goals.”
So it’s easier for them to fund you than just to fund you because you’re looking for funding for general operating expenses. It’s not specific enough. So being really smart with how you position things is really, really vital here. That leads me to step number 5 in preparing for grants which is creating a weighted decision matrix. I actually just got out of a workshop of this earlier today, and it’s something that has been really helpful for a number of our customers in the past. This is where you just want to come up with the model that works for you. There are tons of different models. There’s, like, the Eisenhower model, there’s a two-by-two matrix, and there’s also a general weighted decision matrix, but the main things that these allow you to do is they allow you to think systematically about each opportunity of when it’s a go and then when it’s a no-go situation. There’s different factors that you might work into your weighted decision matrix. You might look up things like the alignment with the opportunities of interest. So what does the funder want and does it align to the program that you’re looking to raise money for? You might also look for something like the number of past grantees, right? If, like I said earlier in the example, if I’m in Texas, and they’re funding everybody in California, I probably should not pursue that opportunity in terms of using my time effectively. You might also want to look at the award amounts. So the reason why that’s helpful is because it’ll tell you how you get closer to that baseline goal or that stretch goal in your table in which, if you know that 20% can come from this funder, then you might prioritize that funder as opposed to the one that’s only going to give you 5%. Also thinking about things like estimated time to complete the grant proposal. Is there enough bandwidth within our team right now to actually pursue this opportunity? And then the competition, relative to other opportunities, right? So if, for example, I am in Austin, Texas, I find a foundation that’s also based out of Austin, Texas, I’m probably going to weight that foundation a lot higher than the one in California just because, if they have an affinity towards Austin, Texas, I’m a high probability for getting funding from that particular foundation. Then obviously the last consideration that you might work into your decision matrix is existing relationships, right? We went over that. We went over how to ask for that and how to go from there. Essentially that is a really important thing to consider. So something that came up in the chat along the way was, “How do I find good fit funders?”, “What do I do?”, “I’m struggling”, right? That is a common challenge. You don’t have to worry about that, though, because, essentially,… oops, my slides are moving. Essentially, what you can do is you can use Instrumentl to find that. However there are some alternatives, and I want to be... I want to give you some avenues that you can clearly use from here. There’s Google, ProPublica, List Servs, Charity Navigator, and there’s also Guidestar Foundation Directory Online if you are looking for other opportunities. It is not uncommon, for example, for some of our 1,400 plus customers to also use Foundation Directory in addition to Instrumentl. That’s just because everybody that has different programs will always be able to find different opportunities from different databases.
I’ll tell you specifically the reasons why Instrumentl is the easiest to use.
The first reason why is because it is built specifically to bring grant prospecting, tracking, and management to one place. So if anything I’ve gone over today feels like it’s a lot of work, then we are the ones that essentially take some of that lift off you. As was mentioned in the beginning, we are the institutional fundraising platform. So it’s not uncommon that I hear from some people that i talk to on a regular basis how they’re using, like, Sales Force for their CRM for grants and trying to hack some sort of CRM to help them with their grant management, but the challenges that they often face is just that none of these CRM were actually built for grants. So as a result, the adoption in their teams is really low as to the people regularly using the CRM for tracking their grants. So what’s the point of using something if you’re not actually going to use it. The second reason why Instrumentl is really easy to use in terms of setting everything up is it only shows you active private and public funding sources for 501C3s. So if you use Google, if you use some other databases and whatnot, you might come across the case in which you have to sift through inactive opportunities in order to find the ones that are good fit funders, whereas on Instrumentl you only see ones that are actually open for application and that you can start working on today.
The other things that you’ll see are 990 reports and foundation reports. I’ll show you an example of that as we jump into the site.
What’s really one of our secret sauces is the unique matching algorithm which will show you specifically good fit opportunities for your projects. We’ll also take care of some task management for you in terms of the upcoming deadlines you have coming up. If, for example, you are used to spending any time in your week double checking if any of your foundations that you’re applying for have changed the grant deadline, we do that automatically on Instrumentl. So we remove the time that you have to put in your calendar for that.
So like was mentioned at the beginning of the workshop, on average we save each team member three hours a week and increase grant application output with our customers by 70% after a year of using us. But rather than just tell you about how interesting it is, I want to show you how easy it is to use Instrumentl and then set up a project that way.
As you guys are signing up with the link that we’ll provide for you guys that you can also quickly understand what you’re working through on Instrumentl. So I’m going to see if I can find somebody from the chat. That might be interesting to pull in a real example. Or if you didn’t chat in earlier it would be great for you to chat in what your organization is doing and what you’re looking for. It looks like Lauri was something related to housing so I'm going to actually do that. Let’s go ahead... I’m going to go ahead and actually create a project for myself here. Let me see if I can edit a project and then I will make a new project and call it “For Lauri”. All right, this is going to be Laurie’s project. We’re going to do it live. So as we select a user here what I’m going to do is I'm going to call it “Lauri’s Awesome Project”, and what you’ll do once you create your Instrumentl account is you will go through this same flow, select “nonprofit”. Once you select “nonprofit” , select whether or not you want to see faith-based grants. I think a few of you mentioned that you’re related to some faith-based organizations, so you would select “yes” in that case. Then once you go to the next section it looks like she did not mention where she’s based out of, but in this case I'm going to just go ahead and choose. I’ve been using Texas a lot so maybe I'll go to California now. California, let’s say we are in Marin County. That’s where [inaudible]
Jordan: I don’t want to interrupt you. Are we supposed to be seeing your screen?
Will: Oh, are you not able to see it? Hold on. It might be the Zoom thing in which... let me see real quick. Let me see if I can change... I think what’s happening is I'm on full screen on different people and so let me share the other one. Can you see now? Yes, no?
Jordan: Yes we can see it, yeah.
Will: Awesome, all right. Sorry about that. I always forget with the full screen that you have to go over one because it’s technically another screen and it’s not the same screen.
Jordan: I’m sorry to interrupt.
Will: No, no worries, no worries. I appreciate it. Awesome, so what you can do is I set up “Laurie’s Awesome Project” here. I’m going to show what was not being shown. Then yeah, I will start from the beginning, Wilson, for sure. All right, I’m going to just actually start from the beginning. Sorry for that. Let’s go ahead and create a project together. Left hand side, we’re doing it live, select user. I’m going to call this “Lauri’s Awesome Project”. I am selecting “nonprofit” and then from here, like I was saying earlier, if you’re faith based you would select “yes”, otherwise “no”. In this case, I’m going to go ahead and go into Marin County in California. So I’m selecting “California '' and then I’m selecting “Marin County”. As I do this, what’s nice, like I mentioned about Instrumentl, is that we do the searching for you. So here, one way I can do this for Lauri is I can just search “house” or “housing”, right? I can start typing that in and I can see some interesting related fields of work, but also I might open up that section for “Community and Human Services” and see what other work there might be in terms of some related things. So, “Basic Human Needs'' could be one of them. I think “Community Services'' is something that I’ve worked through with some other housing organizations. Essentially what you’re looking for as you set up your project is you’re looking for anywhere between five and seven fields of work is a great place to start. Otherwise it will support up to ten in your search when you’re working through this. So this is something in which I have four, I believe. So I might select one for “Minority Services'' since sometimes the housing groups do that sort of related work as well. Then from there I might go ahead and update these five fields.
From here I’m going to go ahead and choose what sized grants we’re looking for. Remember when I talked about criteria to think about in your weighted decision matrix. This is something in which maybe you decide, “Hey, we’re a small team, and we want to make sure that we’re using our time well. So I’m going to only look at the ones that are maybe a grand or more, because anything smaller just isn’t worth the time for our small team to work on.” This you’ll notice is very familiar to the beginning of this presentation in which I was sharing the different ways that you can use grant funding. So in this case with housing, it’s probably going to be “Program” and “General Operating Expenses”, but there might also be some capital projects involved if we think about that. From there, when we click the “save and exit” button, what’s going to happen is Instrumentl is going to do an initial screen based off of the project that we set up here, and we’re going to output all the matches that relate to “Lauri’s Awesome Project” here for housing.
So as the page refreshes here, we’re going to be redirected to the matches view, and that is going to show us all of some of the good fit funders that Instrumentl has been able to identify for us. So this is something which once, every single week, we will send you an email update that says, “Hey, Lauri. Here are the new grants that fit your awesome project.” That is really nice because as opposed to you having to go into Google each time and look for something, then obviously we’re taking care of that initial screen for you. So you can see here we have found 178 grants for Lauri, 87 foundations, 56 corporate grants, and 9 government grants. If I click that “let’s go” button, you will see all the information here in one place.
So what’s cool about Instrumentl is you can filter everything. So we selected three different funding uses, but we can actually filter down for any of these as well as by funder type. Then what you’ll also notice is on the right-hand side, you see this beautiful breakdown as to why we are showing you this information. So this is something in which you can see past grantees are coming from California. So as I'm thinking about, “Hey, is this a good fit for me?” Potentially, but the way I can find that out is by literally clicking this “view 990 report”, and then this is that digitized version of that 990 report we saw earlier in the presentation where I can see this organization’s giving profile. We can see their giving trends over the years as well as where their past grantees are coming from.
So if I want to filter this, I just... so the old-school approach is, “Hey, I'm going to open up one of these PDFs and I'm going to scroll through this,” but the new-school approach is take this drop down, click “California”, and then from there you can see everybody just in California. See how I filtered for just the California ones? What’s even better is when you click into one of these as well it will open up that Recipient profile and show you past awards that those recipients have received as well. So that is super helpful when it comes to quickly finding out whether or not it’s a good fit funder. It saves you tons of time, and what’s nice about this is that we also have tracking capabilities.
So aside from all of this in terms of the breakdown, the predictive deadlines that we also take care of for you in which you can see here how we’re showing you predict deadlines even before the foundation has put their formal date. The way we’re able to do that is we essentially look historically at what the deadline has been even before the deadline has been finalized. The second side of things is let’s say for example we start to save one of these, we would then start to go into our trackers. So I’ll show you an example of what a tracker looks like. This’ll save you some time as well. If any of you are experienced grant writers, you will also see how you might bring your work into Instrumentl because this is the digital version of your spreadsheet that is way more powerful than your spreadsheet. There’s a few reasons why.
Reason number one is we will roll up for you all the tasks and deadlines that you have coming up into a single email update. So as opposed to your current workflow, which might involve your Google calendar, it might involve your Dropbox, it might involve all this other stuff, you can do everything in Instrumentl. If I save a grant opportunity here, you can essentially see on the right-hand side that I can essentially do task management all within Instrumentl. I can do my milestones, my submission, the reporting that we talked about several times in this presentation. Then we can also choose who to notify and when. So everything is here, because when you’re ready to upload that final proposal, it’s all here. Your final proposal will be saved here. The funder information will be saved here as well. So why is this really powerful? Why is this so important? Well it really goes back to that quote from Atomic Habits. You fall to the level of your systems. So if you don’t have a clear system for organizing your grants, I’m sorry, but it’s not really realistic for you to say that you’re going to scale your grant strategy in a meaningful way. So that’s something Instrumentl can take care of when you are working in your tracker.
I know some of you are probably wondering in your head if you have an existing tracker, “How do I bring that work into Instrumentl?” Well you can also do that by just clicking the “Add New” and then uploading many, and then you can just upload your existing spreadsheet into Instrumentl. The last thing that we’ll go over in Instrumentl before we start to open up to some Q and A and I will go over some raffle stuff that I have for you guys, prepared for today, is in the “Quick Find” in the top left. If you ever want to look up an organization based on their EIN number or by their name, you can do so, and what that will do is that will open up for you all that information immediately at your fingertips. What’s really cool about this section is there’s actually a “Past awards received” for those who are also recipients. You can actually do some Sherlock Holmes-ing and figure out similar organizations to you guys and figure out who’s funding them. So that can be another great way to do that. Linda asks, “Can you enter grants into a spreadsheet that aren’t found on Instrumentl?” Absolutely. You just go into your tracker, and when you are adding that, you will add one, and add that into Instrumentl. There’s a cost involved to Instrumentl. The basic plan starts out at $179 a month on the annual, otherwise $195 a month on the monthly. I’m going to jump back into my slides though as we start to wrap up some of the takeaways as well as who Instrumentl helps so that we can start to cover that side of things. So I’m going to jump back in here to my preview.
So, like I mentioned, Instrumentl helps grant writers, consultants, grant writing teams, development teams, executive directors, fundraising directors, anybody that’s looking to scale their grant strategy. You can use that link. It’s instrumentl.com/nph, and that will start your 14-day trial so you can check out for yourself whether or not the matching algorithm is good for you, as well as the tracking side of things. So as you are finding good fit funders, what I want you to do then is I want you to use your decision matrix to evaluate fit. I want you to consider competitiveness. I want you to connect with past applicants. So if you are not connecting with past applicants, you are missing a prime opportunity for you to get more data points that would be helpful for you as you are identifying good sources of funding. You want to figure out from these past funders, “Hey, were these guys easy to work with or are they really frustrating to work with in terms of reporting requirements?”
You also want to contact the funder with questions. If you’re looking for the exact phrasing of the questions, the exact templates that you can use as you’re reaching out to foundations, check out the replays to our workshops that I'll make sure that the Nonprofit Hub team has because we have entire hours dedicated to that. That’s something that I won’t be able to cover in the time that we have today, but it’s something which is available and it’s all free training there so be sure to check that out.
Three learning takeaways from today that I hope you remember.
Takeaway number one, grants are a great way to diversify your funding. As we mentioned in the very beginning, that 5% rule, there are so many foundations waiting to fund you that if you haven’t seriously looked at grants, you should start doing so this year. There’s so much time left, and also, as these organizations are starting to shift post-COVID, what’s happening is they’re no longer just funding immediate priorities in terms of basic needs and whatnot. They’re actually reopening to other funding opportunities. Most recently, for example, there’s been a couple boy scouts chapters and things like that that I've been in touch with and they were just talking about how funders are so much more receptive this year as membership comes back than the prior year in which things were going more towards PPE and things like that.
The second learning takeaway is, “Follow the five steps we reviewed in preparing for grants.” That’s super important for you to do because that is something that will prepare you in place for those situations of applying for grants.
The last one is to use Instrumentl to turbocharge your grants and join us for more free grant trainings. That is something in which we are offering free programming every other week as well, and we’re really happy to be presenting today with Nonprofit Hub and sharing some of this since I know that this is a strategic area focus that so many nonprofits want more information on. So be sure to check that out.
Following up with me, if you want to follow up with me you can send me an email at [email protected] You can obviously visit us at instrumentl.com. You can save $50 off your first month with the code NPHUBINAR. We work with all nonprofits so there’s no discounts for nonprofits because all our customers are nonprofits. So that is our pricing there. In terms of what we’re raffling for today, I am going to include a link in the Zoom chat that you can use to follow up, and then we’ll also send this in the follow up as well. Essentially we’re raffling away a one-month subscription to Instrumentl. So if you do the actions by the end of tomorrow, you can do any of the actions, essentially it’s either creating an Instrumentl trial account, completing the webinar feedback form, or sharing a link to [inaudible] Twitter and tagging NPHub as well as Instrumentl what you learned today, and then I will coordinate with the Nonprofit Hub team to announce the winner and whatnot in terms of that. Other than that, I appreciate you guys for tuning in, and we can open it up for questions and I'll also make sure that I can get that link in the chat as well since I don’t have it immediately on hand for myself.
Delaney: Thank you, Will. There are a couple questions, and I’m kind of noticing a trend from our audience that a few of them are from organizations that are new. They’re brand new to getting funding. They might not have anything. Do you have any specific recommendations for teams like that?
Will: Yeah, my number one recommendation at that point is to first figure out where you are at in your programming, because what I will say is that most organizations that we’ve worked with that are ready for grants typically are past the point of 90k in revenue. So it’s typically something in which they have at least one person working full time on the nonprofit. It’s something in which you have to have the capacity in place, because if you don’t have that in place first you should just focus on getting the infrastructure in place for your organization before you start pursuing grants there. I would say that grants are probably not a good place to pursue when you’re that early stage. Early-stage nonprofits struggle with getting funding unless they’re local based because the national levels and the regional levels will typically be looking for some more established organizations with a track record to fund with their funding. So that’s what I generally say is actually I would recommend that you potentially look to other avenues in terms of traditional fundraising than go to grants immediately when you are still in that small stage of nonprofits.
Delaney: Okay, and then another question that we had, I know that you’ve mentioned, obviously you showed the United States and you talked about the local, regional, and national grant availability. Do you do anything outside of the United States on Instrumentl specifically?
Will: Yeah, that’s a great question. We specifically focus on US-based 501C3s. We do have some coverage in Canadian nonprofits. However, it’s not going to be super extensive there. Most of our bulk focus is in the US at this time.
Delaney: Okay, any last-minute questions? I think I might have covered a lot of them. We’ll definitely try to make the slides available in the follow up email to you guys. You’ll also get the recording, and if we figure out that we missed any other questions we can definitely try to fit that in our follow up email as well. Maybe I'll just give it a couple more seconds and see if anyone wants... if there are any last-minute questions in there.
Will: Yeah, I’ll get the link in there, too, in case anybody that’s live wants to go to that link, too. If you don’t want to wait for that, here’s that link.
Delaney: Awesome. All right, thank you, everyone, for attending today. Thank you, Will, so much for joining us this afternoon, and we will talk to you guys soon. Enjoy your day and I'll see you next time.