How to Use a Decision Matrix in Your Grant Strategy with Stacy Fitzsimmons
In this Instrumentl Partner Webinar, we learn from Stacy Fitzsimmons as she shares some of her many years of experience as a state and federal grant expert.
By the end of this Instrumentl Partner Workshop, you'll be able to:
- Create your own decision matrix
- Distinguish between go and no-go scenarios for grant opportunities
- Start using a decision matrix for your grant strategy
- Understand how Instrumentl saves you time and money in identifying the right opportunities for your programs
By using that link, you'll save $50 off your first month should you decide to upgrade when your trial expires.
Stacy Fitzsimmons is founder of SNF Writing Solutions, a planning-proposal-project management consultancy. She has a passion for strategy, process, and implementation and works closely with nonprofit, corporate, and government clients nationally. Stacy is a state and federal grant expert with over $70 million in awards in just the last 5 years.
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.
Instrumentl Partner Workshop Replay
Instrumentl Partner Workshop Slides
Click to find the best grants for your nonprofit from 12,000+ active opportunities.
Search 150+ subcategoriesExplore More Grants
How to Use a Decision Matrix in Your Grant Strategy Grant Training Transcription
Will: Alright, well, hello everybody, and welcome to “How to Use a Decision Matrix to Decide When to Pursue a Grant Opportunity.” This workshop is being recorded, and slides will be shared afterward, so keep your eyes peeled for a follow-up email later in case you need to review anything from today’s workshop. In case it’s your first time here, this free grant workshop is an Instrumentl partner webinar. These are collaborations between Instrumentl and our community partners to essentially provide trainings for grant professionals, tackling problems that you guys often solve, while also sharing different ways that you can use Instrumentl’s platform to help you win more grants. Instrumentl is the institutional fundraising platform if you want to bring grant prospecting tracking and management into one place, then you can do that with our platform. With it you’ll get personalized grant recommendations that you can use, using the link on the screen there. That’s Stacy’s link for today’s workshop.
Lastly, be sure to stick around until the end for today’s presentation. We will be sharing 11 prizes that we’ll be raffling away, valued at over a grand in value, so details to come for that at the end of this presentation. Now that we’ve got that housekeeping out of the way, I’m very excited to introduce Stacey Fitzsimmons. Stacy is the founder of SNF Writer Solutions, a planning proposal project management consultancy. She has a passion for strategy process and implementation, and works closely with nonprofit, corporate, and government clients nationally. Stacy’s a state and federal grant expert, and she’s won over $70,000,000 in awards in just the last five years. Stacy, why don’t you go ahead and take it away?
Alright, Will, thanks for that welcome, and today we are absolutely going to figure out how we might be able to use a decision matrix to focus our grant pursuits. My focus here is that we chase mission, not dollars, and if you’ve ever worked with me before, that’s one of my pet peeves. Is to chase dollars.
Alright. We’ve already shared in the Zoom chat, but I do have a quick poll for you to see, how do you make decisions in your organization? I’m going to go ahead, and…
Will: Yep, and I’ve gone ahead and activated that poll, some responses are coming in. Awesome, so looking at those responses…
Stacy: I am so proud of this group, that a lot of you actually use data and subject matter expertise to make your decisions. We’ll try to figure out how we can bring the other 65% of you to that group, but also maybe give some insight to those others, to that 35% that did say that it is based on data and subject matter expertise… To see if we can give you some tools to facilitate that a little bit better. And for those of you that are deciding by committee, I’m going to give you a strategy that will actually make that decision by committee, maybe a little less painful. Maybe a little goal for today.
Alright, thanks for participating in that, that gives me an idea of where we’re coming from. Okay, so first off, why do we need a decision matrix, and what is it? A decision matrix is a decision tool. It’s a way to help facilitate making a decision, and decision tools are useful when you’re faced with a decision that is laced with lots of criteria or options, or if there’s lots of opinions. Especially that last one. And a decision tool can help you approach decisions in an orderly manner, even if you’re amidst chaos, multiple deadlines, and new opportunities coming out because we don’t always have project, project, project, it’s usually projects mixed in with new opportunities coming out, and we have to be able to manage it all. This can help kind of streamline that process, and give you a tool to use to make some better decisions, faster. Some of the most common scenarios where decision tools are useful are proposal “go and no-go” decisions, prioritizing your grant responsibilities, ordering or ranking your program or project funding needs, or if to include a program in your budget or not. And then also determining where a new program site, or a product launch might need to happen, and today we’re going to focus on that proposal go- no go using a decision matrix and Instrumentl.
For just a minute, let’s go to the chat, and let me know what kind of prospecting decision factors your organization struggles with the most. Is there a question that your team always gets stuck on when you’re trying to review an opportunity? Or is there, maybe you don’t get stuck, but if it always comes up, and you’re not quite sure how to address it, what kind of questions or decision factors does your organization struggle with? Long-distance opportunities, time commitment, are you competitive for the grant? Do we have time to pursue? That’s absolutely a good one. Capacity, yes. You guys are putting in some great ones here. Staffing issues. Can we manage the requirements? Absolutely, ROI, ROI is part of a decision. Balancing new projects with current projects, absolutely. Clear mission. Sustainability. Realistically is it worth pursuing? That is the crux of ever… Of this whole thing. Mission and vision. Absolutely, tying everything back to mission. Okay. Board decision to go for grants. If you struggle with your board actually getting on board with a grant application going through this decision matrix process can actually give you some of that leverage that you might need in order to go to your board, and say, “Well, it meets all of these criteria,” so we’ll hopefully try to address that. Here’s a question, here’s kind of a question statement. If staff are leaving, do we still look for opportunities for that program? That is an excellent question, and something that I’m actually dealing with organizations right now, and that is definitely a big part of an organization’s pursuit of grants, right now.
Alright, well, thanks for those, keep those coming if you want to, and I’ll go back to those as soon as we can. And also, if you’re going to leave a question for me in the chat, put some hashtags in front of it, or pound sign, depending on which generation you’re from, and that’ll give me an IQ that it’s a question that I need to answer. Okay, so let’s kind of start at the basics. What is a decision matrix? A decision matrix is used to evaluate an option or opportunity among two or more criteria. There’s usually multiple criteria that you’re trying to make a decision based on, different scenarios, situations, opportunities, and it can be used to evaluate one option, or a collection of options, against those criteria in order to sort them, rank them, or qualify them, make a decision about them. But it’s a way that you can kind of standardize an approach to looking at options.
The most common one, and probably everyone has seen some version of this is, the Eisenhower Matrix, and President Eisenhower created probably what is the most famous prioritization matrix during World War II. He was a general prioritizing troop deployment, and he used a two-by-two quadrant in order to decide where troops should go, and now this particular method bears his name. This matrix uses two axes that identify the criteria that are important to the objective you are working towards. This example shows an axis of gratification, or you can also translate that into a tie to the mission, and then time. There could be other axes, such as urgency, importance, level of effort. If you’re familiar with the four quadrants prioritization. Usually it’s time and urgency, and in that upper left is your firefighting. This is another iteration of that. in the first quadrant, where it is gratifying or most closely related to mission, those you’re going to do. It’s right on the target. And then those that are quadrant two, mind consuming but not gratifying, you can schedule those, or you can delegate them, and then quadrant three, where it is gratifying and quick, technically you should delegate them, but if you can get it done and get it done quick, you can do it yourself. Okay? But you have to get it done quickly and not lollygag doing that particular activity. Just because it is tied to mission or that it is gratifying for you as an organization, or as yourself.
Quadrant four is those that are less gratifying or less tied to mission, but they are quick. If they’re not tied to your mission, and they’re not really time-intensive, is it something that you should be doing? And that’s the question that you ask. When it’s in that particular quadrant, and a lot of times those will be that you either delegate them, or don’t do them, okay? This kind of quadrant, depending on how you… what you put into the different matrices, can be used to sort the grant opportunities that are coming out of the pipeline, as well. If you have those that are really tied to your mission, but would take a lot of time, but they are the best opportunities, those are going to go in your upper quadrant. If they’d be quick and easy, but if it’s not really tied to what we do, those are going to be in the fourth quadrant. And those you might get to, or you might not. And so that’s another way of looking at this.
Another type of matrix is the weighted matrix. This actually comes from a Lean Six Sigma practice, where you compare multiple, meaning at least two, data sets using weighted criteria. Here, you’re going to have your input variables, or things that you do, or things that go into your project, and your output variables across the horizontal. Now, I’m talking to a bunch of grant professionals, so I don’t think I need to talk to you about inputs and outputs, but let me put this little caveat in here. This is not totally grant-related, so output can also mean outcome or objective. it’s going to be anything that comes out at the end of the process or decision, and your inputs can be things, people, resources, any of those qualifiers. then, in each case for both your outputs and your inputs, you’re going to put weights on them. For this particular example, I just had everything weighted as a 1. Everything was equally weighted. You can’t use a weight of 0, though, because if we follow math rules, multiplying by zero gives you a zero every time, so you have to use at least one.
Based on these weights, and these criterias, you’re going to put scores into this middle part, and that score is based on a range that you set ahead of time with your team. That can be like a one to ten, a one to five, a one to six, whatever you choose, but it needs to be meaningful. one that needs to be your low importance, low criteria, low impact, whatever it is, that one is going to be your low.
If you’re using a 10 point scale, 10 would be your high, because we’re going to use multiplication here, okay? Then, once you have this in, once you have your scores in here, then it’s going to give you a weighted score that will give you an outcome, and then based on that outcome, you can kind of see different things emerging based on different opportunities that you’re looking at, or different programs that you’re looking at implementing. These can be used really well for prioritizing programs that you’re going to pursue funding for if you do one of these for each program, and then based on the score here, you can actually get a rank, a weighted rank of the pursuit worthiness. I guess that’s probably bad wording, but the ranking for each program, and the importance of that program in relation to the funding that’s available.
Then there’s the rubric, and rubric uses scoring by category, and ratings to guide the evaluation. Most of us are most familiar with rubrics from either our performance evaluation, or maybe even in the education realm. This is where evaluation criteria are scored in relation to how well the evaluation criteria are met. For rubrics, the criteria and scoring ranges are determined in advance, and they’re applied equally amongst all items being reviewed. In the education world, a rubric is applied to every assignment that’s turned in that rubric is going to be used for. In performance evaluations, everyone that is scored against that particular performance set, is graded against that same rubric. This is most useful when you have several options that have a robust set of criteria that are easily quantified, or that can be objectively measured within a certain range. Here’s an example of what a rubric looks like. I think this will probably make it all come into [fruition] for everyone, where we have the criteria that we’re being evaluated against, and then we have our strata, or columns, of different rankings for up to excellent, or low to high, with some rankings in the middle. Now, here’s a little secret. If you make it an even number, you won’t have anybody always putting stuff in the middle, and being non-committal. So if you want to make people decide, and actually commit, use an even number. So this was actually a rubric that we used for choosing project sites on a current project that I’m on, and each potential site was evaluated against this criteria to determine how likely the site was in order to be a good fit for the program.
Let’s go to chat for just a minute. I showed you three different versions of a matrix, what pros and cons do you see for each of the types? Which one would you want to use, or would you… which one would you definitely not want to use based on what I just showed you? Okay. So with the Eisenhower, you either love it or you hate it, and I get that. Weighted rubrics, because it’s based in numbers, which is quantifiable.
Alright, while you guys are putting your comments in there, I’m going to answer a couple questions that came in. As far as who determines the criteria and the priority, and we’re actually going to get into that in just a little bit, but basically, it’s whoever the leader is for whatever decision you need to make. It’s them, and hopefully, some subject matter experts coming together to craft the criteria and the priority. And then a question about the difference between a decision tree and a decision matrix. So usually a decision tree is based on “yes” or “no” questions. So like you have a certain scenario, and then based on a question, you say yes or no, and then it branches out from there. So that is very much… it’s very predetermined as far as yes or no. Whereas a matrix is going to be a little bit more dependent on the type of criteria you’re basing it off of. So you could still do this as a tree, but that’s very linear, whereas this is going to be multi-dimensional as far as how it comes together. Okay, so there’s definitely some robust discussion as to whether or not we like these. And there’s several in here that says it depends on the scenario, and I have to totally agree, okay? So depending on how complex your decision is, or what your decision is that you need to have at the end, can absolutely determine which matrix that you use. And you could actually, within your grant office, grant program, be using all different kinds of these matrices, depending on what you’re trying to evaluate. Here’s a little hint. All of your grant proposals are being graded against a rubric when you go to the review panel. So if you want to do a mock review, set up a rubric.
So I kind of had the same kind of feelings as you guys did, is that sometimes when I needed to sort things by urgency and time commitment, the Eisenhower was great, if I was trying to figure out which was the best option, a rubric or a weighted matrix would work, but none of them really helped me get to “go or no go?” directly. That’s where I created a weighted rubric. So I kind of mashed them all together to create a weighted rubric, and so it is a blend of the rubric and the weighted matrix that I use to create some criteria, and have a scale to score each factor that I think goes into deciding whether or not to go after a grant. Each factor is assigned a weight based on that factor’s importance to whether or not we pursue an opportunity.
This weighted tool is actually great when there are lots of factors, lots of people’s things of, “Oh, this is most important when we look at a grant opportunity,” you can actually cultivate all those opinions as to what is important to look at when you’re looking at a grant opportunity into one decision tool, that you can then use throughout all of your grant pursuits, reviewing it every once in a while. And this actually, I’ll confess, this actually came out of my marketing days, when I was doing proposals for a for-profit organization, and we had to decide which RFP’s we would respond to, but it translates so well into grant pursuit. So I’ve actually translated into using this with my clients, and I actually used it when I was part of the grants office, as well. This is what a rated rubric looks like, and across the top you’re going to have some background information. That background information is the key point of the grant.
Usually, my background includes the funding agency, the award type, what the projected award is, or what the average award is, when the due date is, if we would have to be a sub, if we would have to find somebody to apply that would meet eligibility criteria, if we don’t. What the period of performance is, what the start date is, that’s the kind of information that’s going to go into this top one. The stuff that you want to have a quick access to, that everybody asks, every time you meet and nobody remembers, and they always have to go back and look in the RSP. So that’s what that top is for. Then over along the side here, these are going to be all the criteria that you’re going to use. Then we have a column for weights. This one is weighted on a… I think this one was using a four or five-point scale.
Then there’s a column for actually putting in your ratings, and these three columns over here are for your low-scoring, medium-scoring, and high-scoring… Oops, sorry about that. And for your high scoring criteria. So this one was a ten-point scale, so we had zero to three, four to six, and seven to ten. You can make this narrower, if you wanted to have just a six-point scale, it could be one and two, three and four, and five and six. Or you can even break this into four columns, depending on how you wanted to set it up. But this is one example, and then down at the bottom it’s actually going to calculate based on those ratings, and the weights, what the priority ranking is of that particular opportunity. Then, as an organization, you can decide if it has this score to this score, we will absolutely go for it, if it’s between these numbers, we have to discuss it, and if it’s lower than this number, we’re not going to pursue it. That review period can be done in many different ways, and we’ll talk about that in a little bit.
Okay, so I said that we’re going to talk about the proposal, “go and no go,” and so we’re going to actually walk you through how to do the weighted rubric, but I wanted to see if there were any questions before I go into actually how to create that weighted rubric? Okay, so I have a question. When would you use each of the matrices? Eisenhower, I think, is best if you just need to sort things, like, if you need to identify your priorities, what you need to do now, versus what can wait, I think Eisenhower is perfect for that. The weighted matrix, I think, is good if you have several programs, and you need to figure out which one needs either to be included in the budget, as a priority, or that needs to have funding pursued as a priority, and then you can rank all of your projects. Then rubric is really if you have several partners, or if you have several locations where you could implement your program, and you’re trying to figure out which one would be the best. I think that’s an opportunity to use that
Another question that came in is, how can the tool help an organization that has trouble adopting a process where all key people systematically get together to decide on grants to pursue. In other words, I would like to see the accounting program leader and grant writer sit down to agree on feasibility, priority, and come out making a collaborative recommendation to top management. That is not likely to happen. Yes, this tool can absolutely provide another way of a more coordinated and time-efficient decision process. I’m going to give you a little teaser, but how I recommend that you use any of these tools is that everyone does them individually, and then you bring them to a group discussion. That discussion is about those where you have wide gaps, but if you have no wide gaps, everybody’s in consensus, and you have documented why you have the particular decision that you have, if you do have some wide variances, those are the parts that you need to talk through, and work through, until you can get to some, either consensus, or a way that you can agree on to move forward for that. Okay, so the first step in doing this decision matrix development is actually to document the background. Why do you need a decision tool? How will you use it? Who will use it? And what decisions do you envision using it for? So in our “go or no go” example, this would be that the decision matrix process is slow and cumbersome, or we don’t have the right people at the table, and it’s taking valuable time between RFP drop and the deadline.
A weighted rubric will expedite the process by giving each opportunity an objective review, and all departments pursuing an RFP will convene a group of subject matter experts, or division directors, to evaluate the opportunity and determine if a proposal is a “go” or a “no-go.” So that’s your first step, is to actually document why you’re going after this. You want to make sure that in the end you have something that will address those issues. So then you’re going to review data in previous examples. So this will help you to frame your decision tool. You’ll want to collect a variety of data or samples that cover all the potential outcomes for the decision to be made. So in this case, it’s a go or no go. The sample-set should also be representative of the scope of the problem your decision will solve. So this would be like those that you’ve pursued and won, those that you pursued, but didn’t win, and those that you didn’t pursue. Having that kind of data set will help you to analyze whether or not your decision tool is valid, but also gives you some background on those that the organization already decided to pursue. And those that they already didn’t pursue, and those that were successful in the bid, and those that weren’t successful in the bid.
This is kind of a retrospective and data-gathering type of step. The third step is to actually compile your information for the weighted rubric. This is done in three sub-steps. The first one is to create a list of criteria that could be included. Okay? This could be things like your organizational priorities. What is in your strategic plan right now that is a priority or a top strategy that your organization wants to pursue? Any best practices that your organization follows. Any success benchmarks that you have to meet, performance measures. As grant professionals, this could be a whole other session on performance measures for grant professionals, but if you have any performance measures that are tied to this, have those. Or even if your program has performance measures tied to how their program is implemented, those can be put in here. Things that have contributed to the success or failure of previous programs or grant applications can also be tied in here. This is also a time to put in those pet peeves, like, we’re doing a grant opportunity that is due in two weeks… Like, do you really want to pursue a grant opportunity that’s due in two weeks? So you can put that in as a threshold. But you will want to phrase each as an evaluative criteria category, okay? And I know we are all really well versed in evaluation criteria. So in our “go no go” example, that would include like, number of awards, eligibility, likelihood to meet deadline, key personnel availability, mission alignment, the competition, the geographic location, or the facility support that’s required for the opportunity, all of those things that you guys put in in the chat for the initial question of, what does your organization struggle with, that’s the kind of stuff that’s going to go into your criteria for your weighted rubric.
Then we’re going to actually assign a weight to each criteria, and this is going to be based on importance to the organization. The perceived risk, and that could be a low risk, high risk, type trade,-off but how risky is this opportunity for you? and then… this is not totally like set in stone that you have to do this, but typically, for your weights, you’re going to use a range that is half of the scoring range. This comes out of the Six Sigma practice but basically, that helps to make the weights and the scores come out so that it scales appropriately. A general guideline is that no more than 10% of your criteria should be the highest weight. If you give everything a high weight, then it’s not really weighted. So you want to make sure that you kind of have an even distribution of your criteria. If you have more than 20% assigned the highest weight, you definitely need to reevaluate how you have things weighted. So in this example, I added weights to the criteria, with mission alignment being a top weight of five, all the way down to geographic location and facility support being a one.
Then number of words, eligibility, and competition being a two. Likelihood to meet deadline, and key personnel availability being a three. This is just an example, that doesn’t mean that this is what your organization should do, these really need to be based on your organization, and your team’s experience. So then you’re going to create a list of the information needed to make the decision. So this is all the stuff that’s going to go in that background section. So your due date, the value of the award, who would be the proposed project manager, project director, principal investigator, whoever that top level is, who that would be. And if different details are needed, or if there’s substantial details that are needed, develop some kind of proposal summary, or a brief that you can share with the team along with the rubric to give additional details. But you at least want to make sure that you have all those things that everybody asks at every meeting, and this can vary by organization, too. What is important to those people that are making the decision? And that’s what you’re going to make sure that you include in the background information.
Then you’re going to determine the validity of the tool. Go back to those samples that you had that you pulled out, and use those as a basis and run those through the decision matrix. You come out with the same answer. Are all the main criteria covered? Capture feedback, have a couple people do this for you. And capture their feedback, integrate your common themes, and then you’re going to actually build the rubric. And you’re going to put in all of the different information that you’ve just collected, and only you’re going to build this rubric so that people can test it for you, but don’t launch it until you know that it’s pretty solid. You will adapt this as you go along, don’t expect that the first time that you do this, you’re going to have it absolutely perfect, but you will want to make sure that it’s fairly solid before you launch it so that you can make some good decisions right out of the gate. I build mine in Excel so that it will do all of the math for me. If you’re not familiar with Excel, you can do this in Word, but you’re going to have to absolutely do some math on your own.
Then the last thing that you’re going to have to do when you build this, is put the criteria into the three columns. So for eligibility, how would you stratify eligibility? So eligibility for the least scoring points. We would have to identify an eligible partner, with high scoring being that our organization is an eligible entity. Okay, and then you would have the middle being, we have an eligible partner already identified, we don’t need to find anybody, we just need to let them know that we’re interested in partnering with them. That’s what it’s going to look like when it’s all done. But then you’re going to test it out, you’re going to launch it, and you’re going to make sure that everybody is good with its implementation. Once you’re good with implementation, if you designed it for your organization as a whole, you might consider making specific ones for a certain division or a program. If those particular programs or divisions have specific criteria that they want to consider, but might not necessarily apply to everyone as a whole. So you really want to make sure that if you launch it at an organization level, it is global.
Then you can make refinements as you need to.
Then using the tool, you’re actually going to go through your search results, and compile the information that you need in order to fill out the background. Make sure that you have a summary that might offer insight into some of the different criteria, then you’re actually going to score it. There’s a couple of different ways that you can do this. You can do it as an individual, you can just do it on your own, you can do it as a group. Everybody comes to a meeting, and you score it right there in the meeting, or you can do it as an individual, rather than a group discussion, and I already gave you a hint earlier as to what my preference is, and that is that it’s an individual, and then a group discussion. So how you would do this, is that you would distribute the materials needed to evaluate, which would be the tool itself, the decision matrix, and then either the full FOA, or your summary, or however you want to distribute that information. You want to set a deadline to having the scores returned back before the group meeting. So you’re going to have each person’s score on their own, and then you are going to then total or average the scores.
Then you’re going to capture the range of the scores, and whatever other calculations you want to have on hand, but definitely having a range of the scores, and an average of the scores, for each category will help, especially if there’s a wide variance.
Then you’re going to discuss the output scores, what criteria had a wide range, and have that discussion, so that you can come to… It doesn’t necessarily have to be a unanimous decision, but it’s a data-driven decision, to come to an outcome of whether it’s a go or a no-go for the opportunity.
Then you’re going to be able to document the discussion points, the outcome, so that you remember why you decided to go after an opportunity or not to go after an opportunity. I think documenting why you didn’t is always a great idea, because someone is always going to ask, “Hey, did you see this opportunity?” and you’re like, yeah, we already looked at that, we’re not going to go after it.
Then somebody always, inevitably, asks, “Well, why?” and if it hasn’t been recent, you might not remember. So having that decision captured is always great. Okay? So we’ll open it up for questions in just a little bit. So that is how to launch a decision matrix in 45 minutes.
Alright? But I do want to kind of bring this back around to why we’re doing this with Instrumentl, and that is because Instrumentl is a platform for prospecting, tracking, and managing all of your grant opportunities in one place. So you can go from creating a project idea, finding your resources, and tracking it, all the way through to application and renewal in the system. One of the things that’s really cool about Instrumentl… I know some of you have probably had this curse, is that you can find an opportunity, you can find a foundation, then you have to go find the 990. And it’s finding that 990 that’s that added step that can be cumbersome, and take a while. Especially with some of the new systems that are in place in order to find that. Instrumentl aggregates the 990s into the search results so you don’t actually have to leave Instrumentl to find the 990. It’s right there, so that 990 review can happen right there with your search results, and you don’t have to take extra time. If a foundation changes the deadline, or adds a new deadline, deadlines in the Instrumentl system are updated automatically. We actually just had an alert come through on one of those just this week. Even better, you can actually take notes on an opportunity within the system, and assign tasks to other people and that’s all actually stored within the system.
So I’m sure you’re seeing how this can all come together. This is how you can actually see your opportunities by a master tracker, and those that you have actually saved for your particular program, and this is the view of what it looks like for a found opportunity. With that kind of overview, you can see that Instrumentl helps all of us that are part of the grant field and it can be anywhere from the executive director, all the way down to the assistant to a grant director, and I know that some of you are chuckling, because some of you don’t have assistants, and you would really like to have one, but it really is that broad range. Your finance person, your development team, everybody on that team can have and use Instrumentl to help in the grant process. So with Instrumentl, you’re going to be able to collect the information you need to feed the decision matrix and then mark that opportunity as being in the researching phase, and then create a task for everyone on the team to review the opportunity using the decision matrix.
Then you might not even have to create that summary document. They’ll just go into Instrumentl and see the information on the summary, then you’re going to update the opportunity on Instrumentl as either pursuing or abandoned within the system, and put a note on the opportunity as to what the outcome of your decision matrix was, for either status. If you’re pursuing it, why are we pursuing it? And if you’re not pursuing it, why aren’t you pursuing it? And all of this can happen within the actual system, and then it’s all saved in one place. Everybody can access it all at the same time. So with that, I am actually going to transfer it over to Will so that he can show you how to actually do that in Instrumentl.
Will: Awesome, thanks so much, Stacy. I wanted to just show everybody that has an Instrumentl account how to do these. Each of these bullet points that Stacy’s outlined on the screen here, and that way as you take what you learned today, you can start to implement that in your Instrumentl account, so if you look at my screen over here, let me know if you guys can see it. Do you see my Instrumentl screen, Stacy?
Will: Awesome. So the first thing that was the bullet point, I believe, was regarding the finding of information to feed into your decision matrix. Well, that can always be found in the 990 reports on Instrumentl. So if you want to look up a funder or an opportunity, you can always use the quick find in this top left and search by either EIN number or by the name of that organization. And then look up their profile. From here, you’re going to be able to pull out the key trends, like the assets, the giving patterns over the last few years, the key people, as well, at the organization, and feed this into your decision matrix. So maybe, for example, one of your criteria is geographic focus or something like that, right? And you want to see, do I actually have a prior funding history with this foundation, in which they may be funded Florida-based organizations? And so you might want to feed that into your decision matrix. So that’s essentially what you would do with this 990 report view in Instrumentl is, instead of having to go through all those 990 reports, you can just pull up the funder profile on Instrumentl. The next thing that was mentioned is the referencing of saving an opportunity into researching, and then setting up a task so that you can have that task to do more vetting, and go through the decision matrix. So to do that, what you do is, you would start in your matches tab… and in case, just as a reminder, if you don’t have an Instrumentl account, Stacy has a link that you can use, and it will activate your 14-day trial, that way you have two weeks to try us out, and get these grant searches. But essentially, what would happen is, as you save an opportunity, you’re going to be able to put it into the researching section that Stacy mentioned.
This is what we like to think of, like a shortlist of opportunities. So you’ve already seen the opportunities primed up for you, in which this air quality project has 96 searches that the Instrumentl matching algorithm has identified as potentially good-fit funders, but from here maybe we want to shortlist this even further. So I’m going to go ahead and save this in researching, and from there it’ll go into my tracker. Like Stacy mentioned, we take care of grant prospecting, tracking, and management, and we’re pretty much the only tool that can do all sides of that grant life cycle. So when you go into this researching tab, this will be where you want to set up the tasks for the opportunities that you’d like to track, and also run through your decision matrix. So let’s just take for example, this New York community trust. Maybe I’ll set a task for a milestone that is next Friday, that’s going to say, “Review with decision matrix” or decision matrix, right?
From here I can choose to either email everybody on my team, or email just one person on the team, and then add that into my tracker, and from there, once that task comes up in my calendar, I know “Oh, I need to run this through with the team,” go through a data-driven approach, and feeding it through that decision matrix, and then when we mark that as, Yes, we might go ahead and mark that off, and then move it into either something in which we plan to work on it, or we plan to abandon it. So maybe after doing some more due diligence, we realize, let’s go ahead and plan this guy, and we can start tracking that grant immediately back into Instrumentl. So maybe I’ll request $5,000 from this opportunity, and then set up the next task from there. So this is just a clear example of how you can apply what you create in your own individual decision matrix into the workflow of your matches, and work through your matches, to validate some of the things that Stacy mentioned.
Then I’ll go ahead and shift over to the remainder of the slides, in case… As we wrap things up and open things up for Q&A. So if you’d like to contact Stacy, here’s her contact information. This will also be sent in the follow-up slides, as well. So be sure to check these out if you’d like to connect with her for some other questions or things like that.
Then, the next steps from here, we have a raffle in place, so you can either sign up for your trial with Instrumentl using Stacy’s link. If you have your own link that you already had an Instrumentl account, you can use Stacy’s code of SNF50 to save $50 off your first month, then please submit your feedback form for the end of this workshop, as well. By doing so, you’ll enter the raffle for today, which is, we’re going to be raffling away for 11 different winners of Stacy’s weighted rubric decision matrix template. And then also, Instrumentl will be raffling away a one-month subscription as well. So all you need to do is, you click into this link right here, you’re going to be led into this page, and from here you can choose whichever actions you want to do. You can do any of them or all of them to increase your chances. From there, you’ll enter the raffle, and it’s super, super easy and so that will be sent in the follow-up after this workshop, but keep your eyes peeled for that. Other than that, though, I’m gonna open it up for questions so that we can start to work through some of the questions that may have come up from today’s presentation. Let’s see, Stacy. The first question that was from earlier today was, “What calculations do you use in Excel for your ratings?”
Stacy: Absolutely. So in the template there’s actually two things that happen. One is that there is a multiplication of the rating, times the weight that that particular criteria was given.
Then those are summed at the bottom… So I have a sum feature at the bottom… to give a sum of the weighted scores divided by the criteria to give us our average.
Then I usually put that into a percent format. That will give us our likelihood to succeed, or whatever, however we want to term it, but it’s up to each organization to kind of decide where their threshold is, and that kind of goes into risk-averse versus not risk-averse. I don’t want to say that you know organizations are going to go bungee jumping or anything, but how much risk are you willing to assume? Generally, I have like a 76% and higher we would pursue and then anything under 30% that's highly not probable, we’re not going to go after it. And then you kind of set the criteria there. I have had clients that will say, we’re only going to go after those that score a 90 and above. I’ve also had clients that say anything that's 51% and above, we're going after. They were very much more open to assuming risk in delegating resources to grant funding.
Will: Lisa asked, “Would you recommend including past experience with the opportunity as a criteria?”
Stacy: I absolutely would, and that… Your prior experience with either a funder or an opportunity can absolutely play into whether or not you pursue another opportunity. So if you weren't funded previously, and you're thinking about going after that opportunity again, some of the criteria that you could use would be that you… did you get feedback from the funder that you would be able to use to improve your application? Or do you have a different type of relationship with that funder than what you had before? And that could be positive or negative.
Another one is based on your previous experience. Do you think that you are still competitive, more competitive, or less competitive for that opportunity based on your previous experience? And you can weigh that, if you feel previous engagement with a particular funder or opportunity is very important, then you could weigh that a four or five, depending on how your weight scale is. I’ve had clients that will absolutely keep pursuing a grant opportunity until they win it, because they get formative feedback every time. So we will keep going after it, including feedback, until we're successful, and that is especially true with things like NIH and research grants. Chances are you're not going to win it the first time. You're absolutely going to want to take that feedback, and incorporate that into your decision, as to whether or not you go after it again.
Will: And Aaron's wondering if the template that we're going to be raffling away can be purchased separately if she doesn't want to participate in the raffle?
Stacy: Yes, but not today. So we will be putting it up live on July 9th. And on July 9th, I will actually also be releasing my e-book on data-driven decision making and a mini e-book on these decision tools, as well. So now I put it out there into the world, so I have to actually do it, right?
Will: Yeah, that's the best way to get things done.
Stacy: July 9th, there's the date. I know some people have been waiting patiently for that e-book, but July 9th.
Will: Awesome. Barb was asking a related question to Instrumentl, which is, how you find how many grants they gave last year. Barb, one of the best ways is, when you are in the funder report for the 990 report, and you scroll through here, you're going to actually see all the grantees, or the past grantees, that come from all the States here. We don't do a summative count here, but if you filter it by your state, oftentimes there will be a show more button that will actually do that roll up for you, and that will give you a general idea of how many opportunities, how many grants they granted in that particular year that you are looking at. So that's one way you can get that answer, in terms of that data being on Instrumentl. So that's the answer to that question. Let's see. If we have any other final questions, feel free to put them in the chat. And what I was wondering about, Stacy, is as you're working through this decision-making matrix, how many versions do you typically go through before you really have the one that you would call the gold standard for the nonprofit that you're working with?
Stacy: I would say… This sounds kind of cliché, but third time's the charm. So usually we have our first one, and we refine it, and we put out the second one, and we find that people like some of the changes but not all of the changes, so we kind of do another little fine-tuning, and usually that third one is what sticks.
Will: Awesome. Cool.
Stacy: And then comes the challenge of making sure everybody remembers to use it.
Will: Got it. Very cool. Awesome. In terms of that, then, I think that pretty much will wrap it up for today. To cover, Carol Lee mentioned that she uses Foundation Search. Foundation Search is definitely a good tool. The biggest differences that you'll notice when you go into Instrumentl, though, is that we do have the tracking and management side of things in a much more fleshed-out state, and so if you're looking to bring in those, digitizing your tracker, if you're using like an old-school paper approach, which we hear some people use, or even just an old-school Excel spreadsheet, what Instrumentl does every single week for you is, we're looking for active opportunities that fit your project, as well as, we're looking at all of your tasks and deadlines, and rolling it into a single email. So what we find is two key outcomes. We save each development team member three hours a week in their work.
Then also, after a year of using us, we increase grant application outputs by 78%, so that's a big one for us in terms of just making sure you guys have more paths for funding. But we will go ahead and announce that raffle on Friday, so be sure you take advantage of joining in on that before the end of the day tomorrow. If you enjoyed this workshop, we're going to be hosting another one in, I believe, two weeks or so, on July 9th, at 1 pm eastern. Maryn Boess will be coming back to talk about “Partnership Pays: Five Ways that Partnering Gets More Grants Faster.” But other than that, that's it for this time. I’ll catch you guys next time, and thanks so much for tuning in, everybody.
Stacy: Thanks everyone.