FIRESIDE CHAT: What Is - and Isn’t - the Role of the Grant Writer? w/ Dr. Bev Browning

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September 12, 2022

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If you’re writing grants, chances are you’re being pulled in multiple different directions at once - and it’s stressful.

​You may have asked yourself - what actually is the role of a grant writer? Or, more importantly, what isn’t the role? And how can I get win more grants with less stress?

Join us as we tackle these questions during a Fireside chat with Grant Consultant and Grantwriting for Dummies author, Dr. Bev Browning.

In this session, you’ll learn:

  • ​What the role of a grant writer should be
  • ​How to effectively collaborate with your team to set realistic goals
  • ​Tips and steps to take to get organized and be less reactive

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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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FIRESIDE CHAT: What Is - and Isn’t - the Role of the Grant Writer? w/ Dr. Bev Browning - Transcription

Celia:  All right. So hello, everyone. Welcome. This is to--a Fireside Chat on What Is, and perhaps more importantly, what isn't, the role of a grant writer with Dr. Bev Browning. 

So, this is being recorded. We will share the recording as well as the slides with you after this event is over. So, definitely keep your eyes open for a follow-up email in case you want to review any of this, or maybe share it with a colleague or a friend as well. 

We have some questions that we'll be asking. But, of course, feel free to drop any questions in the chat throughout. Just put three hash symbols in front of your questions that'll just make sure that I can find them for you. 

So in case this is your first time here, I am Celia. I run partnerships and these webinars here for Instrumentl. And you are on one of these free grant workshops that we do pretty regularly. And so, these are collaborations between us, Instrumentl, and one of our partners, in this case, Dr. Bev Browning, to provide free educational information for grant professionals and non-profits. So, our goal with this is very similar to our overarching goal as an organization. And that is really to support you to gain the tools and the insights that you need to find more funding while doing, hopefully, less work and stressing out a little bit less. 

So, what does that mean? Well, Instrumentl, just a little bit about us, before we hop into our discussion. Instrumentl is all about efficiency. So, what does that mean? It means that with our tools where we bring prospecting, tracking, and management, all together under the same roof, folks are saving about three hours a week while still increasing your grant output by about 78%. 

So, how do we do that? Well, a couple of things. First, we make sure you find good fit funders, right, faster than you would normally do that. We have over 12,000 active opportunities on the platform, a unique matching algorithm means that you kind of have a personal assistant that's in your back pocket. And that's going to send you weekly updates on deadlines as well as new opportunities so you never miss anything. And, of course, finding is only part of the battle. Right? Then you have--uh-oh. Now, where did my slideshow go? There we go. 

Of course--sorry, everyone. Finding it is only half of the battle. Right? Then we have to figure out how to prioritize opportunities. And in my experience, that is sometimes the more time consuming part, right? And so, a lot of folks are relying on 990 forms and other hard data, which means a lot of digging through. Right? So, instead, we are using some visualization tools to really simplify that and give you those trends clearly so that you can quickly make some decisions. You can answer questions like, does this organization fund my geography? Are they funding organizations with a similar mission and focus as mine? Or, how competitive is this opportunity? From there, we want to be able to actually communicate that information with our teams, whether you're in-house or a consultant, you want to be able to really quickly communicate whether or not an opportunity is something you should work on with your team. Right? So, we've got tools in there that allow us to assign tasks, add notes, and then store documents and templates so that everything, all of your kind of project stuff is right there with your RFP and your funder information as well. 

And then finally, once you win that grant and you need to manage your reporting, we help you with that. Right? So, we can quickly help you with reports that you can show your board or your director kind of what exactly is going on, whether that's through a calendar view or just kind of a list view. So, it's a very high level of what Instrumentl is. I'm always happy to talk about it more. But I don't want to take up any more time. So, I just dropped a link into the chat on how to sign up. If you're interested, you can go ahead and click that. Otherwise, we're going to hop into our discussion with Dr. Bev. So, what is the role of the grant writer? So, here we go. Let's hop into it. And I'm actually going to turn off the share so that we can focus here on Dr. Bev, so. Cool. 

Dr. Browning:  Okay.

Celia:  All right. So, I want to kick this off with a really high level question on--just the title of this presentation, what is the role of a grant writer? And maybe what isn't the role of a grant writer?

Dr. Browning:  Okay. So, I'm giving you this answer both from my experience in the industry and also with clients and employers who overload the person who has the title of grant writer with a lot of other duties. 

So, what is the real role of a grant writer? Well, first of all, I don't think that a grant writer should also be tasked with the role of grant management. Those are two different processes, two different sides of thinking from our brain. In my opinion, grant writing is the creative, exciting, rewarding, fulfilling piece. And, yes, it comes with a lot of stress and deadlines and everything else. But that's really our role to understand the programs that we are expected to find grant funding for to be able to efficiently research that grant funding and not have it be a 40-hour process. My grant research reports used to take 40 hours when I had to go across four or five different websites to collect. Now, Instrumentl does all that for me. 

So, our real role is to target the right funders. And I love the fact that the results from Instrumentl come up with percentages of matches. So, it tells me where the high level most likely funders are that are going to match this. And it also shows me the long shots. And sometimes because I like to take a chance, I'll actually recommend a long shot because I've seen long shots get funded. So, it's always rewarding to take a chance and see that. 

Grant writers are, really, so many other types of job descriptions in organizations where they're expected to send out letters requesting individual contributions, grant writers often function as the Development Director, because there's no one there with that title. If there isn't an in-house financial person and the CPA or accountant who is external as a vendor doesn't understand how to do the financial reporting, or the clear audit trail tracking on government grants. It's the grant writer’s role to train, to inform, to let them know, to send them resources so that they can do this. 

We have found ourselves creating programs, entire programs, in organizations where everybody's too busy to meet with us to give us information. We have to be insightful in seeing what they are doing? Where are they missing the market? Are there any previous evaluation reports? Do we have feedback from participants? Do we know what was liked and what was not liked? What worked and what didn't work? Because sometimes everybody else is so busy. They don't have time to focus on the results of what they've done already. It's the grant writer’s role to dig that out and to be able to interpret that into a compelling grant application or proposal. 

We have taken on so much over the years. We used to just receive back in the old days, because you can tell with all this grey hair, not my 20s or 30s anymore. But we used to be able to give our clients and our employers or people we worked with a list of information we needed. And they gave it to us. And we just took that and we wrote with it. And we didn't have to do a lot of other work other than articulated grant requests that got funded because the competition was less than. 

Well, it's not like that now. Now, we have to beg people for information. And we may get bits and pieces and cause us to miss a deadline. So, our role is to fill in the blanks legitimately, asking questions, pushing, having an internal stakeholders’ meeting, doing all of that. So, we really have to be careful because we don't want to cross over and do so much that we end up with 10 job titles but one paycheck or one client check. 

So, we each individually have to decide what we're going to do. So my role, personally, is not to work on a client or employer’s budget for the project that comes from accounting for finance, from the program coordinators, from the executive director. I want to focus on the narrative. I don't want to focus on the budget. 

If I'm an employee, of course, my role is submitting. But if I'm a consultant, that is not my role. So, I like to draw a line in the sand. There is a huge difference between a grant writing consultant and an in-house grant writer employee. And we have to know our limitations and we also have to know the deficiencies within the organizations that we work with, because we have to step up and fill it in and figure it out and do research until we understand it. 

So, our role has grown tremendously and the pressure is on even more now that grant writers are under such high scrutiny. Whether we are certified or not, we have an ethical responsibility to do what's right, to write what's true.

Celia:  Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So, I wonder if you have any thoughts on the sort of questions to ask. So, whether you're maybe interviewing to become like an in-house grant writer, or maybe you're sort of chatting with a potential client. Do you have any thoughts on questions that you might want to ask or information you might want to sort of seek out in order to understand kind of specifically what that role is going to look like? Because it sounds like it's very dependent. It's very dependent on the capacity of the organization. So thinking about what tips might you give people on questions that they could ask, or information they could sort of seek out when determining what their role specifically is going to look like within an organization.

Dr. Browning:  So with my consultants that are in today's training, they need to do a grant readiness assessment and also an organizational SWOT; strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges. 

Often, grant writing is not what a new non-profit needs at all. They need help recruiting the right board members. They need help getting their board members trained. They need help understanding that they have to have a strategic plan. They have to have an annual operating budget, and that 100% of their revenue cannot be dependent on grants. The national standard 4% of general operating revenue annually, that should be allocated for grant awards. The low is 15%. The highest, 20%. 

If you're working with an organization or consulting with an organization, that depends 100% on grants. Your role is going to be never ending and you're going to do much more than be the grant writer. You're going to be there to put out all the fires. Is that what you really want to do? Because it's important if they're not grant ready, that is responsible grant professionals. We do not say, “Okay, I know I can get you 100,000 by next year by January. No problem.” Okay, you're forgetting the holiday giving trims that go to organizations that serve families and children and the homeless. You're forgetting that they may not have this in their budget. All of that. 

So, you can't have them pile a lot of titles on you. You have to stand up and draw a line on what you're willing to do in your profession and what you're not willing to do. And often, if that's your paycheck and you're a sole earner, you take everything. But then you also take the stress, anxiety, and medical conditions that come with overload and way too much responsibility when you thought you were “just the grant writer.”

Celia:  Yeah. Yeah. So on that sort of topic, do you have any advice? Or what would you sort of share with folks who find themselves maybe not--maybe getting pulled in too many directions? Right? We have a question in the chat about don’t non-profit employees wear three or more hats? Do you have any tips on how to set effective boundaries? How do we kind of communicate with our team what we can and cannot do? And maybe inside of that question is a little bit of a question about what we are prioritizing? What should we be prioritizing as a grant writer?

Dr. Browning:  Finding grant funding. 

Celia:  Yeah. 

Dr. Browning:  Writing a highly competitive funding request, getting as much information as we can get from our program coordinators, program managers, program directors, as well as the executive director, and not being pushed into applying for something after you've done your due diligence and it's not the right funding source for this particular program or project. 

And I'd like to distinguish between program and project, a project is one year, 12 months or less. The program is multiyear. It goes on. And if you're going to keep applying with recurring grants for a program that's been around 20 years, something needs to improve each year, something needs to be expanded, something needs to be added. It has to keep getting better. 

You cannot keep asking for the same old same old things if there's no way to determine how effective the program is in its operation.

Celia:  Sure. That makes sense. So, because what I'm hearing is really staying focused on the kind of the path forward, right? Like in our end state, which is getting good funding. And as you are sort of maybe being pulled in multiple directions or maybe you're being pushed to apply for a grant that you know isn't right, do you have tips on how to communicate that with your company, with either your clients that you're working with if you're a consultant, or even your sort of director or managers that might be pushing you?

Dr. Browning:  First of all, do your due diligence. Research the funding source, look at their past grantees, look at the states that they’ve funded in. Does it align with the organization that you're working with? Are there similarities, the services are the same, everything you're doing meets the priorities for this year's funding opportunity? Really look for a perfect match. And I say a perfect match, a perfect match could be anywhere between 80% and 100%, depending on what you find. But do your homework. After you do that, present your findings to the decision makers that are going to decide if you march forward and do what they say, or if they take your advice. 

And if you're constantly told, “Apply, anyway,” we need to say to our board that we've got X amount of applications out there pending. I suggest you update your resume and look for a new job as soon as you can that pays more and that has a job description that is a job description for a grant writer and not a cook and bottle washer, because that's what it comes down to when you're asked to take on other duties as determined or as a sign. That little dot on your job description. 

It seems so minor when you're trying to get your pay requests that you've asked for. You want the benefits. You want to have an office to go to every day. You need some job security that lasts for a long time with benefits. But other duties as assigned means being at every board meeting. It means helping out with all volunteer events, when the executive director calls in all-hands-on-deck day on a Saturday, which would typically be your day off, or a Sunday. You really have to watch what you're signing. And you have to say, “Can you give me examples of other duties as assigned? Because I want to make sure that I'm bringing in money the right way at the right time from the right funders. And if I'm going to be pulled out to do anything, except help bring money in with grant awards,” okay, make sure you specify it, “then maybe this job isn't for me.”

Celia:  Yeah, that makes sense. So, it is a lot of setting expectations from the beginning. I wonder how much of--I really appreciated your point about being able to kind of demonstrate. “This is what we have in the--these are the irons we have in the fire right now.” Right? This is what we're working on. This is why we're working on it. Being able to kind of point to that specific data and sort of help your team understand sort of the why. Would you say that that's a helpful tool in really setting expectations and making sure you're staying tracked. Is that real communication of what's actually happening?

Dr. Browning:  Yes. And I also use the Instrumentl search results to show the percentage of matches based on their project descriptors. That helps a lot in proving to see where this is. I'm working on all of these higher level percentages, and you want me to apply for something that came in at 19%, or 10%. Unless a board member has a specific connection with this funder and has already talked to them about this, then we don't really have a chance. 

And here's a sidebar, the grant writer is not the one that should be building relationships with the new funders as soon as you find the results on this Instrumentl funding search. It is whoever is in an equal position, to the person they're going to be talking to. So if they're going to be talking to the executive director, it needs to be the executive director of the grant applicant organization. If you're going to be talking to a program officer, it needs to be a program director, coordinator, or executive director of the organization. Because when the grant writer reaches out to describe the organization, talk about what you do and everything else, you build that relationship. 

And when you leave, guess what? You take that relationship with you. How have you helped increase the sustainability financially of your employer if you have all the relationships? So, you have to decide, where's my role and where does it best fit? Because this might not be where I retire from. 

And I will tell an employer that in a minute. And I did. I worked for a school district in Michigan for almost three years. I had to bring in $3 million a year on a performance-based contract. In personnel, I was told I was a grant writer. But my job description said Project Specialist. It said in other duties as assigned. When I got there, I had no desk, no office to close the door on, no technology, no computer equipment to work on, no devoted printer. Nothing. Nothing at all. But I was expected to bring in the money and bring in 2 to 3 million a year. 

It was horrible having to beg for everything that I needed. In the meantime, when I wasn't trying to look through a hard copy funding directory because back then the Foundation Center wasn't online, Instrumentl didn't exist, grants.gov wasn't around and coordinated. You had to look at the Federal Register to find funding. So, you needed printed copies of everything. I also had a 15-line telephone bank that was answered by everybody's administrative assistant or secretary when they were on break or away at lunch. So, it took a lot of complaining. And I certainly was called in and reprimanded multiple times for asking for the things that I needed and not just doing my job. And it was horrible. I don't want you to be in that position. Stand up now. Stand up.

Celia:  Okay. Mute. Okay. Yeah, Desiree, mute yourself if you've got background noise there. 

Yeah, that's terrible. So, it sounds like it's--it really is about sort of setting expectations from the beginning as much as possible. One of the questions that was dropped in the chat, and something else I'm kind of curious about is, how involved should an in-house grant writer be potentially in the programming. Right? We had a question just dropped in the chat a minute ago that somebody wanted to add program coordinator as a title for their grant specialist. And I wonder, in your experience, what is the efficient way to kind of integrate what's happening on the programming side with what's happening on the grant writer side? Should those things be integrated? Should they be totally separate? Should there just be a really strong communication channel there? What do you think is best practice?

Dr. Browning:  The grant writer should be invited to program planning meetings. The grant writer should not be labeled the program coordinator because the program coordinator is basically where the buck stops if you're audited by a funder. Because that means you're responsible for that program, for the goals being met, for the objectives being attained, for the outputs, for the outcomes, for the impact strategy, for the financial aspects of it. How could you possibly do that job and still look for potential funding and the right funding request? Absolutely not. You do not want to be pulled into an audit. 

There are so many grant writers in jail and prison right now for doing what their employer asked them to do that was beyond their scope. And now, they've had to pay the price because they've signed off on documents that were legal documents testifying that the funding was correct or the money had been spent correctly. And it had not, but they had to take somebody's word for it. All of these are horrible positions to be in for our profession.

Celia:  Yeah. So, it sounds like--I mean, again, we're going back to making sure you're setting standards from the beginning as best you can. And perhaps for some of the people that are on the call, you're already in an organization. You've already sort of set up the way things are going to go. And it might be hard to change it. But it seems like it's worth really going in there and being like, “Let's get clear on what is going to happen here.” And I think that maybe also extends to understanding the programming side, right? 

We just had a comment in the chat here about the lack of understanding at an organizational level of what the grant writer is working on means that sometimes some of that programming or that information needed for the grant proposal is not given in a timely way. So, setting up maybe some better communication channels or some regular meetings to kind of make sure everybody knows what's on the same page. Do you think that makes sense?

Dr. Browning:  It does make sense. And it also makes sense to develop--for the grant writer to develop policies and procedures. I want to say documents or how information comes to that grant writer, how the potential funding that comes from external sources comes to that grant writer, what the conditions are for approval and moving forward with actually executing a grant proposal or application, the role of each staff member that interacts with the grant writer. 

If those things are in writing and they don't happen, then you have something in front of you when it's time for your annual performance review. And you can say, “These are red flags that prohibited me from doing my best performance as a grant writer; information missing, asked to take on multiple other titles and do things outside the scope of my role as a grant writer.” You have something to support yourself when everybody's angry because you didn't do their job.

Celia:  Yeah, that makes total sense. So, switching gears slightly from the in-house role to more of the consultant role. Maybe you can talk to me a little bit about how this changes, right? Because as an in-house grant writer, there may be some expectation that you're picking up a lot of balls. What about for the consultant who's kind of plugging in? What can you do in the process of kind of onboarding a client to make sure that they're grant ready or to sort of assess how ready they are?

Dr. Browning:  I think that as a consultant, it's all in my head. But I've also put it down like a client readiness form. So, I ask them a series of questions. And I have the form in front of me. I used to give them the organizational readiness form. And not everything was ever filled out like I wanted to see it. So now, I do this via zoom call. And I'll say, “So, let's see where I can start working in front of you, because it may not be right off the bat looking for funding and writing grant proposals. Let's just see where you are as an organization.” 

And so I’d like to say, “How many people are on your board? When were you formed? Do you have an IRS 501(c)(3) letter?” Because one of the issues is people think when they file their state non-profit and corporation with their corporate commission that that's all they need to be a non-profit. They don't understand the tax exempt part of it that comes through the IRS by filing Form 1023. So, you have to stop them right there. You're not ready for a grant writer until your 501(c)(3) status is approved. 

Next up, it's about the board. Do you have relatives, family members, or close friends on your board? And the answer is always, “Well, yes, that's who I reached out to.” But how many people are on your board? “Oh, we have three?” Okay. Well, first, we need to look at expanding your board. It should be seven or nines. “But why does it have to be those numbers?” Because you need an even number results in a lot of yes-no votes. But an odd number, there's always going to be one over that gives the majority or the consensus for the vote. 

Also, we can have your family and friends. They love you dearly. They're not going to go against you. They're not going to ask you questions. They're not going to say, “We want to see the finances. We want to see the checkbook register. We want two signatures on every check.” They're not going to know because they've not done this before. It's not like a friends and family reunion. The IRS is looking at you, especially in the first two to three years of formation. And so, if you don't do it right, you won't be a non-profit. You will not have the status, and you'll be taxed on everything you did during the time that you've been disqualified. 

Celia:  Yes.

Dr. Browning:  So, tell me, let me send you my board recruitment matrix at our next call. Let's go over it. I've got some ideas for people you can recruit for the board. However, if I'm going to be your consultant, I'm not doing this for free. Okay? You need to tell me what your current board is. Okay? We're talking about the non-functional board. What your current board has allocated to pay a third-party vendor in order to help you get started. Oh, well, I haven't talked to the board. They haven't really said that we could get a grant writer or somebody to help us. Okay, then why are we having this call? Because you don't have the authority. Well, I'm the founder. You have no authority. I'm an executive director too. You have no authority. I'm one of the three board members. You definitely have no authority. 

So, it's really just about pushing, pushing, pushing--

Celia:  Yeah.

Dr. Browning:  Until you understand, no way are we going to do this because you set everything up the wrong way. And if you want me to help you, at least the board members you have have to pitch in and put some money in. And that'll be your first give or get commitment for this operating year. Well, what's a give or get? This is why you need training. You need to be in the training with the board. 

Celia:  Yeah, yeah. That's really helpful. We had a couple of questions which I think you also just touched on here about kind of responsibility and where the buck stops. Right? 

So we had a question in the chat about, does it make sense if your consultant has a client approval process to make sure that everything looks good to kind of protect you from any kind of legal or kind of compliance issues. So I'm wondering if you have thoughts on that, and then also maybe what are some other red flags or things to think about to ensure that you're sort of covered from a compliance standpoint as the grant writer.

Dr. Browning:  So, my client approval process comes from them letting me work with them at the level that they're at to bring them up to total grant readiness

Celia:  Okay.

Dr. Browning:  If they think they're already grant ready, I hit them with a list of intake information that will help me fill out the profile in Instrumentl. And then I go ahead and run that algorithm for Instrumentl to help me look at the results. And then I look at a couple of other funders that could be best matches and I look at their requirements. It must attach a strategic plan. It must attach a detailed board roster with board names, position, role in the community, previous board experience, ethnicities, gender, age range, and all of the demographics. 

And so, then I go back and say, “Okay, I've done a preliminary search. I'm not releasing the results to you until we actually have a contract. But I wanted to see what the feasibility was of finding funding based on what you've told me about your organization.” However, you have no strategic plan. We don't have enough board members to put on a roster. They could all fit on like a one inch Avery label stick on. That's not going to work for me. 

If you're going to work with me, you have to go along with everything that I do or we cannot work together. I'll just make it plain. No matter how much I need that income, I don't need the stress and the headache that comes along with an organization that's hard-headed and thinks that they don't have to make changes in order to be grant ready.

Celia:  Yeah. Sure. That makes sense. And I do want to come back to that. But I want to clarify one thing that just came through the chat. What about a process with clients to approve deliverables? Do you think that that--is there a process that you recommend there that kind of helps to insulate you a little bit from any compliance issues?

Dr. Browning:  Well, first of all, I have professional liability insurance. And I've had it for years. I wouldn't even be in this business without that because you never know when you're going to be sued or challenged on something. So with that, I'm looking at the deliverables I'm providing. And then we have weekly Zoom meetings. If they can't be on Zoom, we make a telephone call. But I prefer Zoom. Because of my professional liability insurance, I want everything recorded. And I keep it for 10 years. I want to have everything I need to go to court with if a client tries to go crazy. 

So with that, I want to record. I want it to be my Zoom link, not theirs. Those are the absolute part of deliverables. Clients will participate in weekly Zoom calls provided by the consultant. Okay? And we'll agree to the recording and receive a copy of the recording upon request. That's the first thing. 

Second, the client will report all communications with funders, the result, what was said, and next steps back to, or the client, back to the consultant so that the consultant can determine the next step, if it will be a project that we pursue this funding for or if we look for something else. 

Client agrees to make initial contact with potential funders recommended by the consultant. So, those deliverables are mandatory. If they say, “We don't have time to do this. We're just a volunteer organization,” You just make the connections and get the money for us. You're not my client. I can't work with you. 

Celia:  Yeah. Yeah, that's great. And again, I think the theme I'm hearing is get everything set up right before you begin the kind of engagement. We had a couple of questions about pricing, pricing your services kind of getting set up. Because I think that in that--kind of going back to that question about how do you know if you’re grant ready, sometimes if you're a consultant, you may get into something you don't really know necessarily what you're going to have to do, right? You might think you're showing up to do research and write. And then you find out that they need a whole board overhaul or there's all these other pieces that kind of need to come put in place. 

So, do you have any recommendations on how folks might think about sort of setting up their pricing or communicating what a pricing structure might look like as you're kind of getting to know an organization or a potential client?

Dr. Browning:  Okay. So first of all, never have flat fees for anything. The fee changes for each and every client based on where they are in their journey and if you're willing to take them on for where they are or if you want them to go out and do some fundraising and come back when they have a bit more money. 

The way that I work with fledgling new non-profit boards, once I find out how many board members they have, I tell them that each board member is going to have to pay for their portion of the training. So, it might be 250 per board member. It might be 300. It just depends on the number. And that number comes from after I look for them--if they’re established enough to have a GuideStar profile, I go to guidestar.org.

And when I'm in guidestar.org, I look for their financials, their form 990s to see what they look like for the most recent three years filed. What was their line item in the financial piece on salaries? Who are the top paid employees? And what do they make? And all of that is in Instrumentl. So, I should rephrase that. 

I used to have to go to GuideStar. Now, I use Instrumentl for all of that, which is a big lifesaver because I no longer have to pay for GuideStar. The little fee each year. So with that, I want to know what kind of money they reported. And if they have no report at all or if they filed a 990-N, which is like the postcard short form type of report, they definitely don't have sufficient money in their coffers. So if I want to still work with them, the board pays for the training. 

The board has to have fundraisers. And I send them a document that I have that's called 56 Ways a Board Member Can Raise $1,000. And so many ideas are in there. This document easily could be found online. 

And with that, they have to go out and have an event and raise funds before they can talk about grant writing. And this happens after the training. So in the training, I give them whatever is needed based on their SWOC assessment. Board members do a SWOC assessment on the organization, which always shows a lot of weaknesses, challenges, opportunities, unfulfilled, hardly any strengths. And then they went on by themselves. And this is where they admit their own weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges. 

I’m not really interested in the strengths because those are all good things. But where can I--what can I help fix to get them to the strength component. It's basically like that. And at that point--oh, and those are not seen. Those results are not seen by the executive director or the founder. They come straight to me. And I also have the executive director and/or founder, those are two different people, send me their results. And I use all of that to create a customized board training. 

So, it's wherever they're at. If they're already well-established, I could easily--and everything I do is virtual now. So a well-established board training could run anywhere from $3,500 up to $10,000. If they want you to actually come in person to a retreat and stay two days and then you've got travel expenses. Everything--

Celia:  Yeah.

Dr. Browning:  Got into there. But it's all different. Do not have set prices. No client is the same. No service is exactly the same. What we do for one person is not what we do for another. So, we learn to really study our client, potential clients, and understand what is their affordability factor, and what can I charge, or what can they afford and what can I do. 

So in the upfront conversation when I'm asking them about the organization and the board, I'll just say, “What have you budgeted to work with a grant writing consultant?” And they'll say, “Well, if we tell you that, that's what you'll charge.” No, if you tell me that, I may be able to bring down what I already had in mind in order to meet you halfway if we look at what's expected in this process. That's how they want to work. That's how they engage with me. They trust me from that point on. 

If you only have $3,500, I'm not going to send you a contract for $3,499. I'm not that crazy. I'm going to do it so you have money left over to do something else that I might recommend, like getting a volunteer coordinator, contracting with a professional fundraiser with a CFRE.

Celia:  Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So, it really is--so it's really about understanding what's there, right, and what needs to be there. And I think there was a question in the chat, someone who's already doing a ton of stuff. And now, their organization has--their funding has kind of gotten cut. And now, they're going to have to--essentially, their company or their organization is asking them to take on the role of grant writer. And they're sort of like, “Well, how much time is this going to take? And how do I communicate that?” And so, I wonder if you have any thoughts on how do we figure out how much time something like taking on becoming a grant writer is going to take and then communicate that?

Dr. Browning:  As an employee? 40 hours a week.

Celia:  Yeah, 40 hours a week to be a grant writer, is what you're saying. 

Dr. Browning:  Mm-hmm. 

Celia:  Yeah. Okay. 

Dr. Browning:  Absolutely. Because it's full--they're going to work more than 40 hours a week. 

Celia:  Yeah. 

Dr. Browning:  You can count on that.

Celia:  Yeah.

Dr. Browning:  I used to stay over--after everybody was gone in my building at five o'clock, I would be there till midnight with the custodians still focusing on grant writing and finding money. I didn't have an editor. I had no one to help me. I had no clerical support. It was just me. Find the money, write the proposal, get the money, or you're out of here. And they could have cared less. 

I even went in on Saturdays with the custodians. They knew me. They knew my car when it pulled into the parking lot. And they would let me in the janitorial door to come in and go to my office. And they turn some lights on in the hallway and everything. It was ridiculous. And the pay was, guess what? And this was back in, I would say, early--no, late 1980s, 24,000 a year before taxes. 

Celia:  Wow! Wow. Yeah. 

So, it's a full time job. So I think to answer your question, Cherry, it was in the chat. It's a full-time job. Somebody full-time should be hired for that. I think it sounds like all too often, organizations think of grant writing as something simple that you can pick up when, really, it's a full thing.

Dr. Browning:  You can pick it up. But while you're picking it up, you're getting a whole lot of rejection requests because you're picking it up.

Celia:  Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I see what you mean. Because it takes some time to sort of learn what you're doing and get it dialed in. 

Dr. Browning:  If you've never heard of a smart objective, if you don't know how to do a logic model or a theory of change, if you don't understand what a de minimis is if you're working in federal grants, you're in a rabbit hole and you're not going to be able to dig yourself out. Get trained.

Celia:  Yeah, get trained. Yeah. 

I wonder if you can talk to us a little bit about your kind of process. There was a question in the chat about--you had mentioned the kind of match scores that you like. Instrumental in sort of helping you understand what's a good fit. I wonder if you could speak a little bit to your overarching process of just how do you kind of approach the grant process. You figured out that the organization is grant ready. And now, it's time to sort of do the research and the writing. Can you talk to us a little bit about your overarching process and then maybe even show some folks who were asking in the chat about that match score and how you think about that part?

Dr. Browning:  Let me share my screen, please. Can you see my screen? 

Celia:  Sure can. Yeah. 

Dr. Browning:  Yeah, I want to make sure because I'm a bit over. I've got eight screens here. 

Celia:  Yeah, we can see in our tracker right now. 

Dr. Browning:  Oh, great, thank you. So, I'm going to diminish all the pictures here. So, I'm in my account now. And I'm going to set up one for this test today. I'm going to go to account. I'm going to go to client profiles. And here, I'm going to add a new profile and I'm going to call it Instrumentl test. 

And I'm doing this because I also have team members that are a part of my subscription. And I don't want them to mistake something I'm running for something I'm doing for them. 

Celia:  Yeah. 

Dr. Browning:  All right. Location. Select a county or a state. So, let's say it's inside the United States. Let's go with Michigan. Let's go with Genesee County. Confirm. Client’s fiscal year. This is correct. January 1st through December 31st. So, save this client.

Okay. Now, I'm going to go up here to create a project. I'm the user. I'm going to bring up the client profile. And I'm going to call this project an on screen demonstration. I'm doing this for a non-profit, college and university as well. Private. Actually, I'm going to change this. I'm going to do it for a non-profit. Period. And, no, I don't want grants as an individual.

And this is not a faith-based non-profit. So, the answer is no. So again, inside the United States. So, an hour and then drill it down.

And so, yeah, I’m maybe doing this a little bit differently than you. But it works for me.

Celia:  Yeah. It's more or less the same. I think that that section of setting up the client profile and this would be combined for other folks. But, yeah, this is all the same.

Dr. Browning:  Let's see one more. Oh, human services.

And I do this--these are my keywords. And typically, my clients give me their keywords. Okay? I want to have more than one and fill it with work. Let's say homeless, pregnant, women. Here we go. Women and girls services, women's health, and updating these fields. Let's say I have a contract with a client and they don't want anything under 20,000. It’s for education outreach. It's for projects and programs. It's for general operation. It's none of these. I'm going to save and exit.

So right now, I'm just sitting here having a drink of water, looking at the screen. 87 foundation grants, 47 corporate, and 10 government.

Celia:  Okay. 

Dr. Browning:  This is what I like best. So, best matches up here. And I like to look at the first row or first funding opportunity matches first and go down. But then I also like the Beta. Okay? The Beta is where I have my percentages. So, the best match should be here. I don't want a filter. I don't want to be invited only. Not right now. I just want to see what's out there. And I'm looking at all of these coming up. And let me click on one that has a… oh, I like this, 74%. 

Although, I’m concerned about the grant amount. It's just barely over that amount that my client wants me to go for. But I'm going to take a look at it, anyway. I like the total assets and I like their total giving. It means they have the capacity to give over $20,000. I like the fact that I have a link to go out to their website. It tells me all the key people. So, what do I do when I get to know key people? I go to LinkedIn because that's where I have my connections. And I put these names in and I request a connection. And in the message part, I'm a consultant and I'm working with a client who may be interested in reaching out to you. I just say it and nobody ever says, “No, I don't want to connect.” I love this. And you can see more.

These are all the members at large on their board. Okay. Oh, wow. They gave the most in 2020. Well, we know why. That was a hard hit year. The first year, I believe, for the pandemic. They're giving average and median. Obviously, it was here. Okay? 

Number of grants that were awarded? I would say about 50. And you can just click here, and it gives you the value of 49. 

Their assets. This looks good, 675,000. We can look at by year what the grants were that they gave. This is called the snapshot, the sizes. The past grantees all in Michigan. Bingo! This is where my client is. This gives you an idea of what they awarded and where they awarded it in the state. And you can see 47 entries here. So, this is very helpful in making a decision. What I call a go, no-go decision. 

These were some of the previous grants awarded. There's only four years of filings available. And then I'm going to go to their 990 form. 

Celia:  I think you'll find the 990 on the funder opportunity matches. Maybe not necessarily in this section. This section is just funders and it may not go into the--you want to go into actual grant opportunities.

Dr. Browning:  Okay. So, do I go back to the tracker?

Celia:  Yeah, scroll back up to the top. Not the tracker. Oh. No. 

Dr. Browning:  Matches? 

Celia:  Yeah. And then just funding opportunity matches is where you're going to find the 990 data.

Dr. Browning:  Okeydoke. Let me go down.

Celia:  No. If there's an open opportunity for Saxena Family Foundation, then you would find that 990, which you see.

Dr. Browning:  Okay.  I'm going to go here. Let me go to a more solid one. Not an RFP. Not Versa Care. Let's go here. 

Celia:  Okay. 

Dr. Browning:  So now, we can look at the 990. This is it.  It gives you the address, the phone number, all of that.  You can also look at past grantees. Everything. 

Celia:  Yeah, this is great.

Dr. Browning:  And I have--by the way, I have a consultant’s subscription.

Celia:  Yeah. Yeah. So, just a couple of notes because I know we're getting to the end here. I appreciate you sort of showing us all of this, Bev. Yeah, I just know I also put this in the chat. If anybody's interested, they can sign up. We have a project team that when you set it up, they're going to go through it with you. And they're just going to make sure that you set up your project in a way that you get your best possible matches. 

But essentially, it's sort of bringing you a lot of this information. And as you're kind of determining whether or not potentially a client or your own organization is sort of ready and sort of set up, this is a great place to check, right, to see what our ideal funder is looking for. I think that was your earlier point, right, Bev? What are they looking for?

Dr. Browning:  Yes, what are they looking for? And my clients provide me--the form you're getting today is the resource handout. It's going to give you all the keywords to put in here when you do your funding matches. 

Celia:  Yeah.

Dr. Browning:  I really like that. 

Celia:  Yeah.

Dr. Browning:  And just one other thing. When you partner with Instrumentl and you decide to use them for your grant research database, take all the work on their side and hardly any on yours. You have an opportunity to also share your subscription link so that people who subscribe to it will have an opportunity to view it through a 14-day trial. There are lots of good things. I've been instrumental for over two years. I would never go back to any other search service at all. I'm just really convinced that this is the way to go for me.

Celia:  That's awesome. I'm glad to hear that you're getting so much out of it. I'm going to take over screen sharing, Dr. Bev, so I can share our freebies with everyone today. And while I do that, I may do a quick rapid fire of a couple of questions we didn't quite get to today. So, I'm going to go ahead and pull this up. 

But while I do that, we had a question about can a new non-profit be funding ready if they get fiscal sponsorship?

Dr. Browning:  Yes. And if the board is trained and if they understand that physical sponsorship means that there's going to be a fee taken off the top or the physical sponsorship and management process of that grant award. 

Celia:  Okay. Awesome. That's great. And I’ve got to grab this link for you guys so that we can share these freebies. 

But essentially, what you--if you're interested today, you can go ahead and click the link that I am dropping in the chat right now. And you don't have to really do anything we'll send you, Dr. Bev’s--sorry. What is it again that we're going to send you, Dr. Bev?

Dr. Browning:  It is called the non-profit funding search questionnaire.

Celia:  That's awesome. And we'll also send you our freebie of The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Prospects in seven easy steps, which will hopefully help you as well. 

One more quick fire question. What kind of training does our board need to have? What do you sort of recommend in terms of training?

Dr. Browning:  First of all, I like to train them in Robert's Rules of Order so they understand how to run a meeting and how to document it. The IRS requires that even if you meet on Zoom, that there still be a written copy of the board minutes on file in case you are audited, picked up, and asked to provide that. And most importantly, I train them in what their role is, their fiduciary or financial responsibility, their board recruitment, getting other board member’s responsibility, organizational oversight responsibility, and most importantly, fundraising. 

It's totally different from fiduciary responsibility. Fiduciary responsibility is knowing where every penny is spent, where every dollar comes from. Fundraising is your responsibility as a board is to have a give or get policy, to have annual events that you plan, that you bring in revenue for the organization, and also to meet with potential new funders, to introduce them to the organization services, programs, and to talk about the need for additional funding support. 

A real board member puts in 15 to 20 hours a month. And we're not talking about seat time at a board meeting.

Celia:  That's awesome. Thank you for that. I know there are so many other questions. I think we could do this for hours, honestly. There are so many questions on this. But I think that in the interest of time, we're at the top of the hour here. So, we're going to let people get back to their lives. 

But I did put up on the screen how you can get in touch with Dr. Bev, if you're interested. She's got amazing training. So, you should check out what she has going on because there's so much knowledge there. And hopefully, you all will get something great out of this. 

As a reminder, we will be sending out the recording and the slides. So, you can check it out or you can send it. Maybe to your executive director so they understand what the role of grant writer is. 

Dr. Browning:  I love it.

Celia:  Yeah. All right, everyone, thank you so much. Thanks for being here. Thanks so much for your time, Dr. Bev. 

Dr. Browning:  Thank you for this opportunity.

Celia:  Yeah. 

Dr. Browning:  Thank you for the opportunity, Celia. I really appreciate it. I love Instrumentl. 

Celia:  That's awesome. 

Dr. Browning:  And I'm not being paid to promote it. I'd rather spend an hour on Instrumentl than 40 hours doing it the old way. It's just I have more time to do other things, to plan, to be creative, strategic.

Celia:  Oh, it's awesome to hear that it's brought you so much value. And hopefully, it'll be helpful for others too who want to try it out. So, go get your list of funders, you all. You get 14 days for free. So, don't miss out on that. 

Cool. All right. Thank you so much.

Doris:  Thank you so much. It's good seeing some of you again. 

Dr. Browning: You're welcome. Thank you, Doris.

Celia:  Hopefully we'll see some of you on Thursday. We have a great live proposal review with Shavonn Richardson where she's going to show us how she pulls apart a proposal and some tips on how to write a proposal better. So hopefully, we'll see you Thursday.

Dr. Browning:  Everybody, sign up for Thursday. I know Shavonn personally. She is at the top of her game. If you miss this, you're going to cry.

Shavonn:  Thank you, Dr. Bev. But following up after you is a little intimidating. I'm just saying.

Dr. Browning:  You're going to be fine, Shavonn. You got it all.

Shavonn:  Thank you. 

Celia:  Thanks, everybody. See you Thursday.

Dr. Browning:  Bye-bye.

Celia:  Bye.

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