Last Updated:

How to Find your Unicorn Funders & Standout Using a Power Prospectus w/ Meredith Noble


September 12, 2022

How to Find your Unicorn Funders & Standout Using a Power Prospectus w/ Meredith Noble

Not sure which grants to go after? Wondering how you'll stand out and win funders?

​If you're trying to shortlist your prospects to go after the opportunities with the highest chance of success, this deep-dive workshop is for you.

​In this 1 hour special workshop hosted by Instrumentl, you’ll learn how to utilize several different decision-making tools to help determine which prospects to pursue and create a replicable system that will help you win the right funders in the future.

By the end of this one-hour workshop with Meredith Noble, you’ll learn:

  • ​How to use the Grant Prospecting Funnel to filter 100+ grants to the top pursuits
  • How to focus on the grants with the highest likelihood of success and ROI
  • How to put together a Power Prospectus for accelerating funder conversations
  • How to get more tips on how to stand out to funders

Never tried Instrumentl?

Find and win more grants for your nonprofit!
Start saving 3 hours a week and increase your grant applications by 78%.

Try 14-days free

Create your Instrumentl account using the link above. Save $50 off your first month should you decide to upgrade when your trial expires with the code LGW50.

Meredith Noble is the Co-Founder & CEO of Learn Grant Writing and she is on a mission to inspire other women to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. She secured over $45 million in grants, before pivoting her consulting practice to teach others to write grants. Her expertise has been featured in Fast Company, and her book, How to Write a Grant: Become a Grant Writing Unicorn, is a #1 bestseller for nonprofit fundraising and grants on Amazon. Meredith is a fifth generation black angus cattle rancher from Wyoming, now living in the mountains of Valdez, Alaska and building a remote, yet connected, company. Meredith has a degree in Marketing from Gonzaga University.

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 active opportunities.

Search 150+ subcategories

Explore More Grants

How to Find your Unicorn Funders & Standout Using a Power Prospectus w/ Meredith Noble - Transcription

Celia:  All right. Awesome. So hi, everyone. Welcome to How to Find Your Unicorn Funders and Standout Using a Power Prospectus with Meredith Noble. 

This workshop is being recorded and the slides will be shared with you afterwards. So, definitely keep your eyes open for a follow-up email from me, in case you want to review anything that you learned today or share it with any colleagues or friends. Remember that if you do have questions, we're going to try to get to as many questions as we can today. You can always drop them in the chat. Just put that three sort of hashes before them. That'll make it really easy for me to kind of see and pull out for Meredith. 

And if this is your first time here, welcome. This is a free grant workshop as part of our Instrumentl partner webinar series. So, these are collaborations between Instrumentl and the community partners that we work with to provide free educational workshops for grant professionals. So, we are going to be kind of talking in this webinar around a lot of the same things we think about in general as an organization, which is how do we support grant writers and nonprofits to get the tools and the insights that they need to find more funding with less work. And so, what does that mean? Really quickly, I'm just going to give you an overview of what we do here at Instrumentl and then Meredith will hop on here.

So, Instrumentl is a grant. We are a tool that brings grant prospecting, tracking, and management all into one place under one roof. And that allows us to save folks about three hours a week while still increasing grant output by about 78% in the first year. So, how do we do that? Well, first things first, we make sure you find good fit funders faster than usual. Right? So, we've got over 12,000 active grants on the platform. And we're adding a couple 100 a week. And our unique matching algorithm is sort of like a personal assistant. It works in the background for you 24/7.

So while you focus on other activities, Instrumentl is finding you good fit funders and sending you weekly updates on deadlines and new opportunities so that you don't miss anything. And of course, finding it is only part of the effort, right? In my experience, the actual evaluation and prioritization part can be really a time suck. And so, we are tackling that as well. So some people do rely on that 990 data, which is full of awesome information. But you have to kind of make sense of it all. Right?

So instead, we're giving you some visualization tools that really simplify those giving trends. So for example, up on the screen right now, you're looking at a chart of one of our grant makers in their past median kind of giving. Also, where they focus geographically, as well as kind of what their openness is to new grantees versus repeat grantees so we can get a sense of the competitiveness, right? 

So we can kind of answer those really important questions, like do they fund my geography? Are they funding similar organizations? And how competitive is this opportunity, right? And beyond that, then you're going to need to communicate all of this information with your team. Right? So, things like assigning tasks really quickly to your team, adding notes, storing documents, and templates, all of that alongside the RFP and funding information so that everything is in one place. 

And then finally, we are talking about tracking, right? So hopefully, you've won that award and you are sort of wanting to track it and manage your reporting. So, our tools let you kind of visualize everything that's coming up, everything you're working on, whether that's in a list view, which you kind of see in the background here, or a calendar view with all of our deadlines and internal due dates on there. So, reporting can just be super quickly. We can show our board and our director what is going on. 

So, that is a few things about Instrumentl. I don't want to take up more time. If you're interested, we are offering everyone 14 days free today of our standard plan, which has some really new fun features on it. So, you definitely want to check that out if you haven't checked out Instrumentl before. I just dropped a link in the chat with that and I can drop it again as well throughout if you have questions. So, just let me know.

But I don't want to take up any more time. So with that, I think that I will go ahead and let Meredith take over sharing. And I will also introduce you. So, we're really excited to have Meredith with us today. Meredith has been a longtime partner of Instrumentl. We'd love working with her. 

And a little bit about her. So, yeah, with all that housekeeping kind of out of the way, we're so excited to have Meredith with us. So, Meredith is the co-founder and CEO of Learn Grant Writing. And she is on a mission to inspire other women to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. In her career, she secured over 45 million in grants before pivoting her consulting practice to teach others how to write grants. Her expertise has been featured in Fast Company. And her book, How To Write a Grant: Become a Grant Writing Unicorn, which is a number one bestseller for nonprofit fundraising and grants on Amazon. So, you should check that out.

Beyond that, Meredith is a fifth generation black angus cattle rancher from Wyoming. She now lives in the mountains of Valdez, Alaska. And she's building a remote, yet connected company. Meredith also has a degree in marketing from Gonzaga University. 

So, Meredith, it's so great to have you here. With all of that out of the way, I will go ahead and pass it over to you.

Meredith  Right on. Hi, everybody. I move very quickly. So, good news. You get a recording and the slides and I can somehow do two things at once. So if you have questions, please throw them in the chat box. If I think that I can answer it as I'm going, I will. And otherwise, we will just hit it at the end.

Okay. So what we're known for around here at Learn Grant Writing is launching careers. So, we help those that want to get into grant writing, want to go consulting, you want to land a new job, grow in your new job. That's what we're known for. So, I need to get oriented with where you’re all at. It'll influence my decisions on what we cover today. Do we have this in a survey question or only the next question?

Celia:  I think it's only the next one. So, drop it in the chat and let us know.

Meredith:  Yeah, just one, two or three.

Celia:  Not yet. This is great.

Meredith:  Okay, cool. This is good. I will make no assumptions.

Cool. All right. Using the trial, not yet. 

All right. Good. Good. Good. Great. Okay. That's helpful. Thank you.

All right. This one. What situation best describes you? Those were helpful things. Mentors, help me out. But we're going to pop up that survey. Can you do that on your end? I hope so. 

I have to do it.

Celia:  Do you see it? Yeah, there we go. We got people answering. We're at about 20, 30%, and growing quickly.

Meredith:  Okay. It must be because I can't see it on my end or something. So, good deal. All right.

Celia:  I think you may be able to see it now. Great. Yeah. 

Meredith:  Cool.

Celia:  We’re about 70%. We can get a couple more entries here.

Meredith:  Yeah, that works for me.

Celia:  And then we have 75. All right. There we go. That's good. Cool. Let's share these results then.

Meredith:  Am I the only one that doesn't get to see results? Do you all see them?

Celia:  I see them.

Meredith:  What?

Celia:  I'll read it out for you. How about that? So, we've got grant writer in-house is about 25% of folks here. Development and fundraising teams is about 17%, Executive Directors, only 9%. So, not a lot of you on here. And then grant writing consultants is definitely our largest. That's 27%. And then we've got a couple of the other category about 23%. If you answered other, I'd love to hear from you in the chat what you do specifically.

Meredith:  Start hustling, figuring it out. Whatever. That's cool. All right, this is helpful. Thank you. This definitely will influence how we roll. 

Okay. We're going to talk about a grant prospecting funnel, how you focus on the right grant so that you're getting the highest return on investment because your time is not free. I assume right now that your hour is worth $100 minimum. So, I want to make sure you're getting your $100 worth of time today. Then we're going to dip into the power prospectus, what it is and how you can leverage it to propel your new relationships particularly forward. 

So, we have some prizes. I don't know if I'm mailing them or you're mailing them, but I think we're sending them out. So, we have four copies of my book, How to Write a Grant: Become a Grant Writing Unicorn. We’ll share how you can get that. And we're going to give away a seat to Grant Writing: From Start to Funded, which is an online course we have. 

Okay. So, the funding funnel. I was 22 years old, working for an engineering firm as their first ever grant writer. And I was asked to figure out how to fund a $5 million clinic in rural Alaska. So, I found a grant program that’s worth about $600,000. And it quickly became apparent to me that I can't just go after that one grant without showing the picture of how we were going to fund the entire enchilada. And that was when I realized how important grant research was and premeditated a strategy before starting the grant application process. 

So, everything you're about to see me describe was very organically built from really more of a survival state than anything else trying to figure out how the heck am I going to do this. And here, it really is. This is not rendering. It's the real picture. I drove past it yesterday. So, I got it done. 

I like to think of grants like dominoes. So, we need to have grants in the right position. They have to be close enough to each other so that when you win one grant, it knocks over the next one. And if we're too spaced out and then we'll have a good strategy at how we pursue them, we knock over a domino and probably spend that money. And it has no influence on winning your next grant. 

So if anyone had a liberal arts degree here and someone asked you, what are you going to do with that, this is where you get to say, “This is what I'm doing with that.” Because this requires strategic thinking. It's a systems approach to figuring out how to sequence these grants together to win the most of them and have the process be as less painful as possible. 

So, I tend to think of it as a funnel. So, we're going to walk through each of these stages. I'm going to break them down. But essentially, we start with Instrumentl with a database search at the top. And then we're going to roll down through each of the stages getting increasingly more fine-tooth comb as we get to the bottom. 

All right. So the funding strategy, just to make sure we're all singing on the same sheet of music here. So, a funding strategy is a roadmap to decide which grant you're going to pursue. It gets everyone in your organization on the same page. One of the biggest challenges you will face as grant writers is that you are going to be brought--I mean, someone put this as an amen in the chat box. If this has happened to you, you've been brought a grant. It's due in five days or two weeks if something is unreasonable and you said, “Hey, it's perfect. Go for it.” And all of a sudden, yeah, I knew it. This is a universal grant writer struggle. And the problem is you're scrambling. You're dropping everything. You're not eating or exercising to do this. And then all of a sudden, you realize, “Wait a minute. We weren't even eligible, or we didn't get the grant. It wasn't even worth all that time,” right? This struggle is so real. 

So, this gets us away from that because now we have a strategic plan for the next 12 to 18 months or longer knowing what grants we're going after, what our next steps are, the schedule, et cetera. Right? So, that's what this very simple planning document does for your sanity.

So, my relationship with Instrumentl is hilarious. So when I first started teaching, my first idea was to teach a grant writing course. Right? In 2018, I was actually doing a search via Google to show how the grant research process goes. When I stumbled upon--actually a blog post that Instrumentl had that led me to their website, this is very early days for you. I don't know when Instrumentl was founded, actually. When was it founded?

Celia:  2016.

Meredith:  2016, okay.

Celia:  So, I wasn’t focused on this for a while. So, yeah, you were probably early.

Meredith:  Yeah, it was early. So, I went down the internet rabbit hole, and it landed here. And so, I actually ended up being so mind blown at the tool and what they have that I had to stop recording and completely rethink the grant research process as I was doing it. And I mean, it just like, boom, just threw it all out. And then focus exclusively on using this and getting away from using Google. 

So, why does this matter? I mean, how many of us have had 102 tabs open? And then you're wondering, “What did I accomplish today?” Well, struggle number two as a grant writer. But what's important about this process is it's a very systematic approach to finding grants. It breaks the habit of chasing grants haphazardly, and it gets everybody pulling in the same direction, which is quite important.

So, stage one is setting your search. It’s finding 100 plus grants. So, you can write this down or just take notes on the slides later. But essentially, this is how it works. We're going to set our search. We're going to find 100 plus opportunities to consider. And we'll go from there. I'm not going to, in the interest of time, run through actually using Instrumentl to do this, even though I have in the past. You can go onto YouTube and find a video where I've done it with you and with Instrumentl in the past. But just a couple of pro tips when you're setting up your search. Because this is where I often, people in our community, will say, “I'm not getting results.” And I say post your search engine or post how you set your search, and we'll look over it. Okay. 

Number one, you might be a, let's say, a local government. And there's only a certain type of grant available to you. But could we be partnering with a strong 501(c)(3) nonprofit in your organization? And then we can look at different funding sources as well. Or perhaps you're a research graduate student and you can be partnering with--well, maybe the researcher can't get the money, but the college or the university could. Right? So, there's always different combinations of how you can piece together. Okay, I'm a for-profit business. This is less common. But let's say, okay, what grant funding could I help a nonprofit receive so that they can pay for my services as a for-profit business? Or up here in Alaska, I work with a lot of indigenous organizations. So, we're always looking at different combinations too of who they can partner with.

So, I just want to emphasize that if you are not a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, I will encourage you to still think broadly when you see those tabs and click into other categories of eligibility, because you can always make a good partner with a different eligible entity type. So, that's stage one. We set our search.

Stage two. I'm really not going to go super deep on that. The keywords you're going to have, I think it's up to 10 keywords. That’s how many you can set. I recommend not setting the full 10 at first because you're going to get a ton of grants. Sweetspot will be five to seven keywords first. And then once we have kind of a smaller amount to work with, we can always go in and swap out keywords. 

Okay. Stage two is my favorite stage. So, this is when we're going from 100 plus grants to about 20 worth evaluating. So, this is where we're filtering based on what are the funders’ giving priorities, what projects are eligible for programs, what will they fund, and what is their funding history. Because the best indication of future giving is past giving.

So, you can look at the overview section in Instrumentl and get the general vibe if this is going to be a good fit or not. Probably the number one mistake I see in this process is that you try to force it. You're like, “Well, we're a round peg. But we could probably get into that square peg if we comfort ourselves enough.” And it’s like, “Don't do that.” If it's not a good--not kind of a smooth enough feeling fit right now, it’s not going to be getting any better. 

So, I want you to resist clicking the View website. We're not doing that in this space. This is a very, very quick process where you're rolling through each of the matches and really running through these questions on a high level and deciding, “Am I going to look at you closer again? Or are you out? So, this is not where you go too deep. We’re moving quickly. I like to set a timer so I actually stay really, really nimble in this process.”

Okay. Then we need to look at, at a quick glance, are you eligible? And I say quick glance because eligibility is actually up there. You can read some lovely horror stories of me figuring out eligibility in my book, because it's not as straightforward sometimes as you would think, particularly as we start going after more complicated federal grants. But we do need to make sure that if they say, “We do not fund capital improvement projects,” and we're trying to fund a capital improvement, a new building, okay, that's a clear no-go. Right? 

So, we're looking for those obvious no-goes or we do not fund religious organizations. And your organization is strongly faith based. Right? So, those are the kind of high level things we're looking for when we're looking at, are we going to be eligible?

This is hands down my favorite feature in all of Instrumentl. The fact that we cannot have to hate our lives looking through the 990s and trying to make sense of that. So, your 990 is a tax filing form with the IRS showing where they give their grants in the previous year. And what's so lovely about Instrumentl is that they've turned this into visual data. So if you were interested in a grant program and you click into this and you're in the state of Maine, you're going to see, “Well, there's no reason I should consider this any further.” Because clearly, the bulk of all of their investments go to Alaska. Right? So, that's something we want to look at. 

Next we want to look at, is the average grant amount worth your time? And I don't want to discredit smaller grant amounts because sometimes you need to start smaller to build rapport and trust, and then that can lead into larger awards. But if it’s a for sure $2,000 program and you know the minimum you want to go after is 50,000, then you can just quit with it. Right? 

This also is lovely because in the purpose category, you can see what they are funding. And that's very helpful if you're trying to--because sometimes the website differs a little bit from what they're actually giving. And one struggle that we all genuinely are facing right now is that during COVID, the extension period for filing was extended. So this data lags a little bit, right? We're a couple of years behind when you see their funding history. And some funding priorities shifted with very good reason in the last couple of years. So, shifting to more equity type focused initiatives, et cetera. And so, sometimes you might look at this and say, “Okay, for sure, this is a solid fit. It's looking very promising. But maybe their funding history has shifted, and that's not yet reflected in their 990 data.” We'll get to how you handle that in a moment. 

So these are really the three questions you ask yourself in this phase when you're cruising through the matches and deciding which ones you want to keep and which ones you want to drop. Have we confirmed? We have alignment with the funders giving priorities. Is this what you want to get funded? And have they made awards similar to your project or your type of organization? If it passes through this filter, it moves to stage three. So basically, each stage gets progressively harder and you take a little bit more time on each stage. So, this is a hard stage. Right? And it's also a fun stage because this is when you're really putting on your critical thinking hat and choosing those top grant pursuits. 

So, this is one we're looking at. Okay, I've saved 20, 25 grants. I definitely want to go look at it more closely. But now, we need to make sure that they're actually worth pursuing. So at this point, we are thinking about four filters; competitiveness, funding guidelines, contacting past applicants, and getting feedback from the fundraiser. 

So, determining competitiveness. What percent of applicants are successful? So, how you calculate this is dividing the number of awards made by the total applicants. What is the question you have for me right now? There should be an obvious question that emerges when I asked you to calculate this. I'll give it away. 

Suzanne: How do you know how many people are applying and how many awards there are? 

Meredith: Suzanne, thank you. You got it. That is not public information. You're not going to see how many people applied. Granted sometimes a website will say what percent are awarded. But often, that's not actually accurate. So, the only way you figure this out is to contact the funder, which I think in my next slide, I have an example of that. So, here's a very chill way of asking this. Saying the subject line, maybe it's like, quick question on program. “Hey, Barbara. We are interested in your grant program. We are gauging competitiveness. How many applicants applied last year? What percent of those were successful?” 

Or another, you can really tone it down and you can--even if you don't ask for how many applicants applied, can you just give me the ballpark of what percent of applicants that applied last year were successful? And the reason we're asking this is that we don't want to waste your time pursuing a grant that only has a 2% chance of getting funded. It's simply not worth it. You could put together the world's most beautiful, perfect application. But guess what? There is someone else. Right? 

So, we want to be targeting generally a 20% or greater chance of odds because then we're just dealing with good odds. You have to put a lot into this. Right? Now, here's something you have to be aware of because I literally have 500 people doing this within our global grant writers collective asking all the time for this information as they're doing their homework. Some funders just won't respond with it. Some might be a little taken aback by the question. So, you do want to make sure that it's a very casual relaxed question. You're not trying to like, I don't know, write the kind of female you can. This is a short way of doing it. But you're trying to get at--I'm not trying to dig up. Basically, you're just trying to say, “I don't need an exact number. Just give me a ballpark, even a range.” And that usually is enough to just be like, “Oh, okay, I understand what they're looking for.” Right? So, that's a good question. 

So, what if there is no past history? Or is it a new grant? This is legitimately happening right now because of all of the ARPA funding that's coming out. So, are you talking specifically about federal grants or foundation grants? I'm curious if it's one or the other.

So one thing that can be helpful with federal grants, and I don't know if I have it in here. No. How many people here would be ARPA? Yeah. Okay. We're just going to take a little field trip. Someone give me a federal grant that they're interested in. So, we're going to go--I mean, we should be using Instrumentl. But just to show you this quick math. This is just a really easy one. So, let's see. We're going to take transportation , perhaps. Let's see. Actually, I just did one. Middle Mile. I just did a federal grant training. And so, this is on top of my head. 

Search the Middle Mile. We want to be closed. Here it is. This Middle Mile Grant Program. Oh, they don't have it. Okay, going back. One second. We'll find one. I think this one has one. Okay. Well, this is not the best example. But you can take the lesson here. So, you take the total amount of funding available for a million dollars and you divide it here by the expected number of awards, which is only saying one person is getting this program. So obviously, that's a pretty easy calculation. One person is getting this grant for $4 million. 

But usually, you'll see something particularly for these ARPA grant funds where, let's say, it's like 80 million, 32 awards. So, you can get 80 million divided by 32 awards. And that's going to give you your average. So even though the award is fueling, an award floor is going to be quite variable, you know you want to be pretty close to that average. So, I hope that that's helpful in terms of getting an idea when you don't actually have past history to look at.

And Chloe's been asking, “Should we be the first communication as the funder?” So, I think it's an easy way to kind of open that door and start having communication and saying things like, “We're really”--I think you communicate, “We are really excited about this program. We want to make sure we're a good fit for you before we reach out to have a more full-fledged conversation. But just to make sure this is a good use of our limited resources, we just want to get a handle on what content is missing.”

So, I like it just as quickly because I don't want to go to the effort of doing all of this preparation for a super deep dive call with them if they are only funding 2% of their grants. Right? So, it is one way of just sort of--it's a pre-filter before we're going to be reaching out. Okay. 

Reading funding guidelines. So, this is where you--the funding guidelines might exist. This is when we're getting out of Instrumentl. We're going to the website and we're looking for where the guidelines are, which often they actually link in Instrumentl, which is very helpful. And you're reading it, even printing it and reading it. And this is where you need to confirm. Does this still feel right? What programs and projects are they really, really funding? What needs to be in place so we are competitive? And this is where you catch the nuances. 

So, I worked on a state park project in Sandwich, Massachusetts. And in the funding guidelines of the grant we wanted to go after, it said, “You have to have an update on file with the state recreational plan. Theirs had lapsed.” So, that was one of those things where I'm like, “Oh, highlight?” And then go talk to Sandwich and say, “Do you have a recreational plan on file? And if so, I need a copy of it.” And that's when they found out, “Actually, we don't. It’s not updated.” But because we're looking way out in advance that was eight months away from when we actually applied, we had time to get that recreational plan on file again. So, we were eligible. 

So, those are the itsy-bitsy nuances that can eat your lunch. And that's why it's really important we take the time to actually read through those guidelines of the ones we're serious about. 

So, Derek, to answer your question about ARPA, the heck does it stand for? I don't remember the acronym. I might need to Google it real quick. But essentially, this is funding that was--yes, thank you, American Rescue Plan Act that was passed. Thanks, Kathy. In for the save. She is in the collective. She just joined a couple days ago. 

So, this is funding that was passed through our federal government. And it is grant funding that is an incredible amount going into each department. And so, there's a lot of interesting grant programs that are new. So, you do run into that challenge of not having historic data on what they're funding because it's brand new. 

Okay. Contacting past applicants. So, this one is also one of those nuanced situations. Some people will not give you a copy of their grant application. But others will because it's been a couple years since they submitted it, anyway. So, this is why I think it's really important to my policy. If you want to see any of my grants I've ever done, fair game, I'll show them to you. No problem. 

But I believe in that because then, it all ships. Another method, of course, is using the Freedom of Information Act, if you're going after federal grants. And you can actually get copies of applications that way. That's also a very nuanced conversation because the better method is always just reaching out, have a conversation. These people are in the same boat as you are. And saying, “Hey, can I get a copy of a gratification?” 

The other thing to ask for is, “What was it like to work with this funder?” Could they have reasonable expectations? Whether they're reporting completely out of hand for the size of grant that it is. So, this can be a good way for you to--if you're trying to get something funded and someone in another part of the state or US or world has funded something similarly, build those relationships because then you have a brainstorming partner. 

Okay. Then comes time to contact the funder. So if it's gone through each of those three stages, you're feeling really good about it. You're so fired up. Now we have to contact the funder and confirm that you are a good fit for each other, building a meaningful relationship. Right? So often what I find is that you get a little nervous to contact the funder. And they don't ever feel that way, like not knowing what you want to ask or say. So, I have 10 questions that I will give you at the end of this because we didn't have time to go into it today. But you can use it as a starting point to help you guide your conversation in addition to the questions you're going to be sourcing, anyway, from reading the guidelines. 

Okay. So, shifting gears. Now we're in the phase of contacting the funder. So, we're going to talk about what I call the power prospectus and your tangible transformation centers get ready to work. We're going to actually workshop them together. So, I do want to get a handle on how people feel about contacting funders. Did we try to listen to a survey? I can't remember if we did or did not. 

Celia: We did not. 

Meredith: We didn’t. Okay. So, just one, two, three, or four. Nervous every time, old pro, do it regularly, don't have a lot of experience. Threes, ones, three, three, three. 

Celia: And a lot of trees. 

Meredith: A lot of trees. Okay, I'm definitely not seeing a ton of old pros go out. Yeah. And Gabrielle. Cool. Cool. All right. Nice. This is totally normal. So, let's talk about power prospectus. What is this sucker? It is, yeah, the best development director, no problem. All right. It's a one page overview. It's essentially a flyer of your organization and what you're trying to get funded. But the one page overview describes the problem that you're solving, how you solve it, at what cost, what are you looking to get funded, and what is that impact? Why do you want to have one of these? A is excellent marketing collateral. It's a great way to communicate. 

But when you speak to the founder in the final stages of this research process that we're in, it's a really nice way to when you actually get on the phone and you're really having a conversation. You don't have to blow your 30 minutes just getting them up to speed on what you do. Right? You can actually just--they've already got it. They've prepped it. They understand where you're at, and you can have a more meaningful conversation because you're not learning anything just talking to them. We don't need to be selling them at this point. No way. You genuinely want to be like, “Give me the whole. What do we need to do better? This is not a place to sell. This is a place to be genuinely curious. Do you think we are a good fit for your organization? Do we have alignment? Do you want us to just apply? Please give it to me straight.” Right? 

So, it's also a way for you to just stand out and be super professional because, A, it's going to force your team to fulfil information so the communication is super tight on all fronts. And most people don't do this. So, you're already going to stand out and look super prepared. Okay. So, here is the template. I'm going to drop this into--we're going to look at it and I'm going to drop it into the chat box so you all can make a copy of it. Okay. 

I think Martha, that really depends. I would not necessarily agree with you. For the most part, they did not want you to reach out to them. That's definitely not been my experience.

They want a relationship built with you in a big, big way. If a funder says they don't want to, they obviously have a different process where often the board is helping source the projects. Agree. It's usually clear. But otherwise, I've had a very different experience, specifically asking people questions. I have the quote later on in here. I’ve interviewed a bunch of funders when I wrote the new chapter in my book, like What The Funder Wants to Hear. And I'll never forget an interview that one of the founders said, and she said, “Nothing is worse than getting an application, even if it's perfect, if I've never heard of you before.” She wanted to hear from you. She wants to be pre-aware that it's coming down the pipe. 

Okay. So, here is the power prospectus template. It's nice to workshop in a Google doc before we move it into a prettier format. So, you will see tangible transformation sentences. We're going to go over this in a hot second and get there. But we need to be very clear on the problem we solved in one sentence. So, here are some--if you're struggling with that, there are some templates here in terms of how you structure that sentence. So, we know that, whatever the problem is specific to your community, affects the community you serve. 

The number one barrier describing what that is, is a major barrier to the transformation that you provide. This statistics or observation is about the presence of that barrier in your society. So, sometimes we're looking, I’d like to think about it as--I use an Alaska example like, are we using a little bush plane with a low perspective? We can see the trees and then we're using a regional plane and then we're using a jumbo jet up here. So, we want to be able to see the problems on the ground, a little bit above it, and then from a bigger perspective. 

Who we serve. So, this should be very clear. So, we serve students in Forsyth County with special attention given to support literacy efforts and Title I elementary school. It’s very clear. What needs funding? So, just come out with it and put a number to it. $45,000 is needed for the remaining salary expenses of a campus facilitator by August 1st. Boom! Urgency to launch the new social and emotional learning program by the time school starts. Very, very clear what needs funding. 

Okay. Why does this matter? So, this is where actually really the--looking at that regional plane and the jumbo jet, that's the perspective we're talking about here. I want you to really drive home why it matters. If you have room, you're going to talk about who you collaborate with. So, for example, the Knights of Heroes Foundation partners with Freedom Alliance, Folds of Honor, and Folded Flag Foundation. So, this camper is for a college scholarship, blah, blah, blah. So, we want to show that we're a collaborative entity. 

How will you measure success? So, a couple sentences on that. How has your community been involved? And for more information, contacts. So, this is a good spot to workshop and get it as tight as possible. Right? This is also useful if you're asked to write an abstract for an application. 

Okay. So, you all have that. We're going to go into the TTS because this is actually the most important part of the section of the whole document is how you start it. Okay. So, what is a TTS? It is not a mission statement. Who here can recite someone's mission statement besides maybe your own? I cannot think of one. Right? It does not stick. 

Instead, we're going to use a sentence that describes who you serve, what you do to help them and the problem that you're solving. It's a very punchy sentence that's more conversational that actually sticks in people's heads. So, here is the template. We help identity, who you serve, get the transformation, the change that they want or need so they can avoid number one pain or achieve a number one deep desire. 

I'm going to give you some examples. But I want you to throw in the chat box some of yours. We're going to workshop these together. So, Lovepacs helps K through 12 Students, depending on free or reduced lunch, identity, have nutritious and reliable meals on the weekend and breaks. Tangible transformation without having to fend for themselves until school begins again. Number one, pain avoidance. Does everyone see how that works? Nice and clear. We understand what they do in one sentence.

Okay. We help those returning from the Indiana Department of Corrections secure the stability they need to avoid recidivism, identity, and secure the stability they need. It could be a little bit more specific on the tangible transformation. But you get the idea to avoid recidivism. Number one pain. 

We serve citizens in rural Wisconsin identity with nonpartisan investigative journalism, transformation to fill the information gap left by declining local news sources.

Tri-County Head Start helps children zero to five years old, identity, get ready for kindergarten transformation so they aren't left behind before even getting started. Right? If you read this one sentence, I know everything that you're doing. Right? So, here's another example. But I'll let you all up. We've gone through a few. 

So, what I want to do is actually--do I have a timer? Where are you? I guess I'll just give some quick tips. I want you to be uncomfortably specific on the identity of your audience. And I'll tell you what, this is hard. But specific sticks. Transformation needs to be concrete. I do not want to see fluffy language, like we empower et cetera. We want to be very tangible. I need to feel like I could touch it and get what you do. And I really encourage you to focus on the pain avoided or the desire. And, Allison, thank you for that great question. I'm going to talk about that in a second. 

But the biggest thing, this is the biggest mistake. So, be aware. Here we are. I'm calling it out. We're not making a laundry list. We're not saying so that they can avoid or they can achieve this, this, and this. It is one thing. It is the most important desire or the number one pain. Allison, thank you for bringing this up. How do you handle the pain point when your organization is moving away from deficit-based language? Completely fair games. We talked about this a lot too. I have a whole chapter in my book. 

So, I think you can talk about the number one desire instead of the number one pain. So, for one, that's completely available to you to try that out. Sometimes what I think you can do is you can walk that line and still do it with grace. So, it can perhaps--the TTS is number one desire. But when you do talk about the problem you're solving, you can do so with grace. But you could still create that urgency of saying like, “We are here to solve something. Because if this wasn't an issue, we wouldn't exist.” Right? But great question. 

Okay. So now, it’s your time. We have a timer. We're not going to probably use the full seven minutes. No, we use three. But please drop in. And we're going to workshop them together. A TTS for your organization. 

Oops. I pasted the same one three times thinking I was copying it. Dang it.

Okay. So, this is probably as many--dang it. Why do I have--because we have time to workshop. So, we'll stop by our lovely jazz music. Hope everyone enjoyed that moment. I used to play the trombone. Fun fact. The only reason I picked it was because I was as tall as I was in the fifth grade. And I thought that was funny. 

Okay. So, let's start with sweet deeds. So, sweet deeds is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. So, one thing you can be aware of is it's totally fine to say your name, especially because right now you are introducing yourself. But when you put it in your power prospectus, you can just say we help. It'll help make your sentence a little shorter. So, you'll be able to say that. We help.” 

So, we help low income and minority groups in Texas, identity, overcome price and quality barriers. Tangible transformation so they can access quality and mental health services. But here's an answer. This is a list. Avoid suffering the devastating effects of mental illness on themselves, their families, and their communities. 

So, I forget who posted this one. But which one of these two is actually the most urgent and most important? And I’d probably say--I mean, it's either or but it's using one. So, what you could do here would be no less. So, they can access quality. I think another way could be to put this so they can access quality mental health services otherwise unavailable to them. Something like that. So this way, you’re keeping your sentence just a little bit tighter. And it's because it's one pain or deep desire to achieve. 

So if that means to underline, let’s go for a topic. That's good. It's really solid. Excellent work. Okay. Logan, builds accessibility and safety home modifications for children with disabilities. Okay. So here, building accessibility and safety home modifications is your tangible transformation, great, for children with disabilities. Do you have anything more specific in terms of location? You could add that, if so. But otherwise, that's cool. This is your identity. You're kind of reversing the sentence structure. But this is a list of--this is like the features. This is the bells and the whistles of what you do. But that really is stated here. 

And so, that's not getting out why this is important. So, I want you to really think through we're going to get rid of that list. And instead, say, so that, and then fill in the blank. So, that number one pain is avoided or number one desire is achieved. So, and from their perspective, like what does this mean to the families? What does this mean to the child? What does this mean to their life? That's what needs to go here, not the sort of features and the specifics of your transformation because that's clear here. Does that make sense? Yes. Okay. Good, good. 

Let's pick on one more. So, Mountain of Hope Foundation provides gap scholarships to help local students 17 years and up. So, this is kind of a blend. So, it’s what we could do. Let’s go here, help local students, 17 years and up with gap scholarship to pay for post-secondary education expenses so that our identity, our tangible transformation--you don't need to have, such as living expenses, equipment, purchases, or lab fees. That’s sort of like what we just had up here. You're kind of naming the features. But, really, we understand what that means here previously with the tangible transformation. We're going to get rid of that so your sentence is shorter.

I don't love the word enable. Enable is the word empower. It's kind of a weak word. So, let's think as a group how we could refrain from that. So, let's say, even so it's just like those students can receive an education without accumulating large loan debt. And that's great style. Excellent. Right there. Totally. 

Build capacity can be a little bit of--there's a word for it. I have a gal in my program that's a writing workshop facilitator. And I forget what she calls it. It's like we have these words we use so much like sustainable, et cetera, that we've even built capacities. We've almost used them so much. They've lost their meaning. Buzzwords. Thank you, Elaine. Elaine was--thank you. Elaine was at the retreat that we held two weeks ago in Sedona. So, you remember it. Thank you.

Okay. So anyway, does everyone find this helpful in terms of thinking about how to dial in in one sentence? Your TTS. Okay. So, now what I want to show you real quick--and we are like, “Holy smokes! Out of time.” No, we don't need the timer anymore. We're going to take a look real quick. I'm going to click through this. That's an example. Okay. So, here's an example of taking that power prospectus template. You've resolved and figured out your TTS. Now, let's actually make it pretty. 

So, this is where Canva comes in handy. So, here's an example of one, two columns. Looks really nice. When you do three columns, they get too squished. So, big fan of two columns. Right? You can use a quote. Sometimes that worked out, right. This is a little tight aesthetically. We need a little bit more margin. So, it's better to say a little bit less than to make it an overwhelming document if you can get in a photo. Very good. 

So, right here. I mean, look, this is her TTS right here, Para Rowing Foundation. We help athletes with disabilities become Para Rowers without the financial barriers related to training and equipment. TTS, right? Right there. Boom! You know what we do. And when you're handing that over to build a relationship with a new funder, it lands. Right? So, here's another example. Too much font. Too much in here, honestly. It needs to be a little bit larger font. This could be a little overwhelming. But the aesthetic is gorgeous.

And guess what? This is a resume template. That's just all it is. It's like ripping off the resume template to turn it into a power prospect. Oh my gosh, Stanley, thanks. I'm going to have to print out that compliment and put it on my desk. That’s so nice. 

So, here's another one, right, through column SOS Animales Nicaragua. Here's another example, two columns again, a little wordy. The text could be a little bit tighter. But you get the idea. Every one of these is starting off with a TTS. So, we help adults of marginalized and at risk populations develop thinking skills and self-esteem through the tool of creative writing, tangible transformation so they have a voice in a world that often diminishes them. Pain avoided or desire achieved, right? So, you get the idea. 

I hope this is helpful in terms of--I know I'm a big fan of getting to see examples. It definitely makes sense to me when I can really see how it works. So, there you go. You've got the power prospectus template. You can totally go workshop your tangible transformation sentence. 

I drew--let's see. I'm going to click through this because we need to keep moving. We saw an example. I'm a big fan of Canva. It's free. It's fun. It's easy to use. Stock pictures and tools are also very convenient. So, a little bit of a learning curve. If you're frustrated at first, just keep pushing through. It gets better. Okay. We saw an example. So, why do we do this? So the reason we sent it. And I think it is already said that we want to spend time actually having a conversation, right? Not just telling them about your project and learning nothing. We're here to actually learn. We’ve got to remember what we're doing here and focus on it. What was this one for? Oh, yeah. This is another resource that I'm going to give you. So, you have the questions, because we don't have time. 

So, here is a summary of the funnel. I think that Celia will be sending this out also via a PDF. But if you are comfortable making a copy of it, you can download this all yourself. But the idea is here are some sample questions that you can ask when you start building, having those conversations. So, I'm going to drop it in the chat box right now. 

Okay. Does everyone get it? Hopefully everyone can have access to that. Funny seeing faces jump up. So, there you go. And then I've also linked a bunch of free resources that we provide. 

Okay. So, here's that quote I mentioned, “Nothing was worse than getting an application out of nowhere, even if it's perfectly prepared.” So, it really is important to contact that funder and start building that support. 

Okay. So, we’re shifting gears yet again. So, 80% of grant writing is the same as following a recipe. Right? But it's the 20% that presents the sticky situation that I find, especially when I was trying to figure this out by myself, wanting to have a real coach or a real community, someone to actually go ask. Right? So, the zone of frustration is that, is the founder not responding? Is my team not giving me what I need? And now, I'm up against the deadline and I don't have it. Or, I'm confused with this question. Is my narrative clear? Right? These are all situations we run into. 

And I don't know if you all have seen this chart before. Is anyone familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect? We, unicorn, aside it. But essentially, this is what happens. So, you're often--especially when you're just getting started with grant writing, you feel super confident. You're bold. You feel amazing. And then you realize how much you don't know, which is often put particularly down in the valley of despair. I have mapped this for the people that are in the collective. It occurs like clockwork on month four, day 100 when they've actually earned their certificate. 

So, that seems a little ironic, right? You've earned your grant writing certificate. You've gone through all this training. Why do you feel so low? And it's because you realized, “Oh, my gosh, I understand it. But I need some real experience to feel confident. So then you become this unicorn. You're leaning into yourself. You're leaning into the community. You're doing it even though you're uncomfortable. And then, boom, that's how you get to unicorn status. Right? So, it's a real thing if you're feeling it. 

The biggest bit of advice I have, we’re not right for everybody. But find a learning environment, find a coach, find someone where you can be you, where you feel supported because it is very hard. I know it because I was thrust into this, like you were, to have all of the answers and not really feel like you have anyone in your organization to ask.

So if you like our style, we have the Global Grant Writing Collective. So, launching your career through course curriculum, coaching, and community. This is a little bit of a picture of our team. 

So, who are we for? So, we're well-suited for those that want a more flexible career by freelancing or you're scaling your freelance business trying to figure out how to hire a team and grow it. Landing a new position that's meaningful and pays well, or to get support within your grant writing role. So, you're already doing it, but you just want to have some support. 

So, curriculum. I want you to think of it as a three-legged stool. So, the curriculum is pre-recorded videos. You can buzz through as fast or slow as you want. The best part is that you can watch it all multiple times. I take online courses, too. I watched my videos three times. And then, so that's that. I think we have even more than 48 instructional videos at this point. 

To earn your certificate, there are two tests. There's then a coach, a live coach that will review your funding strategy. The funding strategies that we've just talked about here, right, but actually doing it and getting feedback. And then that's how you can earn your certificate. Wow. And thank you. I really appreciate that. 

So, a coaching call. These happen twice a month. If you can't make the call, you can still submit your question and we'll answer it. And we will then post it within 24 hours and it's time stamped. So, you can go back and look. 

I have had people go back and watch all coaching calls. And these can last up to two hours. We go really, really deep on giving you that personalized look at whatever it is that you're working on. So whatever it is, bring it. This is where the sticky situations get untangled. There's also a lot of action in the DMs. We build a lot of friendships within the group. So, people are helping each other, which is very helpful. 

Okay. Community is the best part. I'd say hands down. So, every question gets answered within 36 hours. You have six coaches that provide advice. And there are specific channels for where you're at in the journey. So if you're an in-house grant writer, you have your own channel where you can ask the questions. If you're someone who's trying to scale your freelance business, you have your own channel. Right? So, it helps you kind of organize yourself and find your peers. 

I don't know if you can read this, but what's really cool is that unicorns are actually meeting up and hanging out. So, here is a group from Atlanta. They all met up. Actually, I wish I'd posted a photo. I was in Asheville last week, North Carolina, and two unicorns drove over from Charlotte. And we went on a hike and had lunch. So, pretty amazing what you can do there. 

Let's see what I have here. I went and grabbed a couple of screenshots. People are collaborating, which is huge. So, these two worked together and submitted a $2.3 million DOE grant. So, that's huge. 

What else did I have in here? I went and kind of grabbed a couple examples. Let's go too fast. Here's Alan. He just landed his first job. Right? He's super excited about it. So, it just goes to show like there's a lot of different ways that you can find meaning in grant writing where a certain type of person, if you're drawn to this work. But I also want you to make sure that you have a balanced life and you're not just depleting yourself in this work, too. 

Okay. So, we have training per quarter. Instrumentl actually provided our last one, which was great. 

Book Club, which is super cool. These are never recorded. We just have really raw, honest conversations. 

And then referring to work. So, we are ranked number one on Google to hire grant writers. So, we do help. If you're looking for some grant writing help or you yourself want to look at some new opportunities, we're getting them. 

And I don't know if we'll do it every year because it is a lot of work. But just two weeks ago, we did our first ever unicorn retreat in Sedona. So, a couple of people were on the line here. And it was amazing. It was super fun. So, really nice. 

Okay. So, membership to the collective is $250 per month, if you're interested in that and all. Here's a writing training that Rose--one of our trained writing facilitators actually put on. It's amazing. And so, what we're going to do is, if anyone is looking for support, go find your community, do your homework, do your research. There's no rush on this. But we did create an Instrumentl discount code. It's called Instrumental. So, 10% off your collective membership and we'll give you for free the Pen to Polish Writing Course. But you do have to email me at [email protected]. And that's how we'll actually know you join so we can give you that course. And this would expire at the end of the month. So, you've got time. Do your homework. But if you feel like that would help you with your career, we’re there. 

That's pretty much it. A couple other resources are helpful. I just linked them to you so you can go buzz through them. And I think--I try to be on time, 10 o'clock, 10:01. I've twisted my bone. I’m a little bit fast. But hopefully you found that that was helpful. You can rewatch the recording and slow it down and pause it if you need to make sure you've caught everything. 

Okay. So, we have some freebies if you want to share how those are given out.

Celia:  Yeah. I just dropped a link in the chat. Check that out. You don't have to do anything. You just go in there and enter your information. And then you'll be added to the raffle. And once you hit go on that, you will be automatically kind of redirected to get both our Instrumentals 10 Lessons from 10 Grant Writing Experts, which includes Meredith as well as some of the other assets that Meredith dropped into the chat today are also included in there. So if you're looking for that information, go ahead and fill that out. Just drop the link in the chat. 

We will also send this out to you in an email shortly and alongside the replay and slides, which will come out later today.

Meredith:  Exactly. Cool. Trying to get some of these questions. I know that we missed a bunch of them. Cathy said, “Gotta get back to work.” See you, Cathy. All right. Anyone? I hope--I just got to share your question. But do we want to try to hit some of those? Or should I just look at them and add responses?

Celia:  We can try to hit them right now. Or if you want, I've recorded them. And you could write a quick response. And we can include that in any follow up email as well. But we can hit a couple?

Meredith: Sure. Yeah, go ahead. Pull them out. If you read them to me.

Celia:  So when we were talking about step three of the funnel, one of the questions was what if there's no past history and/or it's a new grant? 

Meredith:  Yeah, we talked about that one. So, I feel like you got that one.

Celia:  Okay, got it.

Meredith: And the other answered that. It’s just going to the funder and talking about what you expect to be an average award size. It's a very reasonable question to ask. 

Celia:  Got it. Okay.  Let's see.  For the TTS, someone asked, is this supposed to be created for each program your organization operates?

Meredith:  Yeah. So, this is where things get very complicated. So, I would like a TTS for your organization overall. There needs to be a TTS for that. And that can be very hard when you have a program or an organization that does a lot of things. But work on that. Work on that one master TTS. 

That said, if you're trying to get a very specific program funded, then write your TTS for that program. So, when you have your power prospectus for that program and that's what you're talking to funders about, it's a TTS specific to that program. I just don't want it to get out of hand where you've got 10 TTS. Try to have a really strong master TTS that works well and you're not having to think around with it all the time. But if you do feel like you need that specificity, then go ahead and do that on that power prospectus.

Celia:  Cool. Last question. One of my questions is who should be the person in an organization requesting grant funds? This person says, “I am fundraising and Events Coordinator, but my grants ask for information specific to animal intakes, medical issues, building issues,” et cetera, et cetera, which all fall under our shelter director.

Meredith:  Yeah. I kind of responded to this in the chat. So, it’s fair game for you to reach out directly. Because the more people have a connection with that funder, the better. You can definitely start--you can do the groundwork. You can get a lot of information and do a lot of sort of the project management side of things. And then if you feel like you need to bring in that director or someone else to participate in a future call, then you can do that. But it's totally fair game for you to reach out. 

Celia:  Okay. Cool.

I think that was it for the questions. So thank you, everyone, so much for joining us today. We are going to be sending out some communications in just a minute, which will include the link to the freebies. It will also include that Instrumentl signup link if you do want to try 14 days of the new standard plan. And, yeah. And I think that's it.

Meredith:  Yay! Thank you so much, everybody. I sure appreciate it. Hope you have an amazing week. Drop a line if you need anything.

Celia:  All right. Thanks, everybody. See you next time.

Create Your Instrumentl Account

Never tried Instrumentl?

Find and win more grants for your nonprofit!
Start saving 3 hours a week and increase your grant applications by 78%.

Try 14-days free

Get 9 grant writing guides, exclusive to Instrumentl subscribers. Stress less and raise more—new guides every week, for free.

Grant writing advice, step-by-step guides, and more in our weekly newsletter.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

10k+ grant writers have already subscribed

Become a Stronger Grant Writer in Just 5 Minutes

Grant writers who raise millions stay up-to-date on trends and tips by subscribing to our newsletter.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Related posts

Try Instrumentl

The best tool for finding & organizing grants

67 reviews | High Performer status on