Behind the Grantmaker's Curtain: What Funders Want with Matt Hugg
In this 1-hour webinar (with 15 minutes Q&A), Matt Hugg shares the 10 points he outlined that he had consistently heard from discussions and interviews with funders over the last 30+ years, including: their frustrations, the importance of communications and their humanity (among others).
By the end of this Instrumentl Partner Webinar, you’ll be able to:
- Avoid common grantseeker mistakes
- Be better equipped for knowing what to ask of funders
- Understand how Instrumentl saves you time and money in identifying the right opportunities for your programs
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 NPC50.
Matt Hugg is an educator, eLearning specialist, online trainer, and CEO at NonprofitCourses (your on-demand, online educational resource for nonprofit leaders, staff, board members and volunteers).
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
Behind the Grantmaker's Curtain: What Funders Want - Grant Training Transcription
Will: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Behind the Grantmaker's Curtain: What Funders Want with Matt Hugg. This workshop is being recorded and slides will be shared afterwards, so keep your eyes peeled for a follow up email later in case you would like anything to review from today. In case it's the first time that you've been here, this is a free grant workshop that is brought to you by Instrumentl. These partner workshops are collaborations with community educators such as Matt as we try to tackle some sort of problem that grant seekers are looking for when it comes to applying, tracking, or managing their grants.
Instrumentl is the institutional fundraising platform. If you ever want to bring your grant prospecting, tracking, and management into one place, we can help you do that. And you can set up your own personalized grant recommendations using the link on the screen here: instrumentl com slash npc. Lastly, be sure to stick around to the end of today's presentation. Matt has a few raffle prizes to give away, roughly worth about $300 in total for three different winners, and so we'll announce more details to that at the end of the presentation.
Now, with that housekeeping out of the way, I'm very excited to bring Matt onto the stage. Matt Hugg is an educator, eLearning specialist, online trainer, and CEO of NonprofitCourses, which is your on-demand online educational resource for nonprofit leaders, staff, board members, and volunteers. In fact, if you ever want to during this presentation, take your phone up to that QR code and visit the site, you can feel free to do so in the background of Matt there. We ask that if you have any questions, you can go ahead and use two hashtags in front of your question. That way, it's easier to draw it out from the chat. Otherwise, Matt, go ahead and take it away.
Matt: All right, thank you. And I got to say, Will, from the start here, that it is hugely attractive to me to have all the information in one place on any topic. So, the fact that Instrumentl does that is a major advantage in my eyes. Working with multiple databases or places to find things just doesn't work for me personally. So, thank you very much for having me here by the way. And I want to talk about what's behind the grantmaker's curtain. And it's very important to learn life from the grantmaker's point of view, as opposed to our point of view. I teach a couple of classes in grant proposal writing. I teach one at Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey, which is online by the way. And one of the themes we really get into is talking about what life looks like from the other side, because it's not until you can put yourself in somebody else's shoes that you can really start working with them.
And doing what they want to do, which is they want to work with you. So, let's get ourselves started here. What are we going to be talking about today? We are going to talk about how we see grantmakers. That is a big thing. How you and I, and anybody who is working in grant proposal writing sees the grantmakers makes a major difference in how they work with us and how we work with them. The program you pick is obviously important right to you, but it also is important to them, and we're going to talk about how that impacts things. Your budget, it's not just the numbers or, as our mothers would tell us, it's not what you say, but how you say it. So, we'll talk a little bit about that. Dances with your finances. And this is about the big picture of your organization and how that impacts the process here. The fact that sometimes grant proposal writers are just plain tapped out. They don't have money. How do you respond to that? Can they, can you see your future, putting that context in things, writing it right. There are a lot of important things about writing. After all, it's called grant writing. Although we want to put that in perspective, we want to talk about their rules and how their rules impact what you do and then connecting correctly. What is the way that you want to connect with grant funders and how that's going to impact your success rate?
So, all of this, of course, is so you can avoid a lot of common mistakes. It's not that there's so many of them, but I think it's just that we get into a routine that it's easy to miss them. So we're going to talk about some basics, we're going to talk about some not so basics, and to get your proposal out there, the best way it should look. And then to be better equipped for knowing what to ask of funders. Funders want to help. We're going to talk a lot about that. And then, of course, how Instrumentl is going to save you some time and money, identify the right opportunities, and help you organize your information, which, like I said from the top, is huge. So, let's get started.
And of course, I'm going to put on my Professor Matt Hat on here to start. And I want to ask you what's the number one complaint that grantmakers have about applicants. Is it that they can't write a good budget? Budgets are important, that some people consider the core. And there's a pop quiz coming up here about this. They treat us like ATMs. That's a really huge thing that happens in grant proposal writing. Well, you just turn in the paper and they give us money. It's like an ATM. They never invite us to their parties. Have you ever invited a grant maker to one of your events or parties? Maybe that's a big complaint. Or they don't read the guidelines. Who reads these things? Let's just get the proposal out there. Well, what do you think? Click in there and then let's talk about that. Will, what do you got here? Give them a couple seconds?
Will: Yeah. We'll give it a couple more seconds. We're at seventy percent of respondents. So I'll give it a few more seconds, and I'll share the responses for you.
Matt: Sounds good. Yeah these are all really important. Especially that party thing, why you want to make sure that you get them to all your events.
Will: And there you go. Here are the results.
Matt: Okay. And, boy this a really bright crowd because they don't read the guidelines. Boy, nobody picked parties? Come on. Yeah, that's not really the big complaint.
So, let's move ahead here and say how you see grantmakers makes a big difference. Of course, it seems like they hold all the power. It seems like they're the ones who control your future. But, you know, sometimes you're just stuck. They have a board. They have people to be responsible to as well. And so, let's talk about a little bit of this.
Well, first of all, and like we said in the quiz here right. And it's funny, I kind of joke about this: I'm not an ATM. And a few people actually put that, and that's actually a concern. A lot of organizations treat grant funders like their ATM. Put in a proposal, get back the money, just like putting your card in the ATM. Yeah, that's not how they see themselves. And I hear sometimes from grant funders is that that's the problem. But really, a bigger problem is the second one, that they're not the god or goddess.
It's just amazing how folks get nervous. And it's understandable, too. Here comes the funder. What do we say? What do we do? And you can kind of see the sweat in them. But they're people. They like to be treated like people. You obviously have to treat them with respect. But, it's not like this is a Hollywood star. I'd say you treat those people like people, too. One of the things I've learned in my fundraising career over time is that people like to be treated like people. And so for funders, that's really important.
Because sometimes that leads to the third point, which is that folks will hide things from them. Because they're nervous about it, they don't know how they're going to react, they want to put out their best foot, whatever it is. And that's huge. They don't want people to hide stuff from them when it comes to proposals or programs or other things going on in your organization. Now, that doesn't mean you have to air your dirty laundry. But it just means that there are key points that you don't want to hide now. And I will also say that obviously, this is a much more important point today than it ever was before, because it's so easy to get information. Years gone by, I remember when we were dealing with a company that happened to own another company, that was, I think, a tobacco company, and we had somebody on our board who was working for an organization that was anti-tobacco. And we did our best to obfuscate that a bit. That was not probably the right thing to do, but today, there's just no way you could do that, because the names are out there. People are going to see it.
Help me help you. So many funders see themselves as partners. They want to help you. And I have heard directly from funders who say my job is to help that grantee be successful. They want to apply their skills and knowledge. Because remember, just like if you're a development officer, one of the things that I found going out, especially when I work for College of Engineering, was I would see all sorts of businesses. In fact, all sorts of businesses, even in one sector, like microelectronics or something. And I was able to have discussions with them. And obviously, I wasn't making suggestions about manufacturing or anything, but I could make comparisons between them and bring information in my head to these people. Well, it's the same thing. They are seeing a variety of kinds of nonprofits. So if they see something in one place, they might say, hey, have you tried this? Not because you're doing something wrong, it's because they've had the advantage of being that bee who goes flower to flower, pollinating everything. And they know what's going on in one flower, and now they want to bring it to your flower. So take advantage of that.
Next, it is a stressful job. How many times have any of us said, oh, I'd love to give away money. Yeah, be careful what you wish for. This is a very stressful job, mostly because they don't have enough. It doesn't matter how much they have, they don't have enough to really do what they want to do, so they have to be selective. They also have to cut through a lot of obfuscation that comes from some of these other points here, like people treating them like a god or goddess or hiding things from them or whatever. This is not an easy job. Appreciate that. Help make their lives easier. A really important point.
And while it's stressful, one of the biggest stresses they face is trying to minimize the risk to their organization while accomplishing their goals. Because even if you have a great reputation, even if you have worked with them before, they are putting their mission in your hands. That's risky. It doesn't matter what the conditions are. So they really want to minimize those risks. And that plays big in their decision-making process. If you might even have a very risky program, that's okay. If your organization is stable, then that is minimizing the risk. We'll talk a little bit more about that later.
They only have so much time. We're all pressed with that. One of the big complaints I see from funders is they get all these proposals from things that have nothing to do with what they do. That really hurts their time. So they're very time aware. Make sure you respect that. And, of course, you don't think that you're dealing with free agents here. They have a boss. Almost anybody who you deal with in a foundation or a company, a corporate foundation or something, has a boss that they have to satisfy that they're doing the right things.
Will: So back to the making their job easier. Right? Make their job easier by helping them make a good case to the people to which they have to present your proposal and make a good case. That's really huge.
Matt: So, how might they turn you down? Right. Well, they might not have confidence that you can pull off what you're saying you can do. You might look good on paper, right, but they're looking at other things, like your background information, your 990s, other material, and saying, yeah, are these people big enough, or are they doing what they should be doing to be able to pull off this program? Do they have the right people in place? That Jim Collins, good to great, got to have the right people on the bus. Do they have those folks there? So that's going to be something that I question.
Maybe you don't communicate well. And going down a couple of bullet points, or you don't respond to their communications. I will tell you that if you're putting in an application to somebody, make sure you whitelist their email address. Make sure that you put their name in your contacts on your phone. Make sure that you respond to whatever you get in a timely manner. That's huge. And if you aren't communicating well or you miss something, saying, oh, that email went to spam, not a good excuse. Make sure that it goes to your inbox where it should go, because that can make the difference there.
Yeah, the attitude is off putting. That's a really big thing. You'd be surprised how much this is a problem. Of course not you, but a lot of the other people are kind of expecting, well, they have to give money. It's a foundation. They have to give money, so they should give it to us. And take almost the opposite of that god goddess attitude and take the other end of the spectrum, which is that they're arrogant about being a recipient. Yeah, don't do that. That's not good. And you may not even think you're doing it. You may not even know you're doing it. So give yourself a gut check with somebody else, so that you're coming across respectful, but not arrogant that way.
And one of the ways that you kind of come off arrogant, which unfortunately occurs, is that you send a proposal that is not within their mission guidelines, because you have some idea, for good or not, that they somehow would have an interest in something that is not stated there. Now, maybe you've had communication with them, and it's appropriate. That's fine. But don't make those assumptions, because the problem with putting in a bad proposal isn't that they're just going to turn you down now. These folks keep lists. They have memories. Keep in mind that foundations and corporate donors have software just like your gift processing software. They have software that is going to help them remember things, too. So, now let's see. We have a question here. What do you do when a funder just doesn't respond to an LOI? Won't even give you a decision-making time table. Yeah, that probably comes back to either they're busy or maybe they have a tradition of not responding to things. That's okay. We'll talk about how to connect to folks later on, and so that might be good to take up at that point. But I really like the question. Don't take it like they're bad folks or that somehow your proposal may not be within what they're doing. It just could be a busy fit.
All right. What you can do. Help them, help you. Expect a relationship and treat them respectfully. Don't be nervous. Again, talk to them. Have conversations. If it's appropriate to call them, call them. We'll talk a little bit about that later. We talked about never thinking they had to fund you. That becomes an issue. Clearly communicate, and if in doubt, ask. So that LOI question, maybe you get somebody, an assistant, on the phone and say, hey, I sent something in. I just want to make sure it got there. And in case there's something else I need to do, I just want to touch base. That's okay. A lot of times they'll appreciate that, because for some reason, it got shunted off in an area. Maybe it went to their spam file. Or maybe there's some glitch in their software or something. So communication, but at the appropriate level, like that's something that an assistant in an office could handle so that you're not kind of shooting yourself in the foot with the big people, you might say. But remember, in an office, especially small offices, they will have a lot of influence as well.
Let's see. When there's a wall and no one you can communicate with. Yeah. We'll talk again about communication later on, but that can be a problem. Sometimes, it's just like you're putting it in, and that's okay. It might be their mode of operations to only return communication with people that they feel like they can work with. It could be a soft no. I mean, think of this a lot of times like a job application process. How many times, if you've been in a job search lately or even not so lately, do you send out a resume, you don't hear anything? Most times, when I speak to employers about that, they're like, I just get so many, I don't have time to get back to folks. It's not like they're thinking ill of you. You don't fit in their guidelines, and they're just moving on. So keep that in mind.
Let's see here. The funder had a previous impression of you. Okay. And financial risk. That's good, Paul. Thank you. That's a very good comment.
So, let's move to our next slide here. Your program pick. This is really critical, because it's all about matching. And I think you probably know this, that it's all about Venn diagrams and coming together and your circle match overlapping their circle as much as possible.
So they're asking themselves, does this program meet our goals? Is this where we need to be? It's really important to remember that they see you as a means of meeting their mission. Your mission is nice, but it's not why they're there. You are carrying out their mission forward. So I always have this image in my mind about the Monty Python film Holy Grail and the knight who loses his limbs. Well, this is your funder. They don't have the arms and legs to carry out their mission. They're looking for you to carry out that mission. So they're asking, do you, as your nonprofit, meet their goals?
Now, what's the impact? Impact is huge. Of course, like you, they want to make an impact on the world. They want to be out there and doing the best they can for the people that they are hoping to serve, whether that's a particular community or a group that has a certain problem or whatever that is. So, your being able to show them that impact by the choice of the kind of program and the way you're carrying it out is a major issue for that.
They're asking, do these people know what they're doing? Okay. Something I always bring up in my classes. I think it's really important. You don't want to be well intended. Hear that. You don't want to be well intended. You must be an expert. Whatever you're doing, you don't want to come off as well intended do gooders. It's great, we all have that. But you want to be experts. Because as a grant proposal writer, you are a translator between whatever it is that you do and the public and the people who fund you. So you need to be able to come off with a level of expertise that says, hey, we know what we're doing. We've studied this problem. We have a solution that meets either historical best practices or because you know what's been going on, because you're an expert, you can propose something with cutting edge. So, knowing what you're doing is huge and being able to express what you're doing is a big part of that.
Is the program too big for them? They're asking, well, what you're proposing, can you pull it off? Is it too big? That's a really important question for them to ask.
This next one is really huge. How can you tell whether it's successful or not? Remember, if you haven't heard the word logic model, and I imagine everybody on this call has, remember that it's not output that's important, it's outcomes. What are the outcomes going to be? So it's not how many kids you have in seats in the classroom. It's what are they getting out of whatever program or education that they're getting? What are the outcomes? Are they going to be going on to lift themselves out of a certain neighborhood? Are they going to be able to make an impact on the world, living in a different place, whatever it is. Outcomes are what is important to the funder. So being able to show potential successful outcomes is really important.
Are they open to suggestions? They could read your proposal and say, oh, well, I wonder if they do this. And if they're starting to make suggestions, something else to consider is that you have, in fact, hooked them, because they are engaged with your proposal. And even if you don't get funded on that round, you've gotten their brains going that, hey, this organization is good. If we can make these changes or something, this might work. Because remember, they see other organizations do things like you might do.
And again, will they communicate progress? So you want to be able to put checkpoints in to say these are the places that we are moving forward. And I see that left out a lot of proposals where people just say, well, we're going to do this. But actually program your communication in. I tell my students there are no tada moments in this business. You don't want to turn around and say, tada, it's done. You want to be able to show progress along the way.
Now, Natalie, I don't necessarily agree with the outputs versus outcomes theory. So many funders say our cost per student is too high. I can't speak to that specifically. Sales people will say people buy things emotionally and then justify them logically. Outcomes is in some respects, the emotional buying of what you're proposing to do. Outputs are sometimes the logical numbers. Outcomes can also have numbers, but you want to talk about impact. At least that's been my experience.
Okay, so they might turn you down because the proposed program isn't a priority for them this year. That's hard to judge, I know, because so many times our information is behind. Now, of course, tools Instrumentl has can help with that a lot. But I know from my own experience that sometimes it's like driving while looking in the rearview mirror, so you may not know the latest. That's why networking with your friends and connecting with them on what is a particular organization's interest area is really important.
All the time I get that these people aren't in our geographic area. I hear that a lot from folks, from funders. And that's just a matter of reading and believing their guidelines. Geography is really important to so many foundations, because they were founded by people who live in a community, and they want to help their community.
I, more and more, am seeing that proposals are highly partisan or at least perceived that way. You want to know where they are on that scale, if it's appropriate to connect, or at least be neutral. And partisan by the way doesn't necessarily mean political. It might mean religious. It might have other implications, too. But, if you're serving a community of people who need help, obviously you can't change who you are as an organization, but just know that that might be part of the analysis. Do you fit with them in those other ways?
Or maybe you just didn't demonstrate the benefit of the proposed program to them, which means that for some reason, they don't see the mission connection. They don't see the hook between what your organization does and what they do. So keep that in mind.
So what do you do? Real easy. And this is where Instrumentl can be a major help, right, because they help you provide materials, network contacts. They don't provide the contacts, but you're able to know who they possibly are. All the background data of these points, Instrumentl can be a big help with. You've got to read what they are giving you. You have to do your background research. Again, back to motherisms, right, what's well started is well done. And the more background research you do, the more prepared you can be to put out a great proposal. And that means understanding your prospect. Just like major gift work dealing with an individual, except in this case, you actually might have a little bit of a head start, because some of these things are a little more plainly put out. So, yeah, use the sources that are available to talk to other grant recipients. Network that way with folks. My experience is that people are really good about talking to other fellow development grant proposal writer professionals about particular folks that they have already received money from. Keep that in mind because, of course, there's always going to be a little bit of competition, but the folks are pretty collegial this way. And then get to know in your network and their network where the crossovers are. And also tools like LinkedIn can be really helpful this way. People in the funders network have secondary contacts. You have secondary contacts. Where do they cross over, and start engaging some of that a little bit?
Okay. Pop quiz. Back to teacher Matt here. A proposal budget is an informal guideline on how you could spend their money, an absolute hard and fast plan on how you'll spend their money, a living document that will be reviewed as you get to the realities of the program, or serving suggestions like you see in a cereal box. I don't know if anybody's ever noticed, if you see a picture on the cereal box or any other food product with little asterisk serving suggestions, like you could have your Cheerios look like this. Well, is that what a budget is? You could have your Cheerios look like this. Is it an informal guideline? Is it a living document? Is it hard and fast? What do you think? Where are you on this?
Will: So this is a multi-select question, folks. So if you do want to select more than one, you can select more than one in the selections.
Matt: There you go. So the organization that Susie works with intentionally brought in more money than they spent last year. Well, that's a good thing. That's called having a reserve. Congratulations. They want to build reserves, keep money for emergencies and capital needs. Does a funder understand this or will they assume we don't need the money? No, a good, sophisticated funder, which honestly, I think most are, will get that totally. Let's come back to that in a second here. Yes, informal guideline, no serving suggestion. Thank you, somebody, for picking that.
Yeah. The answer is either two or three, and it really depends on the organization. Some are absolute hard and fast; this is how you will spend their money. And others will take it as a living document. I personally think the better ones will take it as a living document, as long as you keep that communication up, and say, hey, this didn't happen. I've had this happen where we were putting on a series of shows, and the last show just wasn't going to happen between booking the people off a particular list they had and then the venue availability. And it was an outside venue. And so we had rain problems and all that. And at the end, they said, you know what? Just put on a show sometime and we'll just wrap this up. They're really good about that. So, a lot of good questions are coming up here.
But does the funder understand? Yeah, because most funders, when it comes to their business, they've made money. They understand that a healthy nonprofit isn't just living by the myth that there is no profit or surplus in nonprofits, that they need to have that cushion. So I hope that you're dealing with somebody who actually understands that.
What qualifies finds them to understand social media impact. Honestly, nothing does unless you're dealing with a very sophisticated foundation that has program officers that focus on a particular kind of area. Writing something for an intelligent layperson is really where you need to go, unless you have proof that they are an expert in a particular area. Like if you're working in child development and you know that you're dealing with somebody who deals in child development, then, yeah, geek out, show that you're really an expert in this. And you always should show you're an expert, but if you are dealing with typically intelligent laypeople, then you need to be able to make the case why what you're doing is important.
And who are the people creating applications or reading proposals? It could be anybody. Nothing stops anybody from making the foundation. All it takes is the money to do it. They may not have experience. And like I said, how can we learn more about writing for the audience to whom we are writing? That comes down to doing your background research. That comes down to who's on the board. What are their backgrounds? Dig into the 990s, find out who's running the organization. If you can find it, go on LinkedIn and see who's working for them and who might be reviewing your application and learning about their backgrounds. It's all about research. And you bring up some good questions here. There's no funder certification program for particular areas, for better or for worse. So you have to do your best on identifying who they are and writing to what you believe is their level of expertise.
Okay. Can they judge it from the budget? Yeah. Budgets are really important. It's more than just a list of expenses. People will say, show me your budget and I'll tell you your priorities. Well, it's kind of the same thing here. So they're going to ask themselves, is the budget enough? All right. Are they asking for enough money? One of the big mistakes I see that people make, and if you've been in this for a bit, you probably have gotten beyond this, but they're discounting themselves out. Right. So they're saying, hey, if we just ask for a little less, then they'll buy us instead of buying that other thing. No, you've got to be honest with your expenses. That's really important. And they can tell if you're not. They know what it costs for things, largely. And being detailed enough is important. You want to be able to put out the right numbers to say that this is what this cost to do. You've done your background research. You can justify whatever that line item is.
Are the right elements in the budget for a successful program? That's really important, because you want to be able to tie program activities to budget areas.
Are they like I said, asking for too much or too little?
Sometimes, avoid the temptation to pad your budget. If you need to put a contingency in, that's okay. But because things might change one way or another and you can include some places, say well, if we don't spend the contingency then it's going here, that'd be fine. But being able to accurately reflect what you think your expenses are going to be based on your experience and your background research on what things cost is really important.
And then does the budget comply with what their rules are? It's really important, not just in specific items, but in format. Now, nice enough. My career lifetime has gone through from paper to electronic, and sometimes there are budget forms on the electronic form. That's great. You don't have to worry about whether you're making it look good or not, but always err on looking professional when it comes to your budget. Have your accountant look it over, maybe even help you format it so that it looks like yeah, you know what you're doing. Because this is as much a marketing opportunity as it is a financial opportunity. You might have all the right numbers, do all the right things, but if it looks disorganized, they're just not going to get into it. They're not going to see it. You present something in an organized fashion that looks like maybe your accountant reviewed it or maybe somebody who knew what's going on with numbers took a look at this. You're really better off.
Oh, one other thing I'll mention is a lot of times people ask me about overhead. And if you're dealing with, like in the United States with federal or state, sometimes even local government grants, you would have an overhead. So how much is it to pay the janitors and keep on the lights? A lot of private funders won't do that, but just know where they are on that so that you don't mistakenly include that or omit it where it could be included. So, a little tip there.
All right, why are they going to turn you down? Yeah, it isn't clear, correct, or even provided. So many times folks just don't give a budget or they give something that's really cursory. No, go give a budget that, like I said, looks professional, that looks like you know what you're doing.
It's not within their funding range. It's as bad to sometimes ask for too little as it is for too much. They say that they are funding between 100,500 thousand. That's where your budget needs to be. Not 50, not 550, but within that area. And especially they see this over time. Well, these people always go for the big grant. It's not like you want to get a home run all the time. Sometimes you want to go smaller. And a lot of times they won't fund you or will fund you with a smaller amount if you are new with them because they want to test it out, and then they will bring you on for the bigger grants as time goes on. Because remember, they see this as a long-term relationship a lot of times, not just a once and done transaction. Not the ATM.
Your budget was unrealistic and its estimates were not where they should be. Unless you live someplace or work someplace, if you're in New York City applying to a Nebraska Foundation, maybe you can say, hey, our numbers are different from your numbers. But pretty much folks know what things cost, so unless you have some really good reason, bring them in within what things cost.
Total budget doesn't match the benefits. In other words, like somebody implied before, they're thinking, well, it's way too expensive. Or maybe it's not enough versus what they think they're going to get out of this. This raises something that I think is an ethical dilemma, which is that if you ask for too little money and you discount things, and then you end up bringing money in from other areas to backfill on that, is that appropriate or not? Personally, I don't think it is. If you are raising additional money to fund a grant that you ask for too little from, then there's a problem here. And you need to stand back, because unless you are upfront with the donors who are also supplementing it, you're really not doing what you should be for the other donors. So just keep that in mind, especially if you're trying to discount your way into getting a grant.
And then, of course, plain and simple, there are math errors. We all make those mistakes. Check it. Have somebody else check it. It's just really important to do. You don't want to get caught up on that. Again, a proposal is a lot like a resume. How many times have you seen a resume that has spelling mistakes on it and you throw it out even though the person could be great? It's the same thing. Just keeping basic stuff like that shouldn't even be an issue. So just make sure you check.
Obviously create a professional-looking budget. Write a thoughtful narrative that hits those main points. A lot of folks don't do budget narratives well. You want to be able to not get into the weeds with it, but hit the highlights of this is your opportunity to point out the important parts of your budget that relate to the program. So connect those dots for people. Use realistic figures, we talked about that. Show all your expenses, or make sure you include them someplace if they're amalgamated. We talked about low balling, not having the numbers, and following their rules. And the number one thing is, you got to ask yourself, if this was my money, would I be happy with how it's being spent? Because so many times, especially with smaller foundations, you are dealing with people whose money it actually is or was, or people whose family owned that money. And so it's important to ask that question, would I be happy with this if I were spending the money this way, if I got this.
All right. So, dances with your finances. This is really important because your total organization is the context in which your grant proposal is being put out there. And people, like I say, don't want to throw good money after bad. You want to prove you can handle the money. So even though you might have a home run program or your budget is great, if you're a bigger financial mess, I wouldn't give money to you, because that doesn't tell me that you handle money well. So you really have to prove that here.
So, they're asking, do they have an accountant? Do they have appropriate financial statements? Now, some of these things, they're going to require as part of that package you send to them. Audits or panels or whatever it is to show that you are financially stable as an organization.
Are they stable over time? So it's not just this year, but it's past years and some foundations, some funders will not fund anybody who has run a deficit in past years. Honestly, last year is going to be tough for a lot of organizations that way. You want to be able to talk about why you did it, how you did it. You can't just say, oh, it's COVID. No, get into a little bit of the details and how you are not going to do that this year and what your plan is to move out of that. That's really important.
And then understanding that their leaders get it when it comes to financial basics. You don't have to have a CPA as a CEO, but all the top leaders should have good, basic financial understanding about how the organization works in terms of their income, their expenses, the cash flow issues around that, capital expenses and other things. They need to get what good financial management is. That's essential for any leader. It doesn't matter what discipline they came out of; can you show that in your proposal?
Cash flow is huge. And of course, they're asking, is the project too big? Is it something that this organization can handle? And you have to ask yourself that. It might be a bitter pill for you to swallow, but what are the ratios? In fact, I didn't look this up. I should. Of the organizations that get the funds to the proposed amount to their overall budget, you might actually find some interesting trends there. Do you fall into that trend of these projects being proportionally the same size as other organizations they fund to their budget? So are they getting $100,000 and they are a $10 million organization, that kind of thing.
Now, they might turn you down because your financials are just in bad shape. Doesn't work for them. You've had deficits, you've had other problems, you lack the resources to perform the project. Remember, the resources aren't just in the budget area that they're giving, but there might be other things that have to come in terms of things that are overhead, expenses and all that. Are you keeping the lights on, that kind of thing.
The organization simply isn't ready. They don't think you're ready for funding because of what they're seeing for financials. You don't see how the applicant will sustain itself as the program is moving along. You're not showing good cash flow or that the material presented is just disorganized, and they don't think that you understand your finances. And that's really important to be able to portray that.
So, what do you do? Well, think like a bank. In fact, I had a student in a class not long ago who was a former banker who's now moved into the nonprofit world who said, oh, well, gosh, this whole proposal process is just like a bank loan process. So you have to think like a bank reviewing a loan. Provide the material, audits, or reviews, or compilations. Show financial competence. Highlight the credentials of your people when it comes to finance. Do you have a CFO who is CPA or has some financial background? What are the qualifications, in terms of financial review, that your leadership has? Of course, make your budgets available for several years. Explain any blips in your finances. And sometimes you just have to wait to apply later when things stabilize and you are in better overall financial shape to be able to show that you can handle the grant. And that's going to be hard sometimes. But sometimes the best strategy is to punt.
Okay, they're out of money. It just happens, you know. Let's understand this a little better. Maybe they have too many proposals. I've seen this a lot where they want to help everybody. They just got too much. They got to make a decision. Yours was great, but just not quite great in the way they see it.
There are legacy commitments. Now, this is important. Legacy commitment is if they do multi-year commitments, they're going to give you $100,000, $20,000 a year over five years or something. Then they're saying, gosh, we're paying off all these others. So it looks like they might give out bigger money, but they have commitments that are already out there, so that might take them out of making more grants.
A lot of funders will work on a five-year rotating average in terms of their endowment. And to say that they'll take so much money out, but one year, they earn seventy percent, the next year they earn two, and the next year they earn fifteen. They'll average those out, and over time, those averages as it rolls forward will determine how much you're giving this year.
So maybe they've had a bad string of years. You don't know. Typically, because endowments and foundations tend to be endowment based, although some are currently funded, they'll be very market sensitive. And so it will take them a while to dig out of a bear market, for example. Their funders had a bad year, especially if their current funders are funding types where the money comes out of a company that puts money into their foundation or something. It's just a bad year. They don't do rolling averages.
Or they're asking themselves, well, do these people make the deadline? Making deadlines is a great way for them to be able to take you out so that they don't have to deal with you. And it's terrible to say, but I have a friend of mine who has a community foundation who says if the deadline is 04:00 and they come in at 4:05 with that paperwork or FedEx is late or something, too bad. And she feels like her life is easier for not having to look at that proposal again. So, keep that in mind.
So grantmakers might say we had limited funds this year. The market was down. They had other proposals like yours. The application was late. Or, you know, we might give you less than you requested. Wow. Now, that happens, and you have to be prepared to say, what are we going to do with this? So, what you want to do is apply early. Don't always apply for their maximum. Apply for what you need based on the program. Be open to applying again.
Now, back to this. We're only going to give you a portion of it. As much as you can, look at making your proposal modular when you put it together, because you're going to say, well, if I don't get all the funding or if they partially fund this, well, I can take parts A, B and C, put them together and then take D, E, and F and work for other funding that way. Actually it's kind of interesting because I've seen the whole funding process go through and that we finally get turned down entirely, and over the course of the next year, everything's funded, that program is running. Because we've now kind of gotten our lives together on this project, and it all crystallized, and folks find other ways, whether it's out of their own budget or smaller funders or other funders, and cobbled together the program so it works.
And, of course, always have other funders in mind. I want you to go for the best organization that meets the requirements. But that may not be the only one you go for. There is always a question, do you go for it concurrently or not? Yeah, you know. Yes, but the problem is the best scenario, which is that you get both grants and have to explain that back and forth. But, yeah, always have other funders in mind when you're working with anybody in this business. Okay.
Will: Matt, just before we go, I just want to give a sense of time to respect everybody's time as well. We're about five minutes from the top of the hour. We're probably going to go over by the current estimates, and so we do have a good backlog of questions. Feel free to send those in, but Matt will also be sharing his contact information at the end in case you want to ask those more detailed questions. But just as a heads up for everybody here right now, we'll probably run over, and if you don't have anything immediately after Matt, I think it'd be safe to say you'll be available for the next half hour or so. So it'll probably run for the next thirty-five or so. Just a heads up for everybody. Thanks.
Matt: Thank you, Will. And I am sorry about that. I just geek out on these things and really want to make sure that I'm covering this like it should be. So my apologies for going over a bit here. And I also for some reason wasn't seeing the questions. So I scrolled down, now I see.
So what is the greatest joy? Let's make this quick one here. Bragging about how much money they give, funding your program and perpetuity, seeing their funded programs stand on their own, or having clients thank them. What do you think? Jump in there, answer that question, let's see where that goes.
And while you're doing that here, yeah. Two funders come through the same program, that could be a problem. And so, again, back to communication, and you want to be able to talk to them about that.
Let's see here. So, bragging about how much--yeah, a lot of folks do get into that. Or funding you in perpetuity. Yeah, that's probably not going to be the answer. Seeing the funded program stand on its own is huge. And, of course, you always want to thank folks. And it is seeing the funded program stand on its own. That is really important to funders because they don't want to be tied to you in perpetuity. They want the flexibility of being able to fund other things going on. So, if you can present a good way of getting your program standing on its own, especially when it comes to money, that's the goal.
Now, can they see your future? Yeah. And will it become dependent? That's a real issue for them. What are their plans to get funded after we go away? These two are related. How do you know if the program is going to be successful? We talked about outcomes and outputs, but being able to get a good evaluation on that is huge. What's the long-term impact of what you're doing? And, of course, how will they look after the project is completed? That makes a big difference, because they want to make an impact, but they also want to look good to the community, or whatever that community is. So, your ability to show them not just that you're going to put out pressure leases or whatever, but that you're making a meaningful impact that they can talk about for others. Those bragging rights, that's important, folks.
Now, they might not do multi-year projects or keep the project going without funding. They don't see evaluation methods. You know, evaluation is a major issue when it comes to funders. And so you need to be able to show that you understand what the evaluation methods are in your field that are appropriate to say whether you're successful. They might think you don't have experience. Again, back to being expert versus well intended. Or they just don't think you have the staff or the resources to carry out the project.
Let's see here. What you can do. Be specific on your evaluations, making sure that you have the right way to evaluate what you're doing. There's a whole sub field out there on evaluation. Believe me, there's a professional organization out there on evaluations, so engage somebody to help you with that. Highlight staff competency. Yes. Use funding for. Let me see here. I'm trying to move a couple of panels here so I can read everything. Use funding for discrete projects. That's important, because you want to be able to say that this project is done, and showing specific plans for future funding is something that is really hard to do, but really important, right up there with evaluation. Sometimes, that'll make or break whatever it is you're doing, because they want to see what good work they put money in to continue. That's in their best interest, so your ability to help them with that is really huge. And then, strengthen organizations revenue generation activity, because maybe you have a good development program that, when you take it on your own, you're just going to absorb that in your budget. They want to see that that's going to continue.
Okay. Writing. It's called grant writing for a reason. Can you make sense of it? You know, the bottom line on these things here is that it doesn't have to be Shakespeare, but it has to be intelligent, good writing that non-experts can understand, and that's very important. So, are there strong narratives to support the numbers? Are there good numbers that support the narrative? These things go back and forth. Do the graphs and charts make sense in the context of what you're doing? So, keep that in mind for the grantmaker's point of view.
Of course, they're asking, is the description clear? Can they follow the narrative? Did you give too much background information and not enough substance? I see this all the time, where you want to give all the background of the organization, and then it comes down to what the substance of the proposal is, and it's small, and you don't want to do that. Yeah. Concisely correct grammar. I am a big advocate of the program Grammarly. Use it. It's okay. You're not cheating. Use it. It helps you really come off as being intelligent and good, because maybe your writing isn't the best, but with something like Grammerly, it's going to help. We talked about being expert versus well intended. Or detailed or not detailed enough, you got to have that nice balance there.
And spell check, spell check, spell check. You got to do that. Hire a writer. Have it reviewed. Grammarly dot com, I talked about that. Jargon. Jargon is toxic. Remember, especially in areas where you're dealing with people who might be intelligent, non-experts. Dejargonizing something is really important and having somebody who is not an expert and read it is really good. Cite outside sources. Again, think of this as an academic paper in some respects, that you want to tell people that you know what you're doing. So if you cite outside sources, you show that you have read the literature of whatever the background is there, and that's really huge.
Okay. Their rules rule. Don't guess. Read the rules. Did it get in on time? We talked about that. Does it look like they read the guidelines? That's a big thing. What's the application doing, is it in their format? Now, of course, with foundations that have online applications, it's easier to do that. But making it complete is really big. Make yourself a checklist. Go down, check all the boxes. Did you give them what they wanted? Have they provided all the supplemental materials? A lot of people leave those out. Contact with board and staffer. I'll talk about that next. And do they know you? Have they funded you before?
Let's take a look here. Of course, if it doesn't look like you read their instructions, they're just going to throw that out. If you didn't complete the application, they're going to throw it out. If you did provide too much text, you won't be able to add more in there. You don't provide the support materials. You can see this stuff here. It's not rocket science. You just got to read. But I think the most important part of this is right down here.
Read the instructions before you start, yes. But then reread the instructions before you send it in. In other words, go back and review it again. And this is another place where Instrumentl can be a big help, because they're going to provide you with these instructions. So take advantage of that. Read the instructions and make sure that you are doing the thing that you should be doing in their format. Contact the funder if you have questions, and be aware that they're going to get applications from other folks who know their cycle of grant proposals. And make sure you're on time.
Okay. Now, a lot of folks are concerned about connecting. And they're going to be asking themselves, have they heard of you? Another motherism is that your reputation precedes you. It's important to remember that if they've heard of you, they're going to have an impression of you. This is where broad marketing really makes a difference. Are they going to think well of that impression to start? Have they met anybody on your board? Does my board connect with them? And are there conflicts of interest? This is a major point. A lot of organizations I know look for conflicts of interest between their board or that funder and that nonprofit in terms of connections or other ways. Do they do business with you? Are they volunteering for you? Things like that. You've really got to be cognizant of that. That may not be to your advantage. For example, if one of their board members volunteers for your organization somehow, because that person will be taken out of that decision-making process.
So they might have not heard of you. They don't think that you've been around long enough. That's really tough for startup organizations. But in that case, then you focus on the people that you have in the organization, not necessarily the organization's track record, but the people's track record. You contacted board members, and they said you shouldn't. Don't do that. Again, read the instructions. You didn't make them aware of anything that is a conflict. You can be proactive about that. It's really important to contact somebody at the foundation and say, listen, we think we have this conflict here, just want to make you aware of it. They will really appreciate it. Or maybe they haven't met your staff and so they're not so sure about you. They just don't know you.
And, of course, what can you do? Focus on marketing your organization and highlight your accomplishments. Remember that board members might say, oh, I can do you a favor by contacting people. Wait, try to put that on pause. Or if it does happen inappropriately, connect with the people in the foundation so that they know that wasn't you. They will appreciate that you're not trying to work around them, but that you have a rogue board member who decided that they could be helpful or they were new or something. So explain that. Have that communication with them. Sometimes, a lot of funders want to be contacted, but a lot of funders don't want to be contacted. Make sure you understand what that is and work with that.
And then, of course. Let's talk about how Instrumentl can be a big part of this. Well, of course, like I said, they have a platform that really pulls all this information together. And I'm a big advocate of getting prepared before you get into it and having data all in one place. And I've been actually very impressed with the Instrumentl platform being able to do this. I know we're over time a bit. I apologize for that. Like I said, I get enthusiastic about these things. Will, anything on your end?
Will: Yeah. I'll show a quick tour of Instrumentl for folks who are interested in learning more about how it connects to what you talked about today. And then we have at least eight questions or so to get through, so we'll kind of do a lightning round. Obviously, if you have other questions as well, feel free to chat them in. But at a high level, Instrumentl, like Matt mentioned, helps you bring everything around grants to the same place. So, grant prospecting, tracking, and management. Historically, grant writers or development teams have relied on a variety of tools in order to do this, but we essentially bring it into a single source of truth.
So, when you're creating a project on Instrumentl, what you're able to do is you're able to create a custom search based off of your particular programs and initiatives. So earlier we had a boys and girls club. We work with boys and girls clubs who are able to then set up their projects in Instrumentl. And then on the other side of things, we had some STEM education efforts from some attendees and whatnot. And those are all things that are manipulable in your project view as you set things up in Instrumentl.
So you'll be able to tell us a little bit more about our organization, where it's based out of, as well as select specifically the county or state that your impact is in, and then followed by selecting some fields of work that are related to the work that you do. And when you do this, what you're able to do is you're then able to isolate for the size of grants you want, as well as the types of funding that you're looking for. So you can get a curated list of matches, which will be updated every single week.
So, what we do here is we essentially screen for you active opportunities that your nonprofit can start working for. And like Matt mentioned earlier in the presentation, you can create your Instrumentl account using the link Instrumentl dot com slash npc. And essentially, when you get these matches, you're then able to quickly sift through and look at more information about the funder. So, Matt talked about, for example, the importance of making sure that you're able to actually align a good fit funder and dig into the guidelines. And that is all brought into the same place on Instrumentl.
So you can see here, for all these opportunities, we're showing you the information, like the deadline. We're showing you information like the grant amount, why we're showing it to you, as well as all of the overviews behind the organizations and the eligibility requirements, as well as those 990 reports that are digitized for you. We actually just released an exciting release today related to these foundation pages as well. So, if you already are using Instrumentl, be sure to check those out. Essentially, now, you can actually do deep dives into the foundation reviews to see the top giving foundation by different cities, states, et cetera, as well as by the different IRS codes, the NTEE codes.
But essentially what you'll see is you'll see a lot of the key information that Matt mentioned is vital. You'll see stuff like the key people. And so a quick tip for you, in terms of all you Chrome browser users, is you can just literally right click, highlight, and then just search Google for that, and then immediately type in the phrase of that foundation as well. And so you'll get all these trends. You'll get the past grantees as to where funding has actually gone, in terms of the money. And then you'll also be able to track down to specifically past recipients of grants from this foundation.
And then when you actually save one of these things into what we call the tracker, what's going to end up happening is you're going to get this updated digitized version of the old school spreadsheets that all you grant writers love. But the reason why this tracker is a lot more powerful in Instrumentl is because of a few key features. The first one is, every single week, we're going to update you on all of the deadlines and all the upcoming tasks that you have coming up. So, as you save things into your tracker, you can actually do all of your task management in the same place as well.
So maybe we have a meeting on Friday, meeting Friday with Jeff on this. And maybe we have some sort of task, and we want to set something up for next week, and we want to just choose another person on our team for that. You can essentially do a lot of cross team collaboration asynchronously, which we all know is more and more important in these remote days. And then you'll also be able to upload all of your documents and proposals in the same place. So, it gives you a singular source of truth that you essentially can then use for all of your tracking.
So you can see here for this opportunity, for example, that I have saved this Franklin P and Arthur W Purdue Foundation opportunity three different times for the next three years. And it's super easy in Instrumentl for me to track against multiple years, as opposed to the historical approach where I might have to do something a little bit more manual. If you're bringing in some sort of existing spreadsheet, all you need to do is click the add new button when you are setting up your account, and then you can upload money. And from there you'll be able to upload all of your opportunities from there.
If you want to customize your fiscal years, we also support that. And that makes it really nice for you in terms of when it comes to aligning it to whatever your organization is running on. And then, if you ever need to look up a particular organization, you can look them up by their EIN number or by their name. And the benefit of doing this is, again, when you do look at these organizations, you're going to get these detailed overviews, these rich pages that essentially have everything nicely formatted for you that you can then dig into and whatnot.
So, who do we mostly help? We mostly help US-based 501(c)(3)s that have a start in terms of the grant strategy. We don't excel that well in terms of new nonprofits, because those nonprofits are typically in an earlier stage in their grant readiness phase. However, if you are looking to scale your grant strategy, what you can do is you can turn to Instrumentl to help you in scaling that. What we find are two key outcomes, in which, on average, we find that our customers each save three hours a week in terms of their use of Instrumentl as opposed to doing it all themselves in a different variety of workflows. And then the second thing is, after a year of using us, our customers typically increase their grant application output by seventy eight percent. But yeah, I'll pass it back to Matt in terms of going over some learning takeaways. We're going to open it up for some Q&A, go over some raffle things as well, and go from there.
Matt: Yeah, I found something very interesting. I forgot who you were looking at there, but they were giving money to Block Island Conservancy and Historical Society, which, yes, I happen to know Block Island, but also kind of gives you a perspective on that major way of looking at somebody. They obviously spend time on Block Island, probably as a vacation. They might have a home there. So there are other things you can get out of this besides just the grant information, which I thought was really cool.
Will: Yeah. And to answer your question, Wendy, you can definitely set up an alert to go into your email. All you need to do is, when you are adding an opportunity manually in your tracker, you'll be able to set your deadline and that will get rolled up into your weekly opportunities that are coming up. So look up your funder, add that deadline for yourself, and then that will all get rolled up into your existing other opportunities as well. You can also do that for task management. So on the topic of creating systems, we always say Instrumentl can be the backbone to your grant system, because what you can do is you can set up the five to ten tasks that you're always doing in your grant application process to make sure that you've got your i's and cross your t's as well. So what we tell people is we are like the administrative assistant that your team would love to have just because what we do is all the grunt work that is typically a little bit more of a strenuous process if you were going to do it individually, and whatnot.
Matt: Will, and if one of your folks in your board or somebody says, hey, well just go to the local community college and use the foundation directory, you'll get the same thing. The answer is no, because this is really going to make you more productive and be able to get more proposals out there and get better funded. I love the foundation directory, but I really see the utility of this tool.
Will: Awesome. Well, Matt, if you want to go ahead and share your screen, we can wrap things up, and then we'll go into some Q&A. I've got some questions loaded up, and I'll be ready to lightning round with you.
Matt: Sounds good. Let's see here. Well, you've seen me, what I look like. And here's some follow up information, but let's go to a great consultant. My client bases older adults to Hispanics and construction mental health clients. Well, that's more for you, Will. I think the answer is yes, though. I think it will help you, because what it's able to do is allow you to parse out what the mission interests are of the organizations. And it looks like you have a few tags there to be able to grab onto there. Will, let's see. Do any stand out to you? I'm just going to scroll up and see if I can find folks here.
Will: Yeah, I'll queue you some questions. While we have folks here, let's go over the raffle information since that'll be important as well.
Matt: So, what I have is one of the courses. Now, if you go to nonprofit dot courses--and by the way, that's the URL, it's dot courses like it says here, dot courses is a new top-level domain like dot org and dot com--you'll see five thousand different videos on literally any number of nonprofit things. But what I'm doing here is giving you access to a particular program that I set up a couple of years ago on fundraising basics and the things that you really want to and should know if you're in a nonprofit and working with fundraising. A lot of people like it. It's about an hour, I think, of video, plus a lot of supplementary material, which I think you'll get a lot out of. Just being here puts them in the raffle, is that correct? Or enter the raffle here.
Will: Yeah, if you go into the next slide, we'll actually share it on the screen. I can go over it for our folks. Pretty much all you need to do is you can start your Instrumentl trial with Matt's link. You can complete the webinar feedback form, which you're going to get after this presentation. That's helpful for us, because it allows us to help plan the future topics that you guys want to see. And you can also share on social media, either LinkedIn or Twitter, as to what you learned from today's workshop, and make sure you tag both NonprofitCourses and Instrumentl.
We'll announce the winner on Friday. You have until the end of day tomorrow to enter. And then if you enjoyed this workshop as well, I wanted to remind everybody that we have another one on the 24th. We're going to be covering how to understand and take advantage of the grant opportunities in the American Rescue Plan Act with Julie Assel. So, that'll be at the same time, and you can register on our events calendar. That was an attendee request. And so we're actively listening to your feedback and trying to give you the program you want. But I'll go ahead and open it up for questions since I've been tracking throughout the moments, and there's a ton for you Matt.
So to kick things off, Gideon is asking if it is advisable to submit another proposal to the same donor after the first one failed to sail through.
Matt: Yeah. Assuming that you have met their time requirements and often they'll say, well, you can't submit something for six months, a year or whatever that round is. Yeah, not a problem. In fact, it's important that you do, because now you're building a reputation with them as somebody who's persistent and interested, assuming, of course, that you meet their mission requirements. And I say that, because somebody I interviewed for the class I teach said that, I think it was off camera, over the last ten years or something, she's been with this foundation every six months, she gets a proposal from this one organization that has nothing to do with what they do. And she thinks it's just a cut and paste that this person puts out, and it really annoys them. So, you have to be on target. As long as you're on target and following the rules of that, go for it. I think that's a great thing to do.
Will: Awesome. Our next question is from Maya. She keeps hearing the saying, ask for funding, get advice, ask her funding, get funding. What kind of advice should we ask? What areas of advice can funders offer? So, it sounds like Maya is asking for what are your top questions that you might ask.
Matt: So she wants my advice? Yeah, I would look at them, particularly if they are program specialists, if they are seeing any trends, maybe in that program, that mission area that you need to be paying attention to. Maybe you have some question, or is there something on their application or in their guidelines that they can give advice to? If you can get the answer out of the guidelines, don't ask that question. Try to move beyond it, move it up a notch from the guidelines. But I personally would get out of that and go to program stuff, and find out if they've funded programs like yours or other places before, what advice they can give on some aspect of the mission. I think that would really be more engaging to them than simply asking them about applying, because everybody asks about that.
Will: Awesome. The next question is from Lisa. Even if funders say they are willing to pay for overhead, will your application be stronger if you still act as though they don't need to fund overhead and leave it out of your budget?
Matt: I don't know. I think if they're willing to pay for it, and you can legitimately put that in, yeah go ahead and put it in again. You don't want to try to discount your way into a proposal, because it's just going to bite you back, because you're going to have financial problems yourself later on when trying to keep that program going. So, I would take advantage of their generosity that way, and go ahead and ask for that overhead. But maybe if you want to delineate it out somehow, or if they somehow draw a circle around it so that if they wanted to pull it out, that's fine. That could be a question to ask the funder themselves, and say, listen, we've gone both ways on this and explain what your situation is. If you can afford it, and they're okay with it, sure, don't put it in. But no, I would probably err to keep it in.
Will: Cool. Kimberly asked, is there a percentage of budget for the amount that you should put for the contingency?
Matt: You know, some people say five or ten percent. I think that's fine. In fact, actually, ten percent might be a little high, but it has to be something that you can say, well, if this risky part fails or something in the program might go wrong, that you would make up for that. But yeah, it obviously can't be huge. In maybe the five ten percent range, I'm sure you will be fine.
Will: Got it. Paul asked, if a funder says the maximum dollars to request are 15k, is it smart to come in at exactly 15k, or should you budget something a little bit below that, for example.
Matt: You should come into what it costs you to do the program, assuming that it's not going to be at their maximum. If it's going to cost you $14,325, then that's what you put in. Don't try to game this. Make it what you need to do this within the parameters of whatever it is that they're asking.
Will: Lisa asks, what is the best way to explain a planned and afford approved spend down of resources that leads to a few years of deficit for the organization? Is there any hope that funders will understand this?
Matt: Yeah, there is. If it looks like it was intentional, if you can show board minutes that show that this wasn't something that you're kind of willy nilly, going out and having an emergency every year or something. It has to look systematic that you are moving forward on something logically and deliberately, not in a panic or accidentally.
Will: Ellen asked, what about the potential for concern that the grant request is insignificant to the organization, specifically a small request, maybe $10,000 for a larger nonprofit?
Matt: I assume you mean to the funder, but maybe it means to the nonprofit. So, as far as the funder goes, you need to be within their guidelines. If you're asking for less than what they are saying, then don't do that. Come in within their guidelines. If it's insignificant to the nonprofit, take it as a way for them to get to know you better. Of course, I would also go back and look and say, is there something else we should be asking for and take that application to a different organization? It looks like it's going to be problematic.
Will: Brad asks, is it appropriate to send program updates to funders who haven't supported the initiative? For example, foundations who have declined or haven't been approached yet?
Matt: Yeah, if they've declined, that's okay. As long as you didn't burn a bridge there or something, and you imagine that you will go forward with this, that's fine. I would be careful for folks who haven't funded you yet. They don't know you're on there or that they are on your list. You don't want that to be the way they find out. Plus, something I didn't throw in the webinar here was, I hear a lot of times from grant funders, don't send us your updates. They don't want the annual reports. They don't want your typical flow of paper or emails out, because they just get too much from everybody else who either wants to get funding or gets funding. So, let them set that level of communication.
Will: Awesome. To answer your question, Brandy, recordings will be sent afterwards, along with slides and the raffle entry. So, keep your eyes peeled on that. We'll be getting started on that actually, in the next few minutes. And so, I think that wraps up all the questions for today. Thanks so much for attending, everybody. As a reminder, if you enjoyed the session, please submit your feedback form. And also, we look forward to seeing you in about two weeks from now for our session on ARP, on the ARP funds.
And then the other thing I wanted to share is if you have other questions that have come up, we are going to be testing out a new format on the first of September. It will be a grant writer ask me anything section. So, if you want to ask three different panelists about that, you can also register for that on our events calendar. Be sure to invite your friends, if you haven't already. That's pretty much how this thing has grown. And we've seen over twenty-five hundred grant professionals in the last few months just joining for these events. So, thanks so much, everybody, and we'll see you guys soon.