“Instrumentl has been like an elusive purple unicorn that I was looking for when I started my business. It makes me look like a rock star. I’m dealing with a lot of organizations with smaller budgets that have not had a lot of grant success, and now we are seeing a tremendous return on investment.”
Dawn Moeglin, CEO and Nonprofit Consultant at Full-Circle Fundraising LLC
Dawn Moeglin is the principal for Full-Circle Fundraising LLC and she has 25+ years of experience in fund development, nonprofit strategic planning, grant writing, and marketing. At the very start of her career, Dawn worked at the local school and had little experience with grant writing. The board sent her to do some training in the field.
That’s how she entered the world of fundraising and eventually secured a grant from the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy after being rejected seven times. Not only that, but Mrs. Bush actually visited the school and Dawn had the opportunity to meet her. This encouraged her to start her own consultancy business.
Needless to say, Dawn found her calling early on. Since then, she has successfully obtained millions of dollars from federal, state, and local funders for her nonprofit clients. She is also a Board Member of the AFP Northeast Ohio and a Member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals & Grant Professionals Association.
To break the ice, we were curious to hear more about Dawn’s experience as a grant consultant and what it is like working with different nonprofits. Dawn revealed that her “sweet spot” is having around ten clients and she caters her services based on what they need—whether it’s grant writing, relationship building, executive coaching, or strategic planning:
“Right now, I’m managing about 10 clients within Instrumentl. I use Projects to manage them effectively as they are all different sizes and they operate within different fields of work.”
What’s interesting about Dawn is that she created a process she follows with each client before applying for a certain grant.
“The first thing I do is that I create a development handbook for my client where I’m looking at their budget, their programs, and laying out all of their revenue streams.”
This crucial first step helps Dawn identify what types of gaps in funding there may be and if there are specific funding opportunities that the nonprofit she’s working with might be a good fit for.
Dawn then turns to Instrumentl and starts the process of grant prospecting. She identifies keywords relevant for the client and then she’ll set up new projects within Instrumentl:
“Generally, I’m going to set one project per client. That helps me avoid grouping multiple clients into a single project. That could get very confusing when you have all those different factors and nonprofit activities. This also makes pulling reports for each client easier.”
PRO TIP: Instrumentl allows you to export your saved grants pipeline into an easy-to-read PDF or CSV which can be used to impress your board members and colleagues. The links within reports are clickable and they can be accessed by those who are not Instrumentl users as well.
“I usually use the CSV export because the development handbook that I create for each one of my clients is basically an Excel workbook. That’s where I have their budget information and the overall plan. It’s very convenient and I use it at least quarterly.”
Reports provide greater visibility of funding opportunities and private foundations to key people within your organization and your board who are not users within Instrumentl. Sharing these reports can create opportunities for networking. A board member may know somebody from the foundation and can facilitate a meeting with key people at the foundation. Taking advantage of these relationships can really push your application forward.
Something that Dawn likes to use to sort through the Funder Matches more quickly is the filter view:
Here’s what Dawn pays particular attention to:
“I love the filter functionality. It’s actually one of my newer discoveries because I’m still learning things that Instrumentl can do. It’s proven to be really effective as I have onboarded new clients.”
PRO TIP: Instrumentl allows you to filter by field of work, location of residency, or by past giving (available on the Standard or Pro plan).
We were also wondering how Dawn collaborates with clients during the prospecting phase and she was excited to share her favorite Instrumentl feature:
“One of my favorite features is so simple, yet amazing: it is sending an email directly to my client with the prospect information. By clicking a single button, the email icon, I am able to send it to them and they can review it. It just saves so much time and I don’t have to spend hours in Zoom meetings.”
Even if the recipient of the email is not subscribed to Instrumentl, they can still see the summary of the opportunity and dive deep into all the data so that they can give you feedback or share their thoughts.
Dawn’s second favorite Instrument feature is the 990 insights:
“I don’t have to leave instrumentl to find 990 reports that contain all of the information I need, and this speeds up the process of prospecting for my clients. I am able to see if this funder has funded anything within our realm of services if they are likely to fund our mission, and if they fund in our geographic region.”
Useful questions Dawn thinks about during this phase:
The Past Grantees, Average and Median grant amounts can give you valuable insights and answers to those questions.
Here’s why this is so valuable for Dawn and grant consultants in general:
“I will not normally have institutional knowledge of what my clients have previously applied for, and due to transitions that happen in the nonprofit sector, sometimes we forget that we received an award!”
By looking at the Past Grantees, Dawn saw the name of her client. This was a valuable piece of information to find because it meant there was already an established relationship with the funder that could be revitalized.
Dawn also researches the average gift amount because she doesn’t want to chase opportunities that are not worthy of her or her client’s time:
“Some grants for some clients aren't really worth the effort and we want to make sure that whatever time we’re investing in actually asking for a fund, it’s going to be for an amount that’s going to move the needle in their mission.”
Managing 10+ clients is not a walk in the park, but that’s where Instrumentl’s tasks can help. You can track exactly where you’re at with each grant application. You can easily monitor your tasks in the Grant Tracker and Instrumentl will conveniently send you email reminders about them.
“Thanks to tasks, I can make sure that I have the drafts that are coming in, the team approvals that are coming in… If I need a budget from somebody and I’m waiting for that document, it’s all going to be nicely organized within Instrumentl.”
Besides tasks, Dawn appreciates the ability to upload documents to various opportunities she’s marked in Instrumentl. She will upload the respective document to each funder record so that she can keep it across the entire group. This allows her to support her team and remind them of the activities that they need to complete.
And what about tracking funders that did not show up in Dawn’s matches? We were curious to see how she tracks them:
“I simply add them as a custom funder, which is very easy to do. That’s convenient for me because sometimes it’s a smaller community family foundation, and many of my clients are eligible to apply for them.”
PRO TIP: If you have a batch of previous grants you would like to upload and track within Instrumentl, you can easily do so by using this template. All you have to do is insert all your grant information into the sheet. Once you fill it out, you can submit it within your Instrumentl account and our team will import all the data in the next couple of business days.
So far, Dawn has secured over $190K in funding for her clients while being an Instrumentl user for less than a year. She’s still waiting to hear back from funders for an additional $90K by the end of Q1 2023.
By using Instrumentl, she was able to secure funding outside of clients’ usual regional funders and got one client established as the very first grantee in Ohio! Here’s what she has to say about her experience:
“Instrumentl makes me look like a rockstar. I’m dealing with a lot of organizations with smaller budgets that have not had a lot of grant success, and we are seeing a tremendous return on investment.”
To summarize, the key ways Dawn perfected her grants system include the following:
We also asked Dawn to tell us more about how she builds relationships with funders and more specifically, what determines her decision to build a relationship versus to cold apply.
“Building the relationship, especially the one you build with regional funders and foundations, is critical. As my clients are mostly regional organizations, I always recommend that they try to book an orchestrated meeting with those funders, especially if they can show programs in action.”
Needless to say, you should aim to cultivate and nurture these relationships after you receive an award as well.
A great tip coming from Dawn relates to storytelling and really humanizing the act of funding. Instead of just sending them reports and doing your due diligence, you can also include a short story in the email about the way these funds are being used so that they can feel the impact they enabled through their support.
The tools she used before didn't really help her maintain a good overview of potential and previous funders:
“I always encourage the client to go to the website and look at what those funders are giving to and do all of their research in advance. The most important thing to ask is—are your current funding priorities the same? Or have you had to pivot or change something in this current environment?”
Other useful questions you can ask potential funders:
Final piece of wisdom coming from Dawn relates to shaking off the reluctance to ask questions:
“Guess what? Funders want you to ask questions. You are not bothering them. They want you to succeed, they really do.”
Thank you Dawn for sharing your amazing story with us! We wish your consultancy business a lot of success in the future.
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