“Previously, we relied on separate Excel spreadsheets to manage our grant schedules and to keep a status report of all the grants that we have applied for, were received, or denied. Now with Instrumentl, we do all of that in one place.”

Eloise Casdorph, Nonprofit Strategist at Nonprofit Navigators

customer

Eloise Casdorph, Nonprofit Strategist

ORGANIZATION

Nonprofit Navigators

location

Birmingham, Alabama, United States

website

https://www.nonprofitnavigators.net/

focus areas

Grant Consulting

$ raised with grants found from Instrumentl

Raised / tracked through Instrumentl

favorite Instrumentl Features

Collaboration features, Grant tracker, Projects, 990s, Funder Profiles

About

Nonprofit Navigators

Nonprofit Navigators is a nonprofit consulting company, serving primarily Denver, Colorado, and Birmingham, Alabama, but they have clients all over the US. The company serves both small and large nonprofits to support them in developing an effective, sustainable, and well-funded organization.

How Nonprofit Navigators Uses Instrumentl to Centralize Their Grant Work

Nonprofit Navigators provides services such as grant research, grant writing, board development, marketing, major donor prospecting, and more. Eloise Casdorph is a Nonprofit Strategist so her interactions are more client-facing:

“I meet with the client and discuss the work that they’ve been doing, their goals for the upcoming year, their strategic plan – and see how we can help to support them in areas that they need.”

A big part of Eloise’s role is educating clients on the process of fundraising and pursuing grants. A lot of the clients turn to Nonprofit Navigators because they are seeking grants, but they often miss the bigger picture of how grants play a role in their sustainability.

How Nonprofit Navigators Started Using Instrumentl

We were curious to learn how Nonprofit Navigators started using Instrumentl. 

Originally, the Executive Assistant of the organization shared with the team what Instrumentl does and how it may be useful. The team decided to play around with the platform, explore its benefits, and then officially subscribed to using it.

Eloise shared how the way they use Instrumentl has evolved through time:

“Within the last 6 months, we’ve seen a shift in the way we’re utilizing Instrumentl in our workflow. At first, we just used it for grant prospecting and now we’re using it as a part of our general workflow.
"For example, how we manage information on potential funders and opportunities has changed. We are also able to generate reports and send them to our clients.”
There are four different types of reports you can export from Instrumentl.

In a nutshell, the organization shifted from using Instrumentl just for grant prospecting and started using features that enable grant tracking and management. By diving deeper into the capabilities of the platform, they realized it’s worth using all year round:

“Previously, we relied on separate Excel spreadsheets to manage our grant schedules and to keep a status report of all the grants that we have applied for, were received, or denied. Now with Instrumentl, we do all of that in one place.”

Pro tip: If you’re using spreadsheets to manage your grants but would like to switch to an all-in-one grants platform like Instrumentl, we can help you make the transition hassle-free! We have a template you can use to import grants into Instrumentl. Our team will be on standby to help you make sure everything is imported as needed.

Here’s what one of our customers had to say about this:

"The spreadsheet import was one of the BEST opportunities you guys offered! It was so much information—2 years of history—so it was really helpful to get that imported and allow us to see everything in place."

Eloise’s Favorite Features That Make Instrumentl Worth Using All Year Round

Aside from grant researching, the grant management tools have become pretty instrumental (pun intended) in Eloise’s day-to-day work. Typically, when the team gets a new client, they need to onboard them. We asked Eloise what this process looks like in Instrumentl:

“We create a Profile for them, we create the Project, and set the Tracker. Then we use the keywords based on the type of work that they do.
Once we have our Matches generated, we go through each one to see how our client is aligned with those Opportunity Matches. We save the ones that are relevant and hide the ones that are not.”

Instrumentl is not only great for grant management and prospecting, but it’s also like a discovery assistant and a collaboration tool, shared Eloise:

“Sometimes if we see something that might be relevant to a different client, we send this information to the strategist who is responsible for that client.”

After setting up the project, the typical Instrumentl session for Eloise includes creating a decent list of potential opportunities:

“After that, we create a document that we send to our clients so that they can review it as well. And it’s been very helpful that the document that we generate comes straight out of Instrumentl.
So when we send it to the client, they can click on the link and see the general profile for that funder.”

Eloise also shared that there are a lot of notes they keep about funders, e.g. who’s on the board, their preferences when it comes to communication, etc. This is why she appreciates the ability to keep Opportunity notes separate from Funder notes:

“We are able to carry these things in the next fiscal year. For us, that was pretty essential for the work that we do. It’s nice to have that in a centralized location that all of our team members can access.”
Application Cycles in Instrumentl

The best thing about Instrumentl from Eloise’s perspective is that it centralizes all their grant work:

“With each new month, we work on selected grants as needed and use different statuses in Instrumentl to know whether or not it’s planned, in progress, submitted, and so forth.
Now we have the option to enter specific dates and amounts, which is also something that’s been very helpful. More recently, we started to use the Task function as a way to manage grant reporting.”

Saving Time with Instrumentl Thanks to 990s and Collaboration Features

Although Eloise and her team didn’t track time since switching to Instrumentl, she says that centralizing her work, using a comprehensive database, and being able to efficiently collaborate with her teammates has saved her a ton of time:

“Just looking at the number of clicks on websites that I had to do in the research phase and windows I had to open when using multiple tools, and now everything being centralized and more streamlined, it’s a lot of time saved.”

Their biggest time sucker before was the previous database that the organization was using. It had some 990 information, but not a lot. Oftentimes, they were finding grants and then also going to the IRS website to check 990s. The team was doing a lot of research to discover the past givings of the funder, where were the past grantees located, what areas of focus they go into, etc. However, Eloise emphasizes the value of Instrumentl they get today:

“Again, all of that is now centralized in Instrumentl for us. Instead of logging into multiple websites, I just log into Instrumentl.”
Funder History in Instrumentl

How Eloise and Her Team Evaluate Funders

Eloise and her team evaluate funders by looking at several different criteria:

  1. Geography: “One, we are looking at geography. For instance, are they placed where our client is located? And if they are not, do they have a preference on the locality?”
  2. Areas of focus: “We’re also aligning the areas of focus. We want to find funders who are passionate about the field of work of our client.”
  1. History of giving: “We’re also looking at what type of organizations they have previously funded. For instance, we have faith-based organizations as our clients. There are some funders that are also passionate about this but there are others that do not want to be associated with faith-based organizations, and that’s fine. But past giving history reveals this to us and we appreciate that type of information.”
  1. Budget range: “We then go into the financials in terms of – do they look for nonprofits within a certain budget range, what amounts they typically give for a grant, and whether or not that meets our client’s needs.”

Tips for Future Instrumentl Users and Aspiring Grant Consultants

In the end, we wanted to hear what tips Eloise had to share as a successful nonprofit strategist. If you’re a grant consultant who’s considering using Instrumentl, her advice can be golden:

“I would suggest knowing your client really well before you jump into creating a Project and Master Tracker [All Projects]."

One thing Eloise and her team learned as they onboarded several different clients over the last year is that if they have a client that does a lot of stuff—they just have really comprehensive programs, it's more helpful to create several different Projects in Instrumentl. For example, one for their flagship program and one for the specialty things that they are doing.

Eloise also suggests leveraging collaboration features in Instrumentl because it makes the entire team more efficient:

“My second tip would be to really utilize the Tasks section. That has been extremely helpful in the grants management process and in figuring out the next steps. And of course, making use of 990s.”
Tasks in Instrumentl

As for professional tips for aspiring nonprofit consultants, Eloise summarized her lessons in a single word: education. She spends a large part of her day educating clients on the whole grant process because they don’t know what they don’t know.

It’s also very important to set realistic expectations for your clients so that if they don’t receive a grant, they are not completely discouraged. Additionally, prioritize finding a funder that aligns with what your client does rather than just applying for everything in the hope that you’ll get awarded.

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Thank you Eloise for sharing your amazing story with us! We wish your nonprofit consulting company a lot of success in the future.

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