“The thing that initially attracted me to Instrumentl is mining that field of possibilities. Instead of wasting time on preliminary research, I can focus on the actual grant writing. What a tremendous trade-off! I would much rather have time to write the grant proposal than to search for it."
Dan Prinzing, Project Manager on the construction of the new Wassmuth Center for Human Rights
The Wassmuth Center for Human Rights is the builder of the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in downtown Boise, Idaho. It is the only memorial to Anne Frank in the US and one of the very few places in the world where the full text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is on public display.
The Wassmuth Center for Human Rights is an education center that delivers all resources and organizes programs on-site, within the memorial. Additionally, they are also reaching people off-site—in classrooms, companies, and communities throughout Idaho. Because of their online presence, they are also reaching a wider audience, both on a national and international level.
Dan Prinzing has been both the Education and Executive Director for a full 16 years, but as of recently, he has taken the role of the Project Manager on the capital campaign and construction of the new Wassmuth Center for Human Rights. We wanted to learn more about the challenges of his previous role:
“We’re a nonprofit. Even with the history and the impact that the memorial has within the state of Idaho, we receive no state funding. We are solely dependent on contributions from individuals, businesses, and foundations.”
No matter how important your work is, you have to fight to get financial support and resources. That takes a lot of convincing and negotiating, as Dan explained:
“If we’re talking about the pains of being a director of a nonprofit, it is the constant fundraising. You constantly need to share—this is our mission, this is the depth of our work, etc. That’s what you need to do to attract a new audience of supporters.”
As Dan explained to us, the greatest challenge is making the work of your organization appealing to possible new funders. How do you market yourself and how do you advertise the impact of what you do?
The Wassmuth Center came to Instrumentl organically. The need for a tech solution was discussed at the board level for several years, but other grant software solutions were not living up to the expectations:
“We noticed early on that we needed assistance with grant prospecting. We checked with a number of companies that offered such solutions but the price tag associated with the offered service—we just could not justify it.”
After discovering Instrumentl, the organization never looked back.
They were pleased with the value they were getting and pretty soon realized that subscribing to Instrumentl was a great investment. Getting buy-in from all board members is not always easy, but in this particular case, the vote was unanimous, says Dan:
“Grant prospecting is the biggest time sucker. You’re investing so much time and effort and still, you may end up with very few results. Instrumentl gave us the value and depth that was proportional to the investment that we were making.”
We’re happy that the Wassmuth Center’s been our loyal customer since day one. Check out the real impact Instrumentl’s customers are making thanks to our platform.
Dan has been using Instrumentl for over five years now. We were curious to learn more about what has potentially changed in the way he uses the software now as opposed to the early days:
“It all comes down to my personal learning curve. Back in the day, I was able to do the drill down and make the most use of the matches Instrumentl suggested. But was I recording my work or tracking my grants? No, not really. It took some time for me to discover the full power of the platform.”
This was very interesting to learn from Dan because it’s a common evolutionary path Instrumentl users.
Our customers initially come to us with the goal of using the software for grant prospecting, but with time—they discover great value in the platform as a whole and start using it for grant tracking and management.
So for the majority, Instrumentl ends up being an institutional fundraising platform and a centralized tool for all things grants.
For instance, Instrumentl’s Grant Tracker is incredibly valuable, but most users start using it only after they master the initial learning curve. Here you can add opportunities from Instrumentl’s large database or any other ones you found elsewhere.
Pro tip: Within your Tracker, you can also organize your submission requests by year, application stage, and project. Update the status on submissions as you make progress and hear the funder responses. Beats the Excel spreadsheet, no?
Because users have everything in a single place, the collaboration between different team members gets much easier. Additionally, various time-saving features bring great value for busy nonprofits and grant writers, which was the next thing we discussed with Dan.
The old-school way of grant prospecting involves manual web search, sifting through 990s that are scattered across multiple sources, and asking around for opportunities within your community. But even then, when you do discover a grant opportunity, it might not be a good match for your cause.
The process of grant prospecting is tedious and a huge time sucker, which led to a discussion about the way Dan uses Instrumentl to work around this.
In the last two years of using Instrumentl, the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights was able to raise $525K, and they are just getting started:
“The thing that initially attracted me to Instrumentl is mining that field of possibilities. Instead of wasting time on preliminary research, I can focus on the actual grant writing. What a tremendous trade-off! I would much rather have time to write the grant proposal than to search for it. I can also start the cultivation of the relationships with potential funders.”
Dan was spending up to two hours on prospecting before Instrumentl, and now it takes him about 15 minutes or so. This translates into around 87% of the time saved.
But as Dan explained, it’s not just about saving time:
Besides being able to develop a stronger grant strategy, Dan appreciates various time-saving features that help you stay organized. One of his favorites are the multiple project fields:
“Multiple project fields keep me organized and I can easily drill down to see where we’re at with different portfolios. For instance, we’ve got a new initiative that recognizes the original Boise Valley people, the indigenous people. We’ve got a whole portfolio specific to that, and so it’s easy for me to keep track of possible funding opportunities specific to that project .”
Since Dan has so much valuable experience under his belt, we asked him if he has some tips to share with grant writers and other nonprofits hoping to raise six figures in grants.
“I would say just analyze the data that’s already in Instrumentl [...] You’ll have more room for personalization and communication with funders which gives you a higher chance of success.”
By looking at Instrumentl data, you can strategically evaluate a potential new funder. You can also see how open a funder is to new grantees, geographical giving, grant sizes, and giving by category.
Dan explained why having the information about giving patterns is valuable for him:
“I appreciate that there’s an indication of the range of funding and their average level of funding. Here’s another frustration of grant writing: you either don’t ask for enough or you ask for too much.”
At the end of our conversation, we wanted to learn more about how Dan feels about the support he’s getting from the Instrumentl team and the general experience of using the platform.
“I would just summarize it as terrific customer service. It does become a selling point for me, the encouragement that Instrumentl gives to users. Weekly emails, updates, and gentle nudges matter to me.”
By the way, we recently launched a page with Instrumentl Best Practices to help our customers make the most of our grant management platform so make sure to check it out!
In conclusion, Instrumentl helped the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights to streamline their work, make sure they stay focused on the bigger picture, and never lose sight of new opportunities that might be just around the corner.
Thank you Dan for sharing your amazing story with us! We wish your organization a lot of success in the future.
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