How to Thrive in a Post-Pandemic Economy with Margit Brazda Poirier
In this Instrumentl Partner Webinar, we learn from Margit Brazda Poirier, Owner of Grants4Good, as she shares what you must know about how to position your nonprofit for grant success in the post-pandemic economy.
By the end of this Instrumentl Partner Workshop, you'll be able to:
- Better understand what the grant funding landscape looks like during this pandemic
- Recognize the leading indicators that drive foundation giving
- Start using the 3 C's to thrive in 2021
- Understand how Instrumentl's free COVID-19 grant list and platform can save you time and money in identifying the right opportunities for your programs
By using that link, you'll save $50 off your first month should you decide to upgrade when your trial expires.
Margit Brazda Poirier founded Grants4Good LLC in 2009 and has since helped thousands of nonprofits achieve their grant seeking goals. She has over 25 years of nonprofit management and grants experience, a GPC, and is a GPA Approved Trainer, having written and received over $30 million in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants.
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
How to Thrive in a Post-Pandemic Economy Grant Training Transcription
Will: Hi, everybody. It's Will from the Instrumentl team. I’m really excited to bring on to the stage today, Margit Brazda Poirier. She is a GPA-approved trainer, and also the founder of Grants4Good, which she founded more than a decade ago. Since that time period, she has helped a ton of nonprofits in terms of raising over 30 million dollars in federal, state, foundation, and corporate grants and so today, we're thrilled to bring her on to share about how to thrive in a pandemic economy. Margit, why don't you take it from here?
Margit: That sounds good. Thanks a lot, Will. I’m going to just jump right in, because I know we have a limited time, and I want to make this be something extremely useful for you all. As Will said, he introduced me, what he didn't mention, because it's not officially in my bio, is I have a personal and a professional mission, and they're the same. Why I’m here is because I feel so strongly about empowering nonprofit organizations, to help them get the funding they need to do this incredible work in your community and in your world, and while that sounds like a really lofty mission, there are very specific steps that are helping people, so this webinar is one of those. I’m really glad you're here.
You'll see my website is on there, Grants4Good.com if you want to check that out later on, but let's just jump right in.
Okay, so first thing we want to do, in the zoom chat, please share just briefly, your name, could be your first name, your organization, and what is the biggest challenge that you're facing now, as it relates to grant funding? So your name, organization, your biggest challenge, and also just quickly type “Yes,” if you're willing to serve as an example for later. What I mean by that is, we're actually going to pick out some people in the chat box, and directly apply what we're learning to your program.
Okay, so tell us about your organization. I already noticed there was someone from a domestic violence center from Casa, so please pop that into the chat, and type “Yes,” if you're willing to serve as an example. Thank you. Great.
We've got someone from Girl Scouts, Dressed for Success. Yay in Atlanta. We have one here in Rochester, New York, too, where I’m calling you from right now. The Wade Institute. Uganda. This is exciting stuff. Great. An environmental education center. Yeah, that's near and dear to my heart. That's… My master's degree is in environmental science. We've got consultants here, that's awesome. People from New York City. Louisiana. San Antonio, Texas. All over, this is great. Health foundations. Thank you good folks from Michigan. People working on faith-based grants. We have a nice variety of folks here. Alright, we'll go ahead and keep putting those into the chatbox, and we'll move on.
I want to talk about what our outcomes are for today. So for those of you involved in grants, you know that it's all about outcomes. It's all about what you do to make a difference, so outcomes for this webinar today, just as you saw in the advertisement for this webinar, we're going to be talking about the three C's to thriving in a pandemic economy.
Okay, these are three C's that popped into my head on a walk one day, and I really worked on these, and I think they're going to make a big difference for you. Second, we're going to talk about the 5% rule, and why it is so important in 2021. We will also focus on some specific things you can do now to meet your funding goals, and if you know me, as many of you do, I’m very detailed, you know. I like to leave people with a list of very specific things they can do after every webinar, whether you get to it today, tomorrow, or next month, doesn't matter. You've got it at your fingertips, and we're going to have some bonus and prizes at the end so hang with us for the whole time. So I want to share some good news with you. I know that there is no doubt that 2020 was a tough year, as is, 2021 for many. So there's no need to belabor that point, but let me share some good news about what happened last year.
Last year we saw philanthropic giving increase tremendously. So in 2020 there were over 450 billion dollars given in grants and donations to charities last year. in the US and I have figures for Canada as well. Many of you are here from Canada, and it was over 10 billion, and what happened is that 450 billion was only 427 billion in 2019, so it went up and jumped up quite significantly. Now I’m predicting that it will jump up even further in 2021, and I’ll tell you why in a moment. Another piece of good news, there are 87 000 grant making foundations in the US alone, and there are thousands of State and Federal grant opportunities, so if anyone should tell you, “Oh, there's no funding out there, you know, it's just really tough, it's competitive.” Well, the competitive part, yes is true, but there is tons and tons of funding out there.
Okay, so what we're going to do is, we're going to focus on how we can narrow down only the best funders for you, because, let's face it, 87,000 is a lot. So how do you start to narrow that down? Will's going to show you a slide that really gives you a quick picture of what Instrumentl looks like as we move on down the line.
Okay, so here are some facts about the pandemic economy, as I call it, because our economy was significantly affected, obviously, last year and all the organizations, businesses and nonprofits, were affected as well. So here's some data to work on to look at. Three out of five nonprofits cut costs last year, that probably doesn't come as a shock to you. You may be one of those nonprofits. I know at Grants4Good we work with lots of nonprofits every year, and I would say just about all of my clients had to cut costs in one way or another last year. Furthermore, over half of nonprofits plan to cut costs in 2021.
Again, perhaps not a surprising fact but, you know, it's important to see this on paper and a lot of the reason is, there has been a reduction in programmatic fees. I’ve got a youth theater company that simply couldn't hold shows live, so they don't get ticket revenue and there's a number of other reasons. This is, again, why grant revenue is so important. Here are two predictions. One-third of nonprofits might close within two years as of March 2021. So a third of nonprofits. Well, there's one and a half million non-profits in the US right now, so to lose a third of those… to lose a third of arts and cultural organizations, people helping the homeless people, working with women affected by domestic violence, that is simply unacceptable. Now, a more likely prediction is anywhere from 11 to 38%. Well, frankly, that is still too high. That's over 100,000 non-profits at minimum, at best.
Okay, so that's why I’m teaching all about grants, they're so important, because they'll pay for the very things that nonprofits need. I saw some people write about general operating costs. that is the golden goose, right? To be able to get a grant to pay for doing what you're doing anyway.
Now I teach a course called, “All about grant writing,” it's a self-paced online course, and I really teach you how to frame your proposals to get operating costs, but for today's webinar I just want to remind you if you don't already know this, that grants will pay for just about everything you need. It's just a matter of finding the right funder to pay for the right things. Now, that first bullet point: Their staffing. That's where people are really surprised, because they say, “Well, how can grants pay, for example, staff that we already have doing the things that we've always been doing? Is that possible? And, yes, it is, if you have a program… Let's use Dress for Success that popped up. If you have a program like Dress for Success, you're doing a phenomenal job of helping women get outfits to get those job interviews. Maybe you're working with them on career coaching. Well, it's something you're already doing, but boy is that ever important, this year especially, in an economy where people have lost jobs and need to get employed fast. So yes, you can obtain grants to pay for your existing staff to run an organization like that, to deliver those programs. You can get money for equipment, training, travel, even boring things like insurance that you absolutely have to have to run some of your programs. Maybe supplies, your rent, your overhead, just about everything.
That's the main reason that I teach about grants. So we're focusing on this so-called pandemic economy, as I call it, and I want to just talk a little bit about: What are some key indicators to foundation giving and why does giving fluctuate so much from year to year? Why did it go up in 2020? Why do I predict it's going to go up even more in 2021? So the reason why is that foundation assets change. Giving fluctuates strictly in the foundation world because the foundation assets change. Now, this may seem like common sense, but I’m going to give you a formula that's going to help you predict what is available for grants from any given foundation. First of all, charitable foundation giving is directly related to economic growth or decline, and what we saw, if you remember, at the end of 2019, before we knew the coronavirus would hit the entire world as hard as it has… the end of 2019 stocks were strong. If you looked at the Dow Jones index, the S&P 500, you saw that the investment portfolios of foundations were doing really well.
Now, because of that, they had to give out more money in 2020. I’ll talk more about that, but fast-forward to December 31st, 2020, at the end of a really long hard year, stocks were even better, even stronger. So the foundations that had a lot of money in their assets gained more money all throughout 2020. Now, what happens is the IRS, in the U.S anyway, the IRS requires that every foundation, every private foundation, has to give out a minimum of five percent of its average market value of its net investment assets. Let me put that to you in plain talk. Whatever money that they had at the end of 2020, take five percent of that, and that has to go to charitable contributions in 2021. Now, because stocks did really well in 2020 that's why I think, and I predict, there's going to be more grants available in 2021.
Okay, so this is if you haven't ever written grants, or if you've done a little bit, and you've been kind of putting it off because you're thinking “Oh, it's a lot of time and effort,” really this is the time to learn how to write grants and to jump right into it now. Quick thing, qualifying distributions. What that really means, most of it has to go to grants. Foundations can use a little bit of it for their own administrative cost. If you want more information, I’ve got a blog post that you can look at on Grants4Good.com, but let's move on. So here's an example. If, hopefully, you created your 14-day Instrumentl trial, again with no credit card, just create the trial, try it out for two weeks. But here is a sample. This one is just randomly selected, the Kong Toy grant.
So what you'll see is, if you find a foundation you're interested in, you'll get the 990 report, which you can get those anywhere, but what's great about Instrumentl, in this case, is you're going to see the total assets pulled right out for you in front of you. If you take those total assets, and in this example, it's just over 2.2 million, take 5% of that, and you've got a hundred and fourteen thousand. So you already know exactly how much, at minimum, that foundation has to give out. Now, what's interesting about this is, look at the next column, the next row down, the total giving of that foundation was almost 600,000. So, they are an example of what many foundations are doing right now, is they are recognizing that people have a need here and now, and they are giving out more than their required 5%, so another piece of good news for you on that. Alright, let's jump right into the three C's to thriving in 2021. Now, again, I have a blog post on Grants4Good.com, you can check out that article on the 5% rule to learn more. You can also check out my article on the three C's to thriving in a pandemic.
Okay, so if you like to have written stuff next to your webinar, you know, go ahead and check out, download those articles, but I want to go through each of these with you right now, and show some examples that I think are going to help you. So contact consistency and congruency. Let's talk about that first one right now. Contact… Now contact is something that you know if you've been in this grant field any amount of time, you're probably thinking to yourself, “Well, Margit, we know. We already know this, we're supposed to contact the funders before we apply for grants.” Yes, but very few people do, and I found that that is the number one thing that will distinguish you writing a perfect grant application, and still having it not funded versus having it funded. It's that contact with funders.
Now the reason I put this in today's webinar is, it's more important now than ever, so the question now becomes, “ Okay, what do I do once I contact a funder?” So on this next slide, I’m showing you here, here's the key things I would love for you to focus on when you contact your funder. I’d like you to write down three things: Talk to any potential new funders and people who have funded you in the past. They have already supported you, they love you. They're most likely to support you again. The things you can talk about are, three things: First of all, how are you doing? Okay? People care. If anything I’ve seen this pandemic, is it's brought out a caring and empathy and a realization that, wow, you know, people are suffering on multiple levels here, and so talk about how you're doing, how your organization is doing, and really critically talk about how the people you serve are doing. Are you finding that more of the people you serve are having trouble getting into permanent housing? Are you finding that domestic violence has increased tremendously? By the way, I know it has, so talk about how you're doing and how your target audience is doing. Also, refresh funders on what you're doing about the problem, maybe highlight a specific program that went really well, or something that you had to change because of the pandemic.
Okay, and lastly, most importantly, talk about why you're doing it, because the whole reason you're still here, and you're here on this webinar, is you are doing something so important in your community, in your world, that is so needed that it's important to keep telling people about it. You know, you may be thinking about it, you know, most of the day and probably on weekends, too, when you don't want to be, but it's not at the forefront of funders minds, so remind them why you're doing what you're doing. I can tell you, with one of my clients that does work with women who are affected by domestic violence, their contact with funders leads with this. They tell them that they have seen a 40 percent increase in demand for services in just the last year due to the at-home isolation from COVID.
Now, that's a real number that we can back up. So think about some really compelling reasons for why you're doing what you're doing that will justify your need for funding. 40% increase in demand for services? Absolutely, there's a demand for more grant funding, and I can tell you right now, we got five times as much grant funding in 2020 as we did in 2019, so I know you can do this.
Alright, let's move on to how to find contact information with Instrumentl because I’ll tell you what, one of the most common questions I get is “Margit, you know first of all we need to find the best funders,” which we'll get into in a moment, but secondly, “Once we find somebody, how do we reach a real person? What's the best way to reach out to people?” So I have used Instrumentl for exactly this, and I use it all the time. It's saved me a ton of time and effort, and many of you who know me, and those who don't, I’ve been in this field more than 20 years. I’ve tried so many different programs out there, and I still use a blend of a few, but I keep finding I jump right back to Instrumentl. So let's… I picked out a local one here as an example. This one is in Rochester, New York. It's called the Max and Marion Farish Charitable Foundation, and what you can do is type this in, pull it up. You can get their form 990. You can find out who are the contact people that you actually want to get in touch with, and now the Farish Foundation actually has a website, which will show a lot of this information. But have you ever found that you find the perfect funder, you type them into your Google search bar, and they don't have a website, and there's hardly any information on them? So how are you supposed to contact them? That's where I find this is helpful. You can see along with Will is bringing up here, the foundation. Live right now on Instrumentl, you can see their total assets, 257 million. That's a lot of giving every year, and now, let's jump down to the key people on the foundation. What I like about this feature is, you can immediately see the names of everybody who is on the Board of Directors of the Ferris Foundation, so what you can do as a strategy is, to print out this list and share it with your non-profit board to see if anybody on your board knows somebody on that foundation's board, because as you probably already know, people give to people, and if you have a little bit of that connection, it can go a long way. It's not always essential, but it can be very very helpful. What I also like, if we scroll down, as you can see primarily where they give. They give in New York state, which is not a surprise, since I mentioned where they're from, and what I like to do is before contacting a funder, I really want to do my research. I want to know who did they give grant funding for in the past, so Will is showing us here a list of alphabetical… all of the nonprofits that they've given grant funds to, and the amounts. Do you ever wonder how much should I ask for when I apply for a grant? Especially if the request for proposals is kind of vague.
So this feature is really helpful. You can see what the range of giving is, throw out the outlier values. You know, if they give $1000 and $1,000,000, throw those out. Look at what's in the middle, and you can start to make a good guess on how much you would want to ask for. Or you can call the funder and spend two minutes, three minutes, pitching your program or organization. Ask, “What's a reasonable ask?”
Will: There's two things I’d add to that, Margit. The first one is, you can isolate based off the state, which we did for New York, and then something else that's newer on our platform is whenever you see something clickable, I tell people to go ahead and click into these, because these are past recipients from the foundation, and so in this situation, what you can actually pull up is this new section called past awards received, and that's another way in which you can identify a great shortlist of other opportunities if this were an organization that's similar to yours, and they are already receiving funding from an overlapping foundation. So that's just two things I draw.
Margit: I love this feature, and I’ve got to say, Will, I know from talking to you that this is a new feature, and I’m so thrilled you have it, because this was the one reason, this is the one caveat I gave to people when I recommended Instrumentl. I said, “But they don't have that reverse search feature which is looking up a non-profit to see who funded them,” and now you have it, so yeah. Congrats, that's awesome.
Margit: Was there a second point you wanted to make or was that the main?
Will: Oh, it was just on the points of the filter, so filtering it by the state, as well as isolating by the reverse search. So it's helpful, because I know a lot of the common workflow is going through a ton of 990 pages and scrolling, like sifting for just the ones in their state. Whereas in many cases we filter that for you, so you might as well not have to spend that time going through tens of pages.
Margit: Yes, thank you, because that makes my eyes really tired, and I’ve been doing that for years. So I appreciate that. Alright, well, let us… Let's go into the second C, which stands for consistency, and the importance of this is, I know in a year where it was hard enough just to keep business as usual going, the last thing people wanted to do is sit down and spend a lot of time putting together grant applications, or maybe they did a few and they got rejected. I call those denial letters. So maybe you got a few “No” letters, but the consistency part is really, really important for this year, because… and there's three simple ways you can do this. First of all, just apply to the funders that have supported you within the last three years.
Okay? So you can do that right now if you're already doing some grant writing. If you're new to this, and even if you do not find some new funders, you can use Instrumentl. If you already have something else you're using, fine. I can tell you, though, that Instrumentl will save you a ton of the time, and I have surveyed thousands of people that are on my regular email list, and I’ve asked them, “What are your biggest challenges?” and they will say, “The time to do grant writing.”
Okay, the time and the staff, which essentially equals time, because staff need to have the time and the training to do it. So time and staff, and thirdly, work with your board of directors to introduce you to people on the foundation Board of Directors I know I already mentioned that earlier, but that is helpful. Most importantly, with consistency, it's very important to have a pipeline of grants going out on a regular basis, okay? People always say, “Well, Margit, how many?” and maybe this is your question too. How many grants should I submit a year or a month to make grant funding a consistent form of revenue for my organization? Here's my simple answer, take it or leave it, but when I work with clients we get two to three grant applications out per month—two to three.
Now here's the exception to the rule. If we are writing up a big million-dollar federal grant, or something really major, a big foundation grant for hundreds of thousands of dollars, that's a big collaborative effort. We'll probably just focus on that one for that month. But most of the time, we're complementing those big ones with foundation grants, and we can do two to three a month. In fact, those first couple are really time-consuming, and hard to write, and then it gets so much easier as you copy, paste, and apply it to different funders.
Again, the first step is that funding search, and getting the best funders is the most important step, and that's what I use Instrumentl for. Then the second thing, writing the compelling grant application is the next key thing, and that's where I’ll tell you a little bit more about my “allaboutgrantwriting.com” self-paced and online course, but definitely try to get two to three out per month, because it can take three to six months to hear back from a foundation. It can take six months to a year to hear back from your state or the federal government sometimes. So you want to make sure there's consistency of grants going out the door, so that there is a consistency of funding coming in every month, ideally. Now, how do you build that grants pipeline? This is key, and Will's got Instrumentl up live here to do a little demonstration. I’ll let you take it from here, Will.
Will: Yeah, so one of the things that you might be wondering is, “How do I maintain that goal of two to three applications?” Well, one of the best ways that we see with the nonprofits we work with is through our grant tracker. And so whenever you find a grant match on Instrumentl. what you can do is you can save it into your grant tracker, and this is pretty much your command center for everything around your grant efforts. So what you can do, for example, is set things up for different years. You can set things up for the different statuses, and this gives you focus as to what you might want to be working on for that week as you start working towards application deadlines, and things like that. So as you start to set up your tracking, if you aren't already aware of it, what you can do is, when you save a grant into Instrumentl, you can click into the grant and then on the right-hand side, there's a section for tasks. This is where you can actually add different types of tasks. You can write them based off of milestones, submission reporting, set a different deadline, then maybe even the application deadline itself, and then you can actually choose the notification settings that you would like for whether or not you'd like to email your entire team or just one person on your team.
So if you're currently doing this through some sort of other task manager, what we find to be really helpful for Instrumentl teams is to essentially have all the tasks related to a grant set in Instrumentl, and the reason why is because once that is set, once every week, all of your deadlines that are coming up in all of your projects are going to be sent to you in an email reminder that's going to update you on all of your upcoming deadlines, as well as the tasks that you have assigned to yourself. So, as opposed to the old school method, which might be creating a calendar hole to check in with everything, you're able to essentially keep track of tasks management on this side of things. The other thing that's helpful with respect to getting things into your pipeline and managing it is the reporting side of things. So if, for example, you have a meeting every other week with your ED, or with your board of directors, where you want to give a status update as to what we're currently planning, or submitting, and things like that, you can essentially filter for those, and you can also leave notes, and you can click this button for sharing a report in the top right, and then select the project that you want to generate a report for. Select the year, and then click the create report button.
Once you do that, you're going to get a report that you can then have a productive conversation in your next team meeting about. “What are you guys working on?” So this is how you kind of bring in a lot of that administrative side of things into one place, and have us take care of it for you, so you can really focus on hitting that goal that Margit referenced in terms of two to three applications, and continuing that pipeline over time.
Margit: Great, thank you, Will. I am looking through our chat, because I realize that we are going to be selecting someone who agreed to be an example in terms of how to find a funder, and so we'll get to that in a moment. Will, maybe that's something you want to check out and see who agreed to be an example, and we can pick someone out in a little bit. I want to get right to that third C right now, to thriving in a pandemic economy, and that is the principle of congruency. Which, technically, the different definition, if you look that up, is the quality of agreeing or being suitable and appropriate. So, of course, my picture had a show, having all your ducks in a row. But congruency in terms of what we're talking about here, in terms of using grants to really help your nonprofit thrive, is aligning… first and foremost aligning with the mission and the interest of a funder. Now again, this is kind of common sense.
Okay. So if you've worked… I mean, I say it's common sense… If you've been in this field for a while, you know that you've got to align specifically with what a funder is interested in funding. What's more difficult is finding out what that is, and so two ways of doing that… One, you can thoroughly do your research on the funder with Instrumentl, and then secondly, after you've done your research, you contact the funder right back to our first seat to have that conversation to just tell them a little bit about what you're doing, and that you believe your mission aligns with theirs, and you'd like to apply. Again, that makes a world of difference in helping your application really stand out in this very competitive atmosphere of grant seeking. The other thing with congruency that I’ve seen in 2020, and these are two things that are carrying into 2021 that you need to be ready for… The first one is COVID-19 or pandemic response grants.
Now, there is money out there, thank goodness, for organizations who are having to adjust to COVID. Now, that could be the paycheck protection program through the small business administration. Many of you applied for PPP loans, but it could also be a lot of foundation grants, state and federal grants, that allow you to do things like purchase PPE equipment for health and safety, but what I’m finding in this year, 2021, is some of that pandemic response, those emergency grants are going to different things, like reopening up theaters for arts and culture organizations, or for increased IT broadband, things that help people work online, and make it more inclusive for everybody to be INVOLVED In your programs.
So anything you can think of that helps you reach your target audience more to do your work better during, and as a direct result of the pandemic, jot those things down. They may be something that can be funded through these more specialized grants. The second kind of specialty area that I’ve seen emerge is in the form of racial justice or racial equity grants. Realizing and really drawing attention to the systemic racism that has been going on for so long, and really focusing on that as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion in all of our programming. So some ways to address that in your organization could be to look at your current programs right now, and ask yourself where in your program right now could you be reaching people that are currently maybe not aware of your services. So maybe you need grants to reach more people in your service area. I’m going to give you a quick example. I work with a youth theater organization, and they do not have a lot of diversity right now in their work, and what they are doing is, they're partnering with another theater group that focuses entirely on African-American culture and history, and also another theater group that is specifically targeted towards Latinos, and so those three organizations are planning to work together to utilize theater as a means of understanding each other better, and also co-performing. So this is an opportunity that they had always wanted to do, but now there's funding available to do exactly that.
Okay. That's a fairly small example. There's some really large-scale systemic change programs going on right now that you could be part of too, so think a little bit in terms of programming, and secondly, think in terms of your board. Could you increase the diversity, equity inclusion, of your board members? Could they better reflect the very target audience that you are serving in your community? So that's another way to think about how you can broaden this effort.
Now, having said those two trends, there are still tons and tons of grants out there for things that do not fall into either of those two categories. Just keep thinking about the 5% rule for private foundations. The money is out there, it's just… we're into April now, just jump into grant writing as soon as you can, because there is money out there for sure. There are also some great free resources on Instrumentl. You do not have to have paid access or a monthly membership to Instrumentl to get to these, in fact. You don't even have to have that 14-day trial, you can get to these anytime.
We're not going to jump into great detail here, but if you… let's see, is there a link that people should know about or they just go to Instrumentl.com, Will, and then they can find where these COVID-19 grants are? Because then they can kind of look through, and see which ones might fit best for their community.
Will: Yeah, exactly, you can go on Google and search Instrumentl COVID-19 or you can go on our website, and we do have this in our browse grants section. Like Margit referenced, this was one of our coded responses in which this is a completely public list, and so you can filter it based off of your location, and then look at the opportunities from there.
Margit: Good, okay. So we're going to move on, so that we have a lot of time for questions. I want to talk real quick about things you can do now to be ready to get grants. So here we go. First of all, I want you to gather your documents now. You probably already have some of these things on hand, and when you think about grant writing, you think of all the time and effort it takes. Here's some shortcuts to get all your essential documents ready now, and these are the very things that almost every single foundation, state, and federal grant is going to ask you for: Have your IRS letter of determination. You've got it already, get your board of directors, list their names and their affiliations. Foundations want to know who is who on your board. Do you have a good, diverse board. Financials. Work with your CFO, or if you're a small non-profit, gather your recent tax return, your audited financials if you have them, your current operating budget, these are all things you're going to be glad you have all in one place. Also, any programs you're working on now. You can start to get letters of support, and what I mean by that is, if you're partnering with another organization, ask them for a letter of support that basically says how valuable your program is, or your organization is. Let's just jump into Girl Scouts, you know, find somebody who you can find a troop leader to write you a letter, you can find a parent to write a letter about how valuable Girl Scouts has been, especially during this last year when there's been so much social isolation.
Okay, so you get the picture you can get letters of support from people who've benefited from your programs. You can get letters of support from politicians in your area, from other businesses, there's no end to it. Also, if you are looking for equipment, or you're doing any kind of capital work… Capital, you know, building work, get cost estimates. You're going to need those for your grant applications. The second thing you want to do is, find your perfect funders. Now, okay this is something I don't want you to hold off on, because once you have a list of the right funders for you, you can then really select anywhere from five to ten, and I don't recommend starting with more. Pick five to ten funders. You could probably do that with your two-week Instrumentl trial. Pick five to ten, you know, download all the information on those, and start to contact them, okay. Find the ones that are best fit for you. So one of the things I’ll use Instrumentl for, and the reason I like it, the reason I’m partnering with Will and the folks here is the following. So Instrumentl is basically, I think, as we've already mentioned, it's a great prospecting, tracking, match, all your grants in one place, etc. You can get your 990 reports, there's a super algorithm. We could do a quick example. Will, is there somebody that you picked from the chat box, where we could, say, maybe plug in environmental education or something, and just go through that quickly, or would you rather have that as a separate demo?
Will: Yeah, if you want…
Margit: We’re running a little short on time.
Will: Yeah, we could do that. So you wanted to do an environmental project. So I can pull that up.
Margit: Yeah, let's just do a quickie because I know a lot of the challenge for people, as I saw the chatbox, was how to narrow down the best funder. So I’ve used a lot of databases in the past, and sometimes that narrowing-down process takes me a full day, and that's a lot, you know. I work with hundreds of nonprofits all throughout the country, and I don't want to spend a day doing this kind of work for one client, nor do I want my associates spending that kind of time when it could be used elsewhere
Will: Totally. So if you wanted to set up a project, when you do that, you're able to isolate a particular county or state. Did you recall which county or state we were looking at?
Margit: I don't, but why don't we make one up for the sake of the example.
Will: Sure. We'll use New York and then from there what we can do is, we can choose some fields of work that are related. So for example, when I search the word-
Will: Environmental, you can see how we find some environmental-related topics, and then what we might look for, as well, is I always tell people, look at what comes up in terms of the main category, and then look through that section. So we won't have to do it for the sake of this demo, but I noticed that it was coming in from science and environment. So I would, if I spent a little bit more time, I would dig into these fields of work and identify if there's anything else in here, and then what I also probably do, because of the nature of the program example you're referencing is, I’d probably look in community and human services, as well, because there's generally going to be something related to that side of things, and then a sweet spot in terms of the fields of work is generally, I recommend five to seven, although we support up to ten, that'll give you some really good, narrow, results. Then as you set that up, what you're able to do is you can actually choose what size grants you're looking for. So we set it to 5k here, and then choose what you're looking for in terms of the funds, and so I remember you referenced gen-op being, you know, a great one that everyone is always looking for, so I usually see program and gen op as to what most people select. Although sometimes people also select education and training. Then when you click save and exit, what will happen is, our algorithm will run on the project that you just set up, and you'll see this new tab and matches will update, in which it'll show me new things that you can see immediately. It showed me environmental conservation, environmental education-related grants, and so this is pretty much, again, like Margit has referenced, using that link that she has shared, and we'll share it at the end of this workshop as well, you can set up a search just like this and pretty much get it catered just to your program need, as well. So there's a quick demo for you.
Margit: Thank you, Will, and this is… if you want more detail on this, you can go to Instrumentl’s website, or contact Will. But, I mean, this is essentially the process I use with all my clients and what I can do is if I have one organization I work with, one non-profit, and they have three or four different projects, I can do different funding searches for each of those projects too. So one of them might… I’m going to use this example again. One of them might be focused on environmental education for youth, and then another aspect might be focused on wildlife conservation management. So just to give you an idea, you can divide those up, so you have even more specific grants for what it is you're doing. So, I mean, that's essentially what I use Instrumentl for, I use it for tracking too, especially the deadlines. One of my favorite parts about this is that every week I get an email from Instrumentl that reminds me when the deadlines are coming, which is kind of nice, especially for a consultant like myself that is juggling so many balls in the air at any given time. I like to get those reminders, those are really helpful.
So who is Instrumentl for? Well, I think it's really good for a lot of different people. Obviously, grant writers, consultants like myself, teams. So I have my Grants4Good as myself, and four others, we've grown over the years due to the demand, and all of my team members are on my account, and it doesn't cost anything extra, so that's a nice thing to have, is to have your colleagues on it also. Could be good for Directors of Development, fundraising directors, executive directors, especially if you're one of those that has to wear many hats, and do it all, which you know my heart goes out to you, because I’ve been there and done that. It's tough, you really have to save a lot of time, so I feel like it helps a lot of different people. I want to summarize what we've learned today, so we can jump into Q&A, as we promised, and our webinar is strictly one hour. I’m happy to stay a little longer for Q&A, so keep that in mind, but we want to honor your time. So three key learning takeaways today: The three C's.
Okay. Contact is important; Consistency in getting grant applications out the door, and even if you get one of those no letters, call the funder, thank them for reviewing your application, and ask if you can apply again; And congruency, aligning with the current priorities of any given foundation, state, or federal, or provincial grant opportunity. So keep those specifics in mind. Secondly, find your best funders.
Now, you can use Instrumentl, unless you have another way of doing that. Now, whatever you decide, select five to ten funders for your organization or program, right now. It's something you can do easily and believe me, when you start with that momentum, you'll keep going because I know from having worked with thousands of people in my webinars, on my email list… it's really hard to get started on this right, because in your mind, you're thinking, “Oh my god, I need to, you know, save like two days in my schedule to even get started,” and you don't, you can start in an hour. So just put aside an hour. Lastly, a key point of this webinar, I want you to remember that 2020 is the year to get grants. Remember that 5% rule. There is money out there. Please don't wait. I don't know what 2022 will look like, nobody does, but so far you know the stocks are still doing well this year. I say go for it, go for it now. It's certainly what we're doing.
Lastly, I want to just tell you real quickly, I have alluded to taking the next step, and jumping into my “all about grant writing” online course, so if you want to learn more, just go to allaboutgrantwriting.com all it is, is it's a course where I take my 20+ years of experience, and I lay out a very structured, systematic, approach for you on how you can write grants. So if you don't know where to start, great. Now, this isn't for everybody, if you are someone who has spent years in the field, and let's say you've already got a pretty good strategy going, you're getting grants regularly, this isn't for you, but if you're new to grant writing, you're just getting started, or if you've gotten some grants, but not as many as you'd like, you haven't met all your goals, then definitely look into purchasing the course. Because you're here on the webinar, I am offering a coupon. It's very limited time. You're going to save $100 if you type in the code grants100 when you register by April 17th. Okay? That's next Friday, so please check that out. You can learn a ton of what's included in each of the eight modules, and you'll also be able to save some time, and have a very structured way of doing this. There's a seven-day plan in there… Not seven full days, mind you, and you also get live support, so it's a chance for us to continue working together. I’m having a Q&A session for my customers only, tomorrow, as a matter of fact, where we talk live about any questions they have about grants right now. So feel free to reach out to me after this webinar, especially if you think of some questions you didn't get to. My email is there, [email protected] My website's also there, and we can connect on LinkedIn, and lastly, we've got the Instrumentl link here again. So you can use this link to create your 14-day free trial. If you decide you like Instrumentl, and you want to subscribe for a year or monthly… So I do the year because I don't like paying things monthly, I just find that it's a pain from my accounting standpoint, so I just bought it for a whole year. I do that every year, I just renew it, but you can go monthly or yearly. Either way, you’re going to save $50 when you jump in with that link. So definitely create the free account with that link so you can get $50 off right away.
Okay, so our next steps. This is where the prize stuff comes in. So thanks for hanging with us here. You can sign up for the link again if you've already have an Instrumentl trial, and you didn't use my link that gets you the $50 off, that's no problem, you can just type in the GRANTS4GOOD50 afterwards, and you'll still get $50 off your first month. Also, I’m asking to please submit your feedback form. I think… Will, are they going to get a feedback form right after this webinar to submit to you?
Will: Yeah. So 15 minutes from now, you should… After the end of the webinar, there will be a follow-up that has the feedback form, as well as some of the announcements that we're about to make in the next slide.
Margit: Great, and that helps us a lot, because you know Instrumentl is just starting doing these fantastic webinars. I have been doing them for years, so you all have heard of me for quite a while probably, but we want to know what you liked, and what could be better, and I’m sure Instrumentl wants to know, what else do you guys want to hear about? What else would you like to learn? So feedback is super important. Thank you for doing that. Oh, lastly, okay, we are going to be selecting two winners today, not one, but two. I sound like one of those auctioneers… you know, “And step right up!...” But really we want to reward people for being here, and it's just kind of fun to give away prizes, right? So all you need to do, you can either win a 50% off of my All About Grant Writing course, which is a value of $500, or you can win a one-month free Instrumentl subscription, and it's really easy, you can just start your Instrumentl trial again using my link and/or, complete the webinar feedback form. I hope you do both. If you like to do stuff on social, you can tweet on Twitter or LinkedIn about today's webinar, and there are some links there, just make sure you copy us in. It's @Grants4Good or @Instrumentl. So, yeah. Check that out. Just jump onto that quick, and we'll announce the winner this Friday already.
Okay, so I’m looking forward… Who's going to be joining us, all of the great folks in our allaboutgrantwriting.com course? And who's going to win that 50% off?
Will: Awesome. Well, let's go ahead and open up for Q&A. I know that there's a couple questions throughout the chat, and then also, if anyone would like to unmute themselves, they can join in to ask you a few questions.
Chelsea: Hi, this is Chelsea in New York, how are you? Hi there.
Margit: Hi Chelsea.
Chelsea: Hi, actually, I think this might be a question for Will. Could you go back to the section where you were able to look up the nonprofits that have been funded by specific funders? Where was that in the Instrumentl system, because I feel I’ve been using Instrumentl for a couple weeks, and I love it, but I was not aware of that feature, and it would be so helpful.
Will: Yeah, so the easiest way to get there is, let's just take, for example, if you go into one of these foundation pages, and you start to look through the past grantees section, anywhere where there's a clickable link, that is something that you can reverse search. So if I click open capital roots, you can see how this is a recipient profile. As I scroll down I’ll see it in the past awards received section. So that's how you access that.
Chelsea: Oh, fabulous, thank you.
Margit: Great. What other questions do we have?
Will: I think there were a few questions earlier on in the webinar.
Margit: Let me sift through and see, if they're looking at chat right now I don't want to miss anybody's question. I know some of them were answered by your staff at Instrumentl, Will, so thanks for that.
Will: There was a question about what a letter of support should say. That was at 12:42.
Margit: Yeah, great, because I did talk about letters of support, and I think I saw that question too, and it talked about how recent they have to be. The reason I suggest gathering letters of support now, is so that they're handy so when you have a very specific grant opportunity, and they might have a more specific thing that they want in the letter of support, you can go back and just adjust that, or ask the person to adjust it for you, but typically what a letter of support says is, it could either be the type of letter of support, maybe from a like a parent of a child in the youth theater program, okay? That's one example. So that would be somebody who has benefited from your program that says specifically how your program has helped them in their lives. A letter of support could also be another agency that you work with that maybe has a very specific role in implementing the project you're part of. So in that letter of support, what they would say is, what their role is in helping achieve the outcomes of your program, okay? So that would be a lot more detailed in terms of what they do, in terms of partnering with you and then there's also the political letters of support, the ones from your representatives, state or federal representatives, and those could simply highlight… those are usually ones that you write, okay? They don't usually write those, you write it for them to sign, and you might say something like… you might start off with saying how important this program is in your community, it would look a lot like the need statement in your grant application, and then mention the outcomes, how you meet those needs, and why it's so important. So I talk more about that in my All about Grant Writing course also. But yeah, thank you for that question, because there's very different types of letters of support.
Will: Paula and Joanne actually have a very similar question around LOIs in terms of whether or not it is worth sending an LOI to a foundation that denied them last year, or worth sending an LOI to a foundation that does not directly call you or email you to speak directly. In other words, you don't have an existing board connection.
Margit: Yeah, I like this question, because, you know, it is different. An LOI is a letter of inquiry, and that's quite different from that letter of support. So the letter of inquiry is very useful in a lot of ways, a lot of times for the reasons you mentioned. First and foremost, you may want to start with emailing, and I found email to be the best. Email a letter of inquiry to a funder asking them for a phone call, so that might be a lead up to actually a phone call. The other thing I found is that with some foundations, you might call three or four times and never get a response. That's okay, they've heard you, you're on their voicemail, you are a real person to them and your application will still stand out from the people who never bothered to call. So I know it's discouraging when you put forth the effort, and nobody gets back to you, and it does happen, but believe me it's making a difference.
Now, the LOI is useful, it's just another way of making that contact. The other thing I found with LOIs, and I want to say, especially in the last 10 years, is that oftentimes, letters of inquiry are required as a first step in a grant application process. So, for example, you might have to submit a funder's online LOI so that they can look at that and decide if they're going to invite you for a full application. Now, I love this because it saves my clients, it saves me time and it saves them the resources if we do an LOI, and we get a yes, great. I feel like we've already got a foot in the door. If we get a no, then we haven't wasted our time putting together a full application, so I always appreciate when an LOI works for that purpose, too.
Will: There's another question around a video of support. Would you include any video links in your proposals?
Margit: I have done that, I don't know how much they're watched. If your video is two to three minutes long, no more. I include a link, and I do this especially when it comes to organizations that have something really visual to show. So for example, I work with a very unique type of dance organization. So this dance troupe is very acrobatic and physical, and to have a one-minute video speaks volumes in terms of what they do. So definitely for arts or the youth theater I mentioned.
You get to see some kids on stage doing what they love to do. You could also include a very short video of an interview. We did have a woman who has recovered… wrong word, a woman who was affected by domestic violence and got out of a bad situation through this particular organization was willing to come forward, and be seen, and talk about what she went through, and how she was helped. So there are some pretty IMPACTFUL videos you can show in just a minute or two. So yes, absolutely.
Will: Heather asks, “Should you make contact with the foundations before you send the LOI or after?” I would always try to do it beforehand. They may not be open to that, but try it. It's always worth the try. Yeah, Gideon, you can't sometimes, there is nobody to contact, or no one you will reach. In that case, just get the LOI in there.
Will: Gideon asks, “One of the most difficult things for charities is finding someone to talk to in a funder organization, especially those that have general info at emails that are often not answered. How do you get past this stage?”
Margit: Well, what I typically do is this… again where I’ll use Instrumentl to first of all, find some names of board members and then what I might do is I might write down or just take a screenshot of those names, and then I go to LinkedIn to see if I could connect with them on LinkedIn. That has worked pretty well, because a lot of times the board members, I can tell you, on a 990, you might have access to their phone number or address, but they don't usually want to be called directly by someone they don't know, just like you probably don't want to receive a phone call from someone you've never met asking you for money, right? That's a quick hang up. So I would kind of take a softer approach first. If you're on LinkedIn, see if you can connect with them that way, or again, as we mentioned before, see if you can get into an introduction through a board member or somebody that you know.
Will: Got it.
The last question we have right now is, “How important are these websites and getting grants?” So I think it's in reference to toolings in general.
Margit: In terms of the process of prospecting, tracking, management, things like that, when I think about websites in general, I use Instrumentl too. Bye Van, I see you're saying bye-bye. Yes, register for our two-week subscription. When I use Instrumentl, I want to get a feeling for everything I possibly can about the foundation, but what I also know is that no database is perfect, and things become out of date, sometimes within a day. I mean have you ever worked with a foundation, only to see that a week later their priorities changed? It can happen, so when I use Instrumentl, I get the website, and I always go to the funder website if they have one, because that's where they're going to tell you the most up-to-date changes that are going on, so yeah. If that was the question… Was it about foundation websites? Then I would say it's very critical to always check those sites.
Will: Yeah, and actually, that relates to one of the questions I received directly from Christopher, which is, in the case where you do want to update us to take a second look at a grant or something like that that you see on Instrumentl, I can show you how to do that as well. When you're in this link, you can actually click this button. It'll suggest an update, and then our team can take a second look as well, since like, you mentioned, sometimes things do change, and what we actually do on our site is, we set up an individual tracker on each of these pages for changes. Even then, sometimes some things do change as well, so that's how you can update things if you want to suggest an update and you have an Instrumentl account.
You can always let our team know, and we can go from there. Cool. I think… Are there any other questions?
Margit: You know, I’m just going to quickly dovetail on that last one, then we can hop off. I see that Paula was more specific. Now, she said, I meant our 501C3 website, so the website of your nonprofit… How important is your nonprofit’s website? Do funders go there? Honestly, I don't know how much they really do. I think your website is important, though, because it shows a very professional image, and I think anytime you can feature the people you are helping on your website, and show their success stories, that's really critical. You can go to my Grants 4 Good, which is Grants4good.com website, where you can see success stories. I even feature people I’m helping because I want to show what kinds of nonprofits are benefiting, so you could feature the very people you're helping, whether that's kids, whoever, in the community. I would say probably the main thing people are going to, funders are going to go to your website for, is to see who's on your board, and really. I don't even know they'll do that, because they usually just ask for your board of directors list. So I tend to think they don't really use them quite as much. Yeah.
Will: Awesome. So just give a lot of thank you’s here. Well, you are all welcome. I’m so glad you were here
Will: Just to answer-
Kathy: I am in my car, so excuse me, but I always say that when I have success, I’m not unique. So what I told the other time I did the class is, I went, and I did my zip code, and I did exactly what you just explained. I never had a LinkedIn account but I did do it. I went to go look them up, I added them to my LinkedIn and just Saturday I just did a dinner, and I didn't ask for anything, I did a dinner with one of them that did Warriors, Veterans Warriors. So I sat at the table, and I said, “Hey, I sent you LinkedIn,” and this was actually on Instrumentl, so this whole thing is also strategic marketing, because exactly what you said, I went to LinkedIn. I added her, she sent me an invite, and then when I got there, I knew like 50 of the people, and they're like, “Oh, we didn't know you do that,” and I said, on my board, I had a veteran, and they were like, “Okay you're invited to our grant.” So I’m writing that grant for domestic violence, even though it was veterans. So I am one of those people that I tell them, unless you see it and you go in and you start seeing that there's local brands that you never heard of, you're like wait a minute. Yeah, you can go to the other sites, but I never saw the local grants where I can actually add people and see the success of it.
Margit: Oh, that's great. That's an awesome example. Wait, I don't know how this dinner went. Did you do it through Zoom?
Kathy: No, it was in person. I physically went there. I knew the chef, the chef actually… We feed the homeless.
Margit: Awesome. Great. Very nice. Thanks for sharing that. Yeah.
Will: Cool. Thank you so much, everybody, for attending. As we mentioned, there will be a follow-up in the next couple of minutes for submitting that feedback form to enter the raffle for Margit's course, to enter that grand prize drawing, as well as for that one-month Instrumentl subscription, in case this is the first time you have been here. This is the second of our Instrumentl partner webinar series. We are hosting another one in two weeks with another great grant educator. She will be talking more on the strategy side of things, so feel free to check out our events for that in the future, as well. But other than that, thanks so much, and if you have any follow-up questions, feel free to reach out to either of us in the coming days. Thanks.
Margit: Thanks everybody, have a great day. Bye. Bye.