Connecting Smart Project Goals, SMART Objectives, and Grant Research Keywords with Dr. Bev Browning
In this Instrumentl Partner Webinar, we learn from Grant Professionals Association Approved Trainer, Dr. Beverly Browning (Dr. Bev), author of Grant Writing for Dummies, as she digs into the connection between your project’s goals, SMART objectives and grant research keywords.
In this Instrumentl Partner Workshop, you learn:
- Identify how to write good and bad goals
- Extract grant research keywords from your goals
- Create better objectives using the SMART Objective Formula
- Understand how Instrumentl saves 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.
Dr. Bev is a Michigan native who lived in the Flint area for 45 years. She is known for consulting in grant writing, RFP responses, technical writing, and organizational development. Her deep expertise has resulted in her clients receiving more than $500 million in funding. Her well-known book, Grant Writing for Dummies has sold over a million copies. Hear what Dr. Bev has to say about Instrumentl here.
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
Connecting Smart Project Goals, SMART Objectives, and Grant Research Keywords Grant Training Transcription
Will: Awesome, Bev. Let’s go ahead and get started. We have a little over a hundred people in the live session with us today, and so I wanted to kick things off by just welcoming everybody. My name is Will. I lead the partners program at Instrumentl, which Bev is one of our partners, and this is the first of our webinar series for 2021, and we’re really excited that you’re here with us today, because it kicks off a partner webinar series in which we’re working with collaborations of community partners, like Dr. Bev, to provide free educational workshops that help solve problems that grant professionals are facing. Our big goal is to tackle problems that grant professionals often have to solve, while also sharing about different ways that our platform, Instrumentl, can help grant writers win more grants.
I’m really happy and excited to introduce Dr. Bev. She really needs no introduction, but she is the author of “Grant Writing for Dummies,” which has gone through six different editions, and sold over a million copies. But beyond her work as an educator for other grant professionals, she has also secured funding for more than $500,000,000 for her clients, and so she definitely is, when we talk about royalty in the grant writing space, certainly one of the queens, and so I’m really excited to hand things over to Bev as she digs into today’s workshop.
Today’s webinar is going to start in three steps. The three phases are going to be, first Bev is going to dig into all things around goals. What makes a good goal versus a bad goal? We’ll then explore specifically how to write better SMART objective statements, and then in the second part we’ll apply the examples that Bev has shown us to setting up an Instrumentl to make sure that your grant searches are precise. Then in the final segment of the presentation, Bev will share more about her experiences with us, as well as I’ll share some other things around Instrumentl, and then we’ll finally wrap things up in the final segment for some questions and answers. We have some surprises for those of you that stick with us until the end that we’re excited to share at the very end. So other than that, Bev, feel free to take it from here.
Dr. Bev: Thank you so much, Will, and welcome everyone. I am excited that you are here. It is still morning in Arizona, but I know for many of you, it’s afternoon, so thanks for taking the time to tune in to our session today to learn more about project goals, SMART objectives, as well as Instrumentl. I’m going to ask that you share the following information in the Zoom chat window: your name, organization, what you’re seeking funding for, and then please type “Yes'' if you’re willing to serve as an example for today’s workshop. We need to take what your project is and roll it into a search and show you how it works online, and how quick it is. So remember, name, organization, what you’re seeking funding for, and then type “Yes'' if you’re willing to serve as an example for today’s workshop, and I’ll just give you a minute or two to get your information in, so that you can then keep up with the rhythm of today’s workshop. Don’t forget to type “Yes'' if you’re willing to be an example.
So while we’re waiting for everyone to enter, I just want to do a little sidebar, and that is, take a look at the number of grant proposals and applications you submitted last year, and then go back and look at what was funded. What was funded? What I’m looking for is if you wrote 20, hopefully 15 were funded. More would be nice. All 20 would be nice. If you wrote 10, and two were funded, that’s okay too, but think about it. The reason I’m saying that is because you increase your funding success rate when you have a search tool that actually zeros in and matches your project idea with funders that want to fund that in your location, in a grant range that works for you. So it’s all about how fine-tuned the funding search is, and then, how well you articulate your goals and objectives to meet the priorities of potential funders. So it’s not a generic process at all. Every application is written specific to what the funder is funding, what their mission and grant making priorities are, what kind of buzzwords are in their vision statement. All of those things matter, and what’s even easier, is when I’m doing a search on Instrumentl and I can click on that funder’s website and pull all of that critical information that I want to about their personality, their characteristics, their buzzwords, all the rest. So yes, you want to increase your funding success rate. I just, I can’t tell you enough about how [crosstalk].
Alright, did everyone get a chance to get their information in the chat window? And please remember to put “Yes” if you want to be an example today and see magic on the screen. Okay, Will, can we go to the next slide? Thanks. So first, we’re going to talk about creating futuristic, non-measurable goals. Now, before we go on. You know that there are two types of goals. I’m going to talk about both of those today, and how to spin the language, but we’re going to start out with non-measurable, traditional goals.
So, Will, can you go to the next slide? Thank you. So what is the definition of a goal? Well, it’s a visionary statement. When I say visionary, the goal, when it’s being read in your grant applications and requests, the funding decision maker should begin to see what it is you’re trying to achieve just by the way you write your goal. It tells the funder what you hope to accomplish with grant monies. Goals, not just can start, I’m going to emphasize this -Goals must start with the following terms or terms like this. These are all verbs: provide, develop, educate, create, empower, prevent. Goals may not contain measurable terms like: Increase, decrease, improve, build, reduce, and so forth. Goals should not contain numbers like, “Hire 10 staff.” That is an activity. That is not a goal.
So I am a stickler for starting out goal language with a verb, not a gerund, which is a verb with an I-N-G on the end, or not a past tense verb: provided, developed, educated, created, empowered, prevented. No, it’s straight on. It’s an action, it rises in the vision of the funding decision-maker when you use a verb. Please don’t type, “The goal is to...” You just kill the moment of your goal; or don’t start a goal with “to,” T-O. That also takes it from the “magic carpet” level all the way down to grounding it, where it’s boring and flat, and it’s not really interesting.
Okay, so now let’s take a look at something else about goals. So this is an incorrectly written goal, right? Error. Oops. Okay? You don’t want to do this. Increase, it’s a measurement, can’t work. The number of elderly residents receiving hot meal-delivery services in Merced (Merced County). We always want to anchor it with the geographic of where it’s going to happen, the name of the city, township, village, community, and then the County that the community is located in is in parentheses followed by the state, and then, of course, 500 more per month, that would not be in a goal. So “increase” and numbers do not belong in your goals. Just stop those bad habits.
So this is an example of a goal for the project, and it’s correctly written: “Provide elderly residents of Merced (Merced County), California with hot meal-delivery services.” Now, you notice there’s a period after “services.” You don’t go into a never-ending statement by saying, “by creating a mobile hot meal-delivery transportation service.” That’s all saved for the SMART objective. We want to make it short, to the point, and imaginative. Thinking, remember, if I’m the funder and I read that it’s like, “What are these people going to do with my money? Oh, they’re going to provide elderly residents of Merced, in Merced County, California with hot meal-delivery services. Great. This is something we fund. This is our geographic target area.” Yes, we want to keep it short. We want our goal to answer: Who? Elderly residents. Where? Merced, Merced County, California. What? We’re going to give them hot meal-delivery services. That’s how you determine how to succinctly write a goal that becomes an award-winning goal that helps your project get funded.
So now let’s do a little word-extraction. The reason we have to do word-extraction is because we need to know how to set up our funding search and what buzzwords to use. So here, “provide elderly.” Clue: funding for the elderly. “Residents of Merced County, California,” the location. With what? “Hot meal.” What’s another name for hot meal? Food. We know that most elderly residents in this particular zip code, because we’ve done our homework, and the statement of need, and we have all the demographics, they also are low-income and we want to also look for funding that will support food distribution and another term for the elderly, because I’m one now, is “senior citizens.” Senior citizens.
So all these ideas come into our mind as we begin to actually set up our search. So I hope you’ve heard of SMART objectives, because SMART objectives are unique. They are truly the best thing I’ve ever seen, and when they first came out I didn’t like them because I didn’t know how to write them, and I was still writing those old-fashioned, boring, flat, stale objectives, calling them “measurable objectives,” when they really weren’t all that measurable. But when SMART came out, “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound,” it was great. Why? Where did SMART come from? Where was it born? It was born in the healthcare sector. SMART goals started with health care, and the first time we saw SMART goals mentioned in a federal grant application, was with the United States Department of Health and human Services, and they kind of rolled the ball out for SMART objectives, and it filtered down, then, to foundations, corporations, state agencies, local County government, all the rest. Now we all should be writing SMART objectives.
So here’s a reminder again of what “S-M-A-R-T” stands for. Notice the words are interchangeable. For the A, attainable or achievable, and the T, timeline or time-bound. So here’s the formula that I use, and I use it with my students on ed2go in my grant writing classes. I use it for my Saturday mentoring, coaching cohort for grant writers. It’s important to remember this formula, because if you deviate, you are risking not getting funded because you didn’t test the SMART objective by putting on this special ending, or “as demonstrated by.” So it’s “by the end of.” What do you plug in there? Your time frame, or your timeline. If you’re in a school district, “by the end of the second semester”, or “by the end of the academic year.”
If you’re working in the general population it could be, “by the end of year one,” or “by the end of the first quarter,” for a planning process. Keep in mind, the reason we don’t really put a month and a year in here, is because we don’t often know when that funding is going to be awarded. We can’t go by the published information that says “This is going to be reviewed on” and “Awards will be announced by June 1st,” okay? Stuff happens out there, in the world of philanthropy, and not all dates are cemented, that will actually happen. So we don’t want to lock ourselves into a time frame that forces us to rewrite our plan of operation or program design because the funding was awarded at a later date, so keep it generic. “By the end of year one,” or “by the end of year two.” I really don’t like to do months because, again, stuff happens on our end too, on the non-profit sector side, so I’m much more comfortable with “by the end of the first quarter,” “by the end of the second quarter,” and in some cases, when we don’t even know the funding time frame, I like to say, “by the end of the funding cycle.” “Funding cycle,” because remember, funders fund in cycles of 12 months. It could be a multi-year segment with multiple 12-month fundings like, “Year one,” “year two,” “year three,” or it could be just a one-time funding, which is one year. So by the end of the funding cycle. Increase. Increase what?... Yes, Samira, you can use summer, fall, winter, spring, all of those are okay. So “by the end of,” we have that, and then, increase what?
This is where we talk about what we’re going to increase. It is our attainable achievable statement, and it’s important to say what we’re going to increase, by what percent. That’s the M. It makes it measurable. So we have specific... We have measurable, it’s definitely attainable if we don’t put in a hundred percent for everything we’re going to do. Not all things happen at 100%. Again, stuff happens. Even a construction project, the performer might tell you it’s going to be finished in 6 months, but now we have inclement weather, a tornado, a storm, snow, frozen ground, can’t dig, waiting till spring, all of the above. So be very careful about when you put your percents in. I like to say “90 or more,” that way you’re going to achieve a minimum of that lower percent, 90, or it could be lower, depending on what you’re doing and or more. It shows the potential funder that you want to go for the highest possible mark on where you reach that percent. Yes, you said 25 or more, but guess what? We’re good, we might hit 75, and we’ll show you that in the evaluation report.
“As demonstrated by,” this is new to you. Okay, why do I add “as demonstrated by”? Because it is entirely possible to write an incorrect SMART objective, to write something that can’t be measured, and we don’t want to find that out after we’ve written our entire implementation plan, inserted our best practices, we have our timeline done, all the rest, it is like, perfect, and then we get back to the evaluation plan, and we say, “How are we going to collect data on this? How are we going to demonstrate that we really achieved this percent? It’s impossible to do it on this size population.” Now we have to change everything. Okay, don’t let that happen to you. Instead build in, “as demonstrated by,” and then we can say, “the number of this,” “the number of that,” “the number of this,” “pre-and post-survey comparisons,” “baseline statistical comparisons from year one to year two.” We’ve got it built in. It’s in our mind. “Wow, this is measurable, we can do it.” You know right away that when you get back to the evaluation plan, you’ve already set it up, all you have to do is go back and look at your SMART objective -What came after “as demonstrated by”? What are you measuring? How are you going to measure it? Is it qualitative? Is it quantitative? Are we counting people and competencies achieved, or are we looking at the quality of the program through a pre-and post-survey, a focus group, a one-on-one interview with a participant? So it just gives us all these ideas to write better evaluation plans. Don’t we need all of the points peer-reviewed and everything else on every one of these sections? So build it up for success, do it right the first time.
So here’s an example of an incorrectly written SMART objective. And yes, this is right, we cover our mouths with “I’ve probably written that!”: Increase hot meal deliveries by a hundred percent. What’s missing here? By when? Where’s the time-bound? For home. Who’s going to get the hot meal delivery? CEOs and executives, or people who are low-income, in need, and elderly? And then, 100%. What kind of a signal does that send to the funder? It says we’re not doing this now. I don’t like that kind of a signal, “We're not doing this now," because it also may say what? "And we have no experience since we've never done it," do you really want to plant that idea in the minds of a potential funder? Keep those percentages below a hundred percent, act like you have some achievement to achieve, and to take a step toward. Definitely don't set this up for, "Oh, I'm the decision-maker, and gee, this is horrible. This is not a SMART objective. There's nothing here that should be here. I hate '100%,' they need to leave room for failure, and also room for success. I'm not even going to read any further, they're not getting funded." That's exactly what happens. So how do we fill this objective formula in the SMART and corrective way? Time-bound. By the end of year one. What are we going to do? We're going to increase the percent of the city of Merced's low-income senior citizens receiving hot meal deliveries, which indicates what? We're doing it already, we're just going to increase our target population deliveries. By what percent? We're modest, 25% or more. How are we going to demonstrate this when we get back to the evaluation? As demonstrated by the number of eligible individuals completing applications.
Yes, they have to apply for the hot meal program. They can't just call up and say, "Hi, I'm 75, and I need hot meal services." We have to have some documentation so that if we're getting this funding from a funder who comes out and does an audit, or worse yet, from the federal government, we've got to have data, demographics. Where were they served? What were their zip codes? All of that. So number of eligible individuals completing the application, number of new hot meal deliveries, number of new zip codes served. Demographics, demographics, demographics. And a number of senior citizen affordable-housing complexes -which is where we start first for low-income -elderly signing up for residents to receive the funded delivery services. This is so complete. It shows you your outputs. Remember, outputs are the quantitative numericals that we end up seeing later on down the road in our logic model, or in our program design narrative if we are writing outcomes and -outcomes and outputs as you should be. So what are we going to count? "Number of people completing the application, number of people getting new hot meal deliveries, number of zip codes," because that tells us where low-income poverty populations are, and "number of senior citizens affordable housing complexes signing up."
So someone asked how do outputs differ from deliverables? Your outputs are all numbers and it's the same. An output is the number of hot meal deliverables. That's an output. Anything we count is an output. Anything we can't count, and we have to observe for quality, that is an outcome and outcomes are always written in past-tense. Okay? So let me just give you a really quick example here of our output when we list these separately instead of saying “number of,” I use the pound sign. "# of new hot meal deliveries," "# of new zip codes," and if you have a character limitation, you can also just take the number word in (your text) and change that to a pound sign. Literally. Okay? If you are working with an online application and you have character space/ word limitations, just shorten this. "Number of eligible individuals completing applications receiving hot meal deliveries, located in new zip codes, and residing in affordable housing complexes." So, yes, you can shorten this any way possible. Use your imagination, as long as you have the content here, you have it.
So what are the outcomes for this? Because remember, outputs are numerical. Outcomes would be "increased number of low-income senior citizens served," "Increased number of low-income senior citizens receiving nutritious, balanced, hot meals once per day." Okay? So easy to take that and convert an output into an outcome, and then write our outcomes. Okay. So, let's bring our work into Instrumentl, and Will is going to take over.
Will: Awesome. Thanks Bev. So in this segment, what I want to show is how we can take some of the goal statements that Bev went over, as well as the objective statements, to extract some of the keywords of how we might set these up in Instrumentl. Or if you're using a Google search, this also is the sort of approach that you can take when you're thinking about the sorts of keywords that you want to look for grant opportunities.
The first thing that we want to do is, we want to think about what our goal was, and think about the affected populations in terms of who, the what, and the where. And so, if you recall the slide that Bev went over, we went over how we wanted to provide elderly residents of Merced County, California with hot meal-delivery services. There's really a few keywords that Bev highlighted for us around food, low-income food distribution, and senior citizens. So when I pull in my Instrumentl account on this screen, all I need to do is set up a new project by opening up the new project button on the left-hand side and then selecting my user. Then we can call this "Bev's Merced Project," and then select non-profit. And then as we go into the location, this is where we're going to be able to start to isolate for the sorts of searches that we want to have Instrumentl do for us.
As a reminder, if you're not familiar with Instrumentl, we provide grant prospecting, tracking, and management all in one place. And so this concept of projects is like a workplace in which we are saving a grant search for you, so that every single week you get an email sent to your inbox of any active opportunity that your organization can apply to. So what I'm going to do is, I'm going to go in and select "My project takes place in the U.S.'' Then I'm selecting the specific County of Merced County in California. And the reason why we do this, is because Instrumentl has a unique matching algorithm that, essentially, will prioritize the inputs that you put in on this project detail screen. So it's really important if you have an Instrumentl account and you haven't set a more precise location, to definitely do this, because it will cater your results differently than if you just keep it broadly to a national scope in the United States. Always be as specific as possible, similar to what Bev's gone over, and the goals and the objectives that we just went over.
As we go into the fields of work, we're going to think about some of those keywords. Again, as a reminder, they were food, low-income, food distribution, and senior citizens. So when I go into the search bar here, I'm going to feed that information into Instrumentl. I'm going to search for the word "food," and I might select things like "food access" and "hunger," "food delivery and distribution services," and "food safety." I might also select "food security" in my initial search. From there, I might also look for something around low-income. So from here, it's really a matter of playing around with the queries, and thinking about what you might find. You'll notice when I put in low-income that nothing is actually coming up here, but if I put in income, that also isn't coming up with anything. Then maybe, just maybe, if I look up something like "economic." So "economic" does come up with something, and so you can see how, when we started with low-income, we kind of think about derivatives and synonyms to that sort of thing, and then we can find other fields of work that we can add into our search. So here I'll add something like economic rights and justice.
If, for example, we wanted to look up the word "senior," maybe we can find something, and we do. We find senior services. So now if we think about just where we're at right now, we have covered some of those key extracted grant keywords that grant... that Bev covered in her slide around the goals, and we've done it all within the last minute or so. But aside from that the other tip that I give you from the Instrumentl team for anybody that's been using us for a longer period of time, is look at what category, what overall header, most of the keywords that you are finding in Instrumentl fall under. If you'll recall, when I searched for food, it was falling under "community and human services." So what I always recommend people to do is to expand out this entire window, and then I want you to scroll through, and I want you to see if there's anything relevant to your program. The reason why is because almost always, you will be able to find another one to three fields of work that will further refine the specificity of your project.
So, for example, as I start to scroll through here I might see something like, well, food delivery is related to basic human needs, so maybe that will be another one, and I wouldn't have figured that out if I had only used the starting point on the grant keywords that we used in the original goal. So this is really helpful when you're thinking about the different ways that you want to incorporate and find other opportunities to set up your project. From here, once you save your fields of work, we will do the hard work in terms of searching for you, based on the criteria that you've identified in the fields of work. I'm going to select no for agricultural producers, and then I'm going to select a grant size minimum. For me, let's say, for example, that we're focusing on something at least a grand or up. I don't think we want a maxim. Typically people don't, so we'll leave that as no maximum, and then what we'll do is we'll go ahead and select the areas in which the funds will be used for. So if your funds are going to be used for something like this example project around food delivery and services, it would probably be something around the project and the program, as well as maybe gen op, in terms of the funds that are being used. So from here, what we can do is we just go ahead and click this save and exit button, and then what Instrumentl is going to do is, it's going to conduct that search for you, and then we'll be able to see the results.
So we see here that we're essentially running the search result, and then as I refresh the page, what it will show me is, it'll show me a custom matches view, which is essentially like an email inbox for all things grants around the program that you are raising money for. So that can be really helpful when it comes to just figuring out what should be your focus area, in terms of everything there. So I think there... There's a question on... I put in domestic violence and zip code, and so many resources for grants. That's great, Kathy. If you have a particular question, as well, feel free to let me know. But essentially as you can see here as I refresh the page, Bev, I'm sure you've seen this screen before, this is a magical screen in which we have found 226 opportunities for Bev's project here. And this is just off our initial search. So here you can see we have 125 foundation grants, 60 corporate grants, and 9 government grants. And the reason why this is super helpful is because as opposed to the old school approaches, where you might have gone into Google, or gone on to some grant databases where you have to sift through what's active and what's inactive, we only show you the active opportunities, and we give you the ability to filter through all these results. So you can see here, I can filter based on the best match, the deadline, the amount, the newness.
So if, for example, I've got a crunch in which I want to see what is coming up in the next few days, I can literally apply for a grant in the next few days, that is due in the next week or so. And what I can also do, is as I start to think more about my organization's fundraising efforts, I can filter based off of what the funding uses will be, as well as the funder type. So if, for example, you know that you are better, in terms of having a higher success rate, with private donors than, potentially, federal funders, then that's something which you can filter for just the federal side of things. So as you set up your project in Instrumentl, one of the key takeaways I want you to remember is to think about those keywords that we pulled in, and then to think about, what are some of those synonyms that relate to those keywords? And then also, after you're done with that, we can go back to the objective statement as well, and we can see if there's anything else there.
So as we look back at our SMART objective statement here, if we take a step back and we think about, what is this objective statement really covering? We covered the point that we're probably doing something around services, and we're also probably doing something around the side of basic human needs, or human services, delivery, things like that. And so as I go back into Instrumentl, I can always edit my project, and add more fields of work. So this is something that's helpful to do as an iterative process, in which, first maybe you start with your goal statement, and then you later build your objective statement, and then you go back into your fields of work, and you search for something like "service," right? And from here, what you might find is, Oh, our project could also probably fall under community services. So now you see that we are, essentially, continuing to refine our search as we continue to get greater clarity from what Bev has structured for us, and we can identify other opportunities in terms of what to add into our query. So I might search for the word human, as well, and just see if there's anything here. Maybe human and social services could be something that we add in there, too. So now we've gone from seven fields of work, up to nine. From here, if I update this, and I save and exit, I don't recall the exact number. I think we were at around 226 or so. So we essentially give it a second, and then when we refresh the page we should see an update as well in terms of the grants there so this is the most helpful way in which you can essentially filter down for the things that you're seeking funding for and get an updated list for you every single week.
You'll notice in this example project here that you see this thing that says one new. Every single week Instrumentl will send you a reminder of all the new active grant opportunities that fall into the project that you have set up so gone are the days in which you have to look for a ton of different sites in order to find your information instead you just get a singular rolled-up update that allows you to keep everything in one place and we'll cover some of the other stuff in terms of the Functionalities, but I want to shift it back to Bev, as well, as we go into one person's example of some ways that they can potentially take care of some of their goals and Objectives. So Bev, I’m going to go back to the next slide, and let you take it from there.
Dr. Bev: Alright, thank you, that was great, Will. Thanks so much. Of course. Okay, now we're going to set up one of your projects, and I’m going to look in the chat, and remember we're going to look at… We're going to ask some questions, so hold on, let me look in the chat to talk about your project, just a minute, let's see, who put something in here? That looks really good to do. Alright, Malik Miles from Momentum Youth Sports Training in California, we are seeking funding to expand our community reach, so youth sports training, and yes, you gave us permission, so I’m going to ask you, Malik, what's your goal? Remember to answer the who and what, where four’s. So Will and I can fine-tune the search. Malik, can you unmute please? Will, can you see if Malik is unmuted?
Will: He's still in the room, and I’ve asked him to unmute, but I think he might still be getting to it right now.
Dr. Bev: Okay, we're going to move on to the next person.
Marielle. Marielle… Is it [inaudible]? I hope I said it right. Social and environmental justice? Yes, Marielle, can you open your mic?
Marielle: Yes, hello.
Dr. Bev: Hi, can you give us a goal for your project, and remember to answer the who, Where, and what?
Marielle: Yes, so my non-profit, we are hoping to find grants that will help support our operations in Montgomery County, Maryland. We are just starting a grant program, so right now, we're testing out Instrumentl, and we're kind of trying to figure out, during our search, what grants, excuse me, will best help us we're kind of figuring out what in the process of our search, so that's something that we're figuring out with our goal, during this whole process, so this is actually very helpful for us.
Dr. Bev: So we don't have a what, specifically, yet. But give me your organization's mission, please.
Marielle: Yes, so our mission, we are currently trying to prevent a highway from going through different areas that would really uproot communities, cause lots of environmental distress, and really affect black and brown communities Disproportionately. And these are all issues that we want to address through different grants. And we can't… Marielle, I hear[crosstalk] continue to do that work without grant money, so we really need help with operational support through different grants.
Dr. Bev: This is Bev, I’m hearing environmental justice, correct? I’m sorry? I’m hearing environmental justice, that's really the essence of your project, correct?
Dr. Bev: Okay, and also, the focus is on minority communities?
Dr. Bev: And you're based in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Dr. Bev: And I also hear the word advocacy just coming out of what you said. Correct?
Marielle: Yes, that's correct.
Dr. Bev: Okay, let's see what Will can do with that.
Will: Awesome. So I was just listening in, as well, and I selected environment, environmental conservation, environmental justice, and advocacy. What are some other ones that you'd throw in there again, Bev?
Dr. Bev: I also put in minority.
Will: I also think there was something around underserved populations, as well, or something along those lines.
Dr. Bev: Yes, let's do underserved populations.
Will: Would you consider this community development or revitalization?
Dr. Bev: No. No, because we're blocking the- we're blocking the community development.
Will: Fair. Well, I selected minority services as well.
Dr. Bev: Try civil rights.
Will: Okay. Okay, awesome. I also think we should just go through the environment section because there might be some phrases.
Dr. Bev: I agree.
Will: Let me know if you see anything interesting, as I also work through this.
Dr. Bev: Oh, Will, legal. Legal. There's a lot of legal expenses related to an initiative like this.
Will: Sure. You can look up that right after this.
Dr. Bev: I don't see anything yet here that we didn't already pick up.
Dr. Bev: Yes. Legal services. Yay!
Will: Alright, so we were in Montgomery.
Dr. Bev: Oh, Will, one more. Community preservation.
Dr. Bev: Do we see anything close to that? How about public safety?
Dr. Bev: Great.
Will: I think in Montgomery County, correct?
Dr. Bev: Yes, Maryland.
Marielle: In Maryland, yeah. Also, highway pollution. Hurting minorities... I don't know if there's anything in there?
Will: We just picked up environmental contamination and pollution.
Marielle: Yep, yep.
Will: Alright, so these are eight fields that should give us a good starting ground. Is there a minimum grant that you look for?
Marielle: So, we were starting with… Yeah, we were starting with a thousand, and our max was 20k, that's what we were doing, because we're just starting out, and that seemed reasonable to us.
Will: Got it. What I’d recommend is, when you first set up your project, go with the no max, just to see what comes out, and then you can always refine the search afterwards, as well.
Will: And then in terms of your selection criteria, did you have programs and gen-ops selected?
Marielle: Yes, we did, and we also had education.
Will: Awesome. Yes. Cool. So in that exercise, what we can essentially see is, we worked our way through kind of brainstorming back and forth the different phrases, right? And then we kind of found them as we were… as Bev was giving me some cues, you were giving me some cues, I was looking through as well. And so the big thing, though, was taking a step back and zooming in to the areas that most of the fields of work we were finding were falling into. They fell into community, and then the environmental section as well. So you can see here, that we essentially have updated this project. We see these matches here. And then, essentially, we can start to work our way through this, and I always recommend you start with the best match, one because that will show you why it is getting matched in Instrumentl as well.
So here you can see, for this Overbrook Foundation grant, it's an exact match on environmental conservation, as well as environmental justice and advocacy.
Marielle: Yeah. That's great. Awesome. Bev, I think that's a good example. Do you want to go ahead and take over, in terms of covering what happens when a funder requests SMART goals?
Dr. Bev: Yes, please. So. In some of these applications that are coming out now, funders are asking for SMART goals, and it's not because they're healthcare-related, it's because they don't know, and they don't understand that these SMART goals they're asking for, really should be SMART objectives, so all we do is reverse the formula, and that means you label what would have been your SMART objectives, you label it as a SMART goal, and it gets listed first, and then what is your objective, it can't be SMART, because you can't just duplicate what you wrote for the goal. So your objective is now going to go back to the standardized goal language which is sad and pitiful, but we want to get funded, so we have to follow the directions, even if they are misleading. But I want to let you know that when I’m working on a project for a client and I find that a foundation or corporate grantmaker has switched the language and they're asking for a SMART goal, and measurable objectives, I reach out by email or telephone and I also look at the website to hunt down who the staff people are, and then I go to LinkedIn and connect with those people, and then I reach out and say, “Hey, let me send you a PowerPoint presentation on SMART objectives and goals, because the way you've worded this, it's going to be difficult for anyone who knows the difference to be able to write an answer that gives them any kind of bonus points on your review process because what you published is confusing and incorrect in the grants industry, unless you're in healthcare and you're not.” So I’m just very specific, and believe it or not, I get communication back, and it's like, “Bev, can you give us the wording to correct this? We will change this, and get this up on our website right away.” So yes, you have to say, you know this is not the right way? You're confusing potential grant seekers that likely would have a chance to win, but now they're not going to know what to do. So this is just a quick cue. Reverse the formula when it is, you know, specifically instructed. Write your SMART goals. And yes, it pains me, and it will pain you to do everything their way, not necessarily the correct way.
So I just want to let you know, I’ve been in this business as a grant writer, a trainer, an author, for 43 years, and I’ve always gone along with one or two particular grant research databases, and then as business picked up, it was like I needed four or five databases, one for federal, one for state agency, one for foundation and corporate, and then I had to go to Google to look for everything else. What did that take me? Anywhere from four to six weeks working a couple of hours a day. When I stumbled on Instrumentl, I could not believe how fast after I put in my project and all the keywords and the geographic information, how fast the return was, and it literally took me from a four-to six-week turnaround on doing a grant research report for a new client, looking at potential funders, to have this instantly, literally, right in front of me on the screen materialize, and then I just go through, look at it, look at the 990. By the way, I love the fact that the 990 link is right there with the description. I can look at it within the funder’s profile, and I can just scroll down. I can get contact information if it was missing, even if I have to go to a fiscal agent, or a trustee, who's listed on the 990. They will tell me how to reach someone directly at the funder so that you don't have to hunt around all over.
So I went from spending, on average, $3,000 a year, to spending the low-low cost of Instrumentl’s subscription plan on a monthly basis, and the turnaround was instant, the search took all of two hours to knock out… Who I wanted to go after this year, who I want to do continued research on, who I’m planning to submit to at a later date, whose deadlines have passed this year, and now I’m going to tag them for 2022, so I can pull them up in chronological order, and see what's due, and when I have to get it in. It has made my life so easy, and it's also allowed me to do client funding searches in a more productive manner, and have this information to come back to and look at daily, weekly, monthly, however long I need it. So this is why I’m a partner with Instrumentl, this is why I’m here talking to you today, and sharing these tips and ideas. Not only will you save money, but the time that you save, that's worth a lot, no doubt. Time is worth a lot. So time is money, and you save a lot. It's just - I can't give you enough testimony about Instrumentl. I recommend it to all of my students, anyone else.
I also see [inaudible]’s comment, anyone that's on the fence, don't get on the fence. Get off the fence, get down at your desk, get into your laptop or your desktop, and just do it. The algorithm-matching and the quickness of the return will happen so fast in front of you. I hate to use this word, but it's almost like magic, magic, to me because I’m saving all these hours that I can spend on other projects. Okay. So what else can Instrumentl do? Well, you can prospect, track, and manage your grants all in one place. It also aggregates all public and private sources for 501 C3s, your 990 reports are there, as well as your foundation annual reports at your fingertips. The unique matching algorithm only shows you good fit opportunities, so when I’m searching I don't see things that are misaligned, or because it was one word in the whole description, it was pulled in. It is the best match process, and any deadlines that change, they're updated automatically. You can put tasks, notes, and documents all stored year by year. Will, do you want to add to this?
Will: I think you're covering a great job. We definitely also provide a lot of the equivalent of… What we hear on our team is, we're the equivalent of adding one or two team members to your team. So if you're a one-man show, or a smaller team, we definitely add a lot of value in terms of just the time-savings that you're referencing, Bev. And I want to make sure we have time for questions as well, but in terms of who Instrumentl helps, who would you say you recommend that Instrumentl is helpful for? Would you say it's any grant professional that's actively looking for funding?
Dr. Bev: I would say grant writers, consultants… definitely consultants, because time is money, some of you are billing by the hour, but definitely grant writers, both internal and external grant writing teams, where everybody pitches in and does a little bit, so not just the associates, but the managers, the directors, all of that. Definitely for development teams, because, remember, whoever founded these foundations, if they're still living, they're a prospect for other kinds of gift-asking, not just giving foundation and corporate grants, so keep that in mind. Development and fundraising directors, this is a great way to build up for your capital campaign and look for potential donors out there that are related to foundations, and corporations. Executive directors... a lot of you are wearing multiple hats, you're looking for grants, you're managing staff, you're serving clients at the front line, doing direct services, you're also answering to the board and trying to be a responsible ED. Instrumentl will give you the time you need to multitask and still be successful. Any non-profit looking to scale their grant strategy. This is so important.
Will: And the other thing that I add is, we are adding a ton of functionality to make sure that we are the institutional fundraising platform I was previewing, while you were speaking, on just the ability to look up previous grant recipients and their past funding history, that way you can identify some other shortlist candidates beyond the matching algorithm. We also are adding 50 to 100 new grants every single week, and we're releasing some new updates to prospecting in terms of our flow, as well. Bev, I want to make sure that you can go over some of the key learning takeaways, and also, so we can announce our little special surprise for live attendees that attended today, and then we can open up for questions, as well.
Dr. Bev: Alright, today we spent some time together. Thank you for taking time out to spend with Will and myself. You learned about decreasing your time on task for grant research, increasing the accuracy of your keyword search terms for fine-tuning grant funding research results, and finally understanding how your keywords interact with Instrumentl. So think about your project, think about your goals, your objectives, and just start to make a list of all these keywords and start typing them in. It will happen right in front of your eyes. It will save so much time, and it's so accurate. If you want to follow up with me, this is my [inaudible] please feel free to email me, or reach out to me on LinkedIn, that's great too, and then I have a link to help save you $50 if you decide to start your trial. and these will also be shared in the slides after this presentation in about 15 minutes or so.
Will: For next steps, there's really three next steps. If you don't already have an Instrumentl account, you can use Bev's link to save $50 off your first month. If you signed up without that link, but you attended today's workshop, and you are still in the trial process, you can use Bev's code, which is grant writing for dummies50, that will also save you $50 off the first month. Also, make sure you submit your feedback form for today's workshop. The reason why is because we actually have one more thing for you today. Bev, if you want to share more about it, and go ahead and tell about the grand prize for today…
Dr. Bev: This is the grand prize, and it is an HP Chromebook. It does everything. It's a touchscreen, I love it. I’ve actually opened one up that I have here in the office. It's my secondary computer, but I love it. It does everything, literally, I just can't tell you, it's better than my Asus that I’m using right now, and it also has fingerprint identification, which is awesome, so you will be getting this. I think I can get the screen to light up. Maybe. Yeah, so you can see that it's working, I’ve got it all set up. I’ve got my programs on here. It's great, this is what's waiting for you if you follow all of these steps.
Will: Yeah, so like Bev mentioned, for the grand prize of today's webinar, all you need to do is start your Instrumentl trial with Bev's link by the end of today, and then upgrade your account in the 14-day trial period. If you use the link, you'll automatically save the $50, otherwise you can use Bev's code, as well, to enter for the grand prize and then Instrumentl. We're aware that some of you guys are already customers, as well, so we want to make sure that you are also a winner of odds in terms of an opportunity, and so we are also offering a one-month subscription for one of the live attendees today. If you want to earn raffle tickets towards that, you can complete the webinar feedback form, which you will be receiving in about 10 minutes or so, and you can also tweet on Twitter or LinkedIn sharing what you learned or liked from today's webinar and make sure you tag both Dr. Bev with as well as Instrumentl. We have the information that we'll share in the slides, and then make sure that those posts are public; that way we can actually track it. We will then draw and announce winners in about two weeks, and some change on the Friday of April 2nd. So that is it for us.
We're really glad that you were able to make it today for this webinar. We do have another one in a few weeks, and we plan to provide you with more free grant programming so be sure to check out the registration links that we'll send out in the coming weeks for those upcoming opportunities as well, but other than that… Bev, if you wanted to stay on for a few more minutes, we could answer some questions that people might still have for you in the comments based on the content of today.
Dr. Bev: I do. Thank you. Let me go down and see. Oh, somebody said can you give me an example of reversing SMART goal language? It would be the same as the SMART objective. By the end of 2022 increase the number of low-income senior citizens residing in Merced (Merced County), California by 25 or more, as demonstrated by, and then all that language that comes behind it. So it's the same as a SMART objective. We just call it a SMART goal. All we're doing is changing the label, we're not really changing any of the wording that we would have had there, had it been our SMART objective. I hope that helps. Somebody asked about a referral on where they could get a Gantt chart template. It's Microsoft. Go to the Microsoft.com website or type into Google simple Gantt chart. Microsoft has a free one for users of Microsoft products that you can download. I’m looking at it, it looks great, it’s all ready to fill in, you just have to put in everything the columns are there, the coloring’s there, the start date, end date indicators are there. It makes life really easy for you. Let's see, is there an, excuse me, is there an average grant-winning percent that we should use as a benchmark? Well, there's pros and cons, you know, the grants industry and the grant professional’s association has been trying to get away from what we call win rates but sometimes we need to have that in order to keep our jobs, or in order to retain our clients. If you're new to grant writing your win rate likely could be around 30%. If you're an employee and, you know, report to an employer, and you're constantly pulled away from your actual duties of grant research and grant writing, and you're in all these meetings, and you're interrupted all day, you might hit 50 percent. If you're a grant-writing consultant, you cannot stay in business if you're not hitting 90% or higher over the course of one year on things that you write that get funded because, remember, your business as a consultant depends on the ability to win grant funding for your client, and if a potential client says to you, “Well, out of all the grant applications that you wrote for your clients last year, how many got funded?” and you say 30%. Well, that's not going to fly. You're not going to get that, you know, new client you were hoping for, so really strive hard, and here's the key or the secret to my success.
First, I do a grant readiness assessment with clients who think they're ready to go for grants. Because a lot of times, if the client isn't ready, and you write the proposal anyway, it's not going to get funded. It comes through as obvious. Next, make sure that the client or your employer has a good chance of winning. Do your homework. How many of these grant applications were funded in the last five years, in your state, in your zip code, in your region, in your federal congressional district? Because money doesn't just keep coming to the same zip code, the same census tract, over and over and over, it rotates so that it hits every location within the United States and its territories, and we know USAID money, which is federal, also goes out to other countries. So if we're international, we have to know how much USAID money actually came into the country, who it came to, and does it have a chance to come back? Okay, let's see… What if a grant asks for multiple SMART objectives, should they be more generic? No they should not be more generic, they should be more specific and you should be able to flesh out at least three SMART objectives for every goal. That's kind of the rule of the three SMART objectives for every goal. If you're an organization that is out of the mainstream, your winning percentage will be a lot less, in part because you have to educate funders as you ask for funding, because there are fewer funders? That is correct, Adam. If you're doing something that is totally different, and out of the mainstream, you have to do a sales job on potential funders before you can even submit. How can you get feedback on why you didn't win the grant? Well, at the federal or other government grant-making arena, you request under the Freedom of Information Act, and you have to cite the Freedom of Information Act when you type your email, that you'd like to see a copy of the grants. That you would like to get a copy of your organization's peer-review feedback. Foundations and corporations are not bound to give you any information on why you weren't funded, but if you're lucky and they're local, you may be able to go in and sit down with a local foundation and say, “Look, we have been rejected two years in a row, we're perplexed. It takes a lot of time, we thought you understood us. We thought we had, you know, the beginning of a relationship, but now we're not getting the money, so we really need to know, where are we falling off the cliff here? Is it our implementation? Is it our needs assessment? Is it our management plan? Is it our staffing profile? Is it the budget? Is it too much? Is it not detailed enough? Ask those specific questions. Will, are you seeing any questions that I missed?
Will: I believe Kathy has her hand raised, so I think that if we can have Kathy ask her question…
Kathy: Thank you. Good afternoon, Dr. Beverly Browning [crosstalk]
Okay, so I’m going to write my success story. It's probably a little unique. I love it. I downloaded Instrumentl and I looked up my zip code and I saw a person foundation that I actually volunteered with, so I never knew they had a foundation. So I literally went on to LinkedIn, and I texted him and I said, “Hey remember me?” with a picture of us volunteering, and I said in Instrumentl that you guys have a foundation, that you give grants, and I reminded him what I did. So two hours ago I just did a Zoom call with some higher-ups, and let’s just say, I’m very very happy with that phone. I don't know what all's going to happen, but I did not know that they even had a foundation, so these are not low people, these are really high up. They're actually about to buy me a van, they also are connected with the vaccines and they're going to order about 12,000 vaccines for Houston that we're going to give, all because I saw that on Instrumentl, and Dr. Bev, you know I always have a story and I just don't understand, I just don't. So, not just am I going to be writing grants but that situation of me able to see that on Instrumentl, that they were there, and the connection I… like I said, I, literally, can screenshot that text that I gave them to let them know that hey I saw them on Instrumentl, and they had a foundation, so it is wonderful.
They're all going to be donating to my 501, and we'll also have another meeting in about an hour because one of them is local, and one is in New York, and they want to do something in Haiti also, all within the free trial, so I guess I should sign up, huh?
Dr. Bev: Yes, Kathy, you need to sign up, and thank you for that awesome testimony. I think we owe you a big hand clap, I wish I had a hand-clapping machine right now, that is awesome. Thank you, Kathy.
Kathy: Thank you guys.
Dr. Bev: Another question that came in. How do you approach foundation grants by invite-only? Someone on your board needs to know someone on the board of the foundation, if not, you don't have a door in, that's it. When they say that they don't accept unsolicited proposals, it's about the board, no, your board, a board member knowing a board member or trustee from the foundation, and being able to open a door that normally would not open for you. Okay. Are you aware of a grant writer database? I need some assistance. There is a consultant's directory on the grant professional’s association website, which is grantprofessionals.org grantprofessionals.org Adam says he thought Instrumentl didn't list invite-only funders. Will?
Will: That's correct. I think that it's a little bit of a mix up so the invite-only, I think they were asking you about just your overall approach, and I think Adam might be overlapping it with Instrumentl. So Instrumentl lists grants that are open for applications. We don't cover the ones that are invite-only.
Dr. Bev: Which is great, because those are a lot of time-consuming follow-ups that usually don't result in a lot of productive feedback or return on investment. Okay, I think I’ve covered all the questions.
Will: Awesome, fantastic. Well, like I mentioned earlier, we are very happy that you were able to join us today, and thanks, Bev,
Samira: I’ve got a question, though.
Samira: Okay, this is Samira, do you think that it's a good idea to screen clients to make sure that they're grant-ready before taking them on? I just wanted to ask Dr. Bev that.
Dr. Bev: Yes, because if you don't screen your client, you're not going to find out about the skeletons in the closet, or the deficiencies in resources, or staffing, or anything else. It's not so much just about screening the client, but sometimes it's because the board hasn't done anything, and many foundation funders want information on the board, on the governing board. Who are they? What's their gender? What's their ethnicity? What's their-What's their position on the board? What's their term of board volunteerism? What's their connection in the community? Literally, and if your board's not solid, and you don't have a board, and/or they're shaky at the best, and they haven't been trained in boardsmanship, fundraising, and fiduciary responsibility, then they're not ready to apply for grants. It can't just be all about the executive director, or the development director. A bad board is a bad story, and they need board training, and one of the things that I offer smaller nonprofits is nonprofit board of directors boot camp training. It's a virtual training, but I’m not the only trainer, there are multiple people out there that do this kind of training. I think it's important no one, no organization that's a 501c3, should be applying for grants without having a fully trained board, because the board is responsible for the bottom line if that grant doesn't get managed well. It's the board that's going to be sued, not the nonprofit, and if the board doesn't have officer’s liability insurance on them, then guess what will happen in court when the plaintiff wins the lawsuit? The board members will lose their personal assets, they will give up their vehicles, their homes, their furnishings, their money in the bank, and anything else they have in order to pay the debt for the nonprofit that was awarded in the judgment. So if the board's not trained, if the board's not even visible, then no, you can't do grant seeking.
Samira: Yeah, that was one of the first ones that I got, and that was the thing that I noticed right from the beginning, and I was like, I don't even want to work with this organization because they don't have a board, and I just thought that was bad news, and I just felt like I needed to really screen clients to make sure that they had things in place so I wouldn't be wasting time writing something up for an organization that's really not fundable.
Dr. Bev: Yes, and we also don't want to be a part of writing something for an organization that's shaky, because when it falls through, if it's under any inkling that we were involved in this, then our name goes down into the rabbit hole with the organization,
Kathy: Right, that's what I was thinking, that's exactly what I was thinking, I’m so glad I got a chance to ask that. Yes, thank you, thank you.
Dr. Bev: You're welcome. I think I just saw a question come in. I’m looking to see what it is. Oh, directors and officer’s insurance. Thank you, Tex. and-
Shalia: Hey Dr. Bev, I have a question.
Dr. Bev: Yes, okay.
Shalia: Hey, it's Shalia, long time, no see.
Dr. Bev: Hi Shalia.
Shalia: Hey, I hope everyone's doing well. Thanks for sharing the stage. I’ll keep this pretty quick, but is there any way, Dr. Bev, that us as consultants could possibly in the future, if your schedule allows, if you have a training for you know, what we should look for, organizations that aren't necessarily grant-ready. So I know we have those checklist items, making sure that certain policies and procedures are in place, making sure that they have a board trained, as you mentioned, but what are some other things, just from your experience, that we should look out for, and if possible, is that something that you can help walk us through? Because I would really be interested in hearing your perspective on that. While it breaks my heart to turn folks away because they aren't grant-ready, I still like to educate at the same time, so I would like to be armed with, you know, that information to share with them moving forward, so they can get grant-ready in the future.
Dr. Bev: Shalia, thank you for asking me. I am doing a four-week practicing grant consultant-
Dr. Bev: In May, and if you will email me or message me in LinkedIn, I’ll be posting the information on social media today, but one of the weeks we're going to focus on is how to know if you have a valid and stable client, and what to do if you don't, so that you can still provide some minimal services. Maybe just not grant writing services yet, but make sure to message me, and I’ll send you additional information.
Also, Maricel wants to know how to register it for the grant-writing boot camp… must be for the training for boards? Message me on LinkedIn. I typically do board trainings for one organization where all the board is there, like I have one coming up tomorrow for the Philippines and it's for an organization there, so it's set up separately, independently, and I ask a lot of questions about the board before I design the teaching curriculum so that it fits what the board needs to know.
Will: Awesome. Well, we're going to go ahead and wrap things up for today, look out for an email in the coming hours as we transfer this recording onto the web, and also share those slides. And as a reminder, if you haven't already created an Instrumentl account, be sure to use Bev's link, that way you can join in for the raffle for the grand prize. I will see you all later, and thank you so much for attending, everybody.
Dr. Bev: Thank you.