The Ins and Out of Grant Writing for Nonprofits - Watch The Full Panel

August 19, 2022
Garrett Hall
Fundraising and Nonprofits

Last week, I was a panelist on an upcoming panel called “The Ins and Out of Grant Writing for Nonprofits” hosted by NXUnite.

I was thrilled to have an opportunity to speak to our work at, my work at The Fundraising Authority and my experience in the nonprofit industry.

Want to hear what I (and my fellow panelists) had to say?  

Watch the full panel

(Find the full transcript below)

Thank you to NXUnite for hosting and to the team at Nexus Marketing for moderating!

NXUnite connects leaders in the mission-driven space with the resources and people they need for their organization to thrive. From hosting panels with industry experts to providing curated listings of nonprofit learning opportunities, NXUnite helps organizations get their important questions answered. Gain insight, share knowledge, and connect with the people you need to accomplish your mission. NXUnite brings nonprofit leaders together in an unstoppable community that facilitates valuable connections.

Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Moderator: All right. Hello and welcome everyone. I'm so excited to be here with you today. My name is Colleen Carol, and I'm a content publishing coordinator at nexus marketing. And your moderator for today's panel today's panel. Topic is the ins and outs of grant writing. And as usual, before I introduce our panelists and we jump into this fascinating topic, I do have a few small logistics to cover.

[00:02:13] I also wanna encourage you to get involved with the chat. I know we have a question of where everyone in the world is, and I love to know that too, just so you all know, I am. Atlanta Georgia. All right. NX unite is made in partnership with nexus marketing and is a new online community resource for the mission driven industry.

[00:02:30] The NX unite mission is to make introductions that lead to lasting relationships and serve as a hub for connection in the mission driven sector. As you saw in our video on NX unite, you can find upcoming industry events suggested influencers to follow trusted solutions cause driven podcasts, and of course, panels with experts such as these lovely folks here at.

[00:02:48] Today's hour long panel will include time, both for questions, curated by my team and questions from you. All our lovely audience. At any time during the panel, please feel free to submit your questions via the questions tab. You can also drop them in the chat, but the questions tab is easier to make sure it doesn't get lost in all the conversation.

[00:03:05] If at any point you're having any technical difficulties or having any logistics questions. My team member Malu will be in the chat as the NX unit team username, ready to do her best to assist. So just kind of tag her, let her know, and she will create a direct message with you. Finally, before I introduce today's panelist, I do wanna thank you all for attending the panel, whether you're attending live or you're watching our recording this recording will be accessible both to current audience members and people who register to watch it after the live panel is over.

[00:03:33] We're really excited to be in touch with you. The mission driven community and the work you're doing is amazing. It's great to look at the registration list and look at all the different organizations represented with all different mission. Sizes locations. You're doing amazing work. All right, I'm gonna finally introduce our panel.

[00:03:50] With this today, we have Garrett Hall. Garrett hall is the lead fundraiser at the fundraising authority and the founder of fundraiser. AI Garrett has been helping nonprofits of all kinds to raise money for the last 20 years through numerous successful major gifts, grants, corporate support, and annual giving projects.

[00:04:06] Garrett has helped advise and train thousands through the fundraising authority. He founded fundraiser AI to help fundraisers access the powerful benefits of artificial intelligence. Great to have you Garrett. Good to be. Alice Ruhnke is the president of grant station. Having raised over 45 million from federal state and private grant makers.

[00:04:25] She knows what it takes to get funded as a former nonprofit co program coordinator and director and the founder of the grant advantage. Alice has a deep understanding of the challenges that nonprofit states over the last 20 years, she's worked in the trenches with hundreds of nonprofit organizations to improve their capacity, to raise funds.

[00:04:42] Great to have you. Thank you. Great to be here. Bethany Planton after earning a bachelor of science degree in communication studies from ball state university, Bethany got her start in the grant fields as an AmeriCorps Vista member. Since 2011, Bethany has worked with over 35 different organizations to secure more than $10 million in government and foundation funds.

[00:05:03] Bethany has a graduate certificate in nonprofit administration from Western Kentucky university, the grant professional certification from the grant professional certification Institute, the grant professionals approved trainer certification, the scrum master and the product owner certifications from scrum, Inc.

[00:05:18] Bethany is a member of the grant professionals association and young professionals association of Louis. And Dr. Paula love known in the industry as the matchmaker of funding or the funding doctor. These phrases truly capture the essence of Dr. Paula love. She is a renowned funding expert with decades of experience, delivering great strategies for, for profit and nonprofit organizations.

[00:05:39] State and local educational agencies, schools, and institutions of higher learning. Without a doubt. Dr. Love knows funding from every perspective from the classroom to the boardroom. Dr. Love is a highly skilled funding consultant with a wealth of insight to offer to every company and organization. She assists helping improve processes and efficiencies while uncovering new opportunities for financial growth.

[00:05:59] We have a great set of panelists here today. If you couldn't tell just from their bios, I'm really looking forward to this conversation. So it's finally time to begin to hear from our panel. So Bethany, I'm gonna start with you. And that is what is one thing you'd want to tell someone that is new to seeking grant opportunities.

[00:06:16] Bethany Planton: I'd say find a network of other grant professionals. You can take all the trainings you want to get to, to get the actual, like nuts and bolts on how to write and how to, what you should put in your proposals. But having that network network helps helps. you can't put a, like a number on it on how much it helps, because those are the people.

[00:06:36] Then you can talk to when you have a problem. If you run into something you've never seen before, they might help you, they might know about the funder. They might know about that application. And sometimes you just need that friendly shoulder to kind of like cry on and be like, no one else in my organization understands what I do, but you do.

[00:06:54] And you can help me teach them how to do how we, what we.

[00:06:57] Moderator: Absolutely. That support system is so important. Thank you so much. All right. Alice turning to you. What are some key strategies a nonprofit organization should remember if they're new to get grant writing or kind of new to this world in general?

[00:07:10] Alice Ruhnke: Yeah, I, I really agree with Bethany and I also think that reading successful proposals is a great way to you know, enhance your own skills and that, you know, can be done usually by checking out websites or talking to that, that. Group that you have connected to you. But being able to just discern what made something else successful can really help you in your own writing and development.

[00:07:35] And my second tip is just, don't be afraid of it. It, it can be intimidating when you first start and there's a whole language and a process, but don't be too scared of it. Just get in there and get started and you'll evolve and grow with. absolutely absolutely being brave and ready to jump in is very important.

[00:07:56] Moderator: All right, Garrett, what would you like to share with those who are interested in grant writing and maybe just getting started?

[00:08:01] Garrett Hall: Well, I completely agree with those previous two points. And I would say that something that has always been super helpful for me is talking to the funders and finding a way to finding a way to start a conversation with them, whether whether it's Letting them know that I'm coming in cold and I'm gonna be contacting them and just give them a heads up or, you know, whether we've made it through the first round and we're getting ready to do a more in-depth proposal.

[00:08:24] Those conversations are always super valuable. And they, they, I always do much better when, when I've had a conversation with the fund. Yep. Very important.

[00:08:34] Moderator: Thank you. All right, Paula, what would you share with someone who's just learning kind of what grant writing is just getting involved with this industry?

[00:08:41] Paula Love: Well, you saw a lot of head nodding from this expert panel for all of the good things that they've already shared and everything, but I would like to add just one more thing is we're we're talking. This morning. I, I always do my research and a lot of us that are in the funding arena know how important it is to really do our research.

[00:09:03] But this morning, when I was doing some research in education, I came across something that says, I wanna put the joy. Back in teaching. I want you to put the fun back in funding. Garrett and Bethany and Alice gave us so many strategies and it's great. It's a multi-level process and it can be a little intimidating, but just remember.

[00:09:31] That there's a lot of fun that can happen, especially as Bethany said, when you're working with a team and you're collaborating together when you're talking to funders, as Garrett said, and making sure you understand that. So the one tip that I would tell you, put the fun back in funding. I love it. I think that's so important.

[00:09:53] I think it's addressing a lot of topics that I've heard in previous panels of not wanting to get burned out and making sure that you're, you are enjoying the work that you're doing. So appreciate that first answer.

[00:10:04] Moderator: All right. We're off to a great start already. Our next question has to do with kind of best practices.

[00:10:09] What are some best practices or tools nonprofit organizations can utilize when creating a grant proposal? Garrett, can I start off with you with this?

[00:10:17] Garrett Hall: Oh, sure, sure. Some, so I know that some, we all have our own set of tools that we use. I think that certainly a best practice I would say is staying organized.

[00:10:25] So all the proposals have their own. There's a typical kind of structure to information that they're looking for. And if you can keep it organized for one specific grant, but then also organized so that you can refer back to it on no matter on future grants. That's really helpful. And you can use something, you know, as simple as just a, a Google doc or a spreadsheet or something more sophisticated, like.

[00:10:49] Like air table or specific some of the specific grant management and tracking products. Those are fantastic. I, I was just hearing about a new pro some software called instrumental, which I think is probably a lot, like many others. That's just one direct man. And I know that you all have your own excellent products too. And I have one additional product software. That's my own that's, which helps you. Once you have your information organized, you can drop it into the templates and it'll, it'll write your first drafts for you. So that's something that I think is very helpful.

[00:11:23] Moderator: Great. All right. Turning to you, Alice, what strategies should grant writers remember when creating their organization's grant proposals and what resources should they be keeping in mind?

[00:11:33] Alice Ruhnke: You know, I've to piggyback off what Garrett was saying. One of the things that I'm always teaching when I'm, you know, teaching grant writing is that planning process.

[00:11:40] And I've, I think that a lot of times. The reason people don't like grant writing or they find it very confusing is that they take an application and they sit down and they just start to try to answer the questions and then their proposals don't, they aren't consistent. They aren't coherent and that sort of thing.

[00:11:58] So I always recommend that people really. Start at that planning stage and get that framework of all the common sections of a grant application and how they connect. And then from there you can then take it and piece it. The way the funder wants to see it in their order you know, with their terminology and things like that.

[00:12:19] But if you're planning it first, then it saves you a lot of time in the future to then tailor it to each fund. And one of the things that we do have at grand station is, is a database to find funders. And that matches you up with what those funder strategies are. So our database is probably our biggest seller, if you will, it's our, our big subscription based membership based platform.

[00:12:43] And, and we also have a lot of tools about how you do those searches or how you do the writing. That would be my biggest tip.

[00:12:52] Moderator: Fantastic. I think we've all jumped into projects that we're super excited about. And then we get a few weeks in and we're like, oh, if we had taken a little bit more time at the beginning, I would be in a much better place right now.

[00:13:02] So I think that's great advice. All right, Bethany, you're up next? What recommendations do you have for nonprofit professionals when they're creating grant proposals?

[00:13:11] Bethany Planton: Well, I love the ones that have already been said, and like, to kind of piggyback off of what Alice is saying, that planning really helps, you know, whether your program or your project, whatever you're trying to get funding for is actually ready for funding, because you can write the best proposal, but if you haven't gotten all the details, Set yet.

[00:13:31] And that's not you as the grant professional necessarily, that needs to be a team thing involving your leadership. And who's going to be running the program, but knowing those, having them decide what those details are ahead of time actually means it's fundable. Like a funder can get behind it and say yes.

[00:13:50] So we wanna see that on the ground because the nonprofit has already thought through. What it's gonna look like. And as the grant professional, you're not making it up. Like you should not be the one making it up. You should be working with whoever is part of your organization that, you know, might be running that project or program.

[00:14:07] And I could, I love tools. I'm always trying the newest tool, so I could always give a bunch, but you really have to find the tool that works for you and your. But I do the shared tools. You need shared tools, you know, pandemic before the pandemic. We may all have been in the office and now we're not even some of us.

[00:14:26] I mean, I'm a consultant. I work for my home even before the, the pandemic, I needed tools that we could be in the document together. At the same time, we could be sharing information at the same time. And if I update it here, then somewhere, you know, Always can get that information. So it's finding the tools that are the right price point and what you need, because that everybody needs the big ones that we've heard.

[00:14:48] Maybe Salesforce or something bigger like that. If you're a smaller organization that might be too much. So finding these tools that is right for the size of your organization, and you might change the tools is find that you don't have to be completely loyal to each tool forever.

[00:15:03] Moderator: Definitely finding that individual experience is important.

[00:15:06] And then as you said, a lot has changed in the last two years. And I think a lot of nonprofits that I've been hearing is we have to look forward. We can't actually go back to what we were doing in the past and rely on those old systems. Thank you. All right, Paula. I wanna know what you wanna add and also.

[00:15:22] Just kind of to rephrase the question again. What else might someone consider when they're drafting up a grant proposal?

[00:15:27] Paula Love: Well, I, I couldn't agree more than what the panel has already said right now. One of the things I have to compliment Garrett and Alice and Bethany, because they really talked about that conceptual planning and making sure you have all of the pieces, you know, sometimes what you refer to it as logic models.

[00:15:47] To really, and I know Alice I've seen them before on your website where you've done some outstanding workshops and things like that. I'm sure both of you have done some things both of the other panelists have done some things in that regard, but, but really getting that conceptual framework or that logic down.

[00:16:04] We just did a, we are, we are doing a series on our grants alert, calling 'em funding, flash blogs. And it goes along with what you said, Bethany it's it's are you grantable you know, do you know all of those components? Can you look at those kinds of things, but one of the things in the years that I've been doing.

[00:16:24] And I've served on only as a writer, but a reviewer and training reviewers all across the nation. When we're looking at what goes into good grant proposals, I often find that people get confused when we get into things such as needs. Versus once. And in the years that I've been doing this, when people start off, like I used to have superintendents say to me, I want 50 computers.

[00:16:58] Well it's why do we need that? And really be able to come up with the evidence. Of why those are needs. And sometimes when you get at the root cause and the root of it, it helps that conceptual planning and makes that proposal all align all the way through to the end. Be it management, be your evaluation, but if you get off on the wrong foot at the beginning, sometimes you can create a lot of problems.

[00:17:29] And again, in my evidence that I've often seen when I've read proposals is I call 'em the blizzard of statistics. People throw everything into that needs section and really not define the need related to the solution that they're going at.

[00:17:47] Moderator: Thank you. I love the imagery of a blizzard of statistics. Great, great thing.

[00:17:52] All right. I have another question, but I also wanna encourage our audience to get involved with the chat. Keep commenting your thinking. Also start submitting questions when you're ready. And there are also a few polls that are gonna be going out throughout the session. Believe one's already gone live.

[00:18:05] So we definitely want you to participate to as much as you would like to. While we are having this discussion. All right, Paula, I'm gonna have you start us off on this next one.

[00:18:14] What recommendations do you have for someone who wants to tailor their proposal to two different grants?

[00:18:19] Paula Love: You know Colleen, that's such a great question because I look at the word tailor and I think the word Taylor is so critical when you're looking at this often, we think we can take one proposal and cookie cutter.

[00:18:36] To a whole bunch of other funders. I think Garrett said it so well before you have to know your fund. You have to know the, something about the funder. And I know Alice's website and, and the work that they've been doing at grant station really helps people dive in to understanding about the funder, because then you have to line that conceptual framework to what you're doing to the.

[00:19:08] Now that doesn't mean you can't take that conceptual framework and align it to different funders. You certainly can. And you can leverage from one proposal to another, but please, I caution you do not cookie cut proposals and use them between different funders. Know, your funder know the alignment and know if you can, if you are really Grable or fundable as Beth Bethany said to that funder before you go after it.

[00:19:42] Moderator: Fantastic. All right, Bethany, I'm gonna have you jump in on this. What do nonprofits need to know when they're tailoring their grants to various organiz?

[00:19:52] Bethany Planton: Well, and I, this has been kind of covered, but not said in this way, when, you know, one funder, you know, one funder. Hmm. Like you do not you can't use that information that you know about one fund.

[00:20:04] To, to just put it like Paula was saying cookie cutter it to another funder. So using that information that you've done in your prospect research, when you decided to go after this application, plus what questions they're asking for and in your relationship building that you've been talking to them and they've probably given you if you're listening some hints and some, maybe they straight out told you what you should be, including in your proposal that will help make it fundable for the people who will be reviewing it.

[00:20:33] Moderator: Definitely. All right. Alice, what do you wanna weigh in on this?

[00:20:37] Alice Ruhnke: Yeah, I like, I like, I love how mu many heads are shaking yes. Throughout this whole presentation. But I, I think that one of the things that's really important is kind of to piggyback off what Paula was saying about like the great reviewer that, you know, again, what I said earlier, Planning it once, but then when you are going and taking that planning framework that you've done, and then you're going to each individual funder, make sure that you're always following their directions and using their terminology and even parroting, you know, or using some of their own language back to.

[00:21:15] You know, sometimes you feel like, oh, I shouldn't be saying that, but, but actually they like to hear, you know, their own terminology and their own the way that they put things together. So that's completely okay. But really from a. You know, as a, as a person who's done a lot of grant writing and grant review, which I think grant review also like reading proposals really helps you to hone your own skills.

[00:21:39] Cuz when you're sitting on the other side of the table, you start to realize what it is that the funders are looking for in proposals. But I would just, you know, tie really tightly back to their instructions, their terminology, their headings and their formats. But if, again, if you do the planning. Then you can go and tailor it to each funder the way they want to see it.

[00:22:01] Moderator: Definitely. All right, Garrett, what do you wanna add to this conversation?

[00:22:04] Garrett Hall: Yeah, I completely agree with, I think we're all kind of on the same page is that you can have a great program. That's a, a great project. That's, you know, like a diamond, but but each funder is kind of a different facet, a different angle on it.

[00:22:17] And you need to think about what that funder specifically, you know, the, what their priorities are and the language they're speaking and kind of use their priorities is the thesis for your, your proposal. And and that's kind of the window that you need to. To see your program through when you're writing your, your proposal, because yeah, if you, if you have say a, a, a food pantry, you could write it for, you know, one proposal for funder that's focused on food needs.

[00:22:50] You could write another proposal for someone that's focused on, you know, helping young people. Succeed because you know, access to food helps, helps young people succeed. You could do another one for like helping women be. Helping single mothers or something, you know, there, there, on the food pantry helps all these things and you really need to, to see it through the funder's eyes and, and help them see it for themselves.

[00:23:13] Moderator: Mm-hmm I really appreciate that you brought in those examples like that. Thank you. Okay. This is the last of the questions that I'm gonna ask that are the ones prepared by my team. I have more questions, but really this is for you all the audience. So audience members, I'm again, encouraging you. To submit those questions so we can address as many of them as possible.

[00:23:31] I do wanna sneak in my final question though. So Alice, I'm gonna start with you on this one. We know that nonprofit professionals are busy. We hear it all the time. It comes up in every panel. What do you think organizations can do to create more efficient process for grant writing? If it kind of feels overwhelming to have such a large project ahead of them.

[00:23:48] Alice Ruhnke: Right. I think one of the, one of the tips on that is just developing a schedule that is really detailed enough so that everybody on your team knows what they're responsible for. And by when cuz it, for whatever reason, it does seem that the. Thing that gets to the back burner is the grant writing, cuz everybody's very busy and providing services.

[00:24:09] So I like to have set up you know, with each project that, that, that you're outlining exactly what needs to be submitted in that application. And then having a structure where, you know, who's supposed to do what by when, so that you have enough time for that grant review and so that you have enough time to.

[00:24:31] Check on different things and, and get that in early just to save you the hassle of the day that the grant is due and that's when your internet goes out, because that is the day that your internet goes out. So you know, the scheduling and the, the, having a real set format with accountability for your team to write and have that proposal ready on time would be a, a great strategy to use.

[00:24:55] Moderator: Definitely. All right, Paula, what do you wanna add? What do we need to do to be more efficient and not get overwhelmed?

[00:25:01] Paula Love: Alice I loved what you were saying because it just reminds me of hurting cats when you've got this whole team and you're trying to organize them and trying to get them. The schedule is so critical when you're doing that, because we get down to the wire.

[00:25:17] That during this time, it can be very chaotic. And I'm gonna be honest about it. You'll spend timeless hours, even though you have that schedule because somehow things get diverted from that schedule. So you always build in a little bit of time at the end to ensure that you can meet the obligations.

[00:25:37] And don't forget about some of the logistics, especially if you're looking at big state or federal grants make sure you're mindful of some of the logistics such as getting your Sams and your DUNS numbers and things like that, because those kinds of things can really put stumbling blocks in your way.

[00:25:57] And I just wanna add one more thing that Bethany said at the. And it's, don't do this alone. I always think of, kind of the analogy of, of the wizard of Oz. There's all this noise and there's all this confusion, but you're not by yourself. You've got Toto, you've got the other people walking down the brick road.

[00:26:18] You've gotta herd the men and you've gotta keep them going on that path, but don't go it alone and just be mindful of. Flying monkeys that can come in in the meantime and, and know to have those strategies so that those flying monkeys can't get in the way.

[00:26:36] Moderator: Amazing. All right, Garrett, what do you wanna add? How can we be more efficient and not get overwhelmed with our schedule?

[00:26:42] Garrett Hall: Well, I agree that I think that coming up with a checklist early and kind of breaking it up into, into pieces, manageable chunks of, of work for yourself or for your team is. The most important thing so that you kind of manage your own mental health and don't get overwhelmed with it.

[00:26:58] And if you are, largely doing it on your own, you can just break it up for yourself into, into kind of sprints, you know, rather than try to take on the whole thing, just work on like one. Small piece of it at a time and plan it out, how you're gonna do your work. And I also love using technology to try and make your work more efficient.

[00:27:18] And so go out and look for tools. I've. And we're working at Fundwriter to make grant writing easier for the individuals. So next week we'll be adding a few grant writing templates to help people on their own, at least get their first draft for different sections written. So hopefully that will make things a bit easier.

[00:27:36] Moderator: Wonderful. All right. Bethany, what strategies do you recommend for keeping up with the timeline you set for yourself and not getting over?

[00:27:44] Bethany Planton: Well, I wanna take it back like two steps before we're actually like looking at what we need to do for the, a specific grant application or proposal. Do we have a grant calendar that shows us all of our deadlines that we're supposed to be going after in a year.

[00:27:59] Have we just, have we looked at this opportunity to say this is actually, if we get it, it would be a good return on investment. Is this application like 10 pages and they're only giving us $2,000. Have we had that discussion internally to say, yes, we actually want to go after this because we know it would be a return.

[00:28:18] Good. A return on of investment either because this year we'll get a lot of money or maybe we see it as a long term. We might get a little bit this time and continue to build that relationship. And we know though they give more, the longer we're with them. I think that starts because as a grant professional, you don't and the organization, you don't wanna go after any opportunity that you can.

[00:28:40] They're not all good fits. They're not all good returns on an investment. So having that calendar first to say, okay, can we actually even fit in another application and put your reports on that calendar too? Cuz once you get it, then you're reporting and that's more work that you have to track. And I also also always tell you, put your, your vacation time.

[00:29:03] On that same calendar so that, you know, when it's coming up and so your colleagues know, okay, here's our calendar. This person's gonna be off. So we need to be doing it ahead of time. I also don't tell my people I'm working with the real due date. I tell them one way in advance so that when they inevitably don't get it to me on the day that I've asked for it, we still have plenty of time.

[00:29:27] Moderator: Very sneaky and I think very important. I love it. All right. Let's start answering some questions from the audience. We've already had a number of really great ones come in. I mean, frankly, they're all great. The first one I'm actually gonna have all of you answer because it's a bit of a broad one.

[00:29:42] I think it could lead us a number of different ways. This is a question from Jacquelyn, which is what advice would you give to an experienced grant writer that you think they may not have heard before? I think we've been talking a lot about kind of the, the starting it off, dipping our to, but we have some experienced grant writers on the call. What do they need to know? So Bethany, I'll start off with you on this one.

[00:30:04] Bethany Planton: You mentioned this word and it's coming up more and more and that's burnout. And so I would, my suggestion always is looking for strategies that help prevent prevent burnout. I'm part of a team that does research into burnout and grants profession, because that was not documented at all as of a couple years ago.

[00:30:24] And I want you to know you're not alone. So you, you probably will, are overwhelmed by your calendar. That's that is what the, our society has. But there are some strategies that can help you as the professional, but the organization as well to make it a better environment, a better organizational culture.

[00:30:43] So that we're not burning out because that, I mean, ultimately for the organization that costs them a lot of money to have their grant professional burnout and have to replace them.

[00:30:53] Moderator: Definitely. All right, Garrett, what do we think we need our experience to grant writers to know?

[00:31:00] Garrett Hall: You know, I don't know, I'm just sitting here thinking it's kind of presumptuous of me to say, I know something that an experienced grant writer doesn't know, but I would, but I would just offer that if you an experienced grant writer, or not an experienced grant writer, feel free to email me or, and we can have a call and I can chat with you. And we can, if whatever problems you're, you're dealing with, we can, I can help try and talk you through it.

[00:31:23] Moderator: Great. All right, Paula, anything that you think, oh, this is something that an experienced grant writer probably needs to hear, right?

[00:31:31] Paula Love: Well, and I agree with Garrett, it's kind of hard and, and difficult to say at the experience level, but I will speak from my experience and my encounter with grant writers that are very seasoned a lot of times, and, and be mindful that I deal a lot with education when I'm saying this. But one of the things I've noticed and we've seen the trend lately in a lot of fund.

[00:31:57] Is the difference between research and evidence based. When we're looking at research, we're really looking at background and things in that regard, when we're looking for solutions that are truly evidence based, do you have any evidence or successful studies that contribute and can really point to the success of what you're doing, especially when you're looking at scaling something.

[00:32:27] So we're seeing a number of different proposals that are coming up with different levels of evidence. And I would tell everybody to really make sure that they understand and really address that in your proposal, whether you're seasoned or whether you're new, we all need to learn and grow and make sure we understand that difference between research and evidence.

[00:32:55] Moderator: Awesome. And Alice, anything that you would like to share with our experienced grant writers in the.

[00:33:00] Alice Ruhnke: Yeah, I think I, I really agree with these guys that probably an experienced grant writer has a lot of knowledge under their belt. But I agree with Paula that I, especially at the state and federal level, you are seeing more of this requirement for those evidence based programs.

[00:33:16] And so digging into that and learning more about that in your particular sector can be really helpful. And I also think that, you know, just right now, it is a great time to be looking for grants. You know, as opposed to there's times, you know, in 2008, it was really. Find a grant because of the crash and the stock market and, and foundation giving was lower.

[00:33:40] So really it's, it's a great time. And I think that more funders are understanding of those capacity needs that nonprofits have. And before the pandemic, it was, you know, a little bit more hit and miss if they understood that. I think that there's a better understanding of that. So how can you develop those?

[00:34:02] Those capacity building projects that help you run more efficiently and more effectively. And I think that that is gonna be a trend going into the future of funders, having that better understanding of those needs.

[00:34:17] Moderator: Fantastic. All right. Our next question is one that I personally don't know the answer for. I am not the grant expert. So I'm excited to hear from you all which is how eloquent does a grant proposal need to be? What grade level should we write to? The person who asks the question says, I've heard that writing for writing for easier reading is better. So again, I think this is maybe one that we might have a lot of the same thoughts or a lot of different thoughts.

[00:34:40] So I'll get everyone to wait in a little bit, but Paula, will you start us?

[00:34:44] Paula Love: I, I love the way you just said that cuddling because that's exactly, sometimes we get into run and sentences when we're writing, because we get so excited about what we're doing and I've read proposals where there's six sentence, six lines long before I get to the end of the sentence.

[00:35:01] And I'm taking a breath, trying to figure. The shorter, the more concise your writing is getting back to what we said about the logic kind of hanging onto that logic and making things flow throughout them is so critical. You know, one of the things that I often find is people in, in grant writing, I always say is a balance between persuasive and technical writing.

[00:35:27] I always feel like I'm a lawyer on paper trying to plead my case and make my case really stand out from anybody else. When I'm doing that, it is very different because I'm a lot involved too, in the bid and contract process, which is real, more technical and, and bid specs and things like that as well.

[00:35:48] But this balance and knowing how to balance it and often the balance gets skewed. So I see people being, trying to be real creative and they'll get all this imagery and they're beautiful, but they spend 10 pages of their proposal creating an.

[00:36:08] At core of what they're doing. So when I.

[00:36:24] Moderator: Is Paula breaking up for anyone else or is at my wifi. Okay. Just wanted to check in Paula. I don't know if you can hear us, but we've lost you a little bit in terms of your connection. Hopefully by the time we get back around to you, it will have returned. Alice, I'm gonna have you jump in. Just, is there anything you would like to add in terms of simplified language?

[00:36:41] Alice Ruhnke: I know it's something when I was in school and writing papers was always at top of mind of, of keeping it. right. And, and, and I agree with what Paula was saying. It is, you know, that you want to write with, you know kind of simple language that anybody can understand. Sometimes you're, you're writing to professional staff at a foundation or a a government agency.

[00:37:04] But a lot of times the reviewers are just people like you and me that give our time to volunteer, to read proposals and such. So you want to write in a way. That somebody without a lot of information about your sector or about, you know, your needs and all that will understand it. So, you know, in a simple, you know, language and, and kind of to piggyback off Paula again, you know, that, that, that.

[00:37:31] Balance between providing the, the data and information they need, and also writing in a way that's interesting and kind of tugs at the heartstrings a little bit, so that it's not just a dry document. And you know, that they can kind of have some of that imagery. So I might tell a story of a typical client or, you know have little testimonials throughout the, the narrative, just to.

[00:37:57] Keep that interest and so that they can kind of see the people as well as see how your projects are laid out and things like that.

[00:38:05] Moderator: Fantastic. Thank you, Alice. All right. Bethany and Garrett. Anything you wanna add? Otherwise, I can jump to our next question cuz we have a gracious, plenty of them.

[00:38:13] Bethany Planton: I would add just to help make sure it's not getting boring and technical to maybe have either a colleague or a friend read through it and if you don't have that, maybe read through it out loud to yourself, just to see, are there any parts that a don't make sense? You know, could you got two in the technical and no one outside of who does this wouldn't know what you're talking about or there's just something missing that you didn't think about.

[00:38:41] So having those. Another set of eyes sometimes helps of just pulling out. Oh, you know, I didn't understand it here. It's a little slow here. I got really in the weeds and couldn't figure out what we were talking about here.

[00:38:54] Moderator: Fantastic Garrett. Any quick things to add?

[00:38:57] Garrett Hall: Yeah. Just really quickly, I would say that you don't need, you don't necessarily need to like dumb it down, but certainly if you have a lot of like jargon and run on sentences, clarifying it and right.

[00:39:07] And thinking, like, thinking about it. And communicating in a clear way is super important because you know, clear writing shows that you have clear thinking about the problem and your approach to it, and it will really give your funder, I think, confidence that you understand what you're, what you're doing.

[00:39:24] Moderator: Fantastic. All right. We have a question that came in actually in the registration that I wanted to make sure got addressed, which is what, what do nonprofits need to consider when they're rejected or declined when they don't earn the money? What can we learn from that? And kind of any suggestions for pushing forward.

[00:39:44] So Bethany, I see you nodding your head. So I'm gonna start off with you on this.

[00:39:48] Bethany Planton: Yes. Okay. Well, I already, I hope it's already a best practice that you're right. Thanking funders who give you money. And I'm sorry, if you hear anything, they're just starting to mow us right outside and I cannot do anything about it.

[00:39:58] So I hope that's already a best practice when they fund you. You're sending a thank you note, but are you sending a thank you note when they reject you? Say, thank you for at least reviewing it. And then you can cuz it's another way to build that relationship that might get you a yes. In the future.

[00:40:15] Also asking, do you have any feedback on our proposal? What, what did we do? You know, what could we have done better? Is there something about our program design that you didn't like? Does it just not fit your funding priorities? Cause maybe the website says one thing, but your real funding priorities have changed.

[00:40:32] Asking, especially if they'll, sometimes they'll say that they'll give feedback. Sometimes they don't, but asking great.

[00:40:40] Moderator: Any quick additions from Allison, Garrett, Garrett. I have a question in the chat specifically for you, so, but I wanna make sure that we address that to our, our full extent. If anyone wants to add something

[00:40:49] Garrett Hall: I would just, I would say just like we said before, you apply, be in contact with your funder afterwards, stay in contact because it's really not about this specific like grant cycle.

[00:40:58] It's about, it can really help to build a relationship with them and for the long run, because you're probably you targeted them for a reason. And so you wanna do what you can to build that relationship and increase your odds for the future. And you know, it's not just because the, that grant didn't get funded.

[00:41:14] It's not a failure because now you've got an improved grant package that you can you know, you you're, you've gotten better at writing a grant and you've got tools to go for others. So it's not a huge failure.

[00:41:29] Moderator: Great Alice quick things to add

[00:41:30] Alice Ruhnke: You know, I think they really covered it. It is, you know, that feedback and, and, and finding out what they where they thought you could improve and you know, what your strengths and weaknesses were.

[00:41:40] So, you know, even having that, you know, sometimes they're written reviews that you get back, which are great, but if you don't get those written ones, just call and don't argue. I don't wanna recommend, like, why didn't I, you know, get funded. You know, having that discussion as to what could we have done better and they'll usually give it because they're looking for those great proposals as well.

[00:42:00] Moderator: So, great advice. All right, Garrett, we have a question from our chat, which is just, how far can we go with AI? Mm-hmm just for short stuff or can it help us for more extended writing specifically for fundraising?

[00:42:14] Garrett Hall: Well, I'd say it's constantly, it it's rapidly improving. And so sta state of things now is different from six months from now and a year from now.

[00:42:22] If you've ever, whenever you use it it's something that you need to do trial and error, so you give it some inputs and then you get your, you see what it writes for you, and then you. Change your inputs to try and get better outputs. So it's kind of a conversation with the AI to try and get it to, to write for you right now.

[00:42:43] The best approach with it is to have it instead of write a full five page proposal is to break it up into sections. Maybe 250 words, 250 words is definitely doable. And if you can break your grant, your whatever you're writing into sections like that, then it's definitely doable. And then you put it together into a larger package.

[00:43:08] Moderator: Great. Thank you, Paula. Great to have you back with us. Everything's OK.

[00:43:12] Paula Love: It's the joys of living in a rural area sometimes.

[00:43:15] Moderator: So I live in a major city and I still sometimes have my own issues, but hopefully we will get to keep you for the rest of the section. We have a question come in that I'd like to start off with with Alice, if that would be all right, which is what are some entry strategies into invitation only application processes.

[00:43:33] Alice Ruhnke: Yeah, so there are a lot out there, a lot of funders that you'll find that, that aren't accepting applications from the general public or providing those discretionary grants that, that everybody can apply for. So I think it's about you know, having setting up a time to just talk with them. Letting them know, you know, maybe providing them a one or two page, you know, quick summary that they can kind of look at what you're doing.

[00:44:00] And then open it up to conversations from there and always focusing on how you are meeting that funder strategy. You know, how you feel like, like you're a solution and your organization provides a solution that they would want to invest in. And Think of it as a long term strategy, you know, usually that isn't a quick thing.

[00:44:20] But you know, it, isn't something that's impossible. So you know, just developing that relationship with getting your foot in the door and then talking about ways you can connect and, you know, just developing that relationship over time.

[00:44:36] Moderator: Great. Thank you. Okay. Any quick additions, otherwise I'm gonna keep speeding through the questions cause we have so many and I wanna make sure we get to them.

[00:44:44] Bethany Planton: The only thing I would add is make sure that they're open to some sort of relationship building. There are some, they are gonna be a closed door, unless you have share the last name of the person who was also, you know, started the foundation. So like in your, when you're doing your prospect research check to see if they're available, Open to that.

[00:45:03] Do you have any relationships within your organization to them? Does a board member know someone that's on their board? Does your staff know anybody that can help start it? Fantastic. All right. We had a question come in about how do you manage tracking grant expenses, spreadsheets, software, et cetera. I think maybe we have a number of actually it's been uploaded.

[00:45:25] Moderator: So a number of people are interested in this. So Bethany, I'm gonna stick with you, cuz I know you mentioned kind of keeping track of in general is the. The amount of money we're gonna get awarded worth our time. Is that a thing that you track somewhere?

[00:45:41] Bethany Planton: Oh, there we go. It was just stuck trying. There are plenty of tools and it's hard to. it's one of those that I don't wanna just give you a tool because it's not the same tool that will work for everyone. There's lots of tools out there and it really depends on what exactly you need. And I, I would say I'm not an expert in tracking the finances, cuz I use, I let the finance people track those.

[00:46:07] I know what we kind of need to do, but I, I don't have good tools of how they're tracking it. I usually just ask for the report, how did we use this? You know, are we keeping track? But there's several tools to track your grant deadline. And whether you're meeting all those deadlines and then there's also tools to help you with report what you might be needing to report on the grants.

[00:46:30] But again, it depends on your size of your organization. It might be just a spreadsheet, but if you're a bigger organization, it might, you might be paying for a tool.

[00:46:38] Moderator: Fantastic Garrett, anything you'd like to add about kind of organization and managing when, particularly when it comes to expenses

[00:46:45] Garrett Hall: You know, the that's the side of it that I haven't had a ton of experience with. So I've when I was doing that sort of thing, it was just, you know, in in, in our accounting software and then in access databases, it was, it was not too sophisticated, but yeah, now there's tools for everything. So I would use Google go into you know, a grant writing group and just ask other nonprofit experts and just see what they're using and what they.

[00:47:12] Moderator: Absolutely. We had a question come in which is what is the best way to really get to know a fund. Doing, I'm guessing kind of that deeper research. What advice do you have? So, Alice, I see you nodding a little bit. Can I pass this to you?

[00:47:24] Alice Ruhnke: Sure, sure. I think that it's really important to do that basic research, you know, when you've identified a funder and you've kind of, you know, through your primary research or whatever, and you're like, this is a good match for.

[00:47:37] And then going in and finding if they have an annual report that you can read or reading their nine 90, which is their tax document and really doing that research. So when you do approach them, they know that you're educated in who they are and who they've funded and how they've funded and those kinds of.

[00:47:57] So that's on, on, just as an example on our grant station, database will have links if they have an annual report or the links to the nine 90 S to see who else they funded and how they funded and doing that research before the outreach, just so that you look like it. You just so that you are educated. In that, in that funders process.

[00:48:20] And don't ask them questions about things that you could just read online about their organization, you know, take that opportunity to, to go deeper with them you know, in, in your discussions.

[00:48:32] Moderator: Great. All right, Garrett, Bethany, anything you would like to add in terms of really getting to know our funders? Then I have a wrapping up question. We're almost at the end of our panel.

[00:48:40] Garrett Hall: I come from a lot of background of like major, major gifts also in developing relationships with individuals. And so I would definitely be looking at the individual at the foundation or the funder that I'm contact gonna be in contact with.

[00:48:54] And then I'm gonna be reaching out to, and looking up a little bit of information about them to see kind of. You know, if they've spoken on a panel, like maybe I'd go check it out to see like what their personal, like interests and passions are. And so that you know, I'm building relationship with not just the overall organization, but like that specific person and so I wanna know, you know, speak to speak to that person.

[00:49:16] Moderator: Great. Okay. We are gonna wrap up this portion of the panel so we can stick to our schedule. If you have any lingering questions, if you're in the audience, you are gonna be receiving a survey after this panel. That's gonna ask you some general questions about your experience with the panel, but also gives you a chance to kind of talk about what topics you would like to continue to have addressed.

[00:49:34] Please let us know. We wanna make sure we're continuing to have panels going on through the rest of the summer in fall that are addressing the topics that are kind of. Pertinent to you. The link to the survey will also be dropped in the chat so you can find it there or again, in the email afterwards, I've had such a wonderful time hearing from our panelists.

[00:49:51] I know we've lost Paula again. Maybe, maybe we'll get her to reappear. But I'd hope, love to get kind of one final insight from all of our panelists. So the question I had put together was. Kind of what other conversations we wanna see in this space. We've talked a lot about grant writing. Obviously you guys are grant writing experts but there are always more conversations that we can be having on adjacent topics to grant writing or even completely separate.

[00:50:19] So what conversations are you hoping will be coming up within our community within the next few months? Slightly vague question, but I'm excited to hear your answer. Bethany, will you get us started? And Paula, I will reframe the question to you when we get.

[00:50:32] Bethany Planton: Sure. And actually this is coming up in the chat right now talking about the power imbalance between funders and and the applicants.

[00:50:42] And I think it's something, something there's some leaders that are starting to talk about it and we're getting some push on it. But I think the more we as a community, we do have power as a C. To help change the tide on that. And so talking about it, even just making people aware, like some people don't even think about it, but there is that there is still that imbalance of the funders hold the money.

[00:51:04] And we, we as nonprofits would like that money. Mm-hmm , I think that's an very important conversation to be having.

[00:51:10] Moderator: All right, Garrett, what conversation are you hoping is gonna be coming up in the next few months?

[00:51:14] Garrett Hall: Well I think that. I, I love like partnerships and when organizations work together on, on like collaborative approaches to solving problems.

[00:51:24] And I think that's really also powerful when they go to funders and say, we bull, we we've gotten together around this problem and we have a solution. And I think that that's there's a lot of value in that. And, and, and people, a lot of times just get bare their head down and, and don't have a chance to work on bigger picture approaches like that. And so I think it's worth discussing.

[00:51:46] Moderator: Definitely. All right. Alice final thoughts, topics you hope will come up.

[00:51:52] You know, I think that just through the pandemic and through a lot of the social justice stuff that we saw, you know, during 2020 and things like that, I think that the whole idea of, of, of reducing disparities and more equitable distribution of funds, more equitable and, and inclusive services that we're providing.

[00:52:12] I think that, again, it's very timely. A lot of people are talking about it. And I think it's time for us as nonprofits and funders to really be looking at that and how things are you know, how we're our own practices are in our own nonprofits and how funders are distributing those funds. So I hope that, you know that while it's always been there, I think it's more on people's minds and it's time to really address that stuff for real. And I hope that we continue to do that.

[00:52:44] Definitely. All right. And with that, we've reached the end of our panel. I wanna give a big thank you to our panelists. I'm sure if we were in person, we'd be hearing a round of applause, but since we're virtual, I hope you know that I'm, I'm sending that to you in our virtual platform.

[00:52:59] I do also wanna thank everyone who attended both live and the reporting. We're really happy to be in touch with you. I hope you learned something that you can take with you in your daily life, or you at least had fun and that you will join. For future panels, we have a packed summer and early fall full of panels with all sorts of topics related to our industry, nonprofit web design e-learning donor relations.

[00:53:21] We also have association leadership and more so I hope you'll keep an eye out either on the NX unite, LinkedIn or the NX unite website for those opportunities. The registration. For all of the panels that have been announced is already live so you can register now. And then you'll get a reminder email in the days before the panel so that you remember that you signed up.

[00:53:40] All right. As I mentioned earlier, you'll also be receiving a survey. We would really appreciate if you take the time to fill that out, it should be very quick, but again, it can make sure that we make future panels the best possible for you. It's been a pleasure speaking with you all. Thank you again to our panelists.

[00:53:55] I've really enjoyed our conversation and I hope everyone has a nice rest of your. Thank you everyone. Thank you.

Ready to Become a More Productive Fundraiser?

Save time. Stop frustration. Get inspired. Start your free trial today.
I'm Ready

Fundraise faster.

Write professional appeals, proposals, thank-you letters, and more, 10x faster.

Plus, get free resources delivered to your email.

Thank you! Check your email for confirmation.