7 Tips to Write Grants Like a Pro with Holly Rustick
In this Instrumentl Partner Webinar, we learn from Holly Rustick as she shares some of the best grant writing strategies she has developed in her 15+ years of grant writing career.
By the end of this Instrumentl Partner Workshop, you'll be able to:
- Articulate your goals for your grants clearly
- Narrow down on SMART objectives
- Outline a budget that matches activities
- Submit more grants on-time
- 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.
Holly Rustick is the founder of Grant Writing & Funding and a bestselling author. She teaches nonprofit leaders actionable steps to learn grant writing skills and strategic planning and hosts the top-ranked grant writing podcast. Her podcasts offer inside tips, tools and templates for grant writers.
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.
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7 Tips to Write Grants Like a Pro Grant Training Transcription
Will: Hello everybody, welcome you all. My name is Will, I’m from the Instrumentl team, and I wanted to welcome you all to the “7 Tips to Write Grants Like a Pro.” This workshop is being recorded, and slides will be shared afterward, so keep your eyes peeled for a follow-up email later, in case you want to review anything from today. In case it’s your first time here, this free workshop is brought to you by Instrumentl. These are collaborations that we do with our partners to provide free educational workshops for grant professionals.
Our entire goal here is to tackle a problem that grant professionals often have to solve, while sharing different ways that Instrumentl’s platform can help grant writers win more grants. Instrumentl is the institutional fundraising platform. If you want to bring grant prospecting, tracking, and management into one place, we can help you do that. You can set up your own personalized grant recommendations using the link on the screen there which is Instrumentl.com.
Holly, before we get started, I wanted to announce the winner of the $100 donation for their non-profit. This participant shared our workshop today, and had a friend register as a result, so to enter for a chance to win prizes and whatnot before these workshops even attend, all you need to do is just share within your networks, and have your friends show up as well, because the more the merrier.
Congratulations to the Raising Youth Resilience who are dedicated to serving at-risk youth of Stockton, California. Lastly, be sure to stick around for today’s entire presentation. At the end we’re going to be sharing how you can get in on some of the 16 prizes we’ll be raffling away today value at over $750, so more details to come after Holly’s presentation, as well.
Now that we have that housekeeping out of the way, I’m really excited to introduce Holly today. Holly Rustick is the founder of Grant Writing and Funding, and a best-selling author. She teaches non-profit leaders actionable steps to learn grant-writing skills and strategic planning and hosts the top-ranked grant writing podcast. Her podcast offers inside tips, tools, and templates for grant writers, and we actually were just on her podcast as well. Our CEO is on there, so if you want to learn more about the Instrumentl backstory, you can tune into her latest episode as well. If you have any questions along the way, we ask that you throw in three hashtags so that it stands out in the Zoom chat. Other than that, Holly, why don’t you take it away?
Holly: Awesome, thank you so much, Will. I thank you guys for coming in, and thank you for your patience, we had a little techy thing in the beginning, but we’re all good now.
Let’s go ahead and get started, and once again, yes, we have instrumentl.com/holly if you want to do a two-week or 14-day Instrumentl trial on that, it’s free. Alright, so let’s go ahead and get going.
I know you guys are ready, so once again, this is the seven steps to write grants like a pro. By the end of our time together, you may see my cat, and you’re going to harness seven great grant writing hacks, and then we’re going to have time for questions.
Welcome again. Thank you so much for dedicating your time today for this training. As I know, time is the most valuable thing that we have, and it is the thing that some of us want the most.
Alright, so we have a poll real quick, so we’ll pull that up and basically, we kind of got started, in the beginning, too, we are asking people’s names and organizations. But what I really want to know is, when it comes to grants, what is your number one frustration?
Go ahead, and we have that poll up now.
Maybe it’s not knowing how to start, not knowing how to find grants, not knowing how to get past that blank screen, you’re like, oh my gosh, being confused about objectives versus outcomes, tricky formatting requirements, the budget, or just everything.
If you could go ahead and fill that out, and I don’t see the backside of that Will, so just let me know when you’re ready.
Will: Yep, I’ll be able to share it in a little bit.
Yeah, so I know a lot of these things, it might be everything, it might be something that’s not on here, if it’s not on here, you can go ahead and put it in the chat box as well, so we can see what is that number one frustration. And I’m seeing some people.
It looks like 7% are saying, not knowing how to start. 15% are saying they do not know how to find grants. 6% are saying not knowing how to get past a blank screen. 25% are saying they are confused about objectives versus outcomes. 8% are saying tricky formatting requirements. 18% are saying the budget, and 21% are saying all of the above. Great. Thank you, guys.
Alright, so now I know where to spend a little bit more time today, and there are the results right there. Being confused about objectives versus outcomes, and there’s another one I would like to throw in there. Would be objectives, outcomes, outputs. [inaudible] Man, that can make your head spin. We can definitely touch on that today. Thank you, guys.
I appreciate your feedback on that. And once again, this is just a reminder to put three hashtags in front of any questions in the chat box at any time when you have a question. And as Will mentioned, stay with us to the end, because we have bonuses, which is a special raffle. What do you think that’s going to be? Wink wink.
I want to know are you… Do you feel this way, right, a non-profit leader, or a development director, and you just don’t know where to start with writing grants, but you need funding for your organization? And I would tend to say that’s probably a yes. For a lot of you, because we were getting some introductions before we started today right Or you could be a current grant writer, and want to uplevel your brand writing skills, or a freelance grant writer, a non-profit consultant, and you want to be more consistent with securing your grants because clearly, that helps your credibility and to get more clients, and making the world right, so if you’re feeling any of these, I would love to know, but more specifically, I would love to know if you… and we just talked about, feel frustrated, right? You sit down with the full intention of writing a grant, and you just end up staring at a blank screen.
If you feel like you’re a number one, you can put that in the chat box. Number one, or maybe two, you feel overwhelmed and confused, and you continually get stuck in certain areas of a grant, the budget, the evaluation section. I write the objective, etc., or you feel inadequate. Now, this is more of a behavior feeling, right? And you feel inadequate, maybe, in your confidence and your skill level when applying for grants. Or, this is another behavior thing, you feel like an imposter when pitching your grant writing services, because you might lack confidence in your grant writing skills.
Do you guys resonate with any of these, and if so you can just put them in a number, one, two, three, or four? And I think you guys are doing that already.
I’m seeing a lot of them. What was one she said? Hold on, and two, okay. Current grant writers, number three, alright, all of them. Yeah, and you could feel a combination of all. One is feeling frustrated, right? Two is overwhelmed, three is inadequate, and four is an imposter, and no shame for any of these.
Sometimes we feel all of them, especially in the beginning, before we’re really confident with our skills. And even if you’re the most experienced grant writer, you can be working for a new client, or a new non-profit that has, like, been a new area that you haven’t worked in before, it can cause some of these things. But the thing is once we get our skills more up to par, we get more familiar with certain requests for proposals, or funding opportunity announcements, we will increase our confidence. And the skills that I’m going to give you today are going to help, because you think can I really do this like grant writing can feel so overwhelming, right? But I’m here to tell you that, yes, you can. And I can help, and this is why, here’s why I can help I’ve been there. I’ve been through all of those feelings, I’ve been through all of the things, I’ve been doing this for over 15 years, and I can totally relate on how you feel. Here’s how, right? But I’ve created a system that I’m going to be sharing with you guys today, that has taken me over 15 years to create, and these are all of my tips for now, when I get a grant application I can quickly get on… I have confidence, I can quickly get everything together, I can start writing the grant immediately, right? And here’s just a little bit of background, and I know Will touched on this, so I’m just going brief over this, but I’ve been able to get there through these systems, and I’ve shared these systems on stage, through my book, on my podcast, which once again, you’ll definitely have to check out last week’s episode because we had [Cory] on from Instrumentl, which was fantastic, and some of the other names. If you guys tune into this every couple of weeks, I’ve actually featured some other grant writers that have been featured on this Instrumentl training, as well.
Alright, and of course, I’ve won a lot of grants, right? That’s important as well—different grants. Let’s just, before we kick off today, just once again, what we’re going to do today: number one, we’re going to go over the seven grant tips. We’re going to get the training in two… Just two shakes. Number two, we’re going to announce the [inaudible] and number three, we’re going to have a live Q&A. Please stick around, we’re going to get to the top of the hour today.
Alright, so let’s start the training. Are you guys ready? Alright, seven grant writing hacks. Now, once again, these are gems that you’re going to walk… we’re not going to go into a lot of details, we are going to give you examples, and everything, but I really want you to walk away with the skeleton, but it’s the framework that’s going to help drive your grant writing forward, and I have put together in an acronym because I am a grant writer. That’s what we do. We are acronym pros. But here it is, so it’s the GRANTS formula, and we have an extra “S” so it actually GRANTS because you have one bonus.
Alright, so let’s step into proven step number one. Number one is pretty basic, it’s “Get the FOA RFP, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m going to tell you that in a second. And that is the “G” in the GRANTS formula. Get the FOA or RFP. What does FOA stand for? Funding Opportunity Announcement, and RFP is Request For Proposal. Oftentimes, you’re going to see the word FOA from federal grants, RFP from foundations, right?
Basically, what those two things mean are, further guidelines for the grant. You need to be aware of those, right? And I wanted to go ahead and show you a brief overlay on how I actually started implementing this using Instrumentl, because they have such a great platform.
I have some screen slides here, but I wanted to do a live interactive one, and Will’s going to help me out with that. Will, I know we had a lot of different non-profits that we were saying the different types of nonprofits. Did you want to go ahead and grab one for an example today? Oh, he’s on… you… Oh, you’re muted. Well, okay, but he’s here.
Will: Okay, can you see me?
Holly: There. Yeah, thank you, Will.
Will: Awesome. I’m going to go ahead and show you what setting up a project is like on Instrumentl. If you want to go ahead and pull in one of those example projects from earlier, then we can probably do Feeding Southwest Virginia, Emma, if she wants to share more about what she might be doing, or we can actually google her too, or, Feeding Southwest Virginia, and go from there. But, essentially, you’re going to create a project on Instrumentl, and if you have never created a project on Instrumentl, you can do so with Holly’s link. It’s pretty much in the chat there, and pretty much what we call this, we might call this… Feeding Holly’s… Let’s see here…
Holly: Yeah and Emma says go for it.
Will: Awesome. Emma’s… project. We’d select a non-profit, and then usually, you would answer “Yes” or, “No” if you’d like some faith-based organizations, and then when we do that, we go ahead, and we dig into where you guys are based out of. I think it was Virginia, is what was mentioned?
We can select the state and county. From here, you can go ahead and add in, all the way down to county-level if you’d like. And what we’re doing here with Instrumentl is, we’re essentially just setting up a custom grant search, that way you can actually just focus on looking at these RFPs and proposals and whatnot, that Holly just mentioned. You can go ahead and select food access, hunger, food delivery, maybe some food security, and then this will probably fall into community services.
I’d probably select that, and if there’s other things that are related, Emma, feel free to chime in. I’m going to actually isolate it for Roanoke County, since that’s what she shared with us.
You can see, we can go all the way down to the county level. And then, what we can then do, is we can just go ahead and filter through for what size grants we’re looking for. In this case, what I tell people is, if you’re a really small team it can be helpful to kind of set a minimum, just so that you can ensure that it’s worth your effort and your time, because you’re a small team. But for maximum, I tell people to leave it as is. Most people don’t need to set a max for grants, but most of the time, people will select projects and programs, as well as general operating expenses. And then we’ll go ahead and click save and exit. And then, Holly, if you want to explain what happens from here, what’s Emma going to start seeing as she clicks this save and exit button?
Holly: Yeah, so this is exciting.
Instrumentl is doing alchemy behind the scenes. What it’s doing, it’s pulling up very targeted… those RFPs, right? It’s actually, like, crawling the web, it’s crawling all of its resources to find different grant applications that are a very good fit for everything that you’ve just put in, and in that way, it’s almost… I always like to think of it… And I talked to [Cory] about this last week on the podcast, it’s kind of like a dating app for grants.
I love that analogy, because it is very smart, and look, boom! Foundation grants, corporate grants, two government grants, which is really cool, and you’d see 134 grants. That is amazing, and as you can see what Will has here is, you have all of the different… you have filters here, you can search, you can save these, you can be alerted when these grant applications are updated. It’s amazing.
This is for your project, and what I like about this that I think is very different than other platforms is, you can put in, not just for your non-profit in general, but Emma, if you were doing like a certain project, for your non-profit, you could set up different projects within Instrumentl, because you would want to look for different funding sources, and then that would all be saved there. Which is so cool, but another really cool thing I love about this is this 990 snapshot, and I know when I was talking to [Cory] again last week she said they’ve really upgraded their 990 information, and why is… What I mean is… Why is that even important? It’s so important because I used to have to go from one foundation platform, to Guidestar to pull down 990s that I could hope to find there, and then I’d have to go somewhere else to kind of look at all this information. I’d have like three different windows open, three different programs open, but in Instrumentl, it’s all in one place.
990s, what the magic sauce is with 990s is, you can actually look at and see what the foundation, or the funding source, has actually reported in funding from the different grant sizes, to the total assets, you can see as Will’s going down, all of their giving. You can see “Wow, I think 2019 was big,” right? There’s trends in this going up. Sometimes they say “We only give $5000 grants,” and when you look… or they say, “We give $50,000 grants on average, and you look at their 990s, you can see, actually, on average they give $10,000 grants, and it’s for a specific cause. It helps you when you’re communicating to the funding source to really know how to do that. You can see how it’s going up, you can see where… so this is the 990, and it’s showing where this foundation has given money, right? You can see all of the names of the non-profits it’s given money to, or how much, where they’re located, the purpose of the giving, and they even have a little graph, which is fantastic.
You can see, this is just… It’s a beautiful way to keep everything in one spot. And it’s very intuitive, so while you’re doing your research, this will save you time, right? And it gives you the comprehensive service that you need.
This is really… gets you away from that blank screen, to eventually, like… I know how to look at grants in a better way to find the best top fit.
Will: And aside from just the discovery process, which I know is the tip number one here that we’re going over, we also just help with the tracking and management side of things. Once you start saving things in one place, we also take care of all that task management as well as the deadline reminders.
If you’ve ever had to just apply for grants on a regular annual basis, you can do so, and track all of it in Instrumentl. You can see all of your past saved history. If you ever have like a new person join your team and things like that, all of it gets managed here, and again, you can use Holly’s link, which we’ll leave in the Zoom chat for you in terms of, if you’ve never tried us out, we are based mostly on US opportunities and US 501c3s.
Holly: Thank you, Will. Emma, was that helpful? Did you see there are 175 specifically targeting you? I hope that was helpful.
Emma: Yeah, that was super helpful. Thank you.
Holly: You’re welcome. Cool, awesome.
I’m going to go ahead and share my screen again, and thank you so much, Will. And just as I mentioned, I had done a little screen share, too, on something I was looking at, and one of the things I really liked is, it’s very specific, as you can see just on my screenshots as well.
I really like the specificity of it, because then it does more smart targeting for you, which is great, right?
All of that to tell you… or to show you, then, how you… Because some of you have said, some of the frustrations with looking at a blank screen when it comes to writing grants, and what does getting the FOA for our grant writing tip number one have to do with any of this? Well, I want to show you that. Basically, I wanted to show you where you find your FOA was, and you can find them in Instrumentl, as one example, right? Your funding opportunity announcements, or your requests for proposals. But how do you then take that, what we just pulled down and say, “Okay, this is an application?” How do you take that and go from blank screen to grant template, or what do I do? Well, I love, blah blah, if you go to the back, and you get a grant application, usually towards the middle or the back, is the funding the scoring criteria?
This was actually a grant I pulled down from Instrumentl, and I was looking for a grant for one of my projects that I’m working on. What I did is, you can see up in the corner here on the left is… just kind of like… throwing pens at myself… Is the language, and then the scoring criteria is usually, in some kind of chart, not always, but… and they don’t always even have it, but they’re at least going to give you what they want to see. What are the guidelines for the grant, right?
This is really important, because this is what grant reviewers are going to be looking at, the scoring criteria. This is what you want to actually, essentially do. I’m going to show you. You take what’s in the grant, I always like just to copy and paste it right into a Word, and those become my headers. All of a sudden, project description, and then “A. Community eligibility and assessment of means” that’s actually my header, I do exactly what they say, because their reviewer is going to have to be scoring on this.
If you want to go from a blank page to actually having a template developed, that’s what you can do, and you can see how I just kind of change the language, but it says “identify the area to be served.” I actually say, the area to be served by (the project name), right? Will be on the island of Guam.
I just say… I have bold that area, and right away, I know a reviewer… as they’re reviewing that, they have to score on, do they identify the area search? Yep. Check, bam, right? And all of a sudden, I’m taking what they essentially have, and turning it into a template. And you can even see, in blue I’d say, [Holly], add some sources et cetera.
This is just to get you started, and I do like to write myself notes. Or if you’re working with a team, and you know that somebody’s doing the research, you would put their name, and highlight that area. But essentially, this is what makes you go from a blank screen to actually having a template already developed. That’s very smart and intuitive, you know exactly where to start. This will save you so much time, and it’s going to make you score higher, because you already have exactly the language that the funding source is using, and you’re being very very specific, okay? Let’s kind of look at that.
Remember, right to the scoring criteria, you want to make sure that you are using their language, and if they have 50 points in one section, you’re probably going to be spending more time there if that’s the most points, That’s kind of another hack, too, because people say, “How much should I write for each section?” And it’s like, well, how many points are in each section? If it’s the higher points, you probably are going to hang up there, and be a lot more specific, right? And this is the way to hack number one: You’ll never start with a blank screen. Use that FOA.
G is get the FOA, and you can use it, basically, as a template, and to help you just start structuring your grants, alright?
Let’s look at proven step number two: Research the needs, right? This is our “R” for our grants formula. Research the needs, alright? Obviously we need to know, what are the needs? We need to come up and develop a problem statement. And another reason, too, as I say, it’s important for you to know “What are the needs?” Because a lot of times if you do the need section last, what you might find through your research is that the project I had in mind might not be the best one, right? Because when I did this research, it actually showed… and just as an example, I’ve done this before, where we started with the research, and we had it… I was working with a non-profit that works with substance abuse, right? And they were saying, okay, what they need is to have more classes for them, because they’re always wanting to have more classes on different types of sobriety, et cetera, recovery, workforce training, but when we did the needs, we actually did surveys, we did some focus groups, and what we found when we did the research was that they didn’t need more classes, there was plenty. They needed transportation to the classes.
Then, all of a sudden, that changed our angle, right? That “Oh, we need to ask for some vans. We need to get some money for some drivers etc., right?
That’s just one example on how your research can kind of change, and pivot, potentially, your entire grant application. But where do you find these needs, right? Where do you get your research? And just like I had just given you examples, you can do your own as well. If you have a really niche population, and you’re like… or if your area… I mean, the US census, right? It should be coming out soon, the new one, but a lot of people are using that 2010 information, and we really want to make sure that if you really need to get some information, you can do focus groups, you can do surveys for your beneficiaries, or your target area to come up with some newer surveys and research, as well. But you can find statistics, other types of surveys, case studies, and you really want it to be within the last five years. And that’s why I use that example of if you need to get some testimonials, do some surveys etc., you can also do that to pull in some specific data for your research section, and a lot of people ask me, they say, ”Well, how much research do I need to put in or sources, or citations? Does it need to be AP, MLA, all of those things? It doesn’t need to be anything specific, right? But if you do write in a certain way, like, if you aren’t used to AP, you just want to be consistent.
What I say is, that even in an abstract, if you can at least pull in one stat, right, and reference that, you really do want to pull in some specific stats, and reference them. What I mean by that is like what I have here, you want to say, there’s an example here, right, in parentheses it’s like, where the source is from, what the year is, right? You can put that in footnotes sometimes if it’s taking up a lot of room in your grants, but sometimes you do have to apply online, so you want it right within. You don’t have to have a crazy amount of stats, but you do want some, right, to support what you’re talking about. You can’t just say, “It’s really bad.” What does that mean? That’s too vague, it’s too general, I don’t know what your bad means to my view of that, right? But if you say, like here, 24.9 million people are victims of forced labor. That’s pretty specific, right? I mean, it’s general, but there’s a source, and a citation to it.
Alright, so those are some definite hacks on the research, the needs. Other places you can find resources are newspapers…
I found this report, the information I just shared with you, the statistics from the 2020 Trafficking In Persons report. You can find it in reports online from different sources. If you’re writing something specific for your area, it’s nice to have reports from your community, and you can find those, a lot of times, on your government or non-profit or higher institutions websites. It’s kind of nice to tie it into community goals, because they’ve done a lot of the work for you on the research. I’ve even pulled in, like, police reports of other types of data, because they have to report, right, on data.
You’re going to find a lot of things from there. Once again, you can do focus groups. For focus groups, you guys, I wouldn’t do more than… I try to keep it, like, six people, like smaller. Like up to eight, maybe? Right, because you want to keep it smaller, and not just have 100 people in a focus group, right? You do want to keep those a little bit smaller, but for surveys you can put them out there. And testimonials are really great, too. Because a lot of the stats that you’re showing like “X number of people,” are very quantitative. The testimonials and the case studies kind of iron it out with more qualitative or more words, versus numbers. To kind of contextualize the research, so it’s a little less dry, if you will.
Those are definitely some resources for you, and in the bottom here, you can just see a little Russian Doll popped up, and I like to look at this section with the rest of the grant writing tips here. And it’s kind of like those Russian dolls where you take one apart, and keep going, because it all fits together, and it’s like, instead of using the metaphor of an onion. That’s a little more attractive, but it all fits together in some sort of puzzle here.
Let’s look at the problem statement. After you’ve done your research, after you’ve done this, you really want to show that a specific… pull one main thing from it, and I know we’re not taught this a lot, but this is going to help you. What is the main problem? What is the main need? Well, what I found are, there are no shelters for survivors of human trafficking in X City. I’m just using this as… this is totally a fictionalized example, anything today, but it’s not too far from the truth in a lot of cases. I’m not saying there is a lack of… I see that a lot you guys, there’s a lack of this… Well, lack is too general. I don’t really know what you’re talking about. Does “lack” mean two? Does “lack” mean five? Does “lack” mean none? If there’s none… Because a lot of times, it’s not “lack.” It’s “there’s none.” There’s none that are actually being served. There’s no projects here that are serving your target demographic. You can just say, “there are no…” But if there were 5, but there was a waiting list of 500 people, for each one of those, you could also use that there are only five shelters for survivors of human trafficking in X City, with a waiting list of 500 for each, every single month. Therefore, that shows a need. Be specific in your problem statement. Don’t use words like “lack of.” And don’t use “we need,” because now you’re showing the solution once you start using words like “need.”
Alright, now, why this is important is, this builds the whole grant. Let’s go to step number three. I’m going to show you how it links together. Articulate the goal. That’s our A. Articulate the goal. A lot of you guys were saying goal? Let’s go ahead and talk about what is a goal. A goal is basically, what do you want to accomplish? What is the main impact going to be at the end? You can also look at, what are other community goals that you can tie in? And like I said, a lot of times, you can find those in those reports that are published on non-profit umbrella websites in your area, or in government websites, those types of goals. You can tie those in as well. Let’s look at our example. An example that we could have for this project is, to create safe homes for survivors of human trafficking in our region. It’s pretty big. It’s pretty broad, but it’s definitely like, that’s what we want to get to. That other ultimate aim of how the impact of this grant can be, is to create safe homes, right? Which is a really cool thing. And how do I come up with this? I’m going to show you my trick, okay? My trick. Flip the problem statement around. Now it’s all going to be connected. And what exactly do I mean?
Okay, here’s the problem statement, just to refresh your memory. There are no shelters for survivors of human trafficking in X City. How would you solve that problem? The goal is really solving the problem. You’ve done this research to show there’s a problem. Now, how are you going to solve it? Well, we’re going to flip it around, and that’s our goal.
How would we put that? There’s no shelters. It is to create safe homes. All of a sudden we’re creating shelters. This is really good, because it ties in together. If you get stuck on, I don’t know what the goal is, remember, look back at your problem statement and be like, what’s our problem statement? What is the real issue here? Because you want to solve the issue. That’s the whole thing of really showing the need, right? Let’s go ahead, and you can see, now we’re taking your Russian dolls apart, because it all connects together. The next step will also connect together, which is proven step number four: Narrowing your objectives.
Let’s go ahead and have a look at that. That’s the end. Hope you guys remember these. Now let’s see… and also Dr Bev Browning, I have a note for myself here, but just to let you guys know, she also did a session on Instrumentl that maybe Will can link you to as well, and when we do the replay, or at the end, we can link to that. She really concentrated a lot of time just on this, and I know a lot of you guys said, This was a high one, that said “What’s the difference between objectives and outcomes?” So we might… you guys might want to do that as a refresher, as well. But let’s go ahead. Narrow objectives.
Objectives need to be SMART and you are going to see this a lot of times in the FOA in the RFP, and you might be like, “What does that mean?” It doesn’t mean they have to have a PhD, right? And a lot of you guys probably know what this acronym is, but let’s go ahead and spell it out. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. I love love love these goals, and sometimes I’m even like, I will just even spell this out in the grant, and be like, it is specific because the blah. It is measurable because of blah. It is achievable because of this. You can be… and that might sound like, “Oh my gosh, that’s so basic,” Yes. Write basic in grants, okay? People like to do that and they like to easily find them. Think of yourself as a grant reviewer getting like 10 15 grant applications to review within 10 days. Most people have full-time jobs, they’re doing this on the side, they’re tired, they’re people, they want to easily be able to find things. Be basic in your grant writing.
Alright, But it doesn’t have to be boring, alright, you just want it to be clear.
Let’s go back and say, okay, well, how do you write an objective? Then I see what it is. How do you write that and have it connect to everything?
Let’s pull our example goal back. “To create safe homes for survivors of human trafficking in our region.” An objective could be, “by the end of quarter one to lease a four-plex apartment building that will provide housing for 8 survivors of human trafficking in our region. I think that’s what it says, I can’t see the bottom of it, the bar is in the way. Hey, we’ll get to the next screen, and you’ll see it.
That ties it together, and I’m going to point out exactly how this is SMART. Let’s break that down again. Here’s the example objective that I just went over, so if you’re writing notes, it’s still here, don’t worry about it. By the end of quarter one to lease a four-plex apartment building that will provide housing for 8 survivors of human trafficking.” Alright, how is it specific? Well, it’s specific, so if you have that, you always ask yourself this question. Even if you don’t write this all down, right? Write your objective, but go back and say, “Is this specific?”
Well, by the end of quarter one, I’m going to lease a four-plex apartment for 8 survivors. Okay, that’s pretty specific. Is it measurable? Well, yeah, because it’s time-bound. By the end of quarter one, right? And you’re saying exactly what you need to do, you’re going to lease this, for this many people.
I can measure all of those components. Is it achievable? Well, when we look at our budget, we’ll see if it’s achievable. That will tie in there, but it’s definitely relevant, because remember, that goes back… How is this relevant? Well, it fixes the problem statement, it ties into the goal. It’s our third Russian doll. Yes, it’s relevant. We are all working together on this, like a puzzle, right? And is it time-bound? Yes. “By the end of quarter one.”
If you see, you have to keep it within the funding duration that the grant provides, so they might say you have to spend this money in a year, basically, it’s a year duration or two years, it could be a multi-year grant. But your objective doesn’t have to be the full length of the grant, because you can have multiple objectives, okay? I usually recommend up to three, no more than three. Okay, so and you don’t have to have three, but no more than three. And sometimes the FOAs, remember, the Funding Opportunity Announcement will also specifically spell out how many they want you to have, but usually up to three is really good. You don’t want to have more than that, because you can have tasks underneath. Which is what we’re going to go over next, so definitely, this is a good way to say, “Oh this is how to make it SMART,” This is how you can remind yourself. As I said, three max. Make it reflect the goal. It has to make sense with that goal, and with the problem statement, and you need sub-tasks to accomplish this. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s get into it. Proven step number five: Timetable your activities.
That next part of the Russian doll coming here is, timetable your activities. This is the fun part. I love creating charts. If you are able to create charts… Now, you can’t always include charts, but this is really good to have, because it breaks up white space on the page. Also it can take less space when you’re doing charts sometimes. And it’s really nice for reviewers.
If I have that objective here on the top, “by the end of quarter one to lease the four-plex apartment building that will provide housing for 8 survivors of human trafficking. Then I put in the timetable activities, and what that is, is I like to have the description, the role responsible, the start and end date, and how you evaluate that. Now, before you’re like, “Oh my gosh, how do I do all that,” it’s pretty simple. You can see here for an example. Well, one of the things you have to do to reach this objective is to secure the four-plex apartment building. Who would do that? Well, the project director. When would they start? You can put in start/end month, month one to month two. How do you evaluate that? You don’t have to spend fifty thousand dollars on software and evaluation methods for that. If the lease is signed, right? Remember, simple.
You could go down with all the things that need to get accomplished to reach this goal. You can also see I put in example develop outreach materials. In order to to find those survivors of human trafficking, and so that they know about this apartment building. You may have to develop outreach materials.
I think about every single task that needs to be accomplished so that the objective can come to fruition, which will then impact the goal, and reverse the problem statement. Let’s go on and move to the project, or the current step six. Budget. Strategic budget. The “S” is strategic budget, and I know what?
Okay, so, this all relates together. You can see, I’m not talking about project narrative today. I’m talking about all of these steps, the research… so you have the problem statement, the goal, the objectives, and the timetable, and the budget, you can all do first, then fill out everything else that needs to be done in the project. And the narrative…
Alright, guys, so this is what you want to start with when you’re having those kickoff meetings. When you’re really trying to develop the framework of the brand, otherwise, if you try to start writing about the organization, and all the things in the narrative first, and then you get here, you’re going to be behind, okay?
You want to do these areas first. Yeah. You’re going to talk about the money, and if you look back, what I like to do is put my timetable, all the things that I said I wanted to get done so I could reach my objectives right next to my budget, and start filling in what needs to be… What I need to spend money on to make this happen, right? And then you can really see how much do you need? And you make sure you’re not missing anything. Now one of the things I often see is, I can tell when someone wrote the narrative, and somebody else wrote the budget, and they didn’t talk. You want to make sure you put these side by side, so you’re both talking. I would… Obviously you need a project director, if you have fringe benefits, you would put those there, travel etc., and this budget that I’m using right here, is actually a sample federal budget. These are all the categories that the federal government uses. I like to use these even for my foundation grants, because then it’s a unified process system for all of the grants that the non-profit has.
These are the typical categories, then the bolds, all caps, that you will see, and then I just fill it all in. And we can go over this with a little bit more Q&A. I know we’re getting a little pushed for time, so I want to make sure we have time for Q&A. Basically, what I’m going to do is, the personnel, well… What’s included in my timeline. Remember that the project director needs to do all the work to get the lease signed, they’re going to be there, right? I have to put them in the budget. If there’s certain fringe benefits, I need to talk to my HR and figure out what those are. But at the very least, you need to have *fight gun workers, calm travel, sometimes. There’s required travel for the grants, right? You have to go to DC to do annual training, so you have to make sure that… and if there’s required training, and travel, that it’s in the grant application, in the budget. Equipment. Now, equipment here does not mean computers, okay? It means any one item that will last more than a year that is at least $5000.
I had to buy that van. Yes, that’s going to go into equipment. Alright, but I see a lot of people putting computers and other things like that. Don’t put them in equipment, even though it might seem in your brain that that’s what it is. What that would be is supplies, okay? That’s where the computers and stuff go. And then contracts. That lease. You could put the lease under a contract, right? Because you have to lease the four-plex, and then we have others, some others here.
Sometimes grants of the FOAs... Remember, the Funding Opportunity Announcement or RFP is going to tell you specifically what to put in the budget, where to put things too.
Do read that. Indirect cost -- If you have an indirect cost for your non-profit, you definitely want to put them here, but according to the OMB super circular, all the money stuff for grants, you can put up to 10% now, in that area, and that might be the things that support your project, so you still got to pay for the lights, you still got to pay for maybe the bookkeeper, those things that they’ll be focusing on a lot of other things in the organization overall, but they also connect with this project. It kind of overlaps, so those are things.
That’s how it all connects together. You want to make sure your budget aligns with your objectives. Remember, I said put it side by side, make sure you’re not missing anything. Make sure you work on your budget with your accountant, bookkeeper, human resources, and grant writer, right?
If you don’t want to just come up with salaries if the organization already has identified certain salaries for jobs, different jobs, or different fringe benefits, that sort of thing. And if you need quotations.
If you are asking me, you’re going to hire a contractor or something like that, you might put out to three different sources to get different quotes that you can actually include in grant applications, too, so you can show that you got the best and the most meaningful quality for that quote.
Alright? And make sure that you follow the federal budget categories that I just showed you.
Alright, guys, so these were the six ones. I have an extra step that I didn’t tell you about, so we talked about getting the FOA, research the needs, articulate the goal, narrow the objectives, timetable the activities, and have a strategic budget. My extra bonus step is, “Apply to be a federal reviewer.” Now, I talked about this a little bit. I do have a podcast that we can definitely share with you that goes over more information, and these are two of my students that, actually I always recommend doing this, and then they became federal grant reviewers, and they share their experience. But it’s a really good way for you to become a better grant writer, when you’re reviewing other grants. You do not need to be a grant writer to be a pure grant reviewer, okay? You just need to be in that industry so Emma’s… she was talking about being in the food, like… doing the food banks and everything, she could review different federal grants, potentially, that are in the health and human services, right, for that federal agency. Because of her experience she brings to the table.
All you need to do is apply, you can look at the different federal agency websites, and you can actually find how you can apply. You can find these peer-review opportunities, and like I said, you do not have to be a grant writer. It teaches you how to review brands, and it teaches you how to actually become a better grant writer, because you’re reviewing these. Plus, you get paid a stipend, which isn’t a bad thing.
It definitely is a valuable thing for you just to learn, and you get paid a little bit, so it’s kind of nice to do. Alright, guys. Let’s review today. Harness grant writing hacks, via the GRANTS formula, and become a grant reviewer. You will definitely understand that it is a human process. And like I said, today you get an amazing raffle, access to an amazing raffle, and Will is going to be talking about that in just a shake, here. But if you want to follow up with me, I have further resources on this, a ton of podcasts.
You can definitely also have my GRANTS formula, which is free, and it’s a mini video training on my website, so if you want more depth about that. I know we covered a lot today, but that was kind of the thing, make it general. If you walk away with one or two golden gems or tips from today that you can apply to make you a better grant writer in general, then I think that’s magic. And once again, you can definitely get the Instrumentl 14-day trial for free at instrumentl.com/holly. I’m going to kick it back to Will.
Will: Awesome, thanks, Holly, and thanks so much for attending guys, sorry about those technical difficulties in the beginning, but as promised we do have another great raffle for you guys, in case you’re interested in participating. To do so, you can just use the link that I linked to in the Zoom chat. You’ll also have it sent to you after this workshop, and complete any of the actions. For people that are new, you can create your Instrumentl trial account with Holly’s link. Otherwise, you can just give us some webinar feedback, as well as share what you learned on LinkedIn or Twitter. And then we’re going to announce 16 winners this time.
What we’re doing is, we are having one grand prize winner for Holly’s course, and then we’re also going to be raffling away 15 copies of Holly’s best-selling book, “The Beginner’s Guide to Grant Writing” If you found her process helpful, and you want to get a deeper dive into that, that’d be a great way to to learn more from her. If you enjoyed this grant writing session, you’ll love our next one. It’s on how to use the decision matrix to decide which grant opportunities to pursue, with Stacey Fitzsimmons. That’s going to be on June 23rd at 1 pm Eastern, and you can register as well on the events calendar. But now we’re going to go ahead and open up the Q&A. The first question that we have is from Jennifer, which is how to name a grant so that it stands out, if there’s any buzzwords framing or scope that you’d recommend, Holly, and we can go from there? Cool, okay.
Holly: That’s a great question, and I love coming up with names, but I’d like to say you also want to write to the source.
Sometimes I write NOAA grants, National Ocean and Atmospheric whatever… Scientific grants on marine stuff, and so I might not come up with a whimsical name for that, because science-based people, the ones that I work with, especially with non-profits, they want more sciency names. We might write something very specific, like the “mitigation strategies for coral bleaching” in the specific region. It’s going to be very right-right, but that’s how they want to write it, and they’re used to writing papers in that way, and that’s completely fine. However, with some foundation grants, I love coming… You can tell I like acronyms, right? We’ll have to write acronyms, too, that describe the program, or just like a title that really makes sense.
I work with a lot of indigenous groups, too, and they want to use their language for grants. [native language] We have different words that are in different languages. Like tomorrow we like to use for that because that really embodies the project.
Not only what catches the attention of the reviewers, but I want you to realize that, once this is funded, right? How are you going to own that? How are you going to embody that project? Because that name you choose is going to be the name of the grant? Right? That you use, and that really encompasses and speaks to your people. You know, your beneficiaries about that.
I wouldn’t be too hard on what you think the reviewers will want, but, how do you embody it? And how do you really want to own it, right? And I hope that’s helpful, but you can really see it has a different, depending on kind of the culture of your organization, and that sort of thing, how you really want to do that, but I have seen… one I saw that was really cool was like, I’ve seen different projects are being called, like, “#something” and that’s kind of fun too.
Once again, it goes back, maybe that’s a younger organization that’s going to be a lot of social media, so you really want to embody the culture of the organization.
Will: David asked, “How critical are demonstrated or objective outcomes to successful grant writing? It’s a huge challenge to get this for a smaller grassroots organization.”
Holly: Is that kind of two questions, Will? Is it…
Okay, so the one is, how challenging is it for objectives?
Will: Yeah, so I think he’s just commenting on the question, which is…
He’s asking, “How critical is it to have demonstrated or objective outcomes to be successful in grant writing?” And I think he’s noting that it’s a huge challenge to get this sort of thing for a smaller grassroots organization.
Holly: Okay, but it doesn’t have to be. Like, it doesn’t have to be hard. What we just learned today is that objective that’s SMART, is it SMART? We really looked at the objective. You’re kind of saying, what are the outcomes? Let me just share this, because a lot of you guys said, you wanted some clarity between what are outcomes and objectives, and let me just throw in outputs, real quick. And I don’t have a fancy slide to describe, obviously, so I hope you just follow along.
Your objective, remember, has to be SMART. It’s one of the main things that needs to drive the goal forward. The objective, though, should have outputs. For my example that I gave you, one of the outputs is signing the lease, right? It’s a tangible thing that can be actually accomplished. Now, an outcome, how that’s different from an output… so think outputs, tangible, numbers, quantitative. Right? Outcome is a behavior change. Now, I could say, we have decreased risk factors amongst survivors of human trafficking. We have increased confidence for survivors of human trafficking. What are the behavior changes? That’s what I really want you guys to think.
Those of you have some questions about what are the different things. Remember, the objective is how you’re going to reach that goal, but from the objective, you’re going to have outputs, and you’re going to have outcomes. The outputs are the tangible thing that you can actually quantify, and the outcomes are harder because how do you actually… What are the decreased risk factors? Yes, you can quantify that, but it’s more of the behavior change.
It doesn’t have to be difficult, it’s just… You can think about it as, I’m going to give you money, and I want you to do my priority with the money I give you. How am I going to make sure that you reach my priority? Well, I’m going to do this project, and I’m going to accomplish it through this objective, and these are the outcome outputs that I’m going to do, and this is the behavior change of what I’m actually going to do with the outcome.
I hope that’s helpful.
Will: Alexander asked, “How do you write for low character counts?”
Holly: Oh, everything I taught you today, remember, is the backbone of the grant. A lot of people get caught in the weeds with all the flowery narrative, and it’s great, but at the same time, if you just have the problem statement, the goal, you’re up to three objectives, and the budget. That those are the main things that they’re looking for. What is the impact? How are you going to get there? How much money do you need? If you really need to have like these sometimes like 250-word counts on these online
Applications, that’s cray-cray. But if you have just the essentials that I taught today, that’s… You can see I could understand an entire grant with just the system that we went over today.
If you keep tight on those, and then everything else can kind of be, like, to add to that, right? To add color to it, those are the ways that you can get away with keeping low count, but being very specific. And what you’re going to do.
Will: Lise was wondering if you provide any survey templates, whether that’s on your website or somewhere else?
Holly: I don’t have survey templates, but I will say, in the book itself, if you get the book, it’s actually a workbook. You can go through it, and there’s a lot of templates there, and then there’s a link where you can get all of the templates that are in the book that are downloadable, so you can use them again and again. There’s actually, like, even the budget sample. I gave you guys a federal budget sample, I give you an excel sheet, all of those things. If you want to get the digital files from the book, you can definitely do that.
Will: Another reason to enter the raffle. Gillian is asking, “Would your objective be the same for a capacity-building project for a similar project, if you’re hiring two staff members to work in the housing for survivors of human trafficking, would you state the problem the same way?”
Holly: I’m sorry, I lost you for a second, my internet went out, can you repeat that question?
Holly: Thank god it came back.
Will: Gillian said, “Would your objective be the same for a capacity-building grant for a similar project if you’re hiring two staff members to work in the housing for survivors of human trafficking, would you state the problem the same way?”
Holly: Yeah, I would definitely say the problem the same way. That’s what the problem was. Because, remember, if you’re hiring staff, that’s just a part of reaching your objective, and to reach the goal to flip the problem. Hiring staff members can’t be a solution, not the actual hiring the staff members, that’s more of an activity, right? I would put that as an activity, because you need those staff members, then, to run the program.
That’s kind of how I would put it, as more of a task, but it doesn’t have to change the problem, if that’s what the problem is, right?
I hope that’s helpful.
Will: Awesome. I also think it’s Julian, not Gillian. I had a brain freeze there. Lauren had a question, “How do you best address geographic focus if you’re applying in a city or state if you are located, but you have participants in other states?” Participants in other states, okay.
Holly: You can… Whatever you’re writing, whatever the program, where it’s going to be operating, that’s where I would write the geographic area. I wouldn’t necessarily spend time on the headquarters, because where is the project going to be served? That’s where I would spend the time with geographic research and everything.
Will: Next question from Alexandria, “How do you develop evaluation methods to submit in your application?”
Holly: I give you some really basic ones in the timeline. I would always say, put it in your timeline.
Sometimes there’s… and you can kind of reflect on that.
If one of the tasks was to secure the lease, who, remember, the role… who’s going to do that? And that’s always an important thing to include, because you could say, we’re going to do this activity, but if you don’t articulate who’s going to be the lead for it, then it gets complicated.
Especially if you’re working with partners, and all that but then you have to remember the start date, the end date, and then the evaluation method. Now, I just throw that in right there, sometimes. There’s another section on evaluation, completely.
You do have to read the FOA, remember, you have to read through the FOA or the RSP.
On that timetable that I had, it was just very simple. How are you going to make sure the task is done? Well, the lease is signed. But sometimes you do need an entire evaluation section on how you’re going to evaluate your entire grant. So you do want to use indicators. Sometimes you hire an external contractor. It really does depend on the grant for the evaluation section on that. But in short, if you don’t have that, you still want to include how you’re going to be evaluating your objectives, right? And your project. And just by developing a SMART objective, it’s going to make it very easy to measure it, because you’re already making sure it’s measurable, remember? We wanted to add those measures in.
Will: Are there any databases for evidence-based methodology or curriculums?
Holly: There’s a ton of different higher-institutions that have repositories. I just came across these things called lib reviews, because they’re making another grant for your library, and I’m like, oh my gosh, that’s so cool. There’s definitely places that you can go to get information, but I don’t have a centralized database, no.
Will: Awesome. If you guys have any final questions, feel free to leave them in the chat. Holly, where can we find your book? Pretty sure Amazon, correct?
Holly: Yeah, yeah, you can definitely jump over to Amazon, but if you’re like, “What’s her name again?” You can also go to grantwritingandfunding.com which is my website, and I have all the information there as well, in addition to a few other free resources. I have free and recommended resources on my website as well. I have Instrumentl links there, too. You can see all of the goods that we have there, and the podcast too.
If you want more we’re, oh gosh, we’re getting into 180 episodes, already on our podcast. We’ve been around for quite a while. I’ve actually featured Instrumentl twice on the podcast, which has been a lot of fun.
You can definitely check that out.
Will: Awesome. To answer a question around tracking grants in a spreadsheet, how is Instrumentl better? The best way that I can answer it is, we cover more than just being a spreadsheet, and so it’s not only dynamic in that you can filter for what you look at, but you also deal with all the task management and the deadline tracking.
Every single week we roll things up for you, and we tell you, “Hey, here are all of your deadlines and your tasks coming up.” Which saves you having to use a separate to-do list tracker, and things like that, and it brings everything you need for your grants to one single place, and Charlie had a question which is, “What tips do you have for writing grants for succession planning?” Is, I believe, what they meant to put into the chat.
Holly: If you’re writing a… I don’t know if I’m following you completely, but if you’re writing it for like specific succession planning like, that would be a capacity-building grant, If you want to build out how you’re going to be transferring over, but if you mean more like, how do you build a sustainability plan within your grant, because that’s needed a lot, so I’m not sure, maybe that’s a part of it too. Sustainability is really important basically, how do you keep it going? Because we think of grants like, startup money, or seed capital, but they also want to know once… because it’s only for a certain duration… it’s not like I got the grant, no more funding for life. No.
Okay, so after that duration is over, how are you going to keep the project going? The funding source gives you a bunch of money, right? Even if it’s five thousand, that’s a bunch of money. How are you going to keep it going from what they invest in you? Right? These are like investors?
Then you need to have a plan in place on, we’re going to reach out to these partners, we’re going to formulate these NYU, we have these volunteers that are helping blah blah blah. We can keep this project going, even after the grant duration and funding is done.
Will: Awesome. Farrell asks, “Is it possible to transition project information and data tracking and Instrumentl into RE and NXT?” That would probably be done through a report, so you’d probably export it through a CSV report, and then do an import from there. But if you have further examples that you’d like us to take a look at, feel free to contact us in your Instrumentl account, or at “[email protected] Instrumentl.com, and we can definitely take a look there. Let’s see if there’s any other questions that I may have missed, I think we may have covered it all,
That should wrap things up then, Holly. As a reminder for everybody, we will be sending out the presentation slides as well as the recording later today. Thank you so much everybody for joining in today, and I hope to see you join us for the raffle. And yeah, if you have any feedback, feel free to submit that feedback form, and that will also enter you into the raffle. Alright, thanks so much, everybody, and I'll see you guys in a few weeks. Bye now.