How to Write a Proposal Narrative w/ Lynn Arsenault
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By the end of this one-hour workshop with Lynn Arsenault, you’ll learn:
- What are the things you need to know about writing a grant proposal
- What is the most frequently requested information by funders
- How to write a "boilerplate grant template" to help streamline your grant writing process
- How Instrumentl can help you find new good fit funders, organize your proposals and more
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Lynn Arsenault works with nonprofit clients all over the U.S. She takes a collaborative approach to her work, building strong relationships with her clients, funders, and the nonprofit community. Throughout her career, she has proudly collaborated on funding requests that range anywhere from $1,000 to $14 million.
Lynn's career has included a mix of the nonprofit world and education. Before to launching LMA Grant Consulting LLC, Lynn was the lead grant writer for four years at an educational nonprofit in Boston, MA that strived to connect the local community with global issues. Prior to that, she was a teacher in Boston, Massachusetts and Houston, Texas. From 2012 to 2014, Lynn had the honor and privilege to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, where she worked as an English Literacy Trainer.
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5 Grant Research Mistakes (and What to Do Instead) - Grant Training Transcription
Will: Hello, everyone. And welcome to How to Write a Proposal Narrative with Lynn Arsenault. This workshop is being recorded and slides will be shared afterwards. So please do keep your eyes peeled for a follow-up email later today. If you want to review anything that we go over. In case it is your first time here, this free grant workshop is an Instrumentl partner webinar.
These are collaborations between Instrumentl and community partners to provide free educational workshops for grant professionals. Our goal is to tackle a problem that you all often have to solve for, while sharing different ways that Instrumentl's platform can also help you win more grants.
Instrumentl is the institutional fundraising platform. If you wanna bring grant prospecting, tracking, and management into one place, we can help you do that. And you can set up your own personalized grant recommendations using the link that has been shared in the Zoom chat right now. And now with that housekeeping out of the way I'm very excited to introduce Lynn Arsenault. Lynn works with nonprofit clients all over the United States and she takes a collaborative approach to her work, building strong relationships with her clients, funders, and the nonprofit community.
Throughout her career, she has proudly collaborated on funding requests that range anywhere from $1,000 to $14 million. And with that, Lynn, why don't you go ahead and take it away.
Lynn: Great. Thank you so much, Will. I'm so glad to be here today and see so many folks joining this call. So as you heard a little about myself just to share a bit about who I am and what's brought me into the grant writing world.
My background actually originated in teaching. I spent several years as a writing teacher and came into the nonprofit world by way of the Peace Corps and realized through my service in the Peace Corps that I actually was really, really passionate about the nonprofit sector. So ended up going back to school, getting an MBA nonprofit leadership, and then spent about four years as the lead grant writer at a nonprofit in Boston.
So since then I've branched out, started my own consulting business. And as Will said, I've been working with nonprofits all over the country on a range of sectors and amounts of funding, the largest amount that I've secured was a $14 million funding proposal. So all different types of organizations that I've been working with.
And with that, before we get started, I know some of you have already shared this already. Being a former teacher, something you'll learn about myself is that I do like to make any kind of webinars interactive. I like to know who's in the room and we'll occasionally stop and ask a few questions to just learn more about who is here with us.
So if you haven't already go ahead and share your name, organization, and state or country that you're joining us from. And while you're doing that, I'll just share that I'm joining today from Beverly, Massachusetts, which if you're not familiar with Massachusetts, it's north of Boston along the coast.
So, I see some of us are joining from much more exciting places today. I see some from Hawaii, Georgia, Florida. Wonderful. Pennsylvania. Fantastic. Oh, Panama. Wonderful.
Great. Well, as we go through throughout this session, I'll have a few other questions to ask you just to learn a little more about who is in the room, but overall today, what I'd like to talk with all of you about is in my experience as a grant writer, I find that funders tend to look for the same general areas of information, but they tend to ask it in different ways.
So what I do with clients a lot is create what I call a boilerplate grant template where it's basically this master grant where we take all of the key areas of information that funders are likely to ask and put it together in this boilerplate grant. So we're gonna talk today about those specific sections that funders tend to ask for most frequently, though they might ask for it in a variety of ways.
So those areas will be the organizational background, a needs statement, goals and objectives. And I would say for the purpose of today's session, we're looking a little bit more at like program or project grants and thinking about those goals or objectives, but it can be applied to really any type of grant. Methodology, impact and evaluation, sustainability, and then how you close up a grant at the end.
So before we jump right in, I'm curious, as you are joining us today there's a reason why all of you decided to join. And I'm curious what part of grant writing are you most excited to learn about or most interested in learning about? I see Heidi's interested in everything. I love that. Anyone else? Printing a compelling narrative. Absolutely.
Deliverables, expediting paths to funding. Yes. And I'm so glad who said, who was it that said that, Dr. [inaudible]? Yes. I agree. I feel like expediting paths to funding and in part that's why I work with so many clients to create this boilerplate grant template so we can sort of streamline the process, have a lot of the information at hand. I would never recommend a cut and paste approach, but rather this is to have everything in one place and then be able to modify it, adapt it to a specific funder's request, and then use it.
But it does streamline that process quite a bit by having all of your information in one place. So jumping right in. The first section in most grant proposals is really this request for your organization's background. Now, typically when a funder is asking for this information this is basically your first introduction to the funder.
So this is your chance to introduce your organization, give a summary of your mission, what year you were established, where you're located, who you reached, really all of the basics. You also have a chance to give a summary of what you do, what programs you're doing. But it doesn't need to be extremely in depth yet. That usually comes a little bit later.
So this is just kind of a brief summary as well as a history of your organization. I work with a lot of nonprofits that, over time, they have actually shifted what their focus is and their programs have changed. And that's okay. Vendors like to learn a little about that background history of your organization.
So maybe you started as one thing, and then you realized the need was even greater. And so you expanded what you do. So that's great to include. I also like to say if there's room and as I'm sure, maybe if you know one of the most challenging parts of grants is character limits. Word limits can be very frustrating.
So if there's room, I also like to include some information about the board and staff structure. So especially you have a very involved board and just kind of talk about who is it that represents your organization? So as we go throughout our session today, we're going to talk about each of these sections. And then I'm going to show you an example that has kind of fill in the blanks.
I want you to take a moment. I know there's a lot on the screen, but go ahead and just read through a bit of this. This is a very brief example of what an organization background could look like. So just take a moment and kind of scan through and this is fairly short.
Again, it has a few fill in the blank areas, but the thing that I wanna call your attention to the most is I am a really big supporter of using bullet points whenever you can or lists. It gives your proposal a very clean look and you want funders when they're sitting down looking at your application, you really want them to be able to scan through quickly and gain that information, and have an understanding of what your organization is.
Now, one of the biggest questions I usually receive after this is, well, what if it is an online portal that maybe doesn't accept that type of formatting? There are so many creative ways to work around that. What I like to do a lot is to use hyphens and in place of a bullet point, you can make sure to have spacing, being creative so that it still looks clean.
Your presentation does matter. Even when you're working in an online portal that doesn't allow for bullet points, you can put hyphens, you can use an asterisk, you can use numbers to list it, to really just think about that presentation and make sure that funders can really scan through quickly and get an understanding of who you are.
So the next thing that you wanna think about is your needs statement. So your needs statement, this is typically what a funder's asking you. What is the problem, challenge, or specific need in your community that your organization plans to address? Now, I find that a lot of times when you're really deep in the work of your nonprofit, it's very intuitive to you what the need is, but you wanna step back and pretend like you are brand new to the sector, and you have never heard of your organization's work before, pretend like you have no idea what the need is, and really give some background information and teach it to the funder.
I always suggest using both qualitative and quantitative info. So use data, but also whenever you can throughout your proposal, try to tie in some storytelling as well. Use some examples of specific constituents that you're reaching and how it affects them.
So you can take a moment to just kind of preview this example. And it's just some fill in the blanks, an example of what it could look like.
And one area that I wanna call your attention to in this example is this last section. And again, this is very short. Your needs statement would likely be much longer, but one of the most important things when you are outlining who you are within the community is really to identify how your organization is different from other organizations who are addressing the same need.
So if you picture putting yourself in the seat of the funder, and if the funder receives two applications that are from very similar organizations addressing the same need and funding is always limited, it's always going to be competitive. So everyone will not necessarily receive funding.
So how will that funder decide which organization gets that support? Well, if you are able to identify how you are addressing a problem completely differently than anyone else in the community, then you have set yourself apart. You have differentiated yourself and you're showing why that vendor should choose your organization to fund.
So I want everyone to take a moment and in the Zoom chat in one sentence or less, and I know that it can be hard to limit it to such a short sentence, what is the need that your nonprofit is addressing? So maybe it's within your community, maybe it's in a specific state, country, region, maybe it's broader than that. Go ahead and just share a very brief summary.
We have organizations addressing hunger. That's great. Supporting new and emerging artists. Wonderful. Suicide prevention, affordable housing. So there are a lot of really, really important areas that folks are addressing. So when you are thinking about that need and thinking about what other organizations exist in your community, so maybe they're partner organizations, maybe they're competitor organizations, but think about how your organization differentiates. What is something that you do, maybe it's the community you reach, the age you reach, maybe it's something specific that you offer. What is something that you do that is different?
Will: You need to clear that. If you need to clear that annotation, Lynn, you can probably stop your screen share and restart it. And DY in the audience, if you can hold off on annotating, that'd be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Lynn: Thanks so much, Will.
All right. So I see a lot of really, really great needs statements being shared as well. So thank you again for sharing all of that. So in our next section, we wanna think about goals and objectives. So for the purpose of this, we'll think more specifically about program and project goals as it relates to a grant application. And one of the things that I really like to think about when you're setting goals is setting smart goals.
So as an organization, you probably have this big vision statement and things that may be a little less unattainable. So a vision would be to make sure that no child ever goes hungry. Now that is a great vision statement long-term. But when you're thinking about program or project goals, these are a little bit more specific.
So we're thinking about if this project is successful, if this funder provides funding for you and it's successful, what does that mean for you during this grant period? And so you want it to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
So if you take a moment, again, just an example of how you might word your goals and this is very short compared to what it would actually look like in your proposal. But this example talks about addressing the specific need that you've already outlined. And you're going to say that you're going to provide training, resources, et cetera, to address this issue.
And you plan to maybe expand or sustain and reach X number of constituents. Now funders really like knowing numbers. How many people, how many neighborhoods, how many whatever you measure by, are you planning to reach and how is that related to the funding that they are offering? And that can be really tricky sometimes.
And it can take some questioning and just reflecting within your own work, how you measure success. But you really wanna make sure that you can identify a specific and measurable goal. And at the end of that grant cycle, you're going to want to make sure you can go back and show the funder how you met that goal or if there are challenges that came up, why you didn't meet that goal 'cause that does happen.
Now this section, the methodology, is very closely aligned sometimes with program goals and objectives. So going back to the program goals and objectives, this is really what you are doing. And the methodology is the how. Now I would say, oftentimes, funders ask for this information in sort of a combined way.
They might have one question that says explain exactly what you're going to do. And it has all of these questions combined. Other times funders ask for them separately. Now, if you're creating a boilerplate grant template, this master grant template, what I do for clients is I write these out separately first so that you can have them and then if you need to combine them later, you can.
So before we jump to the methodology, let's go back again to the program goals and objectives. This is the what. So I'd like to ask everybody just to think for a moment, if you are applying for a grant right now or if you're applying for a grant very soon, in maybe one sentence, go ahead and share what are your goals for that grant? What is it that you're trying to achieve?
So we're not quite going into the how yet, but what would your goal be for a grant?
And I can give an example. One grant that I just submitted for a client this morning was to support a financial literacy program expansion into 30 new schools. So that is a very specific, measurable goal and it's within the next year. So also very timely,
Increase [inaudible]. Great.
Have a sponsor for individuals. Great.
Other financial literacy programs. Fantastic.
Great. So some of these, I see some really great ones that say growing a program, building more classrooms. So what I would recommend as you're writing these things out, when you say growing a program, try to quantify that, try to make it measurable. So when you say growing a program, think a little bit further, what do you mean by growing that program?
What does growth look like to you? So whether that's by the number of people reached, et cetera. Secure funding for those who can't afford to fund our services really by themselves. Fantastic. So maybe for Vicky, maybe if you're thinking about securing funding for those who can't afford it, maybe in that you wanna quantify how many people you hope funding can support and maybe for which specific programs would give a little bit more of a specific goal and objective.
So going into the methodology, this is the how, and this can include a lot of different areas. This includes what are the specific steps involved with this specific program or project? And what is the timeline? So is this a one-year project? Is it a three-year project, more, less? What is it part of? I've seen grants where maybe there's this larger three-year project and this grant is focused on phase one of that. So maybe this is phase one, it's one year, but in the grant scheme, the program we're looking at is a three-year project.
Also think about who are the staff responsible for carrying out this project? And instead of just including maybe their bio and their name, make sure to include why it matters. What skills do they have that are relevant to the specific work that they would be doing and what is it that they would be doing with that project?
So if you shared, I have this person who is supporting financial literacy programs. They have a background in finance and they have a background in education and that combined positions them well to teach finance financial literacy. So providing really relevant details to who they are, what they're doing with the project, et cetera.
And this last piece is super important. If funded, how will funds be used? Now, this is a question that a lot of times I push my clients to think deeper and think deeper on. This isn't necessarily the budget, but you can think of it as almost like the budget narrative. You're explaining how you're using the funds.
And very often I'll have clients say, well, it'll support this program and I'll say, okay, but what does that mean? If you're pulling out your checkbook and you're writing a check using the funds that they gave you, what is it that that check is going towards? Is it going towards staff time? Is it going towards materials? Are you paying for rent?
Are you paying to keep the lights on? Are you purchasing something brand new that without the funds you wouldn't have had access to? So you wanna push yourself to think more than just saying this will help us grow our program. Okay. But tell me how. What will the funds be used for? So thinking of this example, you'll see here and feel free to read through it.
Again, this is sort of a fill in the blank example. But when you're talking about your methodology, you're referring back to again, what is that big picture goal? And you'll say in order to expand or grow, whatever that goal is over the next year, two years, three years, we will take the following steps.
So this spells out our plan month by month, but maybe yours is different. Maybe you're thinking quarter by quarter, day by day. Sometimes it's a little less specific. I have clients who sometimes were looking at between January and June. This is what we hope to accomplish. And that's okay.
Just have some sort of timeline and plan and identify what your step by step process will look like. And then thinking about who it is that's responsible for carrying out this project, including their background, qualifications, and role with this project. So I've seen some grant drafts that include basically a cut and paste bio from whatever that staff person has on the website and just kind of put in and then it's a good start.
It includes their background, but it doesn't always connect directly to this specific project or specific grant. So just make sure whenever you are, including that information, that you're catering it to this specific program that you're thinking about. And then lastly, really thinking about what it is that the funds will support and an approximate range, what do you plan to spend?
So if you're purchasing supplies, it costs this much. If you're looking to hire someone, it costs this much, and including those specific details. Now, when you're thinking about what funding is going towards, you also really want to make sure that you're reading the fine print with that funder. So oftentimes, funders will say we will not support staffing or we will not support the cost of rent or things like that.
So go through, read through that fine print with a funder. It's typically on their website or their RSP. You can look at frequently asked questions about a grant, but just do your due diligence and make sure that the funding will be used for things that they would approve of 'cause that would not be a great place to get a red flag.
So this next piece that we wanna think about is our impact and evaluation. This is such a massive part of any program and it really connects to what you do as an organization and beyond the grant process. So when you're thinking about your impact and evaluation, you wanna step back and think about if you are successful with this project, what does that mean?
What does success look like to you? So sort of picture yourself at the end of this grant cycle. Everything has gone exactly to plan and you're exactly where you hope to be. Well, what does that look like? How will you measure that success? How will you know that you've been successful and outline some of those really specific metrics that you have in mind?
This is also a great place to share some examples. So I spoke earlier about how important storytelling is to funders. Being able to provide examples from specific constituents with their approval, of course, and talk about that impact that has already existed within your organization. Depending on the type of proposal, whether it's online or in a portal, every now and then you have a format that you can actually have a picture in.
This is a great place if you're talking about past success to include a picture of your program in action in talking about the success of your program. So for this example, there's actually a lot of different pieces of it. So instead of just writing out this long paragraph, I know it's a lot to read on the screen.
I broke it down into a few places. So thinking about these four sections, what will you measure? This example will measure our impact by the number we reach, the level of improvement in their ability to blank, and their overall satisfaction of the program. That's three different areas that we're measuring.
So how many people or constituents that you're reaching, the level of improvement in a certain area, and the overall satisfaction. What does success look like? So this is pretty vague. This is what you're measuring. What does it actually look like? So how many people or constituents that you're reaching? What are the percentages that you're aiming towards?
So if you're saying you're going to improve something, by how much? What is your goal? What does that success look like? If you're measuring growth and skills, are you hoping for 50% growth, 90% growth, and you really wanna think about how you're measuring that? How did you come to that? And then as far as satisfaction, if you're providing surveys and asking for feedback from those that you work with, how satisfied would you be to say that those folks are 90, 95%, 100%?
I will say sometimes 100% feels less realistic. Usually there's going to be some bumps in the road, but a 90%, 95% satisfaction reading is really, really high. That's very good. Then you wanna dig deeper and say how will you gather this information? So some clients might have a very specific system that they use a specific platform that they track all interactions with clients.
Others might be using pre and post surveys when they're thinking about a specific skill or ability that they're looking to improve. And then again, asking when you're thinking about satisfaction, this can be done with feedback surveys before and after, throughout, and just kind of have a pulse on how your constituents are feeling.
It's also really helpful to share in this that you use this information to kind of help you make choices about your next steps with your program. So if you wanna say something along the lines of, we take this into deep consideration and it impacts how we make next steps with our program, that's really helpful to see.
And then the last piece is really storytelling. So you might say that in a recent survey, you found X, Y, and Z, and sure, you could include some data, but also talk about that constituent and say that this is their story. This can be really fun to collect. Maybe you sit down and you have a conversation with someone or maybe they gave you kind of authentic feedback and reached out and said, this was so impactful.
And then, what I like to do is follow up and say I appreciate that feedback. Would you be alright with it if we quote you on this? Our funders would love to hear your story. So it's okay to follow up and ask for that, but always having approval is really important. So I wanna pause for a second. Think to yourself, what does success look like?
So earlier, I asked the question, if you were to write a grant right now or if you are writing a grant right now, what is it that you're focused on? So take a moment. You can drop this in the chat or maybe if you wanna just kind of think about it to yourself and reflect what success looks like for your program or project that you're currently focusing on?
Reaching as many people as you can. I wonder how many people would that be? Being able to meet the increased need. So if you're meeting an increased need, again, what does that mean to you if you think about numbers or statistics, feedback, how many programs you've provided? Wonderful.
The need goes up every month. Yep.
Wonderful, wonderful. Returning early intervention, autism support services to the area. That's fantastic. Yeah. Yeah. And I see Christa, you brought up a really great point. If you double the number that you're reaching, you'd still only be serving a small number, but it starts a pipeline. And what's so important is to convey that in your proposal, really explain that because sometimes I find that when you are sharing what the need is, again, there's almost this moment where you're so close to the information that you sort of assume that the funders know what you know, but it really explained that this is such a great need.
And in fact, if we double our reach, we're still not reaching enough. So we really need support to expand and grow our reach and talk about why that need exists, that there aren't other programs addressing that need in the same way that you are. So that's so, so important. Excellent. It looks like there are a lot of really great projects that are happening and a lot of folks really have an idea of what that success looks like. So if you put yourself a year from now, two years from now, if your program's successful, what does that mean?
So this next part is really thinking about sustainability. Now I see this question asked in a variety of ways and at the root of it, funders are actually asking for the same thing. They might say, how is your project sustainable but what they really are asking is they wanna know about your finances. They wanna know how your organization is sustainable financially.
So when you see that word sustainable, for me, that's the first thing that I go to and I think about them asking what types of diverse revenue streams do you have? One of the things that can feel very frustrating for newer nonprofits is that when it comes to grants, a lot of times in order to get funding, you kind of already need to have funding.
So grants aren't necessarily the best approach for a brand-new nonprofit that just received their 51 certification, 501c3 certification, and doesn't have any other funding yet. Typically when I hold a consultation with a client, with a potential client and they share with me this excitement, they say we've just received our certification and we're ready for grants.
And what I like to do is then say, I'm actually going to recommend you to connect with this other consultant who's an individual giving consultant and individual giving is really a good route to take if you're brand-new to the nonprofit world because when it comes to grants, funders wanna see that their funding is not needed to allow your organization to survive, but instead, it will help your organization thrive.
So you already have a sustainable program. You are already existing without this grant and that grant will just deepen the impact and the community. So I know that can feel really frustrating for new nonprofits. It feels like you have to put the cart before the horse, have the funding to get the funding.
But unfortunately, that is the case. So if you're brand-new and you're in that situation, I recommend thinking about individual giving first. Now, if you're not in that situation, excuse me. This is your opportunity to highlight how you have a diverse stream of revenue. Where is that funding coming from?
Do you have monthly donors? Do you have major gifts that you receive? Do some of your programs bring in funding on their own? Do you have a fee for services? Does your board give? If you can say that 100% of your board makes a contribution every year, that is so huge. Funders really, really appreciate seeing that because it shows that your board has a commitment to your organization.
Are there other grants that you've received? That shows that you've had success with funders in the community? So highlight that. Really make sure that you're discussing that. And I like to be, if you take a look at this example, take a moment to read through it. I like to be really direct in this section.
I like to say our organization is sustainable because we have a diverse revenue stream period. Don't beat around the bush. Just come out and say that you are sustainable and this is how you know. I also like to say, as long as this holds true with your organization, that your grant is not needed to allow your program to survive, but instead it will deepen the impact of the program that you do not need to rely solely on grants to operate.
So really just being direct, transparent is what a funder is looking for. Grant funders want to know that you are not relying solely on them. They don't wanna be, for the most part, they don't wanna be the only funder to a program with the only funder to organization, especially. And they wanna know that you can survive without them. Then go into depending on how much you're able to tell. Some funders don't want to be named, but you can give a summary and say that other funding comes from program fees, board giving, and if there's a specific program that brings in funding, name that. Major gifts, maybe you do a fundraising event each year.
Maybe you have monthly donors. Crowdfunding is another way that early nonprofits raise funds. I see Russell, you shared that you list your corporate givers. Absolutely. If you have sponsors, corporate sponsorships, especially, that's fantastic. So one thing I want you to think about, again, if you come to this section and you don't have other sources of funding, this is going to be a big red flag for funders.
And actually it's a really great moment for you to step back and reflect as well and say is grant funding actually the direction that we should go? Are there other opportunities? So I really think this is when I would think about the individual giving. Someone asked, is this the same as a major donor?
Yes and no. So a major donor tends to be, if you're working with an individual giving consultant, they should be able to support you with that as well. A major donor is often that high net worth person in the community that's looking to provide a really large gift. Individual giving could also be referred to as someone who's giving a $50 monthly donation, which is much smaller, but still meaningful and important to organizations. So that's definitely another round of funding that you can consider.
Okay. We've just talked through so many different areas. I see there's a lot of great questions coming up. So hopefully at the end, if we have some time, we could do a bit of a Q&A, but before we get to that, the last thing that I wanna talk about when it comes to a proposal narrative, when I'm working with a client to create this boilerplate template, I like to add in a closing.
Sometimes I refer to it as my thank you section. Now sometimes there's room for this, and sometimes there's not, there's ways to be creative when it comes to those online portals. If you're submitting something over email, this can be even included in that email message. It can be in a cover letter, but this area is final, thank you.
You want to first, of course, thank the funder for their generous consideration, and then remind them how your mission aligns. I also wanna state that this shouldn't be the only place that you've brought this up. Throughout your writing, you really wanna make sure that you've integrated some areas where you are identifying explicitly how your mission aligns with their mission. Grant funders, just like nonprofits, have missions that they care about.
They have their specific giving initiatives, and you really want to do your research, go through their website. What are their buzzwords? What are the key things that they care about? And specifically say that in your proposal and say that you feel that your program aligns with their giving interest.
And this is the area that you think it aligns with. And this is why you feel that way. Also make sure to provide contact information should they have any questions. This is something that funny enough when I've had conversations or joined panel events and heard funders talk about what are the most surprising things that you have seen grant applicants leave off of their application?
And surprisingly enough, a lot of times, applicants leave off contact information, and if they've printed out your proposal, maybe you mail, you send it in as a PDF, or maybe it's something you mailed, make sure that in the proposal itself, you've included some contact information. Who should they be in touch with should they have questions?
So again with this, with any boiler plate grant template, I like to include a fill in the blank section for my clients and say we appreciate all the work that this funder offers, especially in these areas. Specifically state that you know what this funder cares about, then identify how you're aligned, end it with your contact information.
And again, make sure you've thanked them somewhere in there. Okay. At this point, I'm going to turn it back over to Will who's going to share a bit about how Instrumentl can help you. Before I turn it over to him, I also wanna share as well, and you'll see this in a later slide, but at the end of this, you will have an opportunity to have access to some freebies.
And one of those freebies is going to be a template so that you can write your own boilerplate grant in the same way that we've talked about today. So you'll have instructions and examples to guide you and some tips. So if this has been helpful to you today, then that template will certainly help you as well.
So Will, I'll bounce it over to you if you wanna talk a bit about Instrumentl.
Will: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much, Lynn. I'll take a couple minutes and then we'll start digging into the Q&A since I know there's a lot of questions that we want to get through. As a reminder, if you do have any questions along the way, please do include three hashtags in front of them so it's easy to spot.
But just in case it's your first workshop here, since I know for some folks it is, or it's your second or third, here's seven reasons specifically why Instrumentl is very easy to use when it comes to bringing your grant prospecting, tracking, and management to one place. We essentially are the institutional fundraising platform that allow you to find active as well as inactive opportunities in an easier way than any other tool in which when you create a project on Instrumentl, what you will do is you will set up a unique search for your nonprofit that is scoped to specifically the sorts of work that you are working on.
So I'm gonna go ahead and take over on the screen share real quick. But essentially when you create a project on Instrumentl and I put in a quick link as well on the Zoom chat. What you'll do is you'll create a project and you'll scope out what goes into that project. So in this case, I have an animal welfare project.
I'm a nonprofit, and I am going to be working on opportunities in California in terms of my community impact in San Francisco County as well. And what I'm able to do with Instrumentl is I'm able to essentially filter down through some of the keywords or phrases around the work that I'm doing and tell Instrumentl more about my organization. When I do that, I'm gonna get an active set of grant opportunities that I can start working through. So if you've ever struggled to sift through those other databases, where you have to see what is active versus inactive, you don't have to worry about that when you have a project setup on Instrumentl because this is going to be 250 opportunities that I definitely can start working on.
And what's nice about this is that you'll also get advanced filters so you can break down things, for example, based off of just looking at general operating opportunities or just looking at project program opportunities. And as you work your way through Instrumentl, you're going to be able to see why we're showing this to you.
This is a unique matching algorithm that shows you things based off of your profile. And so, you can see here that I am being shown this because of a match to animal welfare, as well as to my project goals of general operating expenses and matches to California. And you also see details about the 990 snapshot and information about the funder all in one place.
The reason why that's really helpful is because if any of you folks are accustomed to sifting through 990 reports, you know how many pages many of those can be. And so, what we essentially do is we make that synthesis a lot faster for you in which as you go through these 990 reports, you'll see interesting statistics that might be useful for you in assessing whether or not that funder is a good fit opportunity for you.
What's also useful is that you're gonna see a map of the United States. You're gonna be able to cut down on that map and see exactly who this funder is funding. So in the case where you wanna just identify that sort of fit, that can be a really great way to start answering these sorts of questions.
So when you save your project in place, every single week, Instrumentl is gonna keep this active search going for me. And if I'm working with several clients, since I know a few folks today in the audience are grant writing consultants, you can actually also even set up a client profile for every single one of your clients and essentially have 10 or even more concurrent searches going at once.
And the reason why that's super useful is because instead of you having to spend hours of time every single week looking for your clients for active opportunities, we do the heavy lifting for you. The best-selling author, Dr. Beverly Browning of "Grant Writing for Dummies" which has sold over a million copies, told us that it has allowed her to take something in which – with her clients used to spend 40 hours a week prospecting and it now takes her less than four hours. So essentially she has saved herself an entire week's worth of work just from setting up projects. And what's also nice is aside from setting up a project here and having those active searches, you're also going to have a Funder Matches tab when you're on our Standard Plan, which will break down invite-only opportunities as well or even funders that don't have active websites.
So in the case where you're more intermediate or advanced in the audience, and you're looking to really start to level up the relationship building side of things over the next six to 12 months, this can be a great source of inspiration as well. And then, when you do these sorts of things, you can save them into your tracker.
And this is really the second part of Instrumentl. So when you bring things into Instrumentl or you find things in Instrumentl, you will have a dedicated tracker where you can organize all of your work around grants. As you can see here with the Doris Day Animal Foundation Grant, I can save the specific year that I wanna work on this grant.
I can choose a different owner on my account. I can even change the status and essentially add tasks for myself and upload final proposals in the same place. Here's why that's super useful. In the case where you save something to your tracker, once a week, we're gonna summarize for you all of your upcoming deadlines and all of your upcoming tasks for your grants.
So if you have ever found yourself spending more than a couple of minutes every single week just setting up your task, your reminders, your to-dos, and things like that, all of that can be brought into one place on Instrumentl. I know there's gonna be a question in the audience in terms of what about opportunities that are local-based that I didn't find on Instrumentl? Well, we support that, too.
All you need to do is go ahead and click the add new button, add one, or upload many and import that work into Instrumentl. Once a week, we will track that for you. We will essentially roll that all up into a single email so that you can stay organized. And let's say, for example, you're a grant writing consultant and you wanna pull a report for every single one of your clients on the first day of every single month.
Well, with Instrumentl, you can save a ton of time there as well. All you need to do is click the download report button, select the client you might be working on. In this case, maybe I'm working with Nonprofit Village and then from there, I can choose what exactly I want to export, create a report, and then I've got a PDF or a CSV report that I can then share with my client.
Super easy, super straightforward, fully customizable there as well. So yeah, in the case where you want to check us out, you can definitely check that out in the link in the Zoom chat. With that, I'm gonna start wrapping things up in terms of some follow-up slides for Lynn as well as sharing some of those freebies that she mentioned.
So in the case where you'd like to follow-up with Lynn, she has some consultations that are available on our website, lmagrantconsulting.com. There is that code that I just shared in the Zoom chat as well and slides will be included in this as well. And so, in the case where you wanna reference this later, feel free.
We also have some freebies for folks and so what you can do is I have a feedback form that I am going to insert into the Zoom chat. If you let us know your thoughts for today's workshop, we will include Lynn's boilerplate grant template, as well as our 10 Best Lessons from 10 Grant Writing Experts freebies once you submit that feedback.
And with that, I'm gonna start turning it over to some questions. So Lynn, to kick us off today, Lily is asking when you provided that 75% number over the past year, how would you have proof of that number or how do you find those metrics in general?
Lynn: Yeah, I think that's such a great question. And I know that that example was just very vague of just having some sort of percentage and that really comes down to your metrics and evaluation piece. So that's where you wanna think about how are you measuring exactly what you do within your organization? There are so many different ways to do that.
I like to keep some other consultants, like on hand, that I can refer folks to at times. So if you're working with an M and E consultant, someone who specializes in those metrics and evaluation and those APIs, I definitely recommend folks to consider that. But it really depends on your organization, I would say.
Like what your program is, what it is that you're doing, and then how you're measuring that success. So say, for example, I worked with one organization in the past who was education-focused, and we wanted to say that students would grow with a specific skill. So what we did was we created this survey for us, for the students, and a survey for the teachers.
The teachers gave us some feedback on what it was they observed. We asked for specific numbers. How would you rate? Would you say that 50% of your students can do this? Would you say 75% of your students could do this and really have it be specific? And same with the students. We would say on a scale of one to five, how comfortable do you feel with this skill area?
And then at the end of the program, we would survey them again. And we would look at the data side by side and see what growth there was. So this is a really big process. And I would say that this is something you really want your whole team to be part of because how you measure success is so much more than just information to put into your grant.
Right. I think it's something you want to connect to your growth overall long-term and sort of your next steps with your program. So I would say it sort of depends, but there's a lot of really wonderful M and E experts out there as well. But I would just say, think about your current data, how are you measuring it? And then what does that look like at the end of your program or project?
Will: Awesome. And then the next question we had is from Taylor. So the goal is for the specific grant and not the program in general? I'm not sure if I remember that slide, but maybe you do.
Lynn: So you're talking about your specific goal. If you're thinking about your program goals and objectives, it kind of depends. So it sounds like what you're asking is what is your goal for this grant as opposed to the entire project? So a lot of times there's a project that's happening and maybe the grant is only covering a portion of it.
So what I like to do is I like to say for this entire project, our goal, say, if you're, again, going back to education, it's easy to quantify schools and students. So maybe you're saying our overall goal for this project that we're initiating is to expand into 50 new schools. Your support will cover the cost of expansion into 20 of those schools and further break down that cost. What does that mean?
So absolutely. You can say the whole project over the grand scheme and there's other funders involved in this, our goal is to expand into 50 schools, but your funding will help us reach this goal. So again, it kind of depends. Maybe that funder is actually going to somehow be involved in that entire goal. But think about how you're identifying that with your funding and how that breaks down. That's a really great, great question.
Will: Emily asked, is there a good base estimate for how long each section will be?
Lynn: Hmm, I will say as someone who writes grants every day, the hardest part about grant writing is having to work within the character limits and the word limits of different sections. Because honestly there are some grants that have no limit, and that can be really great because you can put exactly what you need. And then others will say you have 300 characters to answer six different questions and give your entire organization history and 300 characters. And that is really, really tough.
I feel like it's hard to really give a specific, this is the length it should be just because every funder is so unique and so different. I will say when I'm creating a boilerplate template for folks to have content that they can modify and play with that template often ends up being like seven to 10 pages.
And the reason why it's so long is because I really want to make sure they have more than enough, and then we can play with it and reduce it, modify it based on a specific funder. But a lot of times it ends up being a little bit longer and then we work with it and we say, okay, well, what can we manipulate? What can we modify and play with?
But let's first get everything on the table and then scale it back a little. But I just wanna say that I feel the pain of working within those character limits. It truly, I think, is the hardest part of grant writing. And I feel like that's where kind of the art of writing comes out and you have to be really crafty and think about, well, what is the extraneous information that I can play with and to remove that doesn't change the messaging overall.
Will: Katie asked, how do you write methodology for operating requests?
Lynn: Hmm, very similarly thinking about what is your approach? So even if it's for operating, how will you plan to use this funding? Operating grants are non-restricted grants, that's the gold, that's what everybody wants. Everybody wants to know, wants to be able to have funds that you can use it with whatever means possible. So maybe you're taking a step back and saying, if this is going towards the whole organization, generally speaking, what does that mean for you? So think about what your organization is doing? How are they doing?
You can still think about a timeline of over the next year. What is it that your organization is going to be doing and without kind of pigeonholing yourself and saying I'm only using it for one thing, give the funder a general idea of still, what generally will your funding be used for? So again, operating costs again, that's the goal.
That's really what organizations love and it can be the hardest to tap into. But if you're thinking about non-restrictive operating costs, you can still outline how you're going to use that.
Will: And I just wanna give a reminder to folks and some people are individually messaging me, replays and recordings will be sent afterwards.
The only ask that we have from you is when you do get that replay, if you got value of this workshop, reshare it on your social networks, and things like that. These are all free workshops. And so, helping other grant writers is greatly appreciated. Churcher asked how do you report the impact of your work in a proposal in cases where you may not have quantitative data to share?
Lynn: Yeah. Oh, it can be really tough. And that is something. So if you're talking about how do you report it, if you're saying at the end, go back to the beginning, look at what you stated that your goals were. You look at what you stated that you would be measuring. And a lot of times there can be some informal reporting in the sense that it's observations.
So going back to an educational nonprofit, a lot of times teachers might report that they've observed growth. Maybe they report this more informally. Maybe they're not quizzing students or having something really technical, but maybe it's a little bit more of informal observation.
So maybe you are asking for testimonials from those that you reach. Maybe you're having conversations and asking for permission to quote folks, and it's a little bit more of qualitative reporting, but it is really important, I will say that if you're in that position and you're saying, oh, gee, I don't even know how we're reporting this, this is a great moment to sort of step back and meet with your team and think about how are you measuring growth?
What specifically are you measuring? Sometimes a challenge that I find is that funders, they wanna know things that maybe aren't even measurable. I see a lot of times funders say, well, how does this program relate to success of getting into college? And you say, well, we don't measure that. And have a conversation with the funders. See if there's other things that you can share that would be meaningful as well.
Will: Awesome. And we have about one minute left, so I'm gonna do a speedrun of some of these questions. Nancy asked if I'm a new nonprofit about one year old, how do we get over the hurdle of demonstrating your history and capabilities for implementation?
Lynn: Sure. So I would say that the sweet spot is kind of three years in. So if you run a pilot program and you start figuring out, okay, what is the impact, you're measuring your impact, finding what works, typically funders, once you get to that three-year point of implementing programs, this is that point where funders say, oh, you seem to be ready.
Three years seems to be that sweet spot. So piloting, collecting testimonials, collecting that data and really figuring out where your impact is. And in that meantime builds that community, build relationships, gains of individual donors, and think about how is your community supporting you in a variety of ways?
Will: Awesome. With that, we are at the top of the hour, Margaret, Eve, Yvonne, if you can email Lynn your question, I've left her email in there for you guys. And so, with that, that wraps up our workshop, folks. So in the case, we enjoyed this workshop, we hope you will join us for a future one. We have a live interactive one on Monday of next week for a grant writing workout.
So if you wanna flex your grant writing muscles, we'll have another workshop there. Check out Lynn's workshops as well. We'll include a link to that in the follow-up as well in the case you wanna attend her July workshop. Thanks so much, everybody, and have a great day.