“I really feel strongly that [Instrumentl] has increased my efficiency. It's no longer, ‘Let’s just fill out 10 grant applications and hope we get a response.’ Now, I almost always get a response. Our success rate has gone from 14% to 22%; that’s a significant jump.’”
Becky Harris, Philanthropy Director for Foundations & Corporations at Eversight
In the dynamic world of nonprofit fundraising, Becky Harris stands out as a strategic fundraiser.
As the Philanthropy Director for Foundations & Corporations at Eversight, one of the largest eye banks in the US, Becky works to advance their mission of providing sight-saving transplant services and furthering research into the causes of blindness.
Over the years, Becky’s role has evolved from researching and writing grants on her own to building a grants strategy and managing relationships with foundation and corporate partners.
Becky’s story is a perfect example of working smarter, not harder. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. Becky will share how her team raised the same amount of funding with fewer than half of their normal grant applications.
After about two years of managing the grants strategy at Eversight, Becky knew she wanted to find ways to build a more efficient fundraising strategy.
In the past, Becky would pursue a lot of grant opportunities at once to try to secure funding. She admits that during the pandemic, with lockdowns disrupting operations, there was a heightened need to acquire funding quickly.
“Our strategy before was definitely born out of the pandemic. I think a lot of [nonprofits] felt like, ‘Okay, we just need money now because our operations have been shut down for a few months, and things are crazy. So, let's just put out as many applications as possible to whoever may fund us, and hopefully, they'll respond.’”
On top of this, Becky kept information about grant opportunities and awarded funds scattered across several spreadsheets. Information was siloed and tedious to access. Manually shuffling data between sheets was becoming a formidable task. It worked, but Becky knew she could streamline things with the right process.
“The pandemic was a different time for fundraising. Now that things have settled, I've become a lot more strategic.”
Instrumentl emerged as the solution Becky’s team needed. When she took on the role of Philanthropy Director, Becky's desire to be more strategic pushed her to seek out a platform that could unify their grant management efforts.
Becky's network provided recommendations, and after careful consideration, Becky saw Instrumentl as the most user-friendly and affordable choice. The platform's functionalities aligned seamlessly with Eversight's needs.
Firstly, it was easy to ramp up on Instrumentl. While Eversight had only ventured into grants in 2020, they had a lot of historical data in bloated spreadsheets to carry over. By using Instrumentl’s spreadsheet uploader, it was easy to bring in historical data about past grants they’d won or applied to.
“I found the [spreadsheet uploader] really easy in Instrumentl, which was a really attractive feature for me: I could take templated spreadsheets for all my past grant awards and past grants that I've applied for, fill them in, and send them along. Then, [Instrumentl] puts them in the system for me. That was super nice because I was worried that I was going to have to go in and manually add 300 different organizations, which would have been a waste of my time.”
Secondly, Instrumentl's calendar function and status sorting stood out as key tools that made Becky’s life much easier. Creating quick and easy reports for her manager became a breeze.
“I like being able to sort by status so that I can give really quick, easy reports to my manager about how many grants we’ve applied for each month, how much we’ve raised this quarter—it’s nice to know the stage of each grant.”
Pro tip: With Instrumentl’s calendar view, you’ll stay on track with a centralized calendar that displays all task deadlines, funder deadlines, submission goals, and future cycles so teams never miss grant deadlines and deliverables.
For Becky, Instrumentl brought everything together in one centralized hub.
Thirdly, the ability to share opportunities through email accelerated the review process. Features like document uploads and end-of-cycle reminders streamlined their workflow.
“I like that you can share a grant opportunity to somebody's email. So when I'm researching a funding opportunity, and I want to see if one of the program staff has a project that might be relevant to this opportunity, I will share it directly from Instrumentl to them. And that's really, really nice because I don't have to copy and paste a bunch of things to an email.”
Becky transformed grant management at Eversight into a well-oiled machine.
Becky’s decision to shift toward a more strategic grant management process has had a tremendous impact. Eversight's success rate for awarded grants surged from 14% to an impressive 22% this Spring.
Pro tip: When you tell Instrumentl about your organization or program area, it will automatically share active funding opportunities that match. Each week, you'll get an email with new matching opportunities that align with your nonprofit’s mission.
Instead of aiming for sheer volume, Becky’s team was able to focus on aligning with the right opportunities. They reduced their applications by 115% per month, yet secured more funding on average from grants.
As Becky succinctly put it, "We raise the same amount with half the applications." Now that’s a level of efficiency we can all envy.
Becky’s advice to fellow nonprofits aiming for strategic fundraising is grounded in experience.
She emphasized the following quick tips:
Becky also recommended creating templates for proposals and letters with the common information already filled in, which proved crucial for her efficiency.
These efforts created a foundation to build on for each application. Now she can spend more time personalizing the applications and making sure they truly stand out.
Pro tip: You can keep all your grant documents stored, organized, and easily accessible in one place so your team has a single source of truth on Instrumentl. Becky saves all her key documents for each grant in Instrumentl.
For aspiring grant managers, Becky's ultimate tip is to lay the groundwork first. Becky’s final words are both encouraging and actionable for anyone who wants a grant strategy like hers:
“When I first started this job, I was really nervous because I had never been the full manager of a whole system of fundraising. It was nerve-wracking to be responsible for raising a certain amount of money. A lot of young fundraisers feel this way— having a goal attached to you is intimidating. But I found what helped me was that I took a month or two at the beginning of my job, and I said, ‘Okay, right now I'm not going to actively fundraise. I need this time to get the lay of the land, to create communication templates and letter of interest templates, case for support templates, etc., so that I have the background for what I'm talking about. Because I can't effectively fundraise for you if I don't know what I'm talking about.’”
Building templates, setting parameters for your grant search, and organizing your workflows on Instrumentl before launching into fundraising can make all the difference.
Becky Harris and Eversight's journey with Instrumentl exemplifies how strategic thinking, coupled with an innovative grant management platform, can drive success in nonprofit fundraising.
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