“We were maybe [submitting] three to six [grant applications] per year. Now, we're doing two per month…just by having Instrumentl as opposed to spreadsheets.”
Daniel Jenkins, President of Lutheran Braille Workers
Lutheran Braille Workers is the world's largest manufacturer of braille and large-print Bible materials. Daniel Jenkins, the President of Lutheran Braille Workers, has a deep passion for bringing Scriptures to the over 338 million people globally who are Blind or Visually Impaired.
Since their founding almost 80 years ago, the Lutheran Braille Workers have produced over 15 million books distributed globally. Today, they produce over 100,000 books per year. Their operations are supported by many consistent funders and a committed volunteer base.
Over two years ago, as their organization grew, Daniel recognized the need to diversify and scale their funding sources. This is where he discovered Instrumentl.
In this success story, we’ll delve into how Daniel Jenkins led his team to increase their grant applications by over 100% per year, leading to new sources of funding for their mission.
For a long time, Daniel was a one-person fundraising team. In his day-to-day, he’d be on the road, meeting with volunteers, donors, foundations, and partners. Because so much of his time was spent cultivating relationships with supporters, he rarely had time to find new funding sources. It was a full-time job maintaining existing donors.
To become more efficient, Daniel brought on a part-time team member to champion grant research and proposal writing. Their mandate was to pursue and win new opportunities.
The challenge, however, was that their current grant management system was entirely based on Excel files. In addition, they used several online tools for grant research which were clunky and lacked the latest information.
Research and tracking efforts were disjointed, which led to some data being lost, missed opportunities, and wasted time.
“Each year, we managed about 40 different [funders] with different requirements, deadlines, and policies in addition to dozens of other foundations we looked at. There was no way to keep up. Things were falling apart, and it was frustrating. It was frustrating for some of our funders, too, who wanted to give us money, but we weren't able to meet deadlines or didn’t include key documentation. It was very important that we had everything together in one place.”
Daniel knew he needed a change. So he consulted his network and started searching online for recommendations.
Daniel found Instrumentl online when searching for grant research tools.
He discovered that by seamlessly integrating research and tracking, Instrumentl alleviated the complications of managing a lot of grants at once. It was the perfect solution to accommodate the complexity of their mission.
“When you have multiple people involved, you’re adding complexity. And when you have a lot of grants, which our organization does, things can get mixed up, lost, deadlines get missed—having it in one place [on Instrumentl] allowed my grant researcher and I to communicate clearly and work together in a meaningful way.”
Pro tip: In Instrumentl, you can organize all your grants in one tracker. See submissions by year, application stage, and project. Update the status of submissions as you make progress and hear funder responses.
In Daniel’s words, “We love Instrumentl for different reasons.” Daniel’s grant researcher loves Instrumentl’s filtering features, which make it easier for them to swiftly identify relevant foundations and RFPs.
“We're a very complex ministry with an international footprint. For example, if we're working on sending Braille Bibles to Africa, she can very quickly find foundations that do Christian work throughout Africa [on Instrumentl]. So the research component has been a tremendous asset for my grant researcher.”
Additionally, the ability to collaborate is a boon—Daniel’s researcher will assign him tasks within Instrumentl, asking him to review potential grant opportunities and approve them. Keeping all their to-dos within Instrumentl has made them much more efficient.
“The collaborative part [of Instrumentl] is extremely helpful. I'm very busy, so she can set tasks for those really important things I have to do, but I'm not getting overwhelmed with a bunch of minutiae tasks.”
Pro tip: You can create tasks for all your grant milestones, such as reporting deadlines or draft due dates, to keep you (and your team) on track. Standard and Pro users have the added benefit of a dedicated Tasks View across all opportunities, with filtering options based on assignee, type, and deadlines.
Lastly, Instrumentl’s grant tracking and automatic updates have helped them stay on top of all their grants without feeling overwhelmed.
“We love that Instrumentl automatically updates some of our foundations. If a deadline or requirement changes, Instrumentl automatically updates it.”
Pro tip: When you save a grant opportunity on Instrumentl, it will automatically give you a heads-up when the submission deadline is approaching.
Instrumentl has saved Daniel hours each week, so he can spend more time building relationships with their funders.
Daniel emphasizes personal conversations as a key strategy in relationship-building. He advises reaching out directly to grant managers, building rapport, and understanding the organization's fit. Transparency and understanding foster fruitful partnerships.
“Never be afraid to pick up the phone and call. Emails are not the same. Pick up the phone or get on Zoom and have that one-on-one conversation with the grant manager, executive director—whoever that might be. Ask, ‘Are we a fit for your foundation?’ If you are, or if they think there's a fit, ask, ‘What does that look like?’ And if it's not, the follow-up question I always ask is, ‘Do you know of another foundation we might be a better fit with?’”
Daniel also stresses thanking funders. He admits that we, as fundraisers, can get so caught up in searching for new funding that we forget to recognize and appreciate the faithful supporters sustaining our missions.
A way to do this is to share stories that capture the outcomes of your programs.
“I'm always sharing impact stories with our funders because that's how they know that the money that they gave is making a difference.”
Pro tip: With Funder History, you can keep track of all your documents and key things to remember for each funder. In this way, nothing gets lost.
Drawing from his experience using Instrumentl, Daniel offers valuable advice for those considering Instrumentl.
Firstly, if you’re leading a grants team, Daniel recommends you give them space to excel.
“Trust your team; let them do their job. Don't micromanage them. They’ll come to you as they need your assistance.”
In the same vein, Daniel cautions against micromanagement. Instead, use Instrumentl to get a bird’s eye view of your team's work. Use the grant overview table to see the status of all your grants, those your team is researching, applying for, and won or lost.
This will give you crucial insight into your team's performance at a glance.
Apply to 1.5X more grants by working smarter, not harder.
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