[VIDEO] How to Prepare a Grants Strategy During Uncertain Times

Rachel Werner will review what tried and true methods still have value, what might need to be changed, and what is still left unknown. You can start off 2021 with a better sense of how to be successful during times of uncertainty.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Rachel, I got 3:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and kick us officially?

Rachel: Let’s do it.

Steven: All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon, everybody. If you’re watching live, if you are watching the recording, I hope you’re having a good day no matter where or when we are. We are here talk about how to prepare a grant strategy during uncertain times. Hopefully, the uncertainty will go away soon. But for now, we’re going to talk about how you can tackle your grant strategy here at the end of the year on into 2021. So thanks for being here. We’re going to have some fun. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items, just want to let everyone know that we’re recording the session. And I’ll be sending out the slides as well as the recording later on today. You should already have the slides but if you missed them or if I missed you, don’t worry. We’ll get those to you later on today, as well as the recording. So if you have to leave early or you know, maybe you get interrupted or something comes up, don’t worry. We’ll get all that good stuff to you.

But most importantly, please feel free to ask questions along the way. There’s a chat box and a Q&A box. You can use either of those. We’d love to hear from you. Introduce yourself now if you haven’t already. But we’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy at all. You know, we’d love to hear from you. You can also do that on Twitter. We’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed. But yeah, we’d love to hear from you. So don’t be shy.

If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just want to say an extra special welcome to you folks. We do these webinars just about every Thursday. We bring on a great guest. Today is no exception by any means. But if you never heard of Bloomerang, we are a provider of donor management software. We’re a donor database product. And if you’re interested in that or maybe thinking about switching sometime soon, check us out. You can visit our website. You can watch all kinds of videos, see it in action. And if you end up talking to us, let us know that you were on this webinar and that Steven sent you. We’ll cut you a good deal, we’ve got a really good deal but give you an extra special webinar discount. But don’t do that right now because you’re all in for a treat. We’ve got a friend of the program joining us, my buddy, Rachel Werner, from the D.C. Baltimore, Northern Virginia area. Rachel, how’s it going? You’re doing okay?

Rachel: I’m doing great.

Steven: Yeah, this is awesome to have you. I’ve been looking forward to this one. We actually had you back in July to talk about grants. But we thought we’d have you back here at the end of the year, just because it seems like things have really been changing. And it’s definitely a unique time for all funding streams but certainly for grants. We were talking, you know, the election has caused some changes or we can anticipate some changes there. So we thought, “Let’s have Rachel come back and give us some tips and talk about the kinds of things she has seen.” But if you don’t know Rachel, check her out at @rbwstrategy. If you need some help in this area, you need a grant crater, you need some guidance, you’re definitely going to want to follow Rachel. Obviously, she’s done this before, has raised a ton of money through grant funding for her folks, and has a lot of other really cool certifications and accolades to her name. And I just love listening to Rachel talk about this topic because it’s one of, you know, among many other topics, one that I don’t know too much about. So I’m going to pipe down and I’m going to stop sharing my screen. Rachel, I’ll let you bring up your slides. And it’ll be your show, I guess.

Rachel: Thanks so much, Steven. Well, hello, everybody. As I said, I just love the virtual platform now because everybody around the world can participate. And I think that that just is one of the perhaps interesting side effects of what’s happening in the world right now is that we can all kind of be at the same table from anywhere.

And so I get questions all the time from clients, you know, just to give you a little bit of background, is that I have a firm called RBW Strategy. We’re based, as Steven said, in the D.C. area. And while we work with clients, many clients in the D.C. area. and Maryland, and Mid Atlantic, we work with clients all over the country. And so the same question I get asked over and over, what is 2021 going to look like related to grants? And, you know, while I don’t have my crystal ball, I can tell you some things that we’re seeing and some ways that you can plan.

So even though we are dealing with a lot of uncertainty, there isn’t always clarity. There are some things that you still can do and we can still look at to kind of understand how you can prepare for 2021 because I do think that . . . I do see some positive things happening. So it’s not all doom and gloom. So I know that everybody’s dealing with a lot of year-end stuff right now. I’m sure you’re all very craze. So thanks for taking the time today. Hopefully, we’ll get through some of this stuff.

And, you know, as I told Steven before, I usually try to have this be about 45 minutes of content and then leave room for Q&A. And also just hearing your feedback in the chat box. So feel free to ask questions because I’m going to be pinging Steven to let me know if there’s any questions. So with that, let’s get started. So let’s talk about what . . .

Steven: Rachel, sorry to interrupt, friend. We can’t see your slides yet. I’m not sure why.

Rachel: Oh, I am so sorry. I think that I need to probably share my screen. Very good. Here we go. Sorry.

Steven: There, looks like it’s working now.

Rachel: Okay. Sorry about that. I forgot to reshare them after I shared them before. Okay. So we should be good now. I’m going to make sure it’s the correct display. So here we go. Okay. So let’s go through the agenda. What are we going to talk about today? First, we’re going to talk about, you know, obviously, the elephant in the room, which is the 2020 events. You know, what’s happening in the world right now and how has that impacted the nonprofit sector, not just those who work in the sector, but those that you’re trying to serve your target population and also the philanthropic community.

And we’re going to talk about the grants lifecycle, and all the different phases within the grants lifecycle, and how, you know, you could be looking at that and seeing, you know, are there specific changes you might want to make or just considerations? Then we’re going to go through some strategic planning, a step by step approach, and think about some other considerations that can impact your brand strategy. And then I’ll share some resources and takeaways at the end.

So first, let’s talk about 2020. So there’s a lot of stuff that happened this year. You know, and I think that it has shown us that no matter how much we plan, there’s going to be external factors that impact our work, and that are going to take away from our priorities, that are going to take away from all of the things that we had planned on doing. You know, not only do we have a global pandemic, but we also dealt with a lot of racial justice inequities and dealing with a lot of social unrest. Also, we had a very contentious election, that is still kind of feeling the effects of that. So I think there’s a lot of things that have factored into what’s happening in our lives, and obviously, just from a professional standpoint, and a personal standpoint as well.

And so, in terms of the people that you’re serving, you know, some of the things that they’re probably dealing with are an increased need for your services, especially if you’re working in a basic needs organization or provides basic needs support. You’re dealing with people who might be furloughed, who might be having health crises, who might be having food insecurity, and a number of different things. And also it could be a lot of fear and anxiety about attending in-person events, and also dealing with unemployment or perhaps being furloughed, and on the opposite end, people who might be, you know, have to go in and don’t have the option of working virtually having to deal with that, and just making sure that they are protected, and they have the appropriate equipment to be able to be safe when they’re working in the field.

And so I’m curious, you know, just to get a sense of your clients. If you can just tell me a little bit about, what do you think the biggest challenge your clients have faced? You know, maybe just put in a couple of thoughts, you know, because I’m curious to see what they’re dealing with right now. So maybe, Steven, you could just share a couple of thoughts there.

Steven: Yeah, I’m seeing things like social isolation, anxiety, food insecurity, loss of healthcare, virtual learning. Both of us are parents. We’re talking about that, Rachel, for sure. You know, I’ve seen a lot of the word insecurity kind of stream through here. Job loss. Yeah.

Rachel: Yeah, there’s a lot going on. And that’s the thing is that, especially for people who might have increased risk for different kinds of, you know, healthcare, might not have healthcare or might be already food insecure, you add on to that, and that just is going to make things even more challenging. You know, one of my clients here in Montgomery County, they have the largest household goods and clothing distribution center in the county. And they’re seeing an uptick of people who might normally not use their services. But now, because of all these other things, they’re seeing an increase. And so I’m sure that you’re experiencing that as well.

And so what about the sector, in general? We obviously have seen some changes in what you’re focusing on. So the priorities that you laid out, perhaps had a beautiful strategic plan laid out and that was approved by the board. And now you look at it and say, “How much of that can you actually accomplish? How much of this can you actually achieve?” And so I think, you know, trying to take a look at that and see if that still fits the bill, if your vision is still the vision that you need to have for the next one to three years or if that needs to change.

And what about from a programmatic perspective? Because maybe you’ve had to shift how your programs are operating. Do you have to do them virtually? Have you had to change, you have to diminish the number of people, you know? So that is also something.

And then also within administration within your organization, you might have had to deal with some restructuring, and also people working virtually, and making sure people have access to the information that they need.

And also, just from a fundraising financial perspective, we know that organizations have been hit pretty hard and that, you know, funding that you might have received before, you might not be having that now. There might be some revenue shortfalls and probably won’t see the full impact of that until after FY22 when we start to see some of the state and local funding numbers coming out of this.

And, you know, also, on the plus side, there has been increased donors. There have been more COVID-related grant opportunities. So that’s been great. But, you know, just that could be impacting your bottom line and your budget. So you might have to be thinking about that.

And also, what about staff morale? What about health and wellness? You know, that’s something that’s really top of mind because of the shift and because of the fact that working from home and working differently now, you know, how has that really impacted the way that you’ve been able to function and how you’ve been able to do the day-to-day?

So, in terms of funders, you know, this is very interesting. We’re going to talk a little bit about the philanthropic sector. Excuse me. You know, right now, we’re still kind of in the crisis management mindset. You know, we’re still trying to think through what is needed at this moment. We’re starting to move away from it, especially now that there’s a vaccine. Right now we’re seeing a shift in administration that might be putting more money into stimulus funding and other types of things to help support the communities. But there is starting to be a shift towards that and really trying to rethink those priorities. So the way that they funded this year might be very different from how they fund in the future.

You know, some things and trends that we’ve seen this year is obviously there’s more COVID-related opportunities. I’m sure that I can probably see if anyone wants to raise a hand or put in the chat box, how many of you have applied to COVID-related opportunities? You know, they announced it, and then a week later, there’s about . . . the funding goes away because all of the funds have been distributed and so you have to respond very, very, very quickly.

And also, some more opportunities in the racial equity space. And just, you know, those kinds of things that are trying to support communities and people of color, and really trying to focus on those areas where people might be experiencing some challenges. And so there’s been more opportunities there. There’s, especially in the corporate sector that is providing more funding in these areas, and they’re giving out through their corporate giving programs.

And also, what has been a very nice shift is that instead of having the, you know, very detailed applications, where they ask you very specific questions about, “Oh, you know, tell us how you’re going to spend these funds and, you know, be very outcomes-focused and impact-focused.” It’s more about what are you doing now? Let’s focus on basic needs. So it’s been a very different, and they’re very open, and understanding of how much of challenge it is for nonprofits to just operate organizations. And now you have to put together a grant proposal or a grant report. So just seeing some of those restrictions ease and also seeing some definitely lifting of some reporting requirements, and perhaps even shifting deadlines, which is really nice to see them coming in for that.

And there are other organizations, or other foundations that are just staying the course. You know, they’re just doing the same thing that they’ve always done. They’re not shifting. And so I kind of see that trend coming in 2021 as well.

And another thing that is a consideration is that I think there’s going to be more government funding because stimulus funding and other things that are coming down the pike. So this will be a very big giving year. And one of my colleagues, Lucy Morgan, just wrote about the fact that 2021 might be the largest year of federal government grant distribution. So just something to keep top of mind because that could trickle down to states, localities, and also obviously, at the federal level.

So, you know, it’s just some of the things that we’ve seen. This is kind of reiterate these points of just, you know, making sure that, you know, the donors are giving more and also just the corporate and philanthropic communities have been stepping up and giving out more funding. And so just seeing, you know, how this trend is going to continue in 2021. Will they still be giving at the same level? Will they still diminish or they go back to pre-pandemic levels? That is yet to be seen, but just something to be on the lookout for. And I have some links to some reports at the end. That will be helpful for you.

And just in the nonprofit sector, you know, some nonprofits might have to close their doors because there’s just not enough revenue. And there might be a need to merge with another organization. There might be a need to connect with different types of funders. But then the other side, there are some that have seen a windfall of donations. So it kind of varies.

And what does that mean for you? And something that I think is really important that I like to speak about in the different presentations that I’ve been doing is to focus on your mental health. Because there’s so much of focus on the people that you serve and making sure that you’re addressing their needs. What about your own? Because sometimes there’s such an important focus on self-care and making sure that you’re addressing the changes that have happened in your own personal and professional life. And that leaves you vulnerable. So if you’re not able to take care of yourself and be productive, how can you end up doing that for the people that you’re supposed to help?

And so I think that that’s just something that I want to keep top of mind that you can’t operate the same level that you did before. It’s just not going to happen, especially, you know, I have a six and a nine-year-old, and they’re in the other room, and then closed the door here so that they don’t come in. But I think it’s just something to think about, and how does that impact your life? And so just keeping that top of mind. And so I’m going to pause here and see if there’s any questions before I move on.

Steven: I think you’re good to go. Keep trucking, Rachel.

Rachel: All right, I’m going to keep on trucking. So now let’s talk about the grants lifecycle and how we can kind of use that to shape our priorities. So one thing that I think is really important is to kind of look at this as an opportunity. Because I think every challenge, you have to look at the other side and say, “What can we do to grow from this? What can we do to build ourselves as an organization? What can we do to make things better and improve things?” And I think, obviously, we’re seeing that in the virtual systems and tools that we use because now if you’re relying heavily on those kinds of systems, do you see some gaps? Do you see some areas of improvement? So I think that this is a way to do that. And I like to look at it through the lens of the grants lifecycle.

So I’ve used this slide before. I like this slide because it really breaks down. Here’s the different lifecycle components in each phase of the grants areas. So you have research and strategic planning, application development, start-up, monitoring and award management, and then close-out. And so I think that most people spend a lot of time on two, the writing component. When people think of grants, they think, “Okay, I got to write that application.” But I actually think the most important component is number one, is the planning phase. And number four, which is the management and monitoring because if you’re not appropriately stewarding those funds, and you’re also not researching and preparing appropriately, then it’s just not going to be a good fit, and that you’re actually wasting resources.

So I want you to think about this, when you think about phase 1 in your current work, you know, in the current situation, how can we do adequate research? How can we find the right funders who are going to fund our new initiatives? And whether those are still the same as what you’ve had pre-pandemic, you know, how are you setting those priorities? How are you thinking about engaging and cultivating those relationships with funders? And how does the strategic priorities and planning resources that you put together still apply now? Do they still apply to the targets that you set with your fundraising plan? So those are the considerations to think about with the research and planning because if you don’t have that established, then writing is going to be a futile exercise. And so really thinking about that as you start to go into the new year.

Now, of course, application development. This is the bread and butter of what we do. You know, I call the churn and burn. You know, by this point, you want to get your content down. You’re getting your budget in order. You’re allocating different people, hopefully. It might just be you. But hopefully, you might have a couple of people to assist in putting together attachments, putting together the application, and just making sure that content is updated.

When you think about that content, are you updating to reflect recent events? You know, do you have a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement? Do you have information on how you’re addressing COVID or any structural changes that have happened? Are you addressing how you work with different partners? And so making sure that information is top of mind and that’s included in this proposal effort is really critical because then you can use a lot of that language in other proposals.

And so then we have award and project start-up. This is really important to get your finance folks and your program folks to the same table because there’s been many times when these two shall not meet. And so then you end up starting a grant project, and that’s the program side might not know the budget. And on the finance side, they might not know how the funds were spent. And so making sure there’s an understanding that that grant is coded appropriately and set up.

And so you can always do this. Even during a time of crisis, it’s very important to get those internal controls in order. And then also understanding the data that you need to start tracking and really thinking through, you know, what are you supposed to be gathering? Why is it important and what is the impact it’s going to make in the community?

And so this is for . . . This is one of my favorites because this is the management and monitoring. So really thinking through. And I suggest, even before you submit a report or renewal request, check-in with the funder. Are you sending them a little note, perhaps an email or social media shoutout, or maybe even . . . ? You know, well, not in recent times, but you could send a note from one of the clients and just saying, you know, “Here’s a success story.” And so just a little bit of progress to show that their funds are making a difference kind of adds a personal touch. And it doesn’t require a ton of effort on your end. And also just things like the data tracking and award tracking, and making sure that the budget actuals and the budget lineup so that there’s that matching of that.

And the last one is closeout. Usually, closeout is mostly important for government grants, but just making sure that the final report is submitted, that everything is reconciled, and that you save your files because that’s important for following up at a later date and keeping track of those items. And so just making sure all of those pieces are tied up and hopefully, you submit a renewal request and, you know, get additional funding.

So just some considerations, when you think about this is how much time each phase takes? You know, I think that the research in planning phase can sometimes take quite a bit of time. And that’s something that could happen throughout the course of the year before your next fiscal year. You know, the application development, that could also take a few weeks. And so each phase kind of brings in its own challenges.

And also thinking about what resources you have to bear, you know, for each of these different phases. Are there folks that can help with research or cultivation? Do you have somebody who is earmarks to gather the data that you need to track? And just seeing the level of effort that’s involved and also that it’s prioritized. So just thinking about that as you sort of map out how you’re going to do the work.

And so I’m just curious, in terms of your organization, what are your greatest needs now in terms of grants? You know, do you think that you need more resources? You know, do you think there needed more time? Do you think there needs more knowledge? I’m just curious what other support or what other resources you might need? And I think that there’s a couple of people who raised hands. So, Steven, I’ll leave that to you if we want to bring them up in the chat because I can pause here before going on.

Steven: Yeah, it looks like a lot of people are saying just research, you know, where to find new grant and funding opportunities. Few people are talking about resources for staff. Yeah, more staff time, more capacity. Looks like those are the two major things I’m seeing actually.

Rachel: Yep. And if you don’t know already, the Foundation Directory Online, which falls under the Foundation Center . . . And so Foundation Center and GuideStar merged, and so now they’re Candid. So, underneath that, before you could get access to the Foundation Directory Online to conduct research on different private, and corporate, and family foundations at a number of different locations nationwide, and perhaps even internationally, I don’t know because that’s an in-person if you’re able to do that online. But could be. So I definitely suggest looking into that because that’s a great resource to find different prospects.

Okay. So I’m going to move on if there’s no more questions. Okay. So let’s talk about the step by step. Let’s talk about grants. So grants means you’re going to prepare an application for either solicited means it’s an open competition or unsolicited, which means that you’re trying to get an invitation to apply to government, corporate, private, all different kinds of proposal efforts.

And you’re going to, you know, prepare those applications and keep track of them and thinking about, you know, kind of piggybacking on the lifecycle phases, is how do you maximize your resources, and how do you build relationships, and just keep track of that information? You know, do you use electronic systems like Bloomerang or do you use Excel. So just making sure that you have a place to gather that information and that you’re maintaining it. Because some of those, especially if you’ve got several different proposals in the pipeline, making sure you’re not losing sight of them and also not losing sight of any reports that are due.

So here’s some strategic planning questions. You know, what are the resource gaps that you have? And what are your goals and priorities for the year and thinking about, you know, your strategic plan and thinking about, you know, how you’re going to change what you offer? And how do you gather and analyze data? Do you have a system that you use? Is it cohesive across the organization? Are they disparate systems? Is it manual?

And, you know, there’s no necessarily right or wrong answers because each organization has its own level of maturity, which is something to consider. And again, we’re going to go back to tracking information because some people right now, you know, perhaps you’re using G Suite, you know, perhaps you use all things Google . . . Some people use Microsoft Teams, perhaps using a fundraising software or some kind of grants management software. So how are you tracking this or even a project management software tool? And so that’s really important and critical to make sure that everybody is able to review that information and track that information and doing it consistently.

And also, how are you measuring progress? So how are you going and checking to make sure that you are achieving those goals that you’ve set forward? And then when are you going to assess them? Is it during a monthly meeting? Is it going to be quarterly? And if you’re not on target, not to be seen as a punitive measure, but an area for growth, and how are you trying to pivot and move forward so that you can be more successful in a different path? So those are just some things to consider.

So step one needs assessment. This is really critical because this is part of setting your priorities. What do you need right now and not just in the organization? You know, the organization, I’m sure there’s some technology needs. There’s personnel needs, perhaps there’s even knowledge needs. But what about the target population that you serve? What are you seeing as an increase in their needs? And what do you need to do to address those needs?

And how are you gathering this information? Are you just communicating with your frontline staff and those who are directly interfacing with the target population? Are you trying to do something more formal through a survey? And how are you sharing with the team and including the right people? Because you don’t want it to be just leadership who’s making the decisions. You want to make sure the different stakeholders are involved and maybe even communicating with some of your peer organizational partners.

And so then we’ve talked about planning. So then this is when we think about like your greatest priorities right now. So your greatest priorities are going to be the ones that rise to the top. What are your biggest needs, and how does that feed into your strategic plan and things that you want to accomplish? Do you have to make changes and also thinking about those priorities and how they align with your populations needs? Is there a fit? if there’s not a fit, how are you going to make those pivots to address them in a more cohesive way?

And I have two examples in the next two slides on logic model and SWOT. I love them both. I’m a big data geek. So, if you haven’t seen, I’m sure that many of you are familiar with the logic model. Some of you even have one, which would be amazing. So raise your hand if you have a logic model because I love a good logic model. Oh, I love it. Several people are raising their hands.

If you do not have a logic model, I highly, highly, highly recommend the Kellogg model, because there’s a guide that they use on how to develop one. And it’s actually a really great exercise in understanding what your organization wants to accomplish, your goal, and mapping it to your impact.

And I think it’s a really great structured approach to think through all of these steps. Because you get asked us all the time in grant applications. You get asked about, “Okay. What resources do you have? What’s your capacity? What do you do? What are you going to accomplish? Tell us about your long-term impact.” This is the steps to take you from point A to point I guess E in this instance because there’s five different areas.

And there’s lots of different logic model samples. This is one of them. So I highly recommend it. But you can look . . . even just Google it. And you can find a ton of different logic model samples. It’s not something that, you know, has to be the same across the board.

And also just trying to think about what works for your organization. Obviously, you have the organizational logic model, but you might want to have one for certain key programs as well. And so if you commonly write applications for a specific program, you might want to think about developing one for that.

And so I think it’s a great exercise. I once did one with an organization that had 14 different programs and getting all their program directors in the room to talk through it. It was a laborious exercise, but man, was it helpful. And I still use that to this day. And it’s been about three years since we did it.

And next is a SWOT. If you haven’t done a SWOT, I really like it. It’s a great brainstorming exercise. And you can even do this virtually. You can do this on Zoom. There’s a Zoom whiteboard. You can create four different quadrants. Really, I think it’s really important, especially this goes back into the health and wellness of what we’re doing right now is what are your organization’s strengths? What are you doing that’s really good? You know, what are you doing to give back in the world right now? And I think you’ll see that there’s a lot that you’re doing and a lot that you will still do.

And then I look at weaknesses as what are the areas that you need to improve? You know, what are the things that you’re seeing that you think, you know what, it’s time to make a change? And then looking at those opportunities, where can you actually excel? Where are the areas where you can actually make a difference? And then talking about the obstacles that you face because there’s a lot of things going on right now. There’s a lot of threats. There’s a lot of external factors. You can probably list them all right here. And seeing, you know, what can you do to try to overcome those challenges and those barriers?

So, if you were going to put the SWOT together for your organization, what would be your greatest strength? Let’s talk about that. If you can put in the chat box, what are your organization’s greatest strengths? I would love to hear that because I want to see some positivity. We’ll skip the one about weaknesses. But let’s focus on strengths. So I’m curious, you know, what would you say is your greatest strengths as an organization? And it could be anything.

Steven: Lots of people saying passion for the community, their mission. People have a lot of good partnerships, being mission-focused, diversity of programs, that’s cool. Their facility, their sort of concrete resources they have, diversity of staff. Diversity of income streams, that’s always good.

Rachel: That’s great.

Steven: There’s a lot of good stuff in here. This is good.

Rachel: I love it. So yes, let’s get some positivity, some inspiration here. That’s great. And so I love hearing about that, you know, diverse programs, you know, just having a facility. I love it. If you’re there, that’s fantastic. But just having all of those different resources that you can bring to bear because there’s so much of it, that we look at deficits of what we don’t have, and what can we actually do that to build that up? What do we have? And I think that that’s really critical to think about.

So now, this is a really critical piece here. Are you going to keep? Are you going to change? Are you going to grow your programs? This is a conversation I’ve seen within different nonprofits. And I think that this is a challenge, because there’s some programs that have to either scale down or maybe cease for the moment. And then others might be growing because of the need.

And so when you’re thinking about that, are you thinking about, you know, what the capacity is, are you able to grow the program and what resources you might need to have? And this goes into your needs assessment, and thinking about, you know, what are your fundraising targets and thinking about, you know, where the gaps are, and then personnel. I mean, if you have the right folks there, do you need to bring on different people to help strengthen the program?

And also looking at how the funds are tied to program because I know that some grantors would like to fund specific programs. And so are there still funds tied to those programs, and if there’s some changes that are needed to make sure that you’re in line with the new strategic vision or priorities. And so this is just a fundamental conversation that should be had after you do your needs assessment.

And this is also consideration, because even though we’re focused on grants now, you do want to think about your other fundraising campaigns, because I think they’re all underneath the development umbrella. So, if you’re trying to expand grants, does that mean you’re trying to either diminish other campaign targets? Or are you trying to strengthen those as well? So you kind of want to look at it holistically and in connection with one another.

So for grants, you know, thinking about, you know, some of the core language and thinking about the data that you need to track. And for major gifts and sponsorships, do you have folks that are able to network with the right people? Because we know that some corporate entities do not have significant funding for discretionary activities. So is that going to continue? Do you have contacts that can perhaps build those bridges? And then also thinking about, you know, leveraging your board to the extent possible, and maybe doing some additional research on prospects that are giving.

And then for social media, social media, I kind of look at as a marketing tool versus a traditional fundraising campaign, because even though we have GivingTuesday and Steven and I were talking about GivingTuesday before this, I think that That is a means to fundraise. But it’s also a big part of your outreach strategy. And so making sure that you do have a following. Are you building up your content there to draw people into what you do? And is that part of your social media strategy?

And then for individual giving, you know, thinking about your appeal letter. How are you changing that this year? How are you going to revise the message to your constituents? And thinking about segmenting your list, so perhaps you’re sending different messages to different folks, depending on their giving levels, depending on their industry. So just something to think about when you’re mapping out your different fundraising campaigns and your targets.

So then, we’re going to talk about the goals. And this kind of piggybacks on the last conversation about fundraising campaigns. Do you have your conservative goals and your target goals? You know, how are you kind of reframing them, and also organizing them by fundraising campaign? And in the next slide, I’ll show you how a sample of this. And determining the roles like who’s going to manage the different parts of the work. And if it’s you for everything, then you need to prioritize what’s most significant.

And so this is just an example of a fundraising spreadsheet that we have used with another client. And so you can see, you know, what were the funds raised? So looking at a trends analysis, so looking at the funds raised in 2019, it will be 2020. And looking at what your minimum goal is, and your stretch goal, you know, and how does that differ? And also thinking about your what is your plan A? What is your plan B? You know, if you have your minimum goal, that’s, you know, that those are going to be your targets? How often are you checking that you’re doing that every month, every quarter, you know, who’s going to be involved in the process? So just something to think about.

So then, in terms of actually doing the work, do you have policies and procedures? Do you have systems in place to manage this? And this goes into whether you use a manual system. You know, when I say manual system, I’m thinking more like a shared cloud-based program, like the G Suite. You know, do you use Google Drive? Do you use Microsoft Teams? Or do you use a more system-based approach, you know, or even Slack? Or do you use a project management system like Basecamp or Asana? Or do you use fundraising software like Bloomerang?

You know, and so thinking about how are you tracking that activity? Are you able to generate reports? Are you able to have a dashboard, perhaps to show a snapshot? And I know that the board really likes to see those kinds of things? So just curious, you know, are those things that are important to you? And are you able to make that accessible to others?

And then measuring progress, you know, how are you checking? Are you gathering the data? And how are you determining if you’re on track? Because if you’re just establishing goals, and you’re not tracking, then it’s not as helpful as it could be. And so before we move on, I’m just going to see if there’s any other questions before we get to the last section.

Steven: There’s a couple in here, Rachel, but I think you may cover them. But if you don’t, I’ll come back to them, I promise.

Rachel: All right, well, we’ll just hold on. I’m in suspense. All right. So here’s some other considerations. So who supports your organization? This is the key is relationships, you know, I kind of look at it as like a Russian nesting doll. Okay. So at the center, you have your staff and your board, those are the ones who are most committed to your mission, then you have volunteers and funders, then you have, you know, your elected officials and other community-based partners. And then you have the public and perhaps the media to help support and spread your message. So this is sort of, you know, thinking through who are those people that really support what you do.

And then let’s talk about the donor engagement lifecycle. And this can also be applied to grants. It’s not just individual donors or corporate donors. But there are six different phases here and thinking through, you know, how does that impact your outreach. And it’s called moves management. It’s when you try to move from the recruit/inspire to the asking and thanking, and so where are you at each of those steps, and just trying to find a way to engage folks and trying to do your research.

And this can be part of the phase 1 prospect research that you do that I discussed in the grants lifecycle before and learning about them, engaging them that’s similar to an application, and then making the ask, and then you want to thank them. So that’s the award phase. And then the repeat is the monitoring and management. So it’s kind of similar to the grants lifecycle phase, and really thinking through you know, how are you doing each of those steps and that can go across the board to all different kinds of fundraising campaigns.

And so some of the things that to think about in terms of moves management from one phase to another is making sure you document and track that process from one to the next. For instance, I was working with another client on their 2021 grants calendar. Now, some they have listed as you know, we’re not going to submit an application. We’re just going to conduct some outreach because only unsolicited applications are accepted. So until we get the invitation, we’re just going to continue providing them with an impact report and, you know, communicating with them at least once a year.

So if that’s the [fate 00:40:17], what you’re going to do for certain funders, then that should be included in your tracking. And then if you’re actually going to submit the application, you’re going to make the ask, are you doing the research to determine you know, how much to ask, and for what purpose and so forth. And just being flexible and making sure that you’re able to adapt. Because if you’re asked to apply, or if there’s a new opportunity that comes up that you need to respond to just being able to be nimble like that.

And so I’m just curious right now, in terms of your engagement with partners and stakeholders, you know, how do you currently engage them? Are you connecting with them via email? Are you doing social media shoutouts? Are you’re trying to connect with them in different ways through an annual appeal? You know, what are the things that you’re seeing that are most successful engaging some of your other folks there?

Steven: Seeing email, newsletters, social media shoutouts, Zoom. That’s cool. One-on-one calls on Zoom. Good idea. Yeah. What’s the email? Lots of social media, virtual open houses. That’s cool. Yes, small gatherings on video. Looks like a lot of people are making use of some live streaming tools.

Rachel: I love that. I love the fact they’re getting creative. So kudos to you. That’s awesome. And I love the fact that you’re doing Zoom chats, because I think a lot of people feel that, well, I’m not meeting them in person, so I can’t connect with them. But there’s so many different ways. And I love seeing the different ways that people are making it work.

And the virtual open houses, I actually was thinking about that as well, because especially those that might rely heavily on volunteer activities, are there things that volunteers can do from their home? Are there different ways that, you know, different campaigns, they can run through social media? So there’s a lot of different interesting ways that you can still engage people, even though you’re not connected physically.

So in terms of, you know, thinking about this relationship management engagement, these are just some things to think about, you know, thinking about, are they a new funder? Are they a lapsed or current funder? Is there a point of contact and thinking about if there is an option to submit or if it’s invitation-only, and just doing your research and seeing if there’s a specific opportunity, and the ways that people want to be connected, because some people do not like email. They like to talk on the phone. So seeing the best way they like to communicate or some like a handwritten letter. So imagine that, you know, so I think that there’s different ways that you can see how they are like to be connected with and that includes grants and individual donors. Because especially if you receive funding through family foundation’s, I treat them more like individual donors because it is a small group of individuals who’s making those decisions. So just something to think about, and how are you tracking that and making sure that you respond appropriately.

And also data capture. So data is not just stats. Data is not just collecting information on demographics. It’s also success stories. It’s also gathering information on things that you did really well, either with a partner, or for someone that you serve. It’s also some of the accomplishments that you’ve made. Is there something that you can really share to provide a case study to show what you’ve done to pivot during this time, or show your success and show your impact? So data capture is important, but it’s more than just numbers. It’s also the stories. It’s also showing how much you’ve made a difference. And I think that’s just as critical as putting together those demographics. It’s not to say they are not important. Stats and demographics are incredibly important but it has to be woven into the larger story.

And then also, just from now that we’re all visual marketing and branding is very important. So are your materials reflective of your colors? Do they have the same kind of fonts? Do they have same kind of visuals? Is your website easy to follow? Do you have, you know, marketing materials that are only online because I know impact reports right now are online and they can be reviewed through that lens. You know, you don’t need to necessarily print everything. And so thinking through those pieces as well to make sure that you’re, excuse me, providing clear and coherent messaging through your digital media campaigns and your digital media strategy. So these are just some considerations for you to think about.

And also tracking, you know, as I mentioned before, what are your tracking systems? You know, what are you doing to try to ensure repeatability and to ensure there’s some institutional knowledge? You know, if your executive director left and was there for five years, do you have information to show their relationships and to be able to pick up where he or she left off, and just ensure that there’s multiple users and people that are involved in the process?

So here’s some things I’m just going to share like final takeaways, considerations for your 2021 planning. I can’t stress this enough is your needs assessment, and determining what resources you have available, and mapping out those priorities based on you know, your organizational challenges, programmatic, financial, you know, really thinking through and bucketing them because they’re going to be different for each of those areas. And that’s going to set your targets and determine what your priorities are and what your grant seeking needs are.

And also thinking about what internal-external resources are needed to advance your goals. And this goes again, into your identification of your resource gaps. And then changing your strategic plan and your fundraising targets as appropriate, and ensuring that you’re doing your research on the key stakeholders that you have and continuing to connect with them and leverage them to the best that you’re able and just making sure you have a tracking system to measure this.

So these are just some things to really think about as you try to sharpen up what you’re trying to do for 2021. So even during a time of uncertainty, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen in January. But I can tell you that if you try to do some of these things, at least you’ll be more prepared. And so I’m just going to leave it for questions and just going to show you that there’s some reports that I have here about, you know, COVID and COVID-related funding and resources, and also just charitable giving reports, because some of these are really interesting, and can provide some information on trends that to think about, you know, for the next year.

And there’s more reports that are going to be coming out. So just be stay tuned, you know, look at, you know, Bloomerang has a lot of blog posts, Nonprofit Quarterly, NonProfit Times, a lot of different publications in the space, Chronicle of Philanthropy. So just think about that. And if you’re interested, I’m just going to do a little plug at the end that if you do want to have a chat, you know, I do offer some pro bono chats for people who to have a little brief coaching call to discuss your specific needs. So happy to do that afterwards. And with that, I’m just going to leave it for questions and have an open forum.

Steven: Nice. Awesome. Thanks, Rachel. I’m a big fan of logic models. So I got pumped when I saw that side.

Rachel: Magic model.

Steven: Hooray. Everyone’s most excited thing. Yeah, we got some good questions here. And I’m just going to kind of roll through them. And folks, you know, ask away now, because we probably got about maybe 10, 12 minutes? And if I don’t miss your question, or if I missed your question, I promise I’m not playing favorites.

A couple of people, Rachel, have asked about, you know, the fact that we can’t have these in-person interactions in a lot of cases due to, you know, health concerns. And that’s kind of limiting people’s ability to kind of make personal contact with some of these funders. What have you seen work? Is it just telephone, email? You know, video, or what are some creative ways people can kind of get the attention of funders in this sort of quarantined kind of digital era?

Rachel: I definitely agree. I think that what I would say is you could start off with an email and then say, “I will follow up with a call.” Because that also ensures that you are going to, you know, follow up with them the following week if they don’t send you a response. And then there’s some interesting things. I think somebody mentioned, a virtual site visit. So you could say, you know, “Hey, you know, here’s a site visit.” So it’s something you could do is perhaps someone put together maybe a few minutes of video, let’s say you have a warehouse space, you know, doing a few minutes to kind of show what it is. So maybe having a video available could be a way to share, you know, in a more visual context of what you do.

Because also, I know that people have been changing to these virtual events, because of the fact that you can’t have this, you know, 300 person gala anymore. And so what do you do instead? So I have seen, you know, one of my clients put together a video of success stories, so interviewing people. And so that’s another way or, you know, that’s another way to engage people to kind of show from a personal standpoint, what you do, so that could be attached and shared in a link. So and I do think the Zoom is very helpful to kind of least get a personal connection to the extent possible. So perhaps when you do set up a call, that could be a Zoom call, instead of just a phone call.

Steven: That’s cool. I love that idea. Hey, Rachel, would you mind going back one slide so people can see your contact info?

Rachel: Yeah, let me get there.

Steven: There, cool. Yeah. And I’ll keep going through these questions, but here’s one, here’s a fun one. And I’ve asked I think we’ve talked about this before, Rachel, maybe offline but I ask this question whenever when somebody comes on to talk about grants is that if you see someone is sort of saying that they’re only, you know, their applications are invitation-only, and they don’t want to be contacted unsolicited, or they don’t want to be solicited at all. Should folks may be still be a little bold and maybe still reach out to those people? Where do you kind of fall in that spectrum? Or do you think you should sort of always honor those parameters? I tend to be a little bit more of a rogue and maybe be a little bold, but is there a middle ground there that you think people should go after?

Rachel: You know, I call it like an informational interview, right? So there’s nothing wrong with reaching out and just saying, here’s who I am and here’s my impact report. And, you know, we’d love to talk more about you . . . more with you about us. We can always talk about the donor. But I think that is a really great way as an entree is to just provide information. You don’t even need to make an ask, but just say, “Hey, we’re open to have a conversation, open to have a dialogue.” And just have a standard, you know, email template, have a standard new sort of once a two-page fact sheet or impact report that you think would be really compelling.

And what’s the worst that can happen? Either they don’t respond, or they do. So, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. And especially if you have a connection, so if you have a board member, or some mutual contact that can connect you absolutely go for it.

Steven: Cool. I like it. A few people have asked about corporate giving. And we were kind of talking about this before we went live, Rachel, but, you know, some businesses are hurting, but a lot of others are not hurting. And it seems like I get the sense with a lot of events kind of going virtual that maybe corporations are going a little unsolicited, maybe that’s just kind of that’s just a hunch, not really based on any data. But what have you seen there? Do you think that there’s an opportunity to be reaching out to some businesses too?

Rachel: I do, and I think it depends on how established your relationships are. So I know those that have gone to virtual for their events. Because I know spring was obviously a very big month, a very big time and the fall as well. That’s when it seems to be the two heavy seasons for events how they normally would happen. So those that have really good relationships with their corporate entities will get renewal gifts. And a lot of times they didn’t even if they had planned events, they didn’t rescind their sponsorship.

So I think it’s just a question of that, and perhaps leveraging those corporate folks to see if you can get access to other resources, because corporate giving, it’s so much about relationships, because the fact that it’s discretionary. It’s not an application process, per se. Some corporate entities go through their foundations for sponsorships, but some is just based on, “I know, Joe. He’s a director at this financial institution. He’s given us money for 10 years,” you know, you’re going to go through him. So it’s just sort of making sure you continue to build those bridges. And try to see who’s giving, you know, doing and that’s why staying on top of the publications is really critical. So you can see if there’s a certain trend, and I can say financial institutions are definitely continuing to give. So just being mindful of that.

Steven: They may actually be looking for opportunities to spend that budget is kind of the scuttlebutt I’ve heard on the corporate side. Yeah, I love it.

Rachel, a couple people have asked about being in a situation where their programs, their offerings themselves are a little uncertain. They know they’re going to be doing something but because of all the changes and the uncertainty, maybe they’re kind of mid-pivot, or still trying to decide what that pivot looks like. What can those folks do? You know, they don’t want to . . . I get the sense that they don’t want to wait until that is completely set in stone to then go out and seek funding. Is there kind of an interim option for those folks? Is it okay to say that, “Hey, we don’t really know what the programs are going to look like, but we kind of have an idea”? Is that a turn-off for funders, you think?

Rachel: I think it really depends on the funder. And also, if you’re going for gen-ops funding, don’t even worry about it, you know, because gen-ops is just going to go into your umbrella. And that’ll be great. And especially, so you might want to think about some of those opportunities versus programs specific.

If you have a good relationship with that funder. I think it’s really important to be transparent with them and just say, “Here’s the situation that we’re dealing with right now. We’re going to continuing to be offering the same type of services to the people we’ve always had in the past, but the approaches might be a little bit different. The way that we’re doing things might be a little bit different.”

So I think just how you want to articulate that you definitely want to get on the same page. But I think that it’s really important to have that conversation before reports do. And you definitely don’t want to put an application of putting targets or some things that you’re not going to actually be doing or you’re not clear about. So I think that you want to kind of think about that before you go after specific opportunities. And as I said, try to go after some that are maybe more general, or maybe cover a broader range of programs. So that way you can be covered in case there’s some shifts.

Steven: I love that, especially in general operating. Makes a ton of sense. You mentioned Candid, which is kind of what GuideStar rebranded as. Where else should people be looking? Are there other websites or kind of repositories for funding opportunities that should be on people’s radar?

Rachel: Yeah, I definitely think you want to look at your community foundation. That is a wealth of different, you know, opportunities. So, for instance, you know, I’m in the Greater Washington, DC area. So there’s the Greater Washington Community Foundation. And so they always have opportunities. There’s also an umbrella organization called Nonprofit Montgomery, and there’s Maryland Nonprofits. So I see those newsletters come up. So I definitely think it’s important for local.

And there are other alerts that you can sign up for. There’s Grant Gopher. There’s Grant Alerts, GrantStation, a lot of things with grant in the title that they’re pretty . . . And I think you can tailor the type of search that you’re looking for, and they can probably send you a newsletter with some of those updates in there. And also Philanthropy News Digest, which is through, you know, Foundation Center.

And so I definitely think that local is better. And some of those other search engines that I mentioned, you know, they’re only about $100 a year. So it’s pretty cost-effective for nonprofits. And if you can get sort of a tailored search, you kind of look at it as this is one piece, you know, so the more pieces that you have, the better spectrum of opportunities. So I think it’s just a question of trying different ones. And, you know, I’m a member of the Grant Professionals Association and GrantStation is included with the membership. So you could look into things like that. That’s part of you know, the package.

Steven: Cool. That’s good. I’ve heard of those. I hadn’t heard a Grant Gopher. I’m going to check that out. I like that name.

Rachel: Yeah, it’s a new one. One of my team members told me about it and I said, “Oh, there’s a Grant. You know, Grant Gopher.” So, yeah.

Steven: Anytime you can have alliteration, that’s good. That’s awesome. I’m going to check that out. Man, this is fun. It’s almost four o’clock. I want to be respectful of your time, Rachel, and everyone else’s. Any final thoughts? I know, I didn’t get to all the questions, but we got your contact there. I assume it’s okay if people reach out.

Rachel: Absolutely. You can send me a note and, you know, look forward to connecting again. And I’ll be back in I guess, July, you know, hopefully.

Steven: If not sooner.

Rachel: Yeah. I’ll be in my little office until then. So, yeah, but yeah, so definitely reach out to me. As I said, you know, if you want to have like an individual coaching call, probably be after the new year, but happy to have a chat with you if you want to talk about something specific or send me an email.

Steven: Cool. This is this is awesome. I joke, but you’ve been really gracious with your time coming on, you know, a couple times this year and giving the advice. So thank you for doing this. This is fun.

Rachel: Yeah, thank you so much. And I hope everybody has a wonderful holiday, New Year and that your December isn’t too crazy.

Steven: Yes, that is also my hope for folks. I really appreciate seeing such a full room here. I know it’s a busy time of year. And yeah, good luck with the last, what three weeks of the year. It’s going to be a final push. But, you know, hey, we’re here for you if you ever need anything.

We’ve got one more webinar coming up next week. Let me bring up my slides, Rachel, because I want to tell people about this one. It’s going to be a cool one. The final webinar of the year, hard to believe we got through 2020. But my buddy Gregory Nielsen from Louisville, he’s going to come on and talk about mergers. If you have are interested in that, if maybe even thinking there are some groups we could team up with in your community or elsewhere. He’s kind of an expert on this specifically. And it’s not a topic I see talked about a lot, but he is an authority on it. So check that out. I think even if you’re just kind of curious, maybe not for your organization right now. But if you’re curious of the topic, that’s going to be a good one. Gregory is a great guy, super smart. And, you know, good way to finish out the year.

So register for that almost same time, same place next Thursday at 1 p.m. Eastern, totally free and totally educational. Hopefully, you’ll join us but we’re already scheduling the 2021 session. So be on the lookout for some emails from me. You’re on the list now. So hopefully, you won’t mind further invites. If you don’t want them, just unsubscribe, but there’s some really cool topics coming down for early next year that I’m excited about. And hopefully, we’ll see you on one of those sessions.

So we’ll call it a day there. Look for an email for me with the slides and the recording. I’ll get that to you here before dinner time, I promise. And hopefully, we’ll see you again next week. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a safe weekend. Stay warm, stay healthy. And we will talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Rachel: Bye, thank you.

Steven: See you.

Rachel: See you.

Kristen Hay
Kristen Hay
Kristen Hay

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