Tips for Grant Writers – How to Create a Funding Strategy
Join us for a fireside chat with Sedale Turbovsky, CEO & Co-Founder of OpenGrants, and Meredith Noble, Co-Founder of LearnGrantWriting.org. In this 1-hour session, you’ll learn about tips and resources for grant writers including how to get started, stay organized, focus on the right grants, and win more funding.
In This 1-Hour Session, We Covered:
- Grant Research Tools
- Identifying Strategic Goals
- Defining Resource Requirements
- Creating The Budget
- Tools for Publishing and Memorializing Your Playbook
- Finding the highest likelihood of success and return on investment for your time when it comes to your grant strategy
About the Speakers
Sedale Turbovsky, Co-Founder & CEO, OpenGrants
Sedale Turbovsky is the CEO and co-founder of OpenGrants, a venture-backed startup focused on building modern infrastructure for funding. He has been an entrepreneur since childhood. After honing his leadership skills as an outdoor guide in his younger years, he started his professional career as an independent consultant focused on delivering data products and digital strategies to enterprise clients in South America. He is experienced in independent grant writing and public/private partnerships at the highest level, having worked directly with OpenGrants’ current strategic partner, Momentum.
Meredith Noble, Co-Founder, Learn Grant Writing
Meredith is an entrepreneur, community leader, and outdoor adventurer. She is the co-founder of Learn Grant Writing, an online professional development program for aspiring grant writers. Her expertise has been featured in Fast Company, and her book, How to Write a Grant: Become a Grant Writing Unicorn, is a #1 bestseller for nonprofit fundraising and grants on Amazon. Meredith has secured over $42 million in grant funding, and her students have secured over $250 million – a number that grows daily. You can learn more at www.learngrantwriting.org and get a free audiobook version of her book.
Read the Transcription
Please note, this transcription is automatically generated and may contain some spelling and contextual errors.
All right, everybody. Welcome to the OpenGrants webinar on tips for grant writing. Super excited to have you all. And excited to have Meredith Noble from learngrantwriting.org with us as well. I’m going to let Meredith introduce herself in just a quick second, but a few housekeeping things really quickly.
As you come on there’s going to be a couple opportunities during this webinar to engage. Then there’s going to be a poll that we’re going to run pretty early on to talk to just get some feedback about where you are in your kind of grant funding strategy and grant writing process.
And then after the webinar, we would love your feedback on what you found valuable. So there’ll be a survey afterwards, if you could please respond to that. As we were talking today and having this great discussion. Definitely feel free to use the Q and a tool in the webinar to voice your voice, your questions, and we’ll address those as possible.
And certainly if we can’t get to it today, our team will reach out in our follow-up and we’ll include some up on those. So really excited to have you all here. Thank you so much. Open grants is the easy way to win grant funding, and I’m just going to go ahead and Let Meredith from learn grant writing.org, introduced herself and a little about her awesome organization.
Hi, everybody. It’s so great to be here. I wasn’t prepared to give my bio and I figure you already read something about me. So I thought I would give you something a little more fun. I grew up a fifth generation cattle rancher in Wyoming, the oldest of four girls. So while I might not look like it in business attire today, I actually am most happy when I’m out on the tractor or on a horse.
So there’s the, the other side of the person. Love green tea and usually reside in Alaska where my co-founder Alexandra Lustig who’s on the line as well. And I have started learn grant writing.org, where we help women, mostly men as well, that are burnt out in their careers, learn how to become grant writers. And we do this through an online community group. So that’s the quick and dirty version of Meredith Noble in a nutshell.
Thank you so much. And one of the things that you probably know about Meredith, if you got a chance to look her up she actually also wrote two incredible books. Just to give you a little quick background, when we were building OpenGrants, we were Googling around to find out who was… We have this marketplace of grant writers who do all kinds of, provide all kinds of great services to our users. And we were looking around for who was educating and like trying to organize this industry and set the standard.
And we really found like Meredith and the company she was building were just like, they were the ones like setting out there, setting the standard helping organize the space or it really excited to talk a little bit about learn grant writing. And I know you mentioned what it is and what it is you do.
Clearly, really you’re a really talented person. You’ve written books, you’ve done all these cool things. What is it about grant funding that like makes you excited? There’s a lot of things you could be working on. Why grant funding?
Yeah, absolutely such a great question.
I fell into grant writing. It was not an accident and I think that’s a really common story. I imagine there’s some people listening right now that are nodding yep. I just got thrust into it and had to figure it out a little sink or swim. So I started freelancing after college, trying to figure out what I wanted to do.
And I started writing grants for an engineering firm and I just rolled up my sleeves and started to figure it out. Fast forward. I started writing grants. I was the full-time grant writer. Global engineering firm, helping our clients get infrastructure grants. And what I love about it is that frankly, you’re simply the most interesting person at a dinner table because you are dangerously knowledgeable about a lot of different topics without actually being a subject matter expert.
So I think that’s what I enjoy about it is just if you like project-based work, not doing the same thing over and over grant writing.
I love it. Awesome. Yeah, I totally agree. I definitely, similarly fell, it, fell into it and then quickly realized that it was really hard and it was a lot of work.
And so I was like, yeah, I should just build some really cool tools and help, bringing these cool people together with these cool projects, because I just, I don’t really predict girly, find the work of grant writing. Super awesome. It’s, it’s so cool to find people who can get into it and really dissect these things and tell these incredible stories.
I have deep respect and appreciation for the skill. Having, turned my hand at it a few times and enjoyed some success, but certainly very cognizant of all of the work and kind of craft that goes into being the playing this role in an effective way. Yes.
It’s a bit of a misnomer. I think people think you have to love writing. And I actually was not a very good writer when I started and it takes a lot of effort for me to sit down and focus in, yet when you get to the other side of that and you can read it and touch it a book is basically a big grant application.
It’s so rewarding. So I think sometimes that’s part of it is you have to like, there’s other parts of this that make it super satisfying. That aren’t always what you think you have to enjoy it.
Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. No, I a hundred percent agree. I think one of the things that we’re obviously like the main topic for the day, tips for grant funding strategy and kind of diving into that space.
I guess we’re going to start with the basics of, what is a grant funding strategy? What does that mean? And if you could share maybe a little bit of, how you teach it or what kind of things people can expect if they were to, for example, go through your training or your.
Yeah. Great question. Okay. So a funding strategy, here’s the simple definition. It is a roadmap of the top grants to pursue that represent the highest likelihood of success and return on investment. It is stopping the process of chasing grants haphazardly, right? And it’s getting very intentional about what you pursue, how this process came to be is that I was thrust into some very complicated.
Projects trying to figure out how to fund multimillion dollar endeavors and realizing one grant was not going to get it done. I needed to know how to layer multiple grants together. And what is the strategy between who comes first and who comes last and maybe non grant funding sources that have to close the deal here.
So the funding strategy process really emerged out of. Necessity of zooming out to figure out how to fund an entire project. And then you can go into actually deploying that. But I think often we just go right into deploying and we’re missing that bigger picture story. So reasons why an organization would move on.
I’m sure people have their reasons that they’re thinking off the top of their heads. The obvious one increase your win rate. Boom. That’s where it is. Prevent yourself or your staff from burning out it’s preserving resources. So you actually do what you love to do. If you’re like Saddam, I don’t actually love grant writing.
Forces you to level up your game. You get alignment all the way from the board or the executive director or CEO down. That’s huge. It just simply is a good use of our time because like life is short. So why would you spend it chasing a grant? You have no chance of winning, right? So we want to just do the things that we actually think are going to yield great results and write the grants that went right.
Yeah, a hundred percent. It makes so much sense. And I love, the idea that like the paradigm shift of just being intentional, it’s something that I think a lot of people have started to think about and try to do in many aspects of their lives. And this is just one of creating this incredible organizational efficiency.
By being intentional about what you’re going out and doing. And I think when you expand that concept, it makes perfect sense, right? It’s oh, I should be in, we should be intentional. It’s something that I think a lot of human beings in general aspire to be, or to do and find clarity and purpose in doing that.
And so this is like applying that kind of attention analogy to your kind of organizational approach to raising funding, which makes all the sense in the world. Do you feel like everyone needs one or is this something that just. Nonprofit needs are like it, is this for everybody or is it just for a few people.
So I, like I said, so I deployed this for infrastructure projects, so that was everything from city governments to state governments. So there you have it. We’re not just talking nonprofits, done a lot of work with tribes business accelerators, and then of course for nonprofits.
So if it has to do with grant funding in any capacity, this model applies and is relevant.
Beautiful. I’m going to go ahead and posit a question, a few questions out to the audience to maybe take the temperature of the room in terms of where you all are in your process. So there’s going to be a quick poll.
We’re going to deploy here. And yeah, please go ahead and respond to that. Just let us know where you’re at and what kind of things you’re working on right now. And while you’re doing that, I’m just going to take a quick. At some of the questions we’re getting in. Lots of great lots of great questions.
Thank you all for responding to the poll as well. One of the, a couple that I’m just going to address real quick unfortunately, a lot of our answers in this space are like, it depends. So like one of the questions I see Meredith typing an answer to is how much time does it take to get a grant from applying to getting money?
And I’m sure Meredith has a similar answer, but a lot of times it just depends on who you’re working with. Also some basic housekeeping that I think will address a few things. Yes, this webinar will be recorded and published. We’ll send it out to your email that you registered with. If you opted into that communication by registering with us, then you will get a then you’ll get an email with this update.
And some of these, we will dive into a little bit later, but another one here. We will be publishing this recording on YouTube open grants. And then we’ll certainly also be providing a copy of this, to the learn grant writing team. And I’m sure, I don’t know. Meredith, if you have a YouTube channel.
Yeah. Awesome. Yes. Beautiful. Yeah, we’ll throw that stuff. They’ll throw that stuff out there. As we record and edit this, so thank you so much for responding to the poll. Seeing a lot of good feedback. It seems like one of the. Things that people are struggling with or challenges they’re facing is just finding the right grant opportunities.
And if that is the case that you are a hundred percent in the right place. And then the next top thing is creating a strategy, which, doubling down like the one really helps and answers the other. I think Meredith will agree with me on that point that, if you want to have a better time finding the right opportunities, being intentional about it and building a strategy, we’ll help you with that.
I’m going to go ahead. We’ll do some more answers and Q and a a little bit later, but wanted to off of that off of that poll definitely wanted to address a bit. And I’ll go ahead and just share these results with the audience here.
Yeah. Everyone can see that.
We’re covering 80% of what most people are facing and then hopefully we can get the other ones in the questions. Everybody’s at the right webinar today.
Yeah. It’s very exciting. We’re so excited to have you all here. So let’s talk about finding the right grant opportunities.
That’s the next thing we’re going to discuss anyways. We talk about, and, I’ve enjoyed bits and pieces of your book. I’ve listened to the podcast of your book on Spotify, which was fun times. And you talk a bit about a funnel and how you get to finding these, the Cropper grant opportunities.
Can you elaborate on that a bit for the audio.
Oh, yeah, you betcha. Okay. When I do like to think of it as a funnel, so I’m really glad that you remember it that way, because when you begin a new project and you’re trying to figure out what should I be even going after you might look at a hundred plus grant opportunities, which is a great problem to have, right?
That there’s all of these grants out there. But as we all know, all grants are not equal. So in this stage, it’s about being super creative and filling the top of that funnel. And the possible grant opportunity, no matter how harebrained it might seem and unrelated, we’re going to just put it in the top of the funnel and see if it fits.
I think I could use an example. Can I give an example real quick? So at all, it might make this make sense. Okay, please do. Okay. So I used to work with Kanten Russell he’s a former ex pro skateboarder turned skate park designer. And so I was helping him get skate parks funded all over the U S and if you were to just search skate park funding, you will find pretty much one.
The Tony Hawk foundation, which the average grant amount is $10,000. And the average skate park is at least 2 million. So you can see the problem. So what I would instead, and I was thinking about whenever I would work on those projects are things like, what are the adjacent lands? I had a project that had a local lake that was nearby that had water quality issues.
So a big part of escape park is the civil infrastructure, the site plan. Hey, could the parking lot have permeable pavement? Could we have informed and for, informational signage about water quality, right? Things like that. There was a senior center. It was actually getting built right next door to the same bridge, same project.
And so I thought, okay, how can we bridge maybe senior and our towns, young people, there are some interesting grants for senior seniors and shading, right? So we could maybe put some seating in. Then what about community health skateboarding, BMX biking as a sport? This is also gross, but it’s true.
Is there any legacy soil contamination? We had did a project up in Rochester, New York, and it was under, they’re going to put the state park under a freeway, basically. So it would have cover, but it was a pretty contaminated, a dirty site, but the upside of a big bowl and all of this cement is that it actually captured.
So a way of solving that problem. So if you get what I’m doing here, I’m thinking about it from a lot of different angles that have actually nothing to do with skate parks directly. And if you were thinking to yourself, listening to this, I am not that creative. How will I come up with those ideas?
My biggest tip on this process is get your budget and go line by line. And then you can think about it a little bit differently when you see just the specific line item instead of the whole thing. Does that make sense?
Yeah, it’s, that’s a great point. And I say doubled down on that. I think often we, as people who maybe don’t spend a lot of time in a foundation or.
We tend to think of our, and this just happens anywhere. I, if you’re coming at a problem or from a point of passion or whatever, you’re thinking about it in the lens that you are approaching it, which is like state park. And what’s really important to consider is that there is so much money out there for so many different things.
And because a lot of this stuff is related. One of the things that we helped a company with recently is they do cyber security work. And while there’s not necessarily a ton of grants for like government to purchase cyber security, they don’t come out that way. It’s about securing ports or securing cities.
So if you’re just searching for cyber security, you might find the odds and ends. But if you search for securing X, Y, and Z, And then you think about the myriad ways that you might secure that place. Cyber security happens to be one of them. And so it’s a lot about just and I love that like budget idea of pulling out each budget item and thinking about it that way.
And then there’s also just, you can have. Yeah, opportunity to pull together other stakeholders who might have different lenses about how that impacts the community. As you’re having meetings with people who are working on your project, invite them to talk about like the things they’re working on and you might get some great ideas from them as well, because there is so much other, so many other impacts.
You could talk about economic development. You could talk about growth, you can talk about, even housing info, all these kinds of things that might be involved in a project. Yeah, there’s a, it’s a great point. That’s top of the funnel. You’re like building all these opportunities out.
And then you then you have a filtering process that you talked about. It’s like getting down to that next stage. What does that look like? So you’ve gone. You’ve had your creative visions or you’ve done your budget line item exercise, and you’ve got 200 grants or maybe 30.
What is that like second stage?
Absolutely. Okay. So we’re in, we’ve already in stage one of the funnel. Now we’re moving to stage two of the funnel and this is where you go from a hundred plus grant opportunities to the top 20 or so. And the way I like to whittle this list down is to think about three questions.
So this is the only three questions everyone needs to remember. What is the funder’s past giving history? Where did they give grants and what will they fund. So I’m going to break those down and Sam again, so everyone can catch that. So what is the funder’s past giving history? The best indication of future giving is past giving.
So if they’ve actually only given grants in the state of New York and you’re in California, Swipe it from the list, right? So just quick power moving here. We’re not getting stuck and going down rabbit holes. We are looking for though to answer those three questions and boogie, so that’s helpful.
Then like where do they give The other thing, I guess that’s helpful about what’s their past giving history, is what’s the award size and the total amount. So a resource that we like is just even checking out grantmakers.io. There’s a lot of interesting resources online for reviewing nine 90 data.
For those of you that are looking at foundations, you can also do this. When you look at past federal grants, like who have they actually awarded grants to go and look at. They say they award grants up to 5 million, but what are they actually giving? And you might find, oh, they actually really just make awards for a million.
That’s what you would need to be applying for. So it’s just an easy party trick to keep in your toolbox. And then in terms of what will they fund? That’s just like a high level question, not going full depth on eligibility, but it’s saying if they say they don’t fund a capital infrastructure project, and that’s what you’re trying to get.
Remove it from the list, right? So the whole point here is to work super quick and dirty, like boogie, do not like you need to accept timers, so you don’t waste time on this and it’s just about keep or out. And then when we go to stage three, we can actually analyze the ones that you like more closely.
So that one.
Yeah, that’s awesome. I think another thing that I just want to throw out there, you mentioned grantmakers.io and you mentioned so on the federal side on the foundation side, those are there’s great places. Grant makers dot. The bigger foundations also have the positories of the grants they’ve awarded.
In fact, that’s frequently what you will find on their website. When you go search for grants is like, this is what we’ve, this is what we’ve awarded to people in the past. So just be aware that on the federal side, even though they may seem imposing, typically the government is required on some level to give you information about the about their program.
So if you can figure out and usually should just. Some basic kind of work to go ask the question. If you can figure out what they’ve, what they’ve funded in the past, you typically can just ask them, say, Hey, can you email me all of like your past awardees? And they’ll send you a zip file of everything and you can look through it real quick.
So I’m just on the federal side. Be aware that sometimes it’s while the information might not be as available. It is out there. And typically they’re supposed to just tell you so you can just ask and they’ll give you the answer and if they don’t then you can ask again. So yeah, that’s great.
I love it. So let’s keep going down the funnel. What comes next here?
Okay. So the third stage of the funnel is the hardest and takes the most amount of time and critical thinking skills, because this is when you’re actually making the go no-go decision on what are those handful of grants that we’re actually going to allocate time and money and resources to go after.
So this is, picking those grants that have the highest likelihood of winning. So there’s a couple of them. Key tricks and things that you need to be applying when you’re in this stage, going from 20 grants to the top, like three to five that you’re focusing on this year. So first, like first, first thing you do before you do anything else, it’s almost like to stage 2.5 it’s right in between them is checking the competitiveness.
So you check the competitiveness of a grant by dividing the total number of applicants by the number that were funded. So if you only have a 3% chance of winning, it doesn’t matter if you have a perfect grant because someone else is going to also have a perfect grant. So my general rule of thumb is striving for a 20% chance or greater, obviously it’s whatever, if it’s 18%, so be it right.
I’m not being like really rigid on that, but we certainly just want decent odds to work with just knowing what you’re putting into this. And I know some of you I’m like waiting for the question to come up. Maybe it is not yet. Let’s see. How do you actually find out the number of applicants? It’s not like that’s posted online.
So you have to email the funder, which is a very nice way to open a door without having to go further in the door. It’s just put your foot in the door. You don’t have to go in the door, just say, hello, I’m reaching out. Trying to understand how competitive this grant program is. Can you tell me how many applied last year versus how many were funded?
Just looking for a ballpark figure. Get that email back and then, okay, cool. I can proceed and continue to investigate this or boom it’s out and it’s not looking at it anymore. So that’s a big trick. The second one, I would say probably the second tip would be. Creating a, what we call on our program, a power prospectus.
So this is a one-page overview of what you do who, the problem you’re solving, who you’re doing that for, what it’s going to cost and why you want to partner with that organization. And it’s a very good exercise to go through anyway, because a lot of times our ideas have never actually been. Dialed down to one page and that’s an activity in and of itself.
And what’s nice is you can then send that power prospectus to the funder. You want to have a serious conversation with ahead of asking for a meeting and then they can review it very quickly, understand what you’re doing, and you’re not going to waste all this time when you do get them on the phone, telling them what you do, right?
Like why burn? That’s not helping you learn anything. You know what you’re doing? So I’ll keep that in preserve that needing time to actually learn and ask questions versus burning through it, talking about yourself. So the power prospect is also is very professional and sets you apart from the pack.
That’s just useful on many fronts. Yeah, I do. I have other tips, but did you have any, you wanted to add,
oh, I just want to, I just want to double down on the concept of like the power perspective is is hugely beneficial. And I think that frequently folks in this space sometimes make the mistake of not engaging.
Funders ahead of time, like sufficiently or sometimes they don’t do it at all, which always boggles my mind, but definitely like talk to these people. There’s no rule that says you can’t. And frankly, if you were, if you think about it like a sales related, You don’t want to just cold call someone with a grant application.
Cause that’s like months of work, it’s so much time and energy. And if you just send it in, they don’t even know who you are. So what, why would they give you any money? You want to build these relationships and be strategic about how you approach them. There’s a lot of great tools for doing this, but I think that the tool is really irrelevant to the point of like communication.
Build the relationship up and, make sure you’re taking that first step, because if you just like cold, call them with an application, chances are, you just were not, you’re not going to get funded. That’s like the probability was already low and you just made it low.
So this is in chapter 10 in the book. It’s a new chapter in the second edition and I will never forget this quote from a funder. I’m going to read it. Nothing is worse than getting a cold application and not knowing where it came from. Even if it is perfectly. Boom, mic drop. Like it’s so true. I think they get so nervous about, sometimes people get really nervous about reaching out maybe from fear of rejection or whatever, but really they want to know, you want to know what’s coming down the pipeline and not be surprised.
Yup. Yeah. A hundred percent. I think, this has been really great. I want to make sure. We dive into some of these questions really quick.
Cause I think I’m seeing some, I think I should hit like Denise is asking, can you repeat what the power prospect is consists of? That’s an easy one for me to hit real quick.
Let’s do a quick recap here, hit some questions then I’ll hit a few. Go for it.
Cool. So Denise, to answer your question though Alex’s typing in answer, thank you, Denise or Alex for doing that. But it would be who is your organization? What problem are you solving? Who do you serve? What’s it going to cost?
What do you need funding for? Be clear on that. And how are you measuring success and why do you want to work with them? And some sort of call to action? If you’re interested in supporting this project or whatever, put some contact info. One page. All right, hit me. What do you have for other questions?
There’s another one here that I think, we’re getting to the eligibility bit. So I’ll turn to match you real quick. The question says, how do you select grants that best matches with the company’s mission and value to win? And I think eligibility kind of rolls into that. So if you wanted to talk about that real quick, that’d be awesome.
Yeah. So to answer that question is in stage two of the funding. So that’s actually the previous one. That’s when you’re looking at what’s their past giving history is the answer to, does that align to what you do? So if you’re not seeing any kind of past grant awards going to something that aligns to your mission, this.
It’s a bad fit. So that’s your easiest way to get that answer. You cannot rely on the website alone to answer that because sometimes websites aren’t updated for ages and they might say that they support like saving polar bear. Childhood obesity and something else, but then when you add, and you’re like, oh cool.
I saved the polar bears. This is going to be a great fit. But then when you actually go look at their funding history, you might see, they don’t actually make grants in that area. Why do they say they do so that’s, if there’s just one tip I have for you on that. It’s that, and then it’s not forcing it. That’s a big, the big thing I see.
It’s we think if we just like contour ourselves enough, we’ll fit and we’re, we give up too much of our integrity and what we are. I do think that this process can be helpful when you do it early on, because you know what you might need to do to be successful with the funder and you can shape your project accordingly, but it’s not.
Changing who you are and what you do to chase whatever grant funding you want to go after, because then what’s your backbone. What do you stand for? That will be wishy-washy and it will come through in the application. So being strong in who you are is just really critical to then making sure you can find organizations that aligned.
I love that. That’s awesome. There’s a variety of questions that I’ll touch on two subjects here. One is, who should reach. To funders should it be the grant writer or a program director and then the followup there because we kind of address what’s the best way to reach out to these folks with the perspectives and all these other things.
But who should reach. To the PR like who from the orange should reach out to these funders and then what happens when you reach out and they just don’t reply to you?
Such a good question. Okay. This ties in really well to the last point I was going to talk about in the funding funnel. So I’m going to bring this full circle and then you can hit me with more questions, but okay.
So who should reach out, does depend a little bit on the funder that you were pursuing. I have found that when you are reaching out to a foundation, it really needs to come from within the organization because they want to have trust with that organization, staff and capacity.
So in that situation, the grant writer, if you are an external grant, right? You can certainly be alongside in that process, help schedule it participate, but that executive director or director, or whatever needs to be on every one of those calls and building that relationship. If you are working on like a federal grant where.
Or person you’re communicating with isn’t deciding if your grant is successful or not. I have found that as an external grant writer, there’s no problem for me to communicate with them directly to get questions answered and it doesn’t negatively affect the client. I will, of course bring in that client when I think it’s really important and pertinent and strategic, but a lot of the times it’s just.
I need to go get these answers. They’re going to give them to me and I can bring them back and we move faster. So the answer does depend a little bit on the funder source. But when in doubt, just both hit it together and you’re welcome to schedule them.
Awesome. And what any additional tips on when they just really.
Oh, I’ll get back to you. And just, it’s like hitting the Stonewall,
Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Okay. For sure. So first of all, everybody’s inundated with email all the time. So one email is insufficient and just know that, and you have to ask at least three times, and the story asked three times to connect to someone.
That’s just the benchmark that we’re all agreeing to work from. That said, what if you re email call, do everything. Humanly possible and no, one’s getting back to you. I have a story about this. So the last part of the funding research funnel is confirming eligibility that you, as an applicant are eligible and that what you want to get funded as eligible.
And it doesn’t seem like it should be rockets. But it can sometimes be rocket science. So I was brought into a grant application. There was actually already a team working on it, but they needed an additional grant writer. And so I came in a little late in the process and I was not convinced reading the funding guidelines that this applicant was eligible.
It was for this small water hydroelectric project in Northeast Alaska, and the grant source was a federal grant. Part of interior. So I am calling every name and emailing every email in the entire 80 page funding announcement. And no one is getting back to me. I cannot confirm the applicant is eligible.
So I raised the red flag. Mind you I’m 25. So I feel like, why am I the newbie? That’s freaking out about this and no one else seems to care. So I really understood. My own confidence on it. And I was like, okay, at some point, I guess if they’re not worried, I shouldn’t be worried. Even though I see a lot of red flags and I was eventually sent back this like legal mumbo jumbo language of basically here it is, figure it out.
And I just had to proceed. So proceeded, worked super duper hard. I was actually called out onto a surveying crew cause they were short staff. So I’m like. Surveying from 4:00 AM to 5:00 PM coming back home, and then working on this grant. And I go mountain biking that weekend. And I just was so wiped and so exhausted.
I wrecked and I broke my collarbone and because I’m crazy, I was like, I’m still going to get this grant in. So in between like pain medication and surgery with four days left to go. I do finish this grant due on my birthday. So this whole thing. And what do you know, everyone could probably guess the outcome, we get a letter a couple months later saying you were not eligible.
So therefore we’re not further considered, which is obviously doesn’t mean like just very crushed me for multiple reasons, because, and it’s now I just, I teach this process. I don’t want people to lose three weeks of their lives to nothing. So it just, it really does matter if you’re not hearing from an organization that’s red flag, frankly, they go to the bottom of the list and you need to focus on other grants.
That’s the quick answer.
That’s beautiful. I love it. And you’re very hardcore. It’s bonkers. So I think, there, there seems to be a lot of a lot of other Questions floating around. I, there’s a couple questions about just the process of actually identifying that contact person within the organization.
Like how do you actually figure out who to talk to and on the public sector side a lot of that is public information and you can simply. Search around the website and find it, it takes some diligence. One of the things we’re building in open grants will be live shortly is a tool that will actually have that contact information, with the grant it’s frequently published with the RFP. It’s just usually buried in pages and pages of legal and bureaucratic jargon. I wish there was an easier answer on the public side, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the foundation side, because I know foundations are frequently. The government in one sense, because they tend to be a little bureaucratic, especially the big ones.
How do you figure out like the right people to talk to, especially if you don’t like you’re coming in cold. So like, how do you, what’s the, can you speak a bit to that process?
Yeah. I think the quick answer is just online. There is a contact information somewhere, so chase it down and don’t be afraid.
And even if it’s just a blank contact form, get in there and get up with it and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone that is also a very strong power tool.
Yeah, I love that. Yeah, we don’t we don’t live in a world where we do a lot of phone calling anymore. And it does. I find frequently that it puts people on their toes, you just call up and they’re like I guess I have to engage with this person who is talking to me right now.
So it’s a lot harder to address. Than an email, for sure. Yeah, unfortunately, some of these questions, I wish we have a magic bullet, but there’s oh yeah,
we could. There’s so many good questions in here. And we could be here for three hours getting all of these. So maybe we’ll make a point of trying to capture them all too.
I know Alex is madly, dashing and filling responses where she can. Yep. Yeah. There’s no, we will answer if we just talk about what then happens at the bottom of the funnel, so maybe we should do that.
That’s perfect. Yes. That’s exactly what I was hoping to do. Let’s dive into this last part of the funnel.
And then maybe we can talk a bit about how this translates into the strategy itself.
Yeah. Okay. So when you’ve gotten to the bottom of the funnel and you’ve gone through the process that we just talked about, confirming category competitiveness, talking to the grant funder, and for sure, making sure you’re eligible, you will have a very clear idea of the grants that you really want to pursue.
They naturally emerged they float to the top. And so what you’ll do is put that into a funding strategy, which for us means a two to three page memory. And at summarizes the funding research process that you went through so that everyone appreciates that while yes. You’re only listing for grants. You have filtered a hundred, your recommendations on exactly what to pursue and why your critical thinking a timeline for the actions that need to happen.
And next. So Alex was going to drop into the chat box or maybe into one of the Q and a answers, a sample funding strategy memo, just so everyone can look at it. I know we’re all a lot of visual learners in here, so you can see how we organize that content, but what’s nice about it is once it’s in that.
Not clear two to three page document. Now it’s time to go shop it around and make sure everyone’s on board. So you’re not thrust into the situation of the grants due in two weeks, go after it. And it’s not anywhere in your memorandum, which is a big problem. Cool. It just got dropped into the chat box.
Thanks Alex. So the sample funding strategy can go look at it and open it up. Make a copy of. I’m actually in the process of this right now, we are working on a project for a parks and recreation, ACC, a huge park development. It’s like a $6 million project in Valdez, Alaska, and I next week have to bring our funding strategy to the parks and rec commission and then to city council, because they need to put in some match and they need to buy into this and, pay to actually pursue these.
And the most useful document for facilitating that conversation is the funding strategy. So we’ll fine tune it and hand it to them and they can read it. And they’ll totally be up to pace on what we propose and what’s going on. So it was just a really nice way to get everyone on the same page and recognize also that it’s a living document.
It’ll change. Like maybe you don’t win a grant and I gotta go find another one that you want to pursue. So you’re always working off of that, but at least it’s like very simple and straightforward
that’s yeah, no I, it’s really important to get a concise plan together. Once again, because of that intentionality and just the dividends that it yields.
I’d love to hear a little bit about what your thoughts are on. You know how much how much time and energy should go into this. If you’re a grant writer, like how much should you be charging for this approach? We’d love to maybe let’s talk about timeframe first and then talk a little bit about just on the business side.
Like you’re a grant writer or you’re hiring a grant. How much should this cost, like what’s the real effort that goes into putting something like this together?
Yeah, a hundred percent. And also just backing up for us, scanning the Q and a, I saw a lot of people are like, but wait a minute, where do you find the grants?
And okay, I guess I didn’t answer that clearly. Okay. At the top of the funnel, when you’re looking for a hundred plus grants, there are a number of grant databases, one of which open grounds has founded. So that’s a great place to start and. There. So go to their website, sign up and you can start filtering through searches there.
And there’s a lot of different and interesting resources, basically anything, but don’t just use Google, use a structure tool or, and that’ll help you go through that process of seeing what’s out there in a very methodical. So just so everyone, I think we, so it all can talk about that as well, but just so we’re clear, it’s not just like finding those hunter grants out of thin air.
It’s like actually using a database. Okay. So back to the question how long does it take to put together a funding strategy? It typically takes six to eight weeks. The time consuming part is getting meetings with those funds. And that process can take a couple of weeks by the time you’re on their calendar.
You’ve talked you following up, right? So that’s about what it takes and it’s, an investment of time. That’s probably 30 hours of work for a pretty complex funding strategy, decently complex. And then. In terms of what it costs. And we charge eight to 12,000, which would be really more on the upper end of what you could expect to pay for it.
We’ve definitely trained a small army of grant writer, rent, rainy unicorns that do this. That’s the intermediate level. And so their fees are anywhere from two to $3,000, maybe two to five. So definitely ways to get that work done. That’s more affordable and attaining. I think Alex actually has a list on our website of some of just a handful of some of the grant writers in our program and a bunch of actually listed on your website as well.
So you have a bunch of grant writers in your directory that we’ve trained. That’s roughly what you can expect. And the way I like to think about it, when you’re thinking of what’s the ROI on this, if you pursue one grant that was a waste of your time guarantee, you spent at least. $4,000 worth of resources and time to go after it.
So it pays for itself by just saving you from going after one wasted a grant application. And that could be a way to think about what is this value to me. Does that make sense?
That makes perfect sense. And I think that, that. That’s a huge part of some of the great training that you offer as well as, helping grant writers think about what’s the value to me or to the end user.
And how do I do that? Like this is the beginning of you starting to really analyze and understand how much, how many resources and what kind of efforts are getting. And it’s really important. It’s that? It’s that foundational work? I like to draw the analogy to software developments, to ManTech as well, where, when you started building software, because it is so complex and it’s going to be so much so much of a resource commitment, you’re spending 200, 250 K on development of. You, what you do first as you plan and you put a plan together, you scope and you develop a plan that’s really detailed and very intentional because you know that, and you know that if you get to the end of your process and you’ve built something that has gotten.
You are going to have waste. You’re just going to have all this sunk cost. And that’s what grant like grant writers, who aren’t developing the building, these strategies, that’s what you’re sticking yourself in that kind of situation where, if you get to the end, you didn’t do the planning and you didn’t put together your strategy.
You’re stuck with something costs and you don’t have anything to show for it. And that’s a real bummer. I will say that there are not only deeply. Deeply important and impactful decisions that come out of building one of these strategies. But one of the questions I saw was something about, someone had mentioned that they’re working with an early stage startup and they don’t like, they need the startup to define more things so they can build a strategy.
And that’s something that is, I think that’s one of the beautiful forcing funds. Of going after grant funding and building a strategy is you do have to get clear on what your impacts are and what you’re going to be working on and how you’re going to do it. And what’s your budget is because if you don’t, there’s no way you’re going to put together a good strategy at all.
That’s huge. I want to take the last. A few minutes here. And first and foremost, thank everyone. If we couldn’t get to all your questions, you all asked amazing questions. We couldn’t get to them all. We are going to throw together a great doc. We’ll pull together questions that were asked and we’ll publish that to everyone.
We’ll make this recording available. I wanted to Meredith, I wanted to just hear from you this is something that you train people on. It’s one of the unique things that really attracted me to your program and to your company. When we first met, when I was researching. It was building this ecosystem.
What can talk, can you talk more about like how your program prepares people to do this and what kind of, outputs and like expectations people might have if they decide to work with you and really re either refine their skills, if they’re already grant writers and build out this muscle or going from zero to getting stoked on work again, and addressing that.
Good questions. And I can answer that for sure. So what makes our program so cool? First of all, our unicorn is, or our mascot’s a unicorn, so we turned people into grant writing unicorns. That’s a pretty pretty cool fact, but in terms of. What makes us different in the, our corner of the internet.
There’s a lot of resources for those of you that are interested in learning how to write grants, like in terms of online trainings or whatever. Hands down, like one of the best, starting points would be just like go buy a $20. So that’s a good starting point. We a year ago, decided to make a very deliberate focus on serving those that want to become grant writers as a career, whether they’re doing that within their organization to get a promotion or to build a freelance grant writing practice.
So to recognize that’s the lens that we show and teach grant writing. So I think what differentiates us is that we show everyone how to pay for their. In our program within three to six months, because they are getting paid, putting together these funding strategies that we just talked about for organizations that, won’t even blink an eye at paying for that, because they’re so desperate for someone to do it.
And then it’s a very StepStone process from there of like, how do you make your first 15? And either land that job or grow to 50 K and from there, how to build a six-figure business and from there beyond, with the big team, right? So it’s a very it’s a year round program that helps you pull off this career transition and then stick around for the community, which is where the real magic.
I think our people introduce themselves and I want to be their friend close friend. And I don’t know how many communities, everyone listening is a part of where you get that, where you’re like I felt like my career has been, fragmented or I have way too many interests and I’m feel weird.
And then you join this community and you’re like, oh my gosh, there’s other people out there like me. And that’s something we’re happy to have solved.
Yeah, that’s awesome. Very cool. Let me go ahead and I see there’s some questions about contacting us and other more information some questions about best ways to hire grant writers.
Let me go ahead and we will just for those of you asking, we’ll make sure to like also just email out these links that we’ve shared. So if you’re having issues with clicking them or anything, just let, just rest assured that you will receive this information. Here in the very near future.
If you do want to get in touch with us so just to give a quick overview there’s open grants. You can hop on, you can find grant funding and you can also get connected to a marketplace of grant writers. Some of which have been trained that learn grant writing.org and you can hire them there.
You can also reach out to learn grant writing.org to get connected. The email is there in the. Here the, on the slide [email protected]. So definitely reach out, take the time to get in touch. I let’s spend the last few minutes here. Let’s just try to hit some of these real fast.
Let’s make them like super duper fast. Let’s do it.
Yeah. Okay. We have We’re going to just start at the top here. Okay. So question find grant writing easy in the public sector, but incredibly difficult talk, identify opportunities in the nonprofit space. A big part of the path to success is developing the strategy and he got a grant makers.io.
That’s the best open source data on the nonprofit space in terms of grants. And who’s giving grants it’s very complete and it’s free to use. So I would head over there and maybe check that out. Great question here. Foreign female entrepreneur. They have a great team, but they need a work visa.
They want to apply for grants from the government. How do they navigate that? Do, how do you understand if you’re if you’re eligible all of that’s going to be in the RFP, so you’re going to want to read through I would say that in your space, in particular, if you are not from the United States, it’s frequently hard to secure funding from the U S government, but there’s loads of foundations that love investing and lots of NGOs that love deploying grant funding into the international.
And you may find state programs. If you have a business nexus in a state that will also fund you, the federal government tends to require us citizenship and us ownership of entities. Great question here. What are the best grants you’ve seen for-profits social impact tech companies?
I don’t know what your thoughts are at Meredith, but for me SBR is probably one of the bigger ones and BAA grants as well.
Yeah, I’d agree. Without knowing the specifics of that project, a little hard to answer, but not some emails and phone calls can’t probably uncover.
Yeah, exactly. Awesome.
So a couple others. Grants wire grants for small businesses, hard to find is there’s a lot more grants for other things is the short answer. But to be specific, if you want to search for SBA grants, so small business administration, SBA puts out a lot of grants for small businesses. That’s a great place to get started.
You can also look for SBR, which is the small business innovation research grant program. That’s the big one that a lot of people know and that’s the best place to go looking for. Great one here for for Meredith or on the last year of a major campaign. And I was asked to provide perspectives.
Is there a different strategy that you would use.
Yeah, it would be helpful that it’s where I want to unmute someone and ask them questions about this utilize the same model because you need to still close the gap, celebrate your progress so far. And any future funding that you’re pursuing, talk about how you’ve deployed the funding you’ve already received effectively and how.
Closing the last year is going to really, be exponentially helpful and locking down how effective your program is. So I would still use the same process. So even just going back to the drawing board and putting together your funding strategy, but yeah, be sure to celebrate how far you’ve already come and you’ll have no trouble closing that gap.
Awesome. Real quick, there’s a question about how to get started as a consultant and how does open. So open grants is a marketplace. We actually, we hire vetted and interviewed consultants to have typically at least a little portfolio. So they’ve done ideally, a few projects, at least in showed some strong traction.
We have a 20% taken our marketplace and we have access to a ton of good leads. Basically. You can apply and you can get approved. And then in terms of getting started as a consultant, if you’re just going from zero Meredith, has talked a bit about what they do, but I’d say that learn grant writing.org is the place to be sure as,
yeah, I think Alex just answered that possibly with the YouTube video.
That’s what I was going to go do. So go see how that just moved over into answer. So there should be an answer on that soon.
Awesome. Where can you find the list of websites and tools to search for grants Meredith?
We actually have the number one ranking answer for that on Google. If you search it for it, we have a blog post about it.
So if you search grant grant writing databases, that’s that’s a good start that blog post. And then of course using the open grants, databases is obviously a good move.
Awesome. I love this one. How can I make a strong case to show an impactful or theory of change in my project plan? When I’m from a small population size versus large population countries,
that’s it doesn’t matter.
The size of your country is the size of your impact. And so I actually added it’s not like I’m like promoting my book, but a whole nother chapter on this where I had a guest speaker actually help us put this together. Teaching me all about logic models and how you do put together your theory of change and track it.
And then talk about that in leveraging it with your future grant applications. So I would start by reading that, and I think that’ll be helpful just to get you oriented, that it doesn’t matter that you’re a small country. What matters is your specific program and the impact that you’re having and how you’re iterating based on what you’re learning to be better and better.
Love it. Next one here. When you partner with a funder, does that entail equity ownership in exchange for funding? I’ll just go ahead and say that typically know if you’re getting a grant. They’re usually non-dilutive if you’re giving away equity, he should have your attorney look at that for sure.
Definitely. Don’t just do that. Another good question here. It’s always good to start early on grant research, but what if you find one with only a few weeks to the deadline? I’ll just tell you my recommendation.
Okay. Yeah. So this is something we actually run into a lot. Sometimes when people are doing grant research, they say that one’s doing a month.
So I guess I can’t do it. So I’ll just take it off the list. I’m like no. Keep it on the list. You can apply for it next year, right? Or like just you still, I don’t care when you’re in stage one of the. When the deadline is, there are certainly times in my life when I have hit things hard and pulled off an entire grant application in five days.
But if I wasn’t successful, I’d also have to take complete responsibility for having done that because it’s a pretty tough thing to do because it’s not allowing your relationship building time. And you can just have some blind spots because you want to proceed. So you’re not necessarily seeing things clearly.
But biggest thing is at least just keep it on your list and you can then really tee up to apply for it next year. If it still isn’t really.
Beautiful. Thank you. All right. We have we only have a minute here. Such great questions. Let’s see.
We’ve answered 59, not bad, so
We, we did our best. Thank you all so much for being here. Really want to share my appreciation to Meredith for jumping on this. A lot of respect for the incredible things they’re doing over at land grant, writing.org, they’re enabling a lot of really amazing things to happen. We really appreciate everyone who attended.
Thank you all. We will put together some docs, we’ll put out this recording and we look forward to, being of service. So definitely, follow the links here on the slide. Come check us out. Thank you all for coming. And we hope to see you in future events.
Thank you. That was such a blast.
Yeah. Awesome. Nice work, everyone. All right. Thank you everybody.