Going after grants seems like a no-brainer for most nonprofits.
The allure of readily available money is certainly a draw – that can turn into a real distraction if you aren’t positioned well to win these opportunities.
My guest today, Gauri Manglik, is a pro in the grant writing space. She is the CEO and Co-Founder of Instrumentl, a platform designed to help nonprofits manage their grant writing to improve their chances of success in the space.
Gauri has seen it all when it comes to navigating the process of researching, applying for, and then managing grants once they have been secured and she was incredibly generous to share her expertise with us on today’s show. We talked a lot about what your nonprofit should look like from a maturity standpoint before applying for grants, relationship-building in the grant application process, and mindset shifts you can make to improve your success rate when exploring leveraging grants to help fund your nonprofit’s success.
Overall, this is an amazing and valuable conversation for anyone interested in bolstering their grant skills.
Enjoy the show!
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Gauri: It can seem like you, you might, you might be tempted to deprioritize the relationship building aspect when it comes to grants because you have these like, you know, open applications. But you still have to remember that on the other end, there’s a person reading your application. And, and also writing these applications is a lot of work.
And if you can get some validation from the funder early on that you’re on the right track, that it seems like this could be a successful partnership mutually. Then you actually. Can feel more you know, justified in actually investing your time in a particular application or a particular relationship.
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Now here’s your host, author and marketing specialist. Stew swine.
Stu: Hey, everybody Stu here grants are a subject that come up a lot in the nonprofit space. As most of you, I am sure are aware. And my guest today is Gar monk and she is the co-founder and CEO of instrumental, which is this really cool platform.
It’s like a CRM for grant writing and as a nonprofit. It’s really important to get good at grant writing to understand that you are whether or not you’re ready for, for grant writing in general. Because it can be a, a big endeavor and it’s kind of a longer term play. For nonprofits, we all kind of look to chase the money and see big dollar signs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your organization is ready to actually go after grants.
We had a really fun conversation. All sorts of things, mindset, shifts, ways to leverage other tools, ways to leverage, instrumental, to be amazing at grant writing and, and to streamline your processes. I think that if you are in that space or considering grant writing, this is gonna be a, a fantastic episode for you.
And here we go, Garry, how are you
Gauri: today? I’m doing fantastic. Thanks for having.
Stu: It is my pleasure. I’m really excited to have you on the show today, you are an expert or your, at least your platform that you built really helps nonprofits out in the grant making process or grant receiving process, I guess.
I’m super excited to share all of your expertise and wisdom with with the listeners, because I know that a whole lot of people out there struggle with that process. So tell, tell us all a little bit about your platform and, and what you guys. Sure
Gauri: thing. Yeah. So I run a company called instrumental which helps nonprofits be more successful with grants.
We do everything end to end grants from helping you find the right grants, helping you research the funders in detail, helping you manage your pipeline, create a grant calendar, collaborate with your team, et cetera. But overall be more successful and hopefully take the pain out of grants and using our platform.
We have over 2000 customers and we’re growing very quickly and we find that folks that use instrumental are able to increase their grant application output almost double while actually saving time. Just because we make the process so much more streamlined. So that’s a bit
Stu: about instrumental.
No, that sounds amazing. I know that like I said, a lot of people really struggle with, with the whole grant writing process. Does your platform, have you found that it improves people’s conversion as well? Or? It, I mean, it just feels to me like whenever things can be streamlined, there’s usually a, you know, kind of a holdover ROI effect on that as well.
Gauri: Yeah. And so we, we, you know, we ask our customers to tell us when they, when they win grants and. It’s kind of a hard metric to report on in general, but I would say our customers tell us that they have found it four times easier to connect with good fit funders using instrumental. Oh, that’s great.
Yeah. And depending on the customer, right? It, it could be like they’re winning like millions of dollars of grants. If they’re like a university or hospital, or it could be winning thousands of dollars worth of grants, which could still be a big deal to you. If you’re on the smaller.
Stu: Yeah, absolutely. I know that a ton of nonprofits have grants as one of the primary ways that they actually fund their services and what they bring to the table.
So anything that people can do to help streamline that process is, is super helpful. Does your platform actually help with the, you know, finding of, of potential grant resources as well?
Gauri: Yeah. That’s like, that’s one of the biggest kind of pain points that we solve. And I think that’s, you know, from.
Strategy standpoint, if you’re working on grants, one of the most important things that you need to do is make sure that you are looking at a comprehensive data set of all of the opportunities and funders out there. Because if you don’t have that, then your strategy is really limited because you’re not able to truly prioritize and see all your options.
And so what instrumental does is it’s the most comprehensive database of active opportunities as well as funders for nonprofits based in the us and. On top of that, we also match you to the opportunities and funders that are relevant to you. Which is like a huge part of, of the pain is just like, actually, you know, if you were to look through all of the funders that, you know, are based in your state or like gave to organizations in your, in your cause area, you’d be going through so many funders.
And so we try to actually use technology to make the process more, much more streamlined and giving you a set of initial set of more relevant matche.
Stu: Oh, that’s great. So essentially you help a nonprofit grant writer or, or leader or whatever whoever’s wearing that particular hat in, in that that organization.
You not only help them kind of streamline the process of, of replying to, or, or answering grant requests or grant opportunities, but also help them narrow down the. The target people to reach out to that sounds. That sounds amazing.
Gauri: Yeah. I would say that like, one of the things that we, we realized in this space is that.
There’s a lot of moving pieces with grants and people have a lot of spreadsheets. It’s messy, you know, somebody’s done a bunch of work and then they leave and, you know, you’re in the middle of things with the funder and you haven’t communicated that to other people at the organization. And so a big value of the platform and, and, and in general, you know, you could, you could, you know, theoretically do this with, with other tools as well is just like actually Actually giving yourself like a workflow so that you can, you can, you know, have a process of like starting with the comprehensive list and then actually narrowing it down and then having a place to store that and then making sure that you’re not like researching the same thing, like a month
right. Yeah. That’s great. It’s like, it’s almost like a CRM for a grant writing. It sounds like it’s sounds, sounds really amazing. How, how did you get into the space and what, what brought you into not only. You know, becoming an expert in the, in the grant process, but also the nonprofit space in general.
Gauri: Yeah. So I came. This from a different perspective than, you know, than my co-founders. My co-founders were the original domain experts, Angela and Catherine, they worked in the nonprofit space. They had also worked at funder at a, one of them, worked at a funder, giving out grants. Another they both worked, actually worked within an academia writing grants within a university context.
So they circled this problem from a lot of different perspectives and we’re really. Not impressed with the software landscape that existed to help them do their jobs. And I knew Angela personally, Angela is my wife now. But at the time we you know, we were, we were getting to know each other and I joined as like the product and tech person to help bring their vision to life initially.
And my, you know, I was. I was working at Airbnb doing as a, as a product manager. And then prior to that, I had my own company that was in the, in the tech space as well. And what I was really struck by when they were getting started was that there were a lot of. Like best practices and like customer obsession, a lot of customer focus that I was seeing in the, for profit tech space and which caused there to be like better solutions that actually solved pain points for their customers.
And I just wasn’t seeing that level of like product development in the nonprofit sector. And they had identified an area that was like, Unique like even more underserved, you know, cause there’s tons of like CRMs out there that are trying to, you know, and, and some of them are actually are actually pretty good from a usability standpoint.
But in the grant space, we just were finding that you know, the existing tools that were out there were, were really like far behind the times. And I was excited to kind bring my product and tech experience into this.
Stu: Yeah, that’s a, that sounds great. The, the nonprofit space does seem like it tends to get a little bit lost in the in the mix and and tends to be underserved.
So it’s really cool that you were able to see some blue sky there and, and recognize that there was opportunity. And, and to capitalize on that. So. Tell me about tell us all about the, the process and, and how how you work with nonprofits and what, what they might need to tee up before they, they make a decision to you know, to, to use software like yours.
Gauri: Yeah. I would say that you know, the first thing. It that you need to try to figure out as an organization is if you’re really ready to apply for grants is that the right strategy for you to take on at this time? And I often. Like one thing that I, I commonly say is that grants tend to be a more advanced fundraising strategy and it may not be the right fit for you if you’re really just getting started at the, with your nonprofit.
And if you think about it it kind of makes sense because with grants you’re going after institutional funders and institutional funders will tend to be more. Risk averse because they’re giving out larger sums of money, like, you know, thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars. Whereas if you go after an individual you know, they’re giving you, they tend to be giving you lower sums of money and they tend to be able to take risk your bets with that money.
And when you’re getting started, you’re still proving out your programs, the success of your programs, you know, you have a vision, but you haven’t quite like had like the right outcomes that you can use to Prove that what you’re doing like that you’re actually on the right track. And that is often what you need to be able to go and like win those larger dollar amounts.
So, you know, general suggestion is like to kind of get used kind of individuals and other means of, of fundraising that are more that are more able to take on like a, a less proven situation. So like if you’re getting started that you’re kind of like less proven mm-hmm and then kind of work your way up to.
Organizations that are more risk averse. So that’s on, that’s on just like high level kind of making sure that you’re thinking about how to layer in grants in, in relation to your other potential ch fundraising channels. And then, you know, once, once you do have some once, if it seems like you’re, you’re kind of getting there like other things to think about in terms of being grant ready is just like, do you have those, those outcomes that you can speak to?
And then if you are gonna be going after grants, you have the capacity internally to actually take that grant money and like make sure that that program is successful so that you can then report back to the funder and make, make this kind of like longer term feedback cycle of, of grants. Make sense.
Stu: Right. Cause a lot of times grants seem like they are more restrictive in, in nature. Is, is that accurate? So, so as a nonprofit, you would wanna make sure that you were ready for that that restriction potential.
Gauri: Yeah, exactly. Like I mean, and part of that is actually just like, there’s like some work that goes into like, actually like managing the grant and making sure that you are reporting back to the funder on your progress and making sure that you’re kinda keeping track of those financials and you, you wanna make sure that you actually have the capacity to, to do that.
Stu: Yeah, I think that so many people get, you know, all excited about the, the, the revenue or the, the, the money opportunity, but forget about all of the other things that kind of come with it that they’re gonna need to, to be able to, to manage and, and keep track of. So that’s, that’s really great advice.
Is there. Is there a litmus test or, or some, you know, something that nonprofits can can think about when they’re trying to assess whether or not they’re, they’re ready to really embark on a grant program. Are there, are there certain milestones that you would say a nonprofit likely would be hitting in order to be a good candidate for not only a, a grant program, but but engaging with, with you at instrument?
Gauri: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think the, the biggest milestone is is being able to show some sort of some sort of like demonstrated success with an existing program and, and be able to like speak to that. And in a way that if a funder were to read your proposal, you know, they’re. They’re they’re gonna feel like it’s a no brainer to fund you.
I would say other things that to think about in terms of like, whether or not you’re ready for grants or like a milestone is like, is if you have the capabilities internally to like, almost like commit to like a year and a half to two years of like, of an investment of actually getting the grant flywheel going.
And, and if your organization doesn’t really have that, then you might not, it might not be the right time. Because. In addition to grants being like a little bit more advanced. It also is like a longer term ROI. Mm-hmm it’s I mean, you can get lucky for sure. And like kind of know somebody and, and like kind of win a grant.
But if you’re actually trying to build like a regular pipeline of grants well sometimes I P see people make this mistake where they’re like, you know, they, they kind of underestimate the overall like strategy and, and the difficulty of it, and they’ll just kind of apply to five grants and they won’t win them.
And then they’ll kind of give up on the channel and. and like, you know, they, if they had taken a longer term horizon and understood that it was, it was a longer ROI, but it takes a longer time to see a high ROI, then they would have approached the whole channel differently and, and be more set up for success.
So like what that might mean is like, to make sure that you have the capabilities in house to like actually apply for, like, I would say like around a grant a month is like a good cadence when you’re getting started out where it’s like you have 12 shots on a goal in a given. And you’re also able to and if you can do more, that’s great, but you’re also able to not do too much.
So you’re actually able to invest the time in making sure those funders are the right fit in terms of building relationships with that funder and making sure that you’re writing a high quality grant application. Yeah. That’s
Stu: I’d say there. Yeah. So it sounds an awful lot like sales, where, where, when one goes into the, a sales kind of program or, or, or part of a team there’s, it’s really more than just, we’re just gonna spit some things out here.
We, we are really building relationships and trying to get an understanding of how we’re doing, get feedback on, on the grants that we. That we do submit to, but maybe don’t get that it really, it really does become, you know, maybe not necessarily a full-time job, but a very dedicated portion of somebody’s somebody’s core responsibilities at, at the nonprofit.
Gauri: Yeah. Agreed. And. You know, I think it can seem like you, you might, you might be tempted to deprioritize the relationship building aspect when it comes to grants because you have these like, you know, open applications. But right. You still have to remember that on the other end, there’s a person reading your application.
And, and also writing these applications is a lot of work. And if you can get some. Validation from the funder early on that you’re on the right track that it seems like this could be a successful partnership mutually. Then you actually can feel more you know, justified and actually investing your time in a particular application or particular relationship.
Stu: Yeah, it almost sounds like an RFP process for, for those people who are F familiar with that, with that, where a company issues a, a request for proposals and, and then go, you go through that process. And there’s a, there’s a lot of, oftentimes there are a lot of hoops that you have to jump through in order to, to kind successfully navigate that, that process.
It sounds like the grant writing is has a similar vibe to. Yeah,
Gauri: for sure. And like, you know, I think in, in the R in any sort of like application process, RFP process if the person reviewing your application. Like can remember, like, if, if you’re, you know, if you have some sort of social proof or like social validation, or they’ve heard, you’ve talked to them before, when they’re reading your application, they’re just gonna be like more engaged.
I think it’s just human nature.
Stu: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny here at relish studio, we’ve, we’ve responded to quite a few RFPs over the years, but the ones that I remember us actually winning were ones where I. Made a point of, of, you know, getting a relationship going before we even replied to the RFP where we would, you know, make sure that we got on either in, in me, in person meetings and, and kind of talk through our process, got to hear, you know, a lot more about what they were doing.
So, you know, as opposed to just tossing a number over the fence right. It became, it became something that, that I think they felt. Comfortable with us just because they, you know, at that point, even though maybe we didn’t know each other before they’d started the RFP process they, I, I, you know, I can’t speak for them necessarily, but I do believe that they, they maybe felt that they knew us a little bit better than some of the other candidates that were out there.
Gauri: totally. And I think that’s where, like the kind of ROI of, of grants or something to consider, like when you actually do spend the time to like, build those relationships, like you’re gonna see. More reward, but it it’s gonna take more time. And so do you, as an organization actually have the capacity to do that and if you do then great, then maybe it makes sense to, to, to move forward on
Yeah. How do people go out and find the, the best fit for, for grant funding? What, what’s the process that you recommend or what’s the process that you’re, that, that you, you help support over there at instrumental?
Gauri: Yeah. I mean, I think that we. You know, have the best process because we are starting from the most comprehensive data set.
And then we also have the most I would say like robust matching technology to connect, to like help you actually to help surface the opportunities that you’re going to be most interested in and be, be that will be most relevant for you. And the way that it works is you’ll. Sign up, you know, for instrumental, we have a concept called projects, which is essentially like a program area.
Most typically at your nonprofit, you’ll fill out a particular program area that you’re working on and then we’ll match you to both open opportunities where there’s like an active call, almost like an RFP. As well as funders that maybe don’t have a website or don’t have an open opportunity where you just have the information from their nine 90 data.
So we’ll match you to both of them. And the experience is kind of like an inbox where you can, you have all the information in one place, which is also really important. But you also have equally important, I think is like a workflow and like a process to actually triage that information. So that like I was.
Earlier, like if you, you know, save something or you, you, you bookmark something you, the next time around you’re doing a search, like you have that information stored because on a lot of these other tools and processes that I’ve seen, like people like at, at the organization are just like, re-looking at the same organization re researching it again, like month over month because they don’t like have their previous notes or, or.
Stu: Right. And then you end up building that same deck, like 40 times, instead of just, just having that one, you know, resource available that you can then pull from Yeah, I, I, yeah, it’s , I’m just kind of laughing in my head about how, how I wish that I didn’t know how that, how that process works sometimes.
Cause we’ve certainly, certainly done reinvented that wheel a few times over here, over here at relish. So what are some of the things that some of the most successful nonprofits are doing that are that’s different from you know, from, from the, the standard way that, that people are responding to grants?
Gauri: Yeah, I think that there’s there’s three things at are very high level and some of it we touched on, but couple that we haven’t. So the first is like, in terms of like, you know, top three things to be successful, one is like making sure that you’re actually ready to win grants. So that means having strong sustained programs that are operating, that you can point to.
You know, successes when you’re making these grant applications and then also having an organizational capacity to like implement programs, report back mm-hmm and like, and actually consistently apply for grants. I would say the second is making contact, building relationships the same you would for major donors.
And we talked about that as well. I think the, the, the one thing that I’ll say that, you know, one tip here that people don’t try that I, that I. You know, that I, I tend to recommend is to, is to like really go, go deep and try to figure out how you can make a connection with the funder. And like, obviously you have your board that can possibly help you and your network.
But figure out how to go deeper with them. Like, I wouldn’t just go to your board and say, Hey, do you know anybody at, you know, this fund, this organization, I would actually try to pull up like a list of people that work at the, at that foundation, for example, and, and like present that to your board.
and then if not, then I might try to also ask them if they know anybody who might know somebody who works at that board. So like also try to get to their second and third degree connections. And you can also use LinkedIn for that as well. Mm-hmm and then the other thing that I, that I almost see, like I never see folks doing is actually.
and this, we have to be like sensitive about and, and be like, careful about how you approach this is that is actually reaching out to previous grant recipients of that funder which you can see on tools like instrumental. So mm-hmm, , if you have like an organization that’s close to you or you think, you know, could be aligned or maybe even like, know somebody at that organization, starting the conversation off by saying like, Hey, like I saw you applied to, you know, so, and so foundation just wanted to understand like what the process was like, and, you know, you.
Chat with you for, you know, 10, 15 minutes about your, your advice on how to be successful with them. And if you’re able to build a good relationship with that grantee, it could make sense at some point to ask if they’re willing to like, make the connection, if, if there’s alignment there. And anytime you’re doing that, as you’re like kind of making these connections with people also being open to helping them.
People just like tend to open doors in the longer term. So like when you’re reaching out to make this connection, get on the call with them, you know, always end the call or before you end the call, make, make sure you’re asking them like what you could do to help and, and potentially seeing if you can open doors.
And then I would say the last higher, our like over overall tip that I would have to be successful is to like really be scrutinizing with the funders that you’re going after to make sure that you’re prioritizing your time effect. So like in that example where like a, a nonprofit might be like, kind of overly eager and like kind of dash out and apply to five grants and then they’re kind of like demoralized.
And I think that’s the situation that I really try to try to work against is, is actually, it’s almost like a morale issue and that’s, , that’s important to make sure is high at, throughout the process. And especially initially, so that you actually have the. You know, the, the perseverance to, to continue on with this process, given that it will take some time for these these feedback cycles to take into effect.
And so, you know, a couple things that you might you’d wanna look at there is, is you know, at a high level, like, are you truly aligned with the funders giving priority? Like, does it really make sense for you to pursue this funder? And if you feel like you. Stretching to to like meet with the funders, looking to fund, then it may not make sense to prioritize that.
And you might be better served to, you know, spend more time on a, on an application or a relationship that you feel like is more aligned. And one, couple ways that I recommend folks really understanding that alignment besides looking at the website is to also see if you. If they’re a private funder, look at their past grantees and see what I, what I call like their implicit preferences, like funders will regularly say things explicitly on their website.
And then you will look at mm-hmm who they have funded in the past. And you’ll see that it’s actually different. And you have to use both of. Pieces of information that are implicit and explicit preferences to make, call on. If it makes sense for you to, for you to pursue that funder.
Stu: Yeah. So basically looking and seeing if, if, if they’re talking explicitly about every size, nonprofit is, is is on the table, but then you go and look at past, past funded nonprofits and they’re all gigantic.
Then. If you’re a small nonprofit, it might be worth reconsidering the time and energy that you wanna put into that particular opportu.
Gauri: Yeah. Or you could make a rule that’s like, you know, for that funder, because it’s, you know, we, you know, maybe we, we meet their explicit preferences at their state, but when I look at their grantees, I don’t seem like I’m a good fit.
Like then you might tell yourself, well, I’m not gonna apply unless I can get some confirmation from the funder that it actually makes sense. And you might write them an email and say like, Hey, like I’m noticing that you’re, you know, tending to focus on larger national orgs. We technically meet your criteria, but wanna make sure it makes sense for us to
Yeah. Yeah. And that’s also just a, a part of relationship building and just asking those questions and, and being willing to put yourself out there. Because I think that that that’s a place where at least I, I see in, in. You know, the sales world where there, there are missed opportunities to, to understand that that that’s a back and forth op you know, transactional kind of a relationship in terms of, somebody’s asked a question somebody’s given some value.
And, and just the fact that, that there’s a conversation going at this point that I would think would, you know, potentially set you. That’s also an opportunity if they say, you know what, you’re right. We do tend to go with, with larger organizations than, than you you know, than you are, you have the opportunity to ask them for advice or, or for introductions to other other grant programs that they might be aware of.
That would be a better fit. Totally.
Gauri: Yeah. That’s a great point. Love that.
Stu: So you mentioned LinkedIn, is, are people using sales navigator effectively for the research and and then connection making. Is that the, the tool within LinkedIn that you, that you’re seeing people use? Well,
Gauri: that’s a great question.
I, I’m not sure. I’m not sure if, if, if that how heavily that’s being used. I do know that I, I think that if you are using LinkedIn, I, I. Actually, yeah. Can we, can we cut that? Can we, can I start over on this? Yeah, sure. I guess, yeah, in terms of LinkedIn, I would say I think the real question is I don’t, I don’t actually know the answer to that.
And I think that overall I do hear that, like, I do see that like LinkedIn is being underutilized. And I, I, that would be a great question is to actually see how much folks are like aware of and using sales. Yeah,
Stu: I I’m, I’m not sure of if nonprofits are using sales navigator effectively or at all.
I have used it in the past. So for those who are unfamiliar sales nav, blah sales navigator is a feature of LinkedIn. It’s a paid feature. I believe that it is in the 80 to a hundred dollars. A month range, you can kind of turn it on and off. So if you’re doing prospecting and you wanna go, go hard on it for, for a month, you can leverage it, then turn it off and then turn it back on.
So you don’t necessarily have to think about spending or investing $1,200 a year in, in the service. But what it does do is it enables you to not only send messages to people that you. Currently connected with. But it also allows you to do a lot of, of you know, heavy research into people’s connections.
So if there’s a, a foundation, for example, that you’re, that you’re wanting to get an understanding of. Of who you might know who people in your network might know within that organization. Linked sales navigator with, within LinkedIn allows you to kind of dig out that information and see where there are potential first, second, third type of connections that you could then leverage to get introductions or, or find out more about the opportunity.
So I could see it working pretty well in the nonprofit space as, as an additional tool and You know, many, many organizations, I, I guess social media platforms like LinkedIn do provide some nonprofit resources. I also know that there’s, there are or there are nonprofit resources for sure on LinkedIn, but there also might be opportunities to get a, like a nonprofit rate on sales navigator.
So it might be worth checking.
Gauri: Yeah. And the, the other thing I’d add there is that like the way that I would recommend nonprofits use it for, you know, for looking at connections is to make sure that, that you have all of your board members and all of your like employees basically like anybody, like in your network that they’re actually connected to on LinkedIn, so that when you’re using sales navigator and you look up a person at a foundation, you can actually see if you have any like second degree or third degree connections.
If you don’t have a first degree.
Stu: Yeah, that’s a really good point. A lot of times it’s that who knows, who knows, who, who knows somebody, that’s the, that’s the, the game winner for, for people out there? It’s, you know, it’s like, oh, well, I don’t know this guy, but then you start to look through and, and there’s somebody that you both know, and that can be a, a really good way to get an introduction.
Totally. Are there. I mean, we’ve, we’re sort of diving into mindset shifts a little bit here. You know, you’ve, you’ve mentioned just kind of the you know, playing long game and understanding that this isn’t a quick fix and, and really having some self-awareness as to the maturity of, of one’s own nonprofit and, and where, where you are in your organization’s life cycle to, you know, whether or not you’re ready for.
Grant funding and, and, and that type of, of effort that it’s gonna take to to play really effectively in that space. What are, what are some other shifts that that you see nonprofit leaders or, or, you know, even grant writers within nonprofits needing to make, or what they would benefit from to you know, to, to kind of do their job more effectively and, and have more either at bats or, or more hits.
Gauri: Yeah, I think the biggest one and, and I know this is like, you know, talked about a bit in the nonprofit space is like, is like truly having an abundance mindset versus a scarcity mindset. And. I think the first thing to clarify here is that like putting, like having abundance mindset is not all on the nonprofit, like putting that all on them.
Isn’t exactly fair. When a lot of that, the reason to have it, you, a lot of nonprofit Cassity mindset comes from, you know, the funders and the ecosystem and, and, and donors and things like that. I liken it to. To the kind of lean in book that like that whole movement. And I think, you know, on the one hand, like great tell women to lean in, like they should lean in and, and like raise their hands.
But also like there’s a systemic issue at play that also needs to be part of the conversation. Mm-hmm . But what I will say in terms of, you know, how a nonprofit could kind of have a mindset shift that might be helpful to them is to. Really try to like equalize in their mind, even though the system is not necessarily gonna support it equalize in their mind, the, just like the dynamic, the power dynamic between them and, and their donors.
And like, the way that I think about it is that, you know, there are hundreds of billions of dollars that are given out each year to nonprofits and that’s like, People are altruistic. Yes. But it’s, it’s not purely altruism. Like people have a problem that they’re trying to solve when they’re giving away their money.
They have an outcome that they’d like to see in the world. You know, and, and you see this regularly, right? Like something happens in the world and, and donations are kind of pouring into that, that kind of cause area. And a lot of times it’s not even the nonprofit that’s like raising their hand it’s that these people or these funders, they want to contribute to some sort of outcome and like, The most effective way to do that.
If they’re not gonna actually go like start or work at a nonprofit themselves mm-hmm and I think really sh shifting the mindset from feeling like you are. Kind of, you know, asking or, you know, sometimes people say begging like funders or donors to really having the, like coming from a position, feeling like you’re coming from a position of strength where you, you ideally have laid the groundwork to say, like, I’m solving an important need.
Like I’ve had, you know, some level of success with the, my initial programs that I’ve run. And, and now I’m going to kind of. Almost like help donors, help funders like have the outcome that they’re, that they’d like to have. I just need to kind of connect with the right ones and like tell them that story.
That’s the mindset shift that I feel like from a fundraising standpoint, I found to be the most powerful.
Stu: Yeah, it’s almost a, a power, power dynamic shift where instead of coming into it, as the, as the beneficiary it’s that you’re helping them achieve the goals that they’re trying to achieve through, through their foundation.
And the, and the grants that they’re, that they’re giving and, and it. I think, I, I mean, I love that idea of, of that mindset shift that it’s, it’s not that you’re the one who’s getting all of the benefit here. It’s that, that there’s a mutual value exchange going on. And and your, your organization is a, is a big part of that.
That’s a, that’s a really cool way of, of kind of reinventing that, that relationship. . Yeah.
Gauri: And I think like one way in specifically that I think that can even come up, come into play with grants is like when you’re like, you wanna get to a place where you, like I said, you’re coming from a position of strength and you’ve evaluated a funder or an opportunity.
And you are like, you should get to a place where you’re like, okay, this is like, should be a no brainer for this funder to fund me. And. and then if you’re rejected you know, I think you wanna approach that with like genuine curiosity, because you had hypothesis that, like, you were a really good fit that you were solving a problem for this funder mm-hmm or able to solve the problem that this funder was, you know, trying to, trying to solve themselves.
And, and then if you’re rejected to like, yeah. Approach that with curiosity and really try to inform that hypothesis and like continually improve. So that the next time. You’re you’re potentially able to bake in, in those learnings. But not, not getting ideally like not getting like demotivated or anything like that.
If you can really kind of start from that position of like, well, you know, like of, of like you being like a no brainer,
Stu: Yeah. Yeah. I, I like that approach and it’s something that we do here at relish as well, where if there’s an opportunity that we are participating in and we do not get selected as the, the, you know, the vendor for that opportunity, we always go back and ask if there are things that, that we could improve upon who they went with.
It, it just gives us some data or, or, you know, a data set from which we can start to. Make assessments and make, make adjustments to improve the way that we show up in the future. And you know, just coming at it that everything there’s there’s inherently, no, you know, black or white. Good, good, bad in a, any, any situation.
But everything does have the op ability to, to be a learning opportunity. And. Yeah, I think , I mean, I like the the positive attitude in coming at it that it’s a no brainer, but but also you know, that’s cool that, that you’re recommending that people try to figure out where the gaps are in every opportunity in every situation so that they can improve upon their performance.
Next time. Yeah.
Gauri: Totally. Yeah. And, and you just wanna kind of bake in that learning process when you’re getting started with, with grant so that you like I said, don’t get like, kind of overly demotivated if the first couple ones don’t work out because you’re going, you know, you’re going through that learning process.
Stu: makes sense. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it’s funny. We I think people have a tendency to, to believe that that they’re gonna hit a home run the first time they, they step up to the plate. Totally. And to use a baseball metaphor and, and that’s just R I mean, certainly there are, there are people who may have, may have achieved that.
However, I, I would say that that’s. Rarity that we all just need a bunch of, a bunch of swings and a bunch of bats to, to get good at even, even, you know, the grant writing process and, and and just, you know, learning how to do that more effectively did, is that a piece, is that kind of triage or not triage actually after the fact kind of post mortem Is that a piece of it, of what instrumental does, does, do you allow people to track track those winds losses and, and kind of gain data based information from, from that?
Gauri: Yeah, that’s a totally, yeah. That’s a huge part of Instrumentals value is actually building the system for you where you’re, it’s not just like finding the opportunities, but you actually have like, like you mentioned, like almost like a CRM specifically for grant, so that, you know, when, if you don’t want a grant, you can mark that in to instrumental.
You can write the feedback that you got from that funder, ideally mm-hmm and then you can, you know, create your application for kinda set up an application for the next time around baking into baking in those learning.
Stu: Right. So let’s talk about efficiencies is it feels like this is a, a place where you know, almost every organization out there, nonprofit for-profit can, can benefit from, from some guidance and some clarity.
What are some of the, some of the things that you would see people being able to change you know, right off the bat to, to improve their efficiencies with, particularly with grant.
Gauri: With the actual writing process or you mean the overall or well,
Stu: with, with that entire process, right. You know, you’ve, it sounds like instrumental has a lot of this baked into to the program and to the, to the platform itself.
But are there other areas where, where people are wasting time?
Gauri: Yeah, I would say that I think, you know, yeah. There’s certainly a lot baked into the platform with kind of connecting you to the right opportunities and kind of giving you that workflow. I think in terms of other efficiencies, like the other inefficiencies where I see a lot of that often comes into play with like the collaboration and reporting piece.
So I see folks spending a lot of time, like creating kind of custom spreadsheets, or even like kind of funder briefs or opportunity briefs that they can, like they’re collecting from different data sources. The funder’s website and the nine 90 and, and whatever, and putting together in one place so they can present to their team or just like kind of a pipeline summary of like progress if they need to present that to their board.
Or like creating a report of like all of the kind of grants that they’re researching so they can ask their, their. Board members if they have a connection. So that’s, that’s all like very automated and easy to do with an instrumental, which saves people a ton of time. Especially if you’re a grant writing consultant which we work, I’d say like 10, 15% of our customer base are actually consultants working with many nonprofits and, you know, creating, making sure your clients are up to date on your progress is a huge kinda pain point for them.
And we, we simplify.
Stu: Oh, that’s really, that’s really cool to know that you have that ability for someone who who works in, in the spaces as kind of a, you know, a, a contractor based grant support that instrumental could actually be leveraged by, by that type of individual as well. That’s really cool that you opened up the platform in that capacity.
Gauri: Yeah, actually tap in, you know, totally organically when the, their, I would say consultants are some of. Like most like, like our biggest advocates, because they get, you know, even more value outta the platform, cuz they’re doing it. They’re doing prospect research or tracking for multiple clients at one time.
And a couple of months ago we actually launched a consultant specific plan that makes it easy for you to organize your client profiles in one place and stay, keep your work organized by client. And then also we actually have a lot. Consultants that have nonprofits have their own instrumental account.
And so they’re, and they’re able to essentially link all of those different instrumental accounts into one and like navigate between those kind of like workspaces on slack which has made the lives of consultants a lot easier.
Stu: Yeah, that just sounds amazing as, as a, you know, an organization that has a variety of, of different clients and a bunch of things kind of going on, excuse me.
At once. I can really see the benefit of, of having that you know, that single resource. Research tool that single kind of automation platform, where it just makes everything you know, more streamlined for all of those clients, as well as helping, helping you keep everybody you know, kind of you know, organized and, and enables you to do a even better job.
You know, bringing in grants for, for all of your clients. That’s great that you have that as an option for people who are out there in the, in that grant grant support space for a variety of nonprofits. Totally. Yeah. What do you see? I mean, you work with a lot of nonprofits. What, what do you see are some of the bigger challenges that, that they face?
You know, not only in the grant writing process, but, but perhaps in other, other areas of their, of their organization that that you, you know, that you would love for people to be able to, to have a, have an effect on and, and become the, the best organization that they.
Gauri: Yeah, I would say that the biggest area outside of grants, that definitely touches grants a lot.
And. It’s like kind of common, it’s a common pain point that’s mentioned in the nonprofit spaces is essentially like capacity, right? Mm-hmm capacity and, and related to that is, is talent. And I think this also touches on like this kind of abundance mindset versus scarcity mindset and, and, and also just like the system of that nonprofits live in where they’re always trying to keep down costs because that’s like, you know what the funders care about just leads to this cycle.
They’re, you know, on a meta level, like their biggest blocker to successes and, and impact is just capacity which. Which is yeah, hard to hear because it’s, it’s so like for, I would say for most small to medium size organizations like that, if you talk to any executive director that will be like the number one thing on their mind,
Stu: it’s how to, how to overcome this capacity challenge and, and get good talent on board.
I would say that extends beyond the, the nonprofit space at this point. For sure I did have I don’t know if you know, Sherry QUM Taylor. She was on the show a little while ago. A few weeks ago, I believe. And one of the things that she mentioned in this, in the same sort of mindset shift abundance thinking arena, one of the things that she talked about that I thought was just great was the idea that instead of trying to fundraise for.
Your team. So basically saying, okay, well we need, we need this kind of team to do the, the good work that we want to do. And so we need to go fundraise this amount of money for that team. Just kind of shifting the mindset that we are, that this is what we’re building and that it, it just changes the, the way that that people forecast.
So basically put. Put the team into the budget and then go get the money as opposed to go going and getting the money and then putting the team in the budget. Which I thought was just kind of an interesting way to kind of flip that narrative. And, you know, one of the things that the, I tell clients all the time and when I’m coaching them is that you don’t have to come up with the entire.
Salary upfront in order to bring somebody in you, you just need to, to come up with maybe a couple of months of that salary in order to feel confident that that, that you’re gonna be able to, to sustain that type of hire. You know, it’s something that I’ve struggled with for sure, where I start thinking, oh man, I need to get, you know, 120,000 bucks put together to, to, you know, hire this, this person that we would really like to have on the team.
And it’s like, well, You know, now you just need 10,000 a month. And and so it’s it’s really interesting to, you know, when you can wrap your arms around that, that type of that type of shift. Yeah. And
Gauri: I, I also, like, I think it’s also something that is important to, you know, for folks that are like starting nonprofits or like earlier on is, is to actually think about.
Like this problem from day one, right? Like this is like the core, one of the core challenges is like actually making sure that you have this kind of the right talent which is challenging because of, you know, of like need to kind of fundraise, but actually trying to figure out like that that’s like a big risk to your success as an organization.
And I always think that it’s you wanna like address your risks, like as early as possible mm-hmm and I think like, figuring. How, like not like lowering the bar in terms of the talent you can get or not like undervaluing the talent from the beginning. Like making sure that you have a clear idea of like the kind of the level of talent and like what you’re gonna be able to pay them.
Like from the beginning that you think is gonna be necessary to make this organization successful and then saying like, and then really trying to figure out like, so if that’s like, what I, if, if that’s what we need, then. You know, really figuring out what the right funding strategy is like from the beginning.
Mm-hmm like, and if, if that funding strategy, for some reason, isn’t there, then you might need to actually change something about like the core model of your organization.
Stu: Yeah, absolutely. It’s it’s really It’s like putting together a business plan before you start the business. As opposed to after the fact.
And I know that there are plenty of entrepreneurs out there who, who have skipped that step, but, but yeah, but forecasting and really coming up with, with, with that plan early on is, is that’s gonna be a key to, to making sure that you can stay on it. Yep. Yeah. Well, I really appreciate you being on the show with me today.
Garry, I’ve had a really fun time talking with you and learning a lot more about grants and grant writing and, and what you can do for nonprofits and, and people in the in that industry to help them streamline their processes here and, and become even more successful than they already are. What where can people find out more about instrumental?
Gauri: so it’s we’re easy to find it. It’s www.instrumental.com. It’s spelled instrument, and then the letter l.com. So it’s missing that last a and if you go to the website, you’ll see that we have a 14 day free trial. So you can try us out, totally risk free. You don’t even have to put a credit card in.
And so at the very least you’ll hopefully come away with some opportunities that you can. You can pursue and best case scenario, you’ll find that it’s something that makes sense for your long term use as you’re building your infrastructure, your grant infrastructure. And if you do end up wanting to move forward with a subscription, we have a, a code for this podcast that you can use to get a discount it’s relished this 50 that you can use on the checkout page and get $50 off your monthly or annual subscription.
And if you’re not quite ready for you know, using a tool. For like instrumental, you can check out our blog, instrumental.com/blog, and we’re regularly creating like totally free content about, you know, how to get ready for, for grants. We’re putting out webinars regularly with grant experts that join us.
And again, it’s all totally free.
Stu: Oh, that’s fantastic. And thank you so much for offering that that that generous offer to to our listeners. I I’ll definitely post that in the show notes. I really, I really do appreciate you taking the time to chat with me today. It’s been so much fun. I love conversations and having these conversations, but I also want to instill in people this idea that we can all have an opportunity to go.
Take some action. You know, whether that be go plant a tree or go you know, visit instrumental and find out if, if if their program is, is right for you. After listening to the show today, what would you have have our listeners do?
Gauri: Oh, that’s a great question. I mean, there’s so many things I would say that if I were to have you take any action, it would be to if there’s somebody that you have been delaying, like asking for a introduction to somebody it’s actually asking them to make that introduction to, to that funder or to that partner or whoever, whoever that could be.
Stu: That is a great piece of advice and a good action item for everybody to to follow suit, just go out and make connections and ask for, ask for those introductions. It’s it, it, it doesn’t hurt at all to do that. Thank you so much for being on the show today. I appreciate it so much and I look forward to continuing our conversation in the near future.
Gauri: Awesome. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. Thanks, Cari.
Stu: Talk to you soon. Bye bye. And there you have it. Another great episode of relish this. Thanks again for listening, you can find past episodes of the email@example.com. And remember if you liked what you heard today, please subscribe and leave a review.
Wherever you listen to podcasts. For more information on purpose marketing, grab your free copy of my book. Mission uncomfortable. How non-profits can embrace purpose driven marketing to survive and thrive. Get your copy firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again for listening. Come back next week.