Ready for some grant writing strategy? You’ve come to the right place!
The first grant writer strategy session I did with Lisa Ortman in Episode 5 was such a hit with you all that I had to do another! These are so much fun strategizing with grant writers and helping them see the possibilities ahead of them. If you’re considering a career in grant writing, what are you waiting for? Book your grant writer strategy call today and let’s get you moving forward faster!
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Free Downloads: Go to teresahuff.com/learn and look for the Freebie Vault
- Take the Quiz: Do you have what it takes to be a grant writer?
- Episode 005: Grant Writer Strategy Session: Is Grant Writing for Me?
- Episode 006 – Grant Readiness: How to Build the Foundation for Successful Grant Writing
- Step by Step Guide to Calling Grant Funders – Script and Template
About Alexandra Enns:
Alexandra Enns holds a Master of Public Administration degree and completed her Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric, Writing and Communications in 2015. She currently works as a Policy Analyst in the Economic Development sector, and is a volunteer grants, policies and procedures officer for an upcoming nonprofit that will provide addictions recovery services. Alexandra finds joy in motivating others to embrace their unique stories, and crafting effective messages to help non-profits achieve their missions. Since 2014, she’s been involved in mental health advocacy, including the creation of mental health promotion campaigns for universities, and facilitating engaging mental health education workshops for hundreds of youth. In her spare time, she loves writing poetry, watching films, taking her dog April for walks, and tutoring students at Wayfinders, an after-school program for youth.
Alex provides editing and copywriting services for non-profits and individuals at a sliding scale that works for each person’s income. She is a strong, dynamic writer who has written and edited social media copy, academic papers, briefing notes, blog posts, book reviews, summaries, speaking notes, operational manuals, annual reports, communication plans, press releases, correspondence, policy, research and program evaluation papers, and has developed and facilitated workshop presentations.
Connect with Alex Enns:
FULL TRANSCRIPT: Grant Writing Simplified Episode 12 – Grant Writer Strategy Call – Alex Enns
Teresa Huff, Host: Welcome to the Grant Writing Simplified Podcast. This is the place to learn how to make big impact in your community through grant writing and nonprofit consulting. The world needs you to step forward as a grant writer and use your skills to lead with confidence. I’m Teresa Huff, former special ed teacher turned grant writer and nonprofit strategist.
In my 20 years of freelancing, I’ve helped nonprofits triple their funding and exponentially increase their reach. Now I’m stepping up to mentor freelancers and nonprofit leaders like you who are ready to take your skills to the next level. It’s time to get intentional about your vision so you can create lasting change in your community.
Learn the skills and strategies you need to become the grant writer the world needs. Let’s do this.
Hey friends! I hope you came ready to learn today because we have another grant writer strategy call, and this is packed full of good stuff. If you are thinking about grant writing, or if you are a grant writer and you just don’t know how to move forward, this is the episode for you. Pay attention and be ready to take notes because we have so much that we cover in this – everything from imposter syndrome to how to find resources for board members and where to connect with networking groups and other grant writers. All kinds of good stuff.
We also talk about several other resources and past podcast episodes, which I’ll link to in the show notes so that you have everything you need right there and you can click through easily. Also now and then I have a freebie to go along with my episodes. I have recently put all those into one spot so that you can just sign in once and you have access to everything. You can find that at teresahuff.com/learn and look for the Freebie Vault.
All right, let’s get started. Today, the strategy session is with my guest, Alexandra Enns. Alex has a Master of Public Administration degree and she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric, Writing and Communications in 2015, and as you’ll hear, she has quite the extensive background. Alex currently works as a policy analyst in the economic development sector. She’s also a volunteer grants, policies and procedures officer for a new nonprofit that will provide addiction recovery services. Alex finds joy in motivating others to embrace their unique stories and crafting effective messages to help non-profits achieve their missions. Since 2014, she’s been involved in mental health advocacy, including educational campaigns and workshops, especially for youth in her spare time.
She loves to write poetry, watch films, take her dog April for walks, and tutor students at Wayfinders, an afterschool program for youth. Alex, welcome. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yes. Thanks for having me on the show, Teresa. I really appreciate it. I live all the way up in the middle of Canada at a place called Winnipeg, a small city, but it feels bigger. And I did my undergrad in, rhetoric and communications. So the art of persuasion, if you will. And then I did my master’s in public administration. I kind of call myself a Jill of all trades, if you will, because I’ve always been really interested in social services, but I never necessarily wanted to work on the front line all the time.
I kind of saved that for volunteering. I don’t really want to burn out. Just always been so in love with writing. my background is mostly in policy and communications, but then I’ve also done some mental health awareness speaking for youth and some health promotion stuff through university, and also some health research. So I’m kind of all over the place.
Teresa Huff, Host: Well, that’s great. I’m thinking through some of these things you’re saying and the combination. I know you feel probably a little scattered by saying you’re a Jill of all trades, but what I’m hearing is you’re good at writing. You have a degree in communications, you like working with nonprofit causes, policy, and volunteering.
And you also like behind the scenes where you don’t necessarily want the front lines all the time. So to me, that is an ideal combination right there for becoming a grant writer, because you can have an impact on all those areas. I would say being a good writer is pretty important if you learn writing and develop that as a skill, but if you already have a good handle on the mechanics of writing itself, then that’s a big plus.
It makes your job that much easier because you’re not trying to learn the basics of how to be a good writer, plus lots of grant writing.
Alex Enns, Guest: Exactly. Yeah, that’s definitely my comfort zone. I guess the less of my comfort zone is knowing even where to start and making sure I am speaking of grant writers language, and tailoring that to that, and even just reaching out to potential clients to work with really
Teresa Huff, Host: You’ve worked you said with some non-profits already. And it sounds like, kind of in the same type of areas, like the after-school program for youth and some mental health areas. And so is that an area that you feel particularly compelled and interested in working with as clients?
Alex Enns, Guest: 100%, all my papers in my undergrad and my masters have always been about youth mental health promotion [00:06:00] and educating them on mental health, decreasing stigma, talking about access to supports, trying to get them to engage in APTC for better mental health supports in Canada.
So, yeah, that’s definitely my number one. I love school as well. So yeah. Tutoring and mentoring an afterschool program. I love that part of my life. Like it’s so fulfilling and I think. Young people are so great. So yeah, I would love to try and get money for these initiatives.
Teresa Huff, Host: Right. And it sounds like you already have a specific type of nonprofit, which is helpful.
I mean, with the sea of grants and the sea of nonprofits out there, it’s really helpful to start narrowing down. And my goodness, those papers you mentioned, and the research you’ve done, that’s already going to be a good springboard for grant writing because a lot of grant strategy is being able to dig and do that research and compile that effectively in a compelling way.
[00:07:00] So by having already done some of that, that’s going to be really helpful as you’re putting together grant proposals, because number one, you know the process, you understand how to do that. The research isn’t going to be overwhelming for you.
Alex Enns, Guest: That’s true. I didn’t think of that.
Teresa Huff, Host: Yeah. And some of it may apply to the grants that you’re writing.
If you’re working on a grant, for mental health for an afterschool program for kids. And you can pull from your research already, or, you know which sources to go to, that’s going to cut your time down. Your learning curve is going to be a little shorter because of that.
Alex Enns, Guest: That’s true. Yeah. I’ve always wondered if it’s, if it’s bad to have a niche in grant writing or if at the beginning, you should just take whatever work you can get. Like I was wondering about that.
Teresa Huff, Host: It’s kind of like a business and really you are kind of starting your own consulting business, essentially if you’re doing it this way. But If you just started selling anything and everything, you’re not going to be that identifiable if you’re starting a store. But if you sell a very specific thing, like if you sell boats and that is what you do, and that is what you’re known for, then when people need a boat, they’re going to come to you.
They’re going to know that you are the specialty or the expert in that. You’re the one to talk to rather than the store that sells everything and has a little bit of everything, but not really a great quality of anything.
Alex Enns, Guest: That makes sense.
Teresa Huff, Host: Because you already know that area, then I think that would be a great place to start to really narrow down to that specific, because there are so many non-profits out there just in that area through just for youth and afterschool and mental health.
And there’s no way one person could write all of them. So that already helps you narrow down the pool of what to look for. Otherwise it gets kind of overwhelming.
Alex Enns, Guest: Thank you for that. Cause sometimes I worry because I don’t have direct frontline experience besides like my volunteering. I don’t have professional experience in it.
[00:09:00] So sometimes I worry that. I won’t be taken seriously. I always feel, I guess I have that type a personality where I feel like, Oh, I need ABC in order to provide value. So I, I think just bringing that up, like my research skills itself and my familiarity with it will make me more trustworthy to these potential clients, right?
Teresa Huff, Host: Yes. And I mean, goodness, you have a master’s degree in…what complicated thing was that?
Alex Enns, Guest: Communications and policy? Yeah.
Teresa Huff, Host: Yes. The bachelor of arts and rhetoric writing and communications. Yeah. My goodness. Like that right there. Sounds impressive.
Alex Enns, Guest: Thank you.
Teresa Huff, Host: So, I mean, between your degrees and your actual nonprofit experience, volunteering in a nonprofit and working on the front lines.
Maybe you haven’t been in the management, but you’ve been involved with one. So to me it sounds like a little bit of imposter syndrome, which we all have. I still have it today, I’m sure people high up in companies. Yes.
Alex Enns, Guest: Oh my goodness! You Still have it? And you just have this amazing business!
Teresa Huff, Host: Oh, definitely. Part of it is it’s overwhelming because you can never know everything about everything. Even if you’ve chosen one specific field, I’m never going to know all there is to know about grants, but I’ve learned, I know a lot, and I also know who to ask. Or where to go to find out if I don’t have the answers.
[00:11:00] So with you, yeah. You might not know all about nonprofits yet, but you’re going to learn, and you’re going to know where to have the tools, where to go to find out. You can be up front with them and just say, “I have this much experience working with the nonprofit I’ve done this and this. I have a master’s in this. I am pivoting to add grant writing to my skillset,” you know, just be upfront with that. These are your first few grants and that you’re getting some experience with that. You can be open about that, but don’t discount or undersell the experience you do have, because I think once you get into it, I want to go out on a limb and say, you may feel like you’ve come home.
Alex Enns, Guest: Oh, really?
Teresa Huff, Host: With what you’ve told me about researching and see your eyes light up about all this stuff about youth and mental health. Yeah. Things you’re saying you may just get into it and be like, Yes. Yes, exactly how I can use my skills.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yes. And that’s why I was kind of excited that you were offering this because I’m so nervous to just like step in, but this is such a great way to converse about it.
I find the more you talk about what you love, the more it becomes clear. And if it’s just in your head, you just sit at home and wonder about it. And. That’s been really fruitful for me by I joined a nonprofit board. I did offer my services for free, and I said, I just really want to get into this. And they did give me a chance.
We didn’t get the funding, but what a great exercise. So thank you for the boost of confidence.
Teresa Huff, Host: That’s a great way to start.
And you know, I had written grants for several years before I was asked to be on a nonprofit board too. And it was a new nonprofit. So I was on there several years and over the course of that time, I got to see how it grew and how it shifted from the brand new, all hands on deck into more of the governing type leadership of the board. And so that was a whole different perspective than what I had ever had as a grant writer alone. So that’s really great experience there too. And it’s good that you’re doing that, but yeah, that’s definitely a good piece because I think you have more experience than you realize.
Alex Enns, Guest: Non-profit yeah. My friends would probably say the same about imposter syndrome, but it’s just good solid experience to know that it might be the right path for me. And. Well, it’s funny. You said you started with a startup, nonprofit. Mine is also a startup nonprofit. We’re just starting to get going. And I want to be that success story.
I want to help them from the ground up. And I am learning a lot about board governance that I had no idea before. Cause I was always as a volunteer or on the other side of things. So. Yeah, it is definitely a very good experience,
Teresa Huff, Host: Right. And I’ve been able to help nonprofits as a consultant in other ways than just grant writing because of that experience and the board training that I had done during that time and from other experiences too.
But now I can offer more than just the grant writing piece. And so I could see where yours could develop into that too. Maybe a non-profit isn’t ready for grants yet, but they could use some board training or something along those lines that you could offer as another type of service. And in the meantime, you’re still learning your grant writing skills and building those up, but that gives you another source of income options.
Alex Enns, Guest: [00:14:00] Yeah. That makes sense. I always just think very like directly like grant writing. Why would they want me for anything else.
Teresa Huff, Host: You can shift to where you’re more of the grant consultant type of role, you know, a little broader, or if you’re some people are really good at social media, so maybe they specialize in social media for nonprofits. while they’re learning grant writing.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yeah. I did use social media for a magazine before, so I have a little bit of that in there. I have website development, like, I’m telling you. Okay. Jill of all trades, like I’ve just dabbled. And I guess that adds to the impostor syndrome. It’s the fact that I’ve dabbled so much, but I feel like I haven’t committed, although a master’s degree is quite the commitment.
So I’d hope that show for something I’m quite early in my career too. So. Part of my fear is being that young person. And they’re like, well, I don’t know anything. Like, what are you, what are you doing here? I’m like, we’ll find someone that’s established, but then I, it must be appealing. If I can offer a lower rate at first, as I’m learning for a, non-profits like everyone’s strained for money right now.
[00:15:00] I do wonder how COVID-19 would impact your work at this time, because everyone’s struggling, right? The clients that I’ve worked with so far. We’ve still kind of kept up our same type of programs. Some of their stuff has shut down a little bit, but as far as the grant funding, we’re still applying in, there is a lot of emergency COVID funding out there for nonprofits that wasn’t before.
Teresa Huff, Host: So there’s more grant opportunity if you want it to write those specifically to help nonprofits. So that piece of it too, sometimes they just don’t know where to look. They have no idea where to even start. Is this a good opportunity for us or not? Kind of deer in the headlights. So if they have an expert to come in and say, let’s look at your situation and evaluate what opportunities might be good for you, then I think they would welcome that help.
The main thing is just to start just to start trying it and you can always adjust and you don’t have to do it the same way with every new client that comes along. Say you work with one client for a certain agreement and you decide, you know, I didn’t really like that. That was too long or that wasn’t long enough.
So the next client you adjusted and you try it. A little different until you find what works well for both of you.
Alex Enns, Guest: The trial period of sorts. Yeah.
Teresa Huff, Host: Yeah. And I’ve done that. I’ve worked with clients for, I think we did, was it a three month or a six month contract just to kind of test the waters. And so when I came back to them and said our contracts about up; what would you like to do?
And they said, let’s just do the 12 months. They didn’t hesitate. They were good. They were like, sign us up, keep going.
Alex Enns, Guest: Oh, that’s great.
Teresa Huff, Host: So you work hard, you help them. You show that you’re sincere and you care about what they’re doing and there’ll be sold.
Alex Enns, Guest: [00:17:00] Great. That sounds good to me. As I said, I am working with a startup nonprofit in addictions, a huge struggle when you’re trying to get funding for a highly stigmatized topic is selling that the public will be supportive of this and making sure that, that I guess the person you’re seeking funds from really sees the value of what you’re doing. Do you have any tips on really selling the company’s mission? And maybe if his research like heavy research required, like how long would you spend on a grant if it’s complex like that?
Teresa Huff, Host: Depends how big the grant is. If you’re talking a small local foundation grant, that’s going to be a lot less than if you’re talking about a big government grant that takes weeks and weeks. So it could be anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on the complexity and the depth of the grant.
So a couple of questions first, just to clarify how new, when you say startup, how new is the nonprofit.
Alex Enns, Guest: It’s very new. I’d say, because we’re waiting for a charitable status. Here in Canada you have to have approval from the federal government to be registered as a charity in order to get grant funding.
So right now we’re waiting for that. Like we submitted the application, and it usually takes six months to process. So we’ll be getting some sort of answer in March maybe, and I’m wanting to be ready for when that happens. So we’re working on a business plan right now, basically we’re at that step where we’re trying to make the case.
So when a grant does come out, we have something to pull from in order to get started as soon as possible. Really.
Teresa Huff, Host: Okay. And are you serving clients yet?
Alex Enns, Guest: No, not yet.
So we’re literally trying to start this organization. Like we need capital funding. Corporate funding, in order to get staff running and off the ground.
So it’s, it’s a tricky spot to be in.
Teresa Huff, Host: I would recommend that you or even your whole board listen to my episode from a couple of weeks ago, it’s episode six on grant readiness. That goes through some of the first basic things that you need to have in place before you start applying for grants.
Otherwise you’re going to be frustrated and wasting a lot of time applying before you’re ready. That doesn’t mean you just give up on grants, but it means right now you’re laying the foundation and doing some of that groundwork so that when you are ready for grants, you’ll be ready to start that process at that time.
So it’s a little soon yet. You need to have your approval in place. Just a quick recap of those things have your approval in place. You need to have multiple sources of income besides grant funding, and you need to be actively serving clients. And ideally, you should also have been up and running for a year or two and actually serving clients for that long so that you can show the need, show the numbers and get some of that feedback from clients and show how you’re changing lives.
Alex Enns, Guest: Exactly. Yeah. So it’s a tricky spot. They say that you need that charitable status. And so. It’s like, okay, but how do we get started? We need that actual funding so that we can start providing service and we want it to be good service. We don’t want to be struggling for funds when we’re trying to help people with their health and their lives.
Teresa Huff, Host: Right. So that’s the end goal. In the meantime, are there steps you can do to get to that end goal? You’re talking a significant amount of money to get to that point to offer those. So is there something you can do now? Number one, with fundraising and building connections in the community and generating donors and getting that support for the fundraising piece without grants and number two, are there some kind of services you can be offering in the meantime to show the need? To show that you’ve worked in this aspect and that you’re building up to being able to offer the rest?
Alex Enns, Guest: Yeah, that is definitely something I think about with our end, for sure.
[00:21:00] We are actively fundraising and seeking out donations. And that’s another place I’m insecure about is I did do some fundraising when I would travel for mental health speaking. But again, COVID-19 is really stressing people’s pockets right now. So telling them like, okay, well we need this, but COVID is this big looming monster.
And everyone’s role, their job security and their funds. So I’m dealing with wanting to become a grant writer, but I also need to work on my fundraising skills.
Teresa Huff, Host: You could specialize in the grant writing, or you could decide to do more of the fundraising aspect too. I’ve been involved with the local chapter of association of fundraising professionals.
They usually will let you visit a meeting or two without having to fully join. And you could see if it’s beneficial and maybe they have online meetings right now. The one here, it keeps me aware of the fundraising world in general, not just grants. So it helps me kind of stay on top of some of those other things that I can help.
If my non-profit has questions or I can take them a resource and say, Hey, I heard about this. I think it would be great that way I can kind of stay informed about some of those things.
Alex Enns, Guest: So connecting to a network so that you can be aware of maybe funding opportunities and asking for help. So basically built giving us a little bit of a support blankets for these times.
Teresa Huff, Host: Yes, definitely. And sometimes they’ll have ideas or specific workshops on how to do more fundraising in a virtual environment or how to take your fundraising online. So they may have some specific tips for that, that you could tap into that might really work and look at your board members and their networks with the nonprofit itself.
Yes. Keep looking in both directions. It is hard when you’re trying to juggle, as far as the grant writing and starting up nonprofit. It’s a little early for that. You can be doing some of these other pieces. So for that one specifically, I would hit the fundraising harder on that.
Alex Enns, Guest: If you’re trying to decide, this is so much, what do I learn? Where do I start for them specifically in the work?
Teresa Huff, Host: Your time would be better used on the fundraising piece because they’re so new.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yeah. That makes sense.
Teresa Huff, Host: As far as personally, then it’s whichever direction you really enjoy and want to go. And if you wanted to look for actual grant writing clients, then you could certainly start doing that and maybe start with small grants.
You don’t have to start with a huge government grants. Just start with something small, find a nonprofit that would be a good fit with the local foundation or a small corporate grant that you could try out. You don’t have to go after the great big ones that take weeks and weeks, just start with one that takes a few hours just to learn the process and to know how it works and go through it and build your confidence. And then you can go from there.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yeah. That would be wonderful.
Teresa Huff, Host: [00:24:00] If you want to, just on fundraising for now, you could, but if you’re wanting to learn grant writing in the meantime, that would be a good way to do it because then you’re still building your skill, but you don’t have to take it on all at once.
You can learn how the research pieces fit together and how important that is. And also back to your question, you had asked about the mental health and the research and how to get people on board with that, with any grant, it’s going to be a combination of the research and statistics and finding what’s compelling, but then also the storytelling.
And being able to really tug at the heartstrings and explain why this is so compelling and how this is truly going to make a difference. So make it about how they can become involved in changing this family’s life or preventing these teens from becoming high school dropouts and on the streets, or show the ultimate outcome of how this teen will have a fulfilling life and a good job and on the right track, as opposed to going the wrong direction. Paint a really compelling picture, but also give those hard statistics that just knock them right in the face with. Wow. There’s that many that this happens to? Whatever idea you’re looking at.
Alex Enns, Guest: Exactly.
I’m so drilled in the head, academia and government and stick to professional language always. But is there some room for more romantic, emotional type language in small doses of corners in your grant writing and where would that be? Like in the introduction? Like that’s something always, I’ve always been curious about is how strict are you the whole time and where do you veer off?
Teresa Huff, Host: That’s a really good question. And having come from the education and academic background, I understand what you’re saying, because the research papers have to be very pristine, professional, impersonal. So I know what you’re saying by that. There is a difference. The grant writing, there are different opinions on it.
It’s my opinion that it should still be very professional and clean writing. But also a little more, I don’t want to say soft. That’s not quite the right word, but not as strict and pulled and clinical as research papers.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yeah. Got you.
Teresa Huff, Host: And another piece is to write in active voice because in research papers, they teach you very beat around the bush and wordy and the kind of language when you have to fill up 10 pages, you make things as wordy as you can to meet that 10 page limit. Grant writing is not like that. It needs to be concise and compelling and saying something more like, “With these funds, we will do this program.” As opposed to, “If you were to award this grant, we would be able to do this, this and this.”
[00:27:00] As far as the first and second and third person, I tend to keep it more professional unless it’s like maybe a local foundation where I might say “we” once or twice, like in the beginning or at the ending, you know, in the intro or conclusion of it. for the most part, I keep it fairly third person that the center is working on this. The clients are doing this, so I still keep it professional in that regard.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a, it’s definitely a fine line. You don’t want to go soft as you say. But you, you do want to make that compelling case very, very clear. And why. So important and I’m definitely used to using active voice cause we have to use it constantly in governments, when they’re writing briefing notes is like, no beating around the bush. There’s no room for that. Like I remember transitioning from academic papers to government and it was quite jarring because I always used to just going around in circles and I had to learn very quickly that that’s not okay.
Teresa Huff, Host: Right. The wordier, the better in the academic world. And the more concise, the better in grant writing and sounds like government.
Alex Enns, Guest: Government is straight to the point. They don’t have time to read any flouncy newness. So yeah, I was, I was definitely very interested when you’ve applied for government grants versus a local community center or like a bank, like, how does your language change when you’re writing for those things?
Teresa Huff, Host: Yes, I would say in those cases, the government grants, when I do those, it’s a little more formal. Not that the others aren’t, but the government grant would be a little closer to the research paper side of the spectrum while still telling a little bit of the qualitative and that personal story, but in more of a professional writing like you would for a professional journal article or something. So the foundation, I tend to do it a little less strict, maybe a little more of the storytelling type, but still very professional, but more like you’re reading a book because ultimately no matter what grant you’re applying for, there’s a person at the other end that has to read this thing. The better writer you are, and the better story you tell with it, the more likely they’re going to stay awake and actually pay attention to what you’re saying.
That’s the other thing you want to be professional, but you also want to stand out against anyone else applying for the grant.
And I found that my writing gets better and better even just my normal writing. Like if I were to write a personal story or something. I had an assignment a couple of years ago for a magazine. And I had to write as if I were the family pet. And so they sent me all these notes about their dog. And I had to write the story as if I were the dog.
Alex Enns, Guest: So funny. That’d be so much fun though.
[00:30:00] Teresa Huff, Host: It was, it was a blast. I was like, can I do more of these? And that’s where writing it was so easy. So refreshing.
Alex Enns, Guest: Oh, yeah, that’d be so much fun. Definitely. I think the grant writing, I love how it kind of marries the research world and that, that emotional pull, because when I’m in academia, you can’t be completely emotional, but you also want to get to the point and that’s annoying when you can’t, because it’s just goes on and on.
Yeah. And I know that’s also a part of the huge disconnect between policy makers and researchers as researchers want their research to be seen, but it’s not able to be seen because it’s buried in a paper and these senior decision makers don’t have time to read 30 page papers…
Teresa Huff, Host: and they wouldn’t understand it if they did!
Alex Enns, Guest: And then they’ll get it wrong. So I guess I’m wondering when you’ve included research in your grants, in what format do you provide that research? To make sure you [00:31:00] don’t the focus of whoever’s reading,
Teresa Huff, Host: right. That’s a great question. It really depends on the research and on the grant and on the flow. I do it in different formats and sometimes I try to vary it, especially if it’s a long grant.
And so I may explain it in a narrative, but then I might also show it in a visual, like a line graph or a bar graph or some kind of chart. And I may play with it. You know, how in Word or in whichever program you use, you can try out different types of graphs and charts. Sometimes I’ll play around with it until I get one that looks really nice and clear and really shows the difference of how much it’s grown or how high the statistics are or whatever it is. Other times I’ve used a table. If I’m trying to show different counties or different percentages over time and the change of that. So sometimes I try to vary it up like that and the visuals are good if they’re allowed. You don’t want it to all be visual. You need to explain it as well, but that can be a really powerful at a glance tool. If they’re looking back through a stack and then they see, Oh yeah, she had that chart. That was really good. Then that could be helpful and make your stand out.
[00:32:00] Alex Enns, Guest: That makes sense. Yeah. We use, we sometimes use charts in government, but they usually prefer if you can summarize it in a paragraph, we’re good, but I find it’s too easy to skip over details when you don’t have hat chart, right? Like it just like shows how severe a problem, like this many people have addictions and this area.
And it’s because there’s no services in this one area. So how can we, show you that this is really vital to you saving money as well by investing in this. Right?
Teresa Huff, Host: And sometimes it depends, like say you’re showing a lot of big numbers over several years time. That’s going to get pretty bogged down, trying to list those out in a narrative, where a chart would make that super clear that you can show all those numbers, all that data all at once. But then in your paragraph, you could summarize as seen from this over a 10 year span, it increased by 20%. So you can kind of show then. Sometimes it’s a matter of, you may not find something that says that, but if you look at the numbers yourself, you can figure out, Oh, okay, this changed by this much.
And then you can figure out how to word that. And interpret it for them, make it easy for them to see and understand.
Alex Enns, Guest: Okay. So that would be my next question. I did, I did take your grant writer test on your website, which I love that was so fun. And I’m wondering if you do notice a part where it’s like budgets, what are those? And how often have you found that you need those skills in statistics and finance in order to have a leg up when you’re offering your services? Has that been a big factor in your work?
[00:34:00] Teresa Huff, Host: You need to have a basic understanding of it, but as far as the grants themselves, you need to be able to calculate as far as, like, what would make sense for if we’re writing grant for say $10,000, what would make sense to fill out the budget?
Where should we allocate the funds? How much should we spend in each category so that it all comes out right? And I usually I pop it in a spreadsheet and sometimes I play with the numbers in the spreadsheet and have the formula at the bottom so I can see, okay, is this too much? I don’t want to spend as much on salaries.
We could use more for equipment, but they said they prefer not supplies in this particular grant. So, you know, you can kind of play with those numbers. So as long as you can at least handle the basics, you don’t have to run out and get a master’s in finance. I don’t love accounting. I don’t even like paying bills. It’s a necessary evil, but I’m just saying, that’s not something I enjoy, but I can function and it’s fine. As long as you understand it. And it may be helpful if you understood, you know, some of the terminology of finance or budgeting, especially as it relates to non-profit. But as long as you can understand how to budget the income and the expenses and the basic categories, and some of that, a lot of it you’ll learn as you go, but if you can handle the basics, then you will be okay with that.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yeah. Yeah. Luckily I’ve dabbled in a little bit of contract negotiations at work, so I’ve had to learn. I’ve had to learn those things, thankfully, but I always wonder just how much does a grant or you have to be a math expert as well as like I’m a good writer because I often find every writer I meet is just allergic to numbers or just like would prefer not.
Teresa Huff, Host: Unfortunately there’s no allergy shot for that one.
Grant writing kind of sounds [00:36:00] like you have to be the top expert at everything and that’s not necessarily true. It can be intimidating in that regard, but don’t worry.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yes, that’s exactly it. Thank you. I definitely liked that clarification.
Teresa Huff, Host: I’m looking at your background around and I’m listening to the things you’re saying you’ve done. Girl, you can do this. You have got this.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yes, I so appreciate that.
Teresa Huff, Host: You will learn if you go. And that’s part of it, that’s going to be true of anything. If you had started a new job tomorrow in your field, you will have to learn a lot.
It’s just like anything else you’ll learn as you go, but you’ve got a great foundation.
Alex Enns, Guest: Thank you. Yeah, that’s good to know. Cause I’m just like who gets into grant writing? Like it just seems like a lot of people, they started as a specialist in whatever they’re writing grants for. And so I’m like, well, I’m not as special.
[00:37:00] So it wasn’t anything. So I’m just like, where do I go with this? Like, can I pitch this and actually make it a lucrative income? Because if I want to transition one day out of policy analysis, I want to know like, could I actually make it happen?
Teresa Huff, Host: Right. I think you could I think you’d be ideal. It’s a matter of getting started and trying it and just keeping at it and don’t get devastated if you try one and don’t get it.
That’s okay. That’s part of it. Every time you’re learning. So it’s not wasted. You’re learning each time and you’re getting better and better. Your writing’s improving. You’re learning the ins and outs of it with each one.
Alex Enns, Guest: I guess I’d like to know that. I think you mentioned this with Lisa and the last episode, but I think you were saying something like, if you don’t get funded, you can still offer something that will make paying for your services worth it.
So, yeah. Is your contract that you offer someone like, okay, I’ll do this grant for you.But if I don’t get it, I will still do ABC. Like how do you, how do you propose that? So that to make sure you’re still delivering a product to them that they want to pay for it.
Teresa Huff, Host: The way I look at it more is you are delivering a good product upfront when you apply for the grant.
And some of that is going to be the pre-work that you do before you apply. Like you may be helping them review their mission and vision and goals for their organization. And it’s this clear, or some of the pre-work maybe searching for grants to see what’s going to be a good fit for you. What are the best opportunities?
And that way they can weed out because they may not know what to look for and which ones to try. They may just say, “I have a list of 20 grants. Let’s try them all and see what happens.” That’s not a good strategy. So you can come in as the expert, knowing how to quickly weed those out, how to find a list of viable options.
[00:39:00] And then by doing an application and putting together some of their background information. Compiling what they’ve given you, pulling in the research, then you’ve got a really good bank of information you can use on future applications and that’s going to help make the other applications go more quickly and more smoothly.
And you’re refining it each time. So then you can’t use cookie cutter for every single one, but you can use a lot of the same information and just customize it for each application. Yeah. So that’s the way I approach it is they understand that there’s no guarantee that we can’t predict what is going to happen with this.
But it is something that you can try to minimize the risk up front by doing some of those things, doing the homework. And I have a guide on my website. Each one of the tools I have is a guide to calling grant funders and kind of a script that walks through that. And that helps to know what to say and what to ask and sometimes how to really pull out things that will help increase your chances quite a bit of winning the grant. So just little things like that when all that expertise is put together, then that helps. And if you come into that with confidence of saying, we don’t have any guarantees about this grant, but here are the deliverables that we can do together.
Alex Enns, Guest: Oh, I love that.
Teresa Huff, Host: And some of it you may be able to do in conjunction with other services.
Like if you’re doing some social media or some of those other things for them, or helping them with some strategic planning or fundraising or developing donor letters. Some of that could come into play as well, because you’d be using some of the same research and information. So you could package it together to where the grant is just a piece of that.
[00:41:00] Alex Enns, Guest: I love that because you get this think so tunnel vision, where it’s just about the grant and this is what defines you. And if you can’t meet that, then how are you ever going to get another job with another non-profit or another organization ever again, like, it just feels so doomsday, but when you bring up stuff like that, there’s been many times where I’ve helped refine the vision and mission and their story, like just the storytelling of their organization.
So that’s definitely something that I could do. Social media website developments. Like these are the things I can help you with. Exactly. And agency and the grants, because it’s all part of the same thing. It’s part of the same system of your nonprofit. So, right. That’s super helpful. Like I never thought of including all those things in there to market myself.
Teresa Huff, Host: Right. It sounds to me like, you’d be an amazing nonprofit consultant.
Alex Enns, Guest: Well, what does that even mean these days though, Teresa? Because whenever I hear a consultant, I’m like, I would love to be one, but I don’t really know what that means. Like at all
Teresa Huff, Host: It could be all those things you just said.
Yeah, mission and vision, storytelling, donor letters, social media. It could be all of those. Or you could call it something else. If consultant is too vague, you could call it a nonprofit marketer or a nonprofit, something else, you know, fill in the blank, whatever word you’re comfortable with. Nonprofit writer. And, you know, you could help with their website, their blog posts the content on there, the donor outreach, their brochures, all kinds of things with your writing background.
Alex Enns, Guest: Very true. Okay. I’m starting to see it.
Teresa Huff, Host: That might be something to do. And then the grants could stem from that. Or you may find yourself so busy with that, that way.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yeah. I would love to, I would love to do anything that helps a non-profit like, if I can use my writing skills, that’s what I want to do. It’s so great.
It really intimidates some people doing all, like they just want to help people. They’re not communications people. They’re not grant writers. They’re not policy people. So my dream has always been to be the in-between of a nonprofit and everything else, because it is. Yeah, it’s hard to navigate, I think that’s great. Thank you.
[00:43:00] Teresa Huff, Host: There’s a need for that. Awesome. Good. I’m glad this has given you some ideas. So before we wrap up, tell me your next two or three action steps, just so that you kind of have those top of mind before we finish.
Alex Enns, Guest: For sure. I think I really want to reach out to the fundraising association in my city, for sure.
Just because I think just getting to hear from people and their experiences, I’ll become more of an asset because fundraising is not my strong suits and, or my natural ability. So I definitely want to do that. That’s my first action item. I’d say my second item is like writing out, probably listening to this podcast, to be honest, writing down exactly all these little things that I could package, making a list of all my skills that I could offer a nonprofit. And then I guess continue to work on the readiness for the board that I am sitting on right now. And probably looking at that guide that you were talking about on the, I think you said in the podcast, you did one on readiness.
So I think, maybe I’ll assess the readiness of my board so I’m making sure that we’re ready to go when we do get that status and we do get some establishment going in there.
Teresa Huff, Host: Right. And there’s a download on my website that goes with that episode. I say that because sometimes board members can really get gung-ho with, “We need grants, write some grants so we can get our funding off the ground.”
So if you have this download or something, a little more objective to come to them and say, slow down, we’re not quite ready yet. We can get there, but we need to have these things in place first that can help you as a tool, as opposed to just saying no, no, no, not yet. Not yet. That can help you.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yes. I need to track them with, okay.
[00:45:00] Let’s see this what we have to do first. And then when we’re ready, we’ll be more likely to get grants anyways, because of those things, right?
Teresa Huff, Host: Soften the blow a little bit.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yes. Yeah. So I have some personal and some board goals. I’d say the, yeah, the association. Yeah. Readiness for my board and then writing down all my skills and having confidence in myself.
Teresa Huff, Host: Yes. That’s the best one right there. Cause you got all the pieces.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yes. I feel good.
Teresa Huff, Host: And really. Think about, you said packaging. It, I would think about that of how could you package things for non-profits? It doesn’t have to be grants, but what could you offer as services? And sometimes in a package in that way, it would be useful for them because they may not have the funds to hire a full-time marketer or a full time writer for their fundraising, but they could piece out to you every now and then. A fundraising event, or you could be some consultant for a specific aspect and that they could afford that package or a certain service that you offer. So that’s the good part about being a consultant and you get to decide how you want to offer that.
[00:46:00] Alex Enns, Guest: Well, then I love consulting.
Teresa Huff, Host: So do I, once you get a taste of it, I bet you won’t want to go back!
Alex Enns, Guest: Yes, I can’t wait. I will definitely update you on this because yeah, this has been super helpful and it’s just great to talk to such a seasoned professional in the field, so I really appreciate you doing this podcast. Like it’s definitely something I’ve always looked for. So thank you.
Teresa Huff, Host: Good. You’re welcome. I’m glad it’s been helpful. Keep in touch and keep me posted on how it’s coming.
Alex Enns, Guest: Yes, I will. For sure. Thank you so much, Teresa,
Teresa Huff, Host: So great meeting you.
Are you ready to learn more? I have a quiz on my website called do you have what it takes to be a grant writer pop over there and take that and see what your results say, go to teresahuff.com/quiz.
If you loved this show and you learned something new about being the type of grant writer the world needs so you can create a ripple in your community, please go leave me a review over on Apple Podcasts today. Thanks for listening. Now go change your worl