Formula for Nonprofit Success: Balancing Heart, Grit, and Brains, Interview with Derik Timmerman, Grant Writing Simplified with Teresa Huff, Episode 143

Formula for Nonprofit Success: Balancing Heart, Grit, and Brains [Episode 143]

"You have to have brains, love, and grit. . . When you have all three, you’ll see the mission just takes off"

The Truth About Grant Readiness

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know I’m a big advocate for grant readiness, because the more prepared you are before you start, the better chance you have of winning a grant. But I’m also a big believer in taking action. The truth is, grant readiness is a lot like parenting. You need a certain amount of stability, but you’re never really 100% ready. At some point, you have to just start and then learn as you go.

My friend Derik Timmerman founded Sparrow Nonprofit Solutions to help nonprofits succeed in their fundraising. In this episode of Grant Writing Simplified, Derik tells the story of how Sparrow Nonprofit Solutions started when he realized he had to get a little rowdy, and how you can energize your board members while you get the critical grant readiness pieces in place.

Disruptive Creativity

One day, Derik looked at the grant writing process and wondered how to make it simpler for nonprofits who are already so stretched. Grant writing is founded on following the rules, but he also knew he needed to be creative. He didn’t want just another subscription database. He knew he needed to shake things up if he was going to make a real difference.

Derik explained his mindset during our conversation, “Being well-behaved as fundraisers, as grant writers, can only take you so far. There is a place for creative disruptive misbehavior. I don’t want anybody out there breaking the law, but these causes are too important for us not to get a little rowdy.”

Derik’s mindset is so timely as we all figure out what to do with AI! However, he also realizes it’s hard to get rowdy when you’re just trying to get through the day. As he has worked with nonprofits, Derik has noticed a trend about what makes organizations able to think creatively.

Balancing Heart, Grit, and Brains

Most nonprofits are full of passion for their cause and determination to stick with it, but they struggle with the business mindset in one of two ways. Either they lack the business knowledge needed to run a nonprofit, or they don’t realize the impact they can have when they think outside the box.

It takes more than heart and grit to run a nonprofit. It requires a combination and a balance of heart, grit, and brains to see the mission truly take off. You need all three in tandem.

The Importance of Business Elements in Nonprofits

Every nonprofit needs systematization tools to help with logistics and project management. It’s just as important to tap into the creative side of the brain that fuels love and determination. This creativity helps in problem solving by finding innovative solutions that can make a significant impact on society.

Grant writers also need the same balance between following the guidelines and using creativity to tell a compelling story. Derik found this balance for his clients with EasyGrant, a disruptive solution within grant writing through an affordable subscription model.

The Core Elements of Grant Readiness

EasyGrant aims at bridging the grant writing gap for nonprofits who lack readiness or resources. It allows organizations to become grant ready as they navigate the process and gain experience. Your nonprofit needs just four elements in place before you can win grants through Easy Grant.

  1. Why do we exist? Forming your mission:
    Define your mission by combining action, object, and differentiators. This formula helps articulate the purpose behind your organization.
  2. What is a win? Creating a vision:
    Envision what you aim to achieve – both micro wins and long-term aspirations. Clearly defining desired outcomes sets the groundwork for success.
  3. Who are we when we’re winning? Defining values:
    Identify five to seven core characteristics that define your organization’s identity and values when you’re at your best.
  4. How do we win? Developing a strategy:
    Determine three key strategies that drive repeated success in achieving wins aligned with your mission and vision.

If you can’t answer these four questions, Derik can help through a board retreat called BoardSpark. BoardSpark is especially helpful for languishing boards, if the board is in a transition, or if it’s been a long time since the board evaluated the organizational mission, vision, values, and key habits. Derik has seen many struggling nonprofit board members leave re-energized in their work.

While passion and persistence are necessary ingredients for impact in the nonprofit world, we need to mix them with equal parts business acumen and daring creativity. Consider how you can take your next step today.

Challenge Question:

When you consider your nonprofit, do you know why you exist, what is a win, who are you when you are winning, and how do you win? I’d love to hear about your organization, so shoot me an email!

Meet Derik Timmerman

Derik Timmerman is the Founder of Sparrow Nonprofit Solutions, a nationwide consulting firm helping nonprofits maximize their world-changing impact. In addition to coaching nonprofit professionals at all levels, Derik is a nationally-recognized speaker and author on a variety of nonprofit subjects including fundraising, grant research/writing, and board development.

Prior to founding Sparrow, Derik was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company and a US Army Intelligence Officer with two combat deployments to Iraq. Derik earned a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from the United States Military Academy at West Point, as well as a Masters, PhD, and CFRE certification in fundraising. Derik has a passion for chocolate chip cookies, burning them off on nearby hiking trails with his three boys, and living out his life’s core purpose of building factories of hope.

Connect with Derik Timmerman:

Resources Mentioned:

Find out about how to give nonprofits the ROI they are looking for in my TEDx Talk on YouTube and share it with your colleagues.

If you need help, book a 1:1 strategy session with me at teresahuff.com/mentor. The world needs you out there making a difference!

Connect with me over on LinkedIn or send me a message. And if you need more support, join me on the Fast Track to Grant Writer already and let’s get you moving!

Free Audit: How Grant-Ready Is Your Nonprofit?

Are you feeling overwhelmed with trying to help your nonprofit apply for grants? Go through the free audit and I’ll help you sort out the next steps for your organization.

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Grant Writer? Take the Quiz:

If you’re ready to explore a career in grant writing, take my free quiz, “Do you have what it takes to be a grant writer?” People are always surprised at how many skills they already have. The distance isn’t as far as they thought. Let’s figure out how you can use your skills to help change your world.

If you’re ready to step up your nonprofit game in 2023, join me on the Fast Track to Grant Writer. The world needs you.

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