We interview Libby Hikind, CEO and founder of GrantWatch.com and GrantWriterTeam.com about what nonprofits need to know about applying for grants.
About Libby Hikind
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Libby Hikind is the Founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, the leading grant funding search engine for nonprofits, businesses, and individuals. Libby holds a post master’s degree in Educational Administration and Supervision and is a wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.
Libby is often referred to as the “Queen of Grants.” Libby opened GrantWatch in 2010 after retiring from her 29+ years as a teacher with the New York City Department of Education. While teaching, Libby wrote grants for her special education classroom, mainstream education and business careers, computers, and entrepreneurship classroom. For two years, Libby worked as a grant writer for an NYC Dept of Ed Brooklyn school district raising $11 million.
After which time, Libby returned to teaching and opened her own grant writing agency in 1994. Libby Hikind is a national grants expert. From 1999 to 2001, Libby created NYCGrantWatch, a faxed grant newsletter publication for her nonprofit client organizations. Libby took a sabbatical to run for city council and is well known for her successful primary election campaign for New York’s City Council (2001) for which she received an endorsement from The New York Times. Following September 11th, Libby volunteered at Ground Zero, where she gained recognition as a FEMA Project Liberty Crisis Counselor and Team Leader. Libby is credited for more than 46,000 children receiving health insurance, as a result of her coalition building of nonprofits and writing the first Staten Island Child Health Plus proposal.
[00:00:00] Well, this week on the podcast we have Libby hn, the C e o and Founder at Grant Watch and grant writer team. So Grant watch and grant writer team, and I came across them because frankly, , you have to, if you are looking in and around the grant world, you run into, uh, these organizations. And Libby, thank you for taking the time to sit down with us and just talk to us about all things grant writing, grant trends, because even though it says nonprofits at the head of everyone’s organization, we care a lot about profits when it comes to making money.
[00:01:02] And grants are a big funding source. Thank you for joining. Thank you for inviting me. Appreciate it. Well, maybe in your own words, can you explain what Grant Watch does? Well, grant Watch is a grant search engine that lists the grants that are available for non-profits, municipalities, businesses, and individuals.
[00:01:30] We have over 60 categories of grant. That the way we categorize grants on, on the right side of the website, you can use a keyword search and find them as well. And we add new grants every week and we archive the grants as they come do. So really Grant watch is all about currently available grants and that’s great.
[00:01:53] And you, um, looks like founded it in 2010. So you have . Successfully survived over a decade of operation, which is rare air and certainly has my respect for anyone who can, uh, build for that long. Thank you. We’ve been through many economies.
[00:02:11] I think that’s important too, because I think if you have a short timeframe, you’re like, oh, times have only been good. And then you have covid and you’re like, times have only been bad, and you’re like, times are gonna do what times do. I’m curious though, you’re, you’re mentioning, you know, what’s going on in the economy.
[00:02:26] How do you see that impacting the grant market in general? Well, I think more and more people are gonna be looking for grants. Uh, they’re gonna be looking for funding. And with what happened over the weekend with the, the banks, uh, I got a lot of notices that some good funders had their money in that bank in, well, s s uh, Silicon Valley, right?
[00:02:53] And yeah, svb, right? So that’s, you know, that would’ve affected a lot. And now it seems like, uh, everything’s gonna be paid. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen, you know, to many more. . Yeah. Well, you know, something like that is pretty terrifying. Haven’t seen that since 2008, where you’ve got actual depositors losing their funds.
[00:03:13] But more importantly, like you said, that has a direct impact on funders, grant makers. Right? They, that’s, if that’s where their funding is, then they’re not gonna be able to be give, they’re not gonna be able to give it out. So that’s, that’s a big issue at a larger level. I wonder if you see when markets kind of get scared.
[00:03:34] You see something like, oh, the Dow is down, whatever that actually means. Does that, as far as you see impact folks that are writing checks, or is that money already sort of allocated into the, the grants at least that, that you all list and find for nonprofits? Well, first of all, the government grants, once they’re announced, the money’s.
[00:03:57] So that’s there. Mm-hmm. , uh, what happens is when we see new bills being passed and then there’s new initiatives, so then there’s new funding from the government, and then you have from state and local as well. The same thing when it comes to the foundations that can affect it, of course, if their money’s tied up somewhere else.
[00:04:17] But once they’ve announced the grant, they generally come. . So I don’t, I don’t see that impact. We may see less grants being announced from foundations if something like that happens, but you have to understand that a foundation has to spend a certain, they have to give out a certain amount of their money over, uh, certain period of years.
[00:04:40] That’s how that money goes into the foundation. So it, it doesn’t impact it as much. What we did find over covid. That as soon as money was announced, it got used up very quickly.
[00:04:54] Yeah. And maybe, I guess, do you get data, uh, year over year? So right now we’re, we’re sitting here and we’re in the spring of 2023. Do you ever look at saying like, oh, we are, you know, up 10% for a number of grants being issued, or, Amount of of dollars being put out or is it does not work that way? ? Well, I could tell you that as far as grant watch goes, in 2019, I remember having a, a meeting and we had 3,500 grants on the website, and now we have hit 8,500 at different times.
[00:05:32] Uh, right now we’re about, I think 7,300 and we will be moving upward every time we do a new initiative on grant. , it takes the staff’s energy and puts it into the new initiative. And so we slow down a little bit. It’s like, you know, the bunny hop one step forward, two steps back, , you know, we’re always juggling like that.
[00:05:53] Uh, but we believe that we will, uh, be back up to 8,500 and the goal is 9,000, uh, in a short time. , and I know you have a lot of different types of grants. You know what percent, roughly speaking are government versus private foundations say, oh, well, that we keep right there on the front on the homepage of the website.
[00:06:18] Uh, so how many are, so we know that we. , four nonprofit organizations. We have right now, 5,700 for individuals. We have close to 1900. Mm-hmm. and for small businesses, 1100. And that it, these numbers change every single day, and sometimes a grant is available for all three of these. Now as far as where the grants come from, you know, what percent or foundation grants, I mean, that’s also something that changes, but, uh, at this moment, 5,000 of our grants happen to be foundation grants.
[00:06:56] And that is Oh, that’s interesting. Currently available. Yeah. Well, I mean, you can on, on the navigation bar, on grant watch, all the way to the right it says grants by type. And you can click that and then there’s a total number that lets you know, and that’s, you know, it’s super helpful to see, I wanna come back in and, you know, it’s actually nice to see that you haven’t, haven’t seen a, oh my gosh, we’re at like, half the amount of grants have stopped.
[00:07:24] You know, cuz I think we are, like you said, coming down off of a very high period. grant making in the aftermath of Covid and that money. I think, you know, when we were talking about private foundations, the fact that they have that, as you mentioned, 5% mandatory must be distributed in a 12 month timeframe.
[00:07:43] Uh, it can be tough when maybe your overall endowment or, you know, frankly, holdings have decreased because the overall market’s going down. But it doesn’t seem like that, at least from grant watches standpoint. Uh, Affected the number of grants available to organizations, which, good thing, yeah, we, goodness, we don’t see that we, we see us chasing it all the time.
[00:08:06] I mean, we can’t keep up with it. Some days it’s just coming in nonstop. Mm-hmm. , I wanna pivot a little bit because I know you also have the grant writer team. Service, which has, you know, it pretty, pretty clear in the url saying like, Hey, do you need some help writing an actual grant? I have, I guess like a, maybe a, a personal assumption based on my own experience writing grants, that if I’m writing a grant but I have not talked to the issuing organization or somebody on that team there, my chances of winning that grant are, you know, kind of like snowball’s chance on a beach situ.
[00:08:47] Well, so this, remember I just mentioned we have a new initiative. So on grant watch right now, when you look at a grant, if you’re a paid subscriber, you’ll see, uh, if it’s a foundation grant, most of them, uh, because we’re getting the data, constantly getting new data have a, a button that says C view nine 90 report.
[00:09:10] Now, when you click that, you get to. The nine 90 report that they filed with the IRS and all the data. So if we have an XML of it, uh, which is like an ex, it’s like all coding, right? And we’ve taken that and we’ve put it into pie charts and graphs and bar graphs, uh, tables to give you that information.
[00:09:35] And we let you know the website where the. , the funder is, and their phone number , you know, so you can really get in touch with the funding source. You can take a look who did they fund before we give you a list of the grants they gave money to. How much did they give? What states did they fu, you know, put the money into?
[00:09:54] So now you look at it and you go, Hmm, I’m looking, I’m, I wanna apply for this grant. And it says it’s for general support of non. But I’m looking, and all their money really went into preschools, and I’m looking to run an afterschool program for high school youth. Now, it may be a long shot for me because I see every single grant went to preschools.
[00:10:21] So even though they’re saying this, that’s where their money is, that’s their focus. So you get to look at that and through grant watch and what if you need a hundred thousand dollars? But you see that every grant they gave, they gave a lot of grants, but they were all 3000, 5,000, 10,000. It’s nowhere near what you need.
[00:10:40] So now are you gonna take your old, you know, when you write a grant, if you’re a nonprofit, your entire organization is involved because there are parts to the grant that have questions and somebody’s gotta answer those questions. , it’s constant back and forth. There’s all this interactive work that goes on when you’re writing a grant.
[00:11:00] Do you wanna spend your resources on a grant that’s, first of all, isn’t gonna give you enough money. It’s not going to give you, uh, it doesn’t, it doesn’t seem likely that they’re going to fund you. So why are you gonna go there? I mean, let’s say your organization is politically conservative and it’s well known that it’s politically conservative and.
[00:11:22] Foundation funds more left and or vice versa. You don’t wanna go there. So, or your, um, your organiz nonprofit is a certain religion and they say that this money is for faith-based organizations, but they have never funded your religion. They’ve always funded a different religion. You don’t wanna go there.
[00:11:43] So, like you said, if you haven’t spoken to anyone, you don’t even wanna make that phone call. If you see that you’re really, this is not for. But what if you see it is you have so much information you, you understand there’s in the xml we are pulling and we’re displaying what was the purpose of the grant that they gave the money for.
[00:12:04] Like we have lots of grants for climate change and some grants are so specific of that O Oceanic grants, right? So you know where you’re going when, when you’re looking at the nine 90. So we’ve worked on this and we’re still working. and we’re still refining it. Uh, it’s ready, uh, press release is gonna go out about it and people are able to use it already, and I can see that they’re using it and that makes me very happy.
[00:12:32] But that, you know, we do this, we slow down there, but we’re catching up. I think it’s. Really helpful to understand like where you can go to get more information. And frankly, the, the nine 90 is publicly available. It could be hard to parse though, I’ll say, you know, going through, but the, the points you’re making are excellent.
[00:12:49] Saying like, what is the average grant size? What is the average organization look like? And frankly, if you don’t look like those organizations, you know, take a pause and ask yourself, is this the, the grant for me? Maybe a, a different way of asking this question is, You are playing the grant writing game.
[00:13:07] Would you ever submit a grant to a foundation if you had not talked to talk to them in some respect? , like zero personal connection and you’re, you’re firing off a blind grant. Right? So there’s two different ways to work with the foundations. One is if you’re going to just con, you’re gonna write these, um, generic grant applications, a letter of inquiry, and you’re gonna send them out to all these foundations.
[00:13:33] So there’s a certain percentage that people will say won’t land in the garbage can, right? Hmm. It’s kind of like a fundraising letter. You get a. And you send it out. And there’s a few people that I don’t know, the kid was in the hospital recently. They wanna give charity. They, uh, they believe that it, you know, giving charity will help them.
[00:13:54] And so you’ll get a check, right? And, and that they’ll give charity, you know, the, it’s like the, the, um, the boomerang effect. You know, you, the, you throw things out to the universe and thing. Good things come back to you. And so that’s how those fundraising letters work. Somebody has pulled your hearts. And it happens to me many times I get it letter and I never thought of this organization before, and I, it’s just that time that I really feel, I wanna say thank you to the universe, to God, and so I’m giving something to somebody else.
[00:14:29] That’s, that’s basically what your letter of inquiry to these foundations that have never said that they’re giving money does. If you wanna do. , it’s a waste of time, uh, for the effort. But people do it if you wanna do the phone calls. The communication, that’s the other way. People used to apply to foundations.
[00:14:52] They would go to sit in the foundation center building, you know, for a full day and sit there and make lists and lists and lists and photocopies and come home with a list and then they’d start making phone calls. I would. I was guilty of it also, I’d look in who’s who in America for that name. I’d see if I have any connection whatsoever to that person or some family member of mine.
[00:15:13] Uh, were they in the same high school? Did they graduate the same year? Did they, did we have, uh, a hobby in common? How can I approach them? I tried that. That’s why we built Grant Watch . We deal with currently available grants, and so you don’t need to make that phone. You need to apply. You need to follow the directions in their grant application.
[00:15:36] That’s the difference of Grant watch and just going through foundations. Now we’re offering it now. If you want, it’s there. Right? But we are taking it a different way. You found a grant on Grant watch that is being offered from by a foundation and now you can see all the nine 90 information. You wanna make that phone call.
[00:15:57] You can, sometimes it may give you an. Sometimes it may get the person upset with you. They put out an application, can’t you follow directions? You know, you know, you have to know what’s going on. And so we take it from a different point of view.
[00:16:12] Yeah. I do remember, I actually, uh, I, I know the foundation center. I grew up in New York and I have, uh, I have been in the, in the office and gone through that cold approach and it definitely felt like a massive waste of. And from the sort of like smile and dial, but like for what? And it seems like you actually have a decent amount of faith that when you have a grant that you find and you follow the directions that, you know, while it may seem like a black hole, it is actually the a, a fair enough process to, as long as you’re matching the, the size of the grant, the type of the organization that you, you will hear back from them.
[00:16:51] Is that your feeling? But Right. But. The first thing if you ask me for a tip is check the eligibility. Do you meet that eligibility? They’re gonna say in the grant application, who they wanna fund. And oftentimes they’ll say what they will not fund. And if you don’t meet all the criteria, if you can’t check off all the boxes, don’t apply.
[00:17:16] If you say, well, maybe, you know, they said if you have to be in business, uh, the nonprofit has to be up for at least five years. Well, we’re at three and a half. Maybe they’ll let it slide. Don’t apply. They made the rules. , you know, this is it. And so somebody at the foundation is receiving everything and she has, or he has the list of rules.
[00:17:39] What’s the eligibility? And then there is a stack that is passed onto the board members. The ones that don’t meet eligibility criteria never get there. So why bother? . Yeah. Maybe you just really like paperwork . Right? You’re like, I, I Real hall. Gotta take those shots. Yeah. I don’t believe in that and especially with a government grant, you really better match.
[00:18:07] Yeah. What is the big difference you see between government grants and foundation grants? Well, government grants are generally much larger. mm-hmm. than a foundation grant. Uh, most often they’re multiple years. They have, uh, an evaluation criteria that you need to put in, uh, much more strict in what they’re asking.
[00:18:32] A federal grant can take you 60 hours of work that they tell you it will take you when it might take you 120. It’s just much more strict. , it’s generally a lot more objective, whereas a foundation has people sitting on the board. They may have somebody that they know is applying, that they’re waiting for that particular application.
[00:18:55] Everybody might have their favorite kind of situation. But when I went to, uh, DC to score grants for the federal government, I was a peer reviewer. We sat in a. , they took, uh, they take apart a hotel and they take the beds out of the room and they put tables and you’re there with, uh, three other people and we get 10 grants and they’re quite thick.
[00:19:21] Uh, they’re about a hundred, 150 pages. And you sit there and you read and you score according to all the criteria. And then if we are too far apart, we discuss it. If we are all on the same mark, then that’s the. and there’s usually somebody else that is there to break the tie. And that’s even that as objective as that is, because if I know one of those organizations, I’m not gonna allowed to score it and have to sign that I don’t.
[00:19:48] But even with all that, if there’s chocolate on the table, I might be in a better mood. Eating my Hershey’s kisses, uh, then the, the room next door. So my, our, our scores might get a little higher than the other room. And then, so that batch of 10 could be a little bit lower than ours and hours might fly above.
[00:20:09] You know, it’s just we’re not computers where human beings and things happen. Yeah, we, uh, I, I had experience as well, sort of scoring grants as part of the nonprofit coordinating committee. And there’s, you know, it, it can be frustrating looking at like, I wish all systems were perfect, but the truth is that yeah, if you’re hungry, you’re gonna get a longer prison sentence.
[00:20:32] Uh, from a judge, right? And those, uh, those reports, those research is, is out there. So I think the lesson that everyone should take away is obviously send chocolate with your grant submission, shov it into the machine and just right over the fence. , I mean, I think you point to another facet of this, which is that there is, uh, human on the other side and.
[00:20:55] you know, how you present your numbers is one thing, but how you present your story seems like another, because you end up needing an internal champion. Know when it comes down to it because you, you are having subjective scores, but then conversations. So there is somebody who you are trying to pull onto your side as you do this grant.
[00:21:15] No, it could be, you can try to make that call. You can try to reach out. Sometimes you get there and sometimes they don’t wanna hear from. , you know, so it, it is, it is a tactic. Uh, but you can’t do that with the federal government. You’re really not allowed to. Uh, and the people that you might talk to on the phone will not be the ones that are scoring the grants.
[00:21:39] Mm-hmm. . So, yeah. How do you, yeah, that makes sense. That’s what I’d hope from the government. But you know, what I used, used to do, my last set of grants that I wrote, . I used to make the organization charts very colorful. I’d actually put a little picture on the side, a cartoon that represented what we were trying to do.
[00:21:59] Uh, I just wanted to make them smile. I would add some bar graphs and pie charts and in color now, depends how it was copied, if it was copied on black and white or color. Now everything’s copied in color anyway, so it’s not a. , but understand that if you’re reading 10 pages of one section in a federal grant and there’s nothing in between all these paragraphs, somebody’s gonna be really bored.
[00:22:25] But if you can squeeze a chart or a table in, it looks a lot better.
[00:22:29] the, the sort of, the, the craft of trying to break up. You know, the, the daunting layers of text that, that are involved here, right, is, um, is a real art. Mm-hmm. , um, I like shorter paragraphs. The, however, sometimes you have a grant that says the page limit is five pages. The paragraph, uh, each section has a character count.
[00:22:57] That’s it. You have to follow that, and those are the hard ones because you really have a lot to say and you have to. very concisely. Yeah. Well, I actually kind of respect the, the word count limit when they’re giving you an idea of like what it is that they’re actually after. Mm-hmm. . Um, it’s actually kind of nice.
[00:23:16] Uh, I would say I’m curious about seasonality. Is there, you know, a standard fiscal year that you see? Does it change? Uh, what is your, well, you know, you have nonprofits of January. , you know, their fiscal year could be January to December and it could be um, June to July, right? Or July to June. Uh, so it really depends on the, the foundations.
[00:23:45] Uh, we see that deadlines often happen either mid month or end of month for grants. And that’s really, that’s a very interesting thing. You know, if you miss a deadline, that’s it. You can, you can have the most wonderful grant, but you miss the deadline. You, you need to hold it for the next, you know, the next application.
[00:24:07] And so Grant, we are working on our grant calendar. That’s the next thing where we, when we, when I feel like I’ve done enough with the nine 90 s, even though we have a grant calendar, I’m working, I have ideas to make it even. . That’s, that’s great. And I know of other things you’re working on. You mentioned before I pressed record here that you’re working on a book Yes.
[00:24:29] Which is exciting. Can you, can you share anything about that? Well, it’s titled the Queen of Grants from teacher to CEO to grant writer to CEO, . It’s about my journey, uh, from starting out as a teacher all the way into grant watch and what I’m doing now.
[00:24:48] I want to leave a legacy so people can realize that the decisions, every decision we make in life and every fork in the road we take, leads us back, leads us somewhere either back to where we started with something we wanted to do or beyond. And you know, just things happen. And that’s. , so I’m hoping.
[00:25:13] Well, it sounds, you know, like still something that will be hyper relevant to, to organizations as long here. Here’s the thing, as as long as super wealthy organizations and governments need nonprofits to fill the gap of service to each other, there is going to be a process. That process is gonna involve grants.
[00:25:32] And you’re gonna have to write them. So, uh, I, I’d say, you know, at least the topic is, is fairly future-proofed. Well, I wanna take, I wanna take them through my journey. I wanna take people through my journey, but I also want to show them how to write a grant. I want to give them my knowledge. I wanna pass it, pass it on so that people learn what I’ve learned throughout the.
[00:25:57] I was going through your, your bio here, and I was just sort of curious on your, your, your total amount of, of grants won. And by my rough math, it looks like while you were a grant writer at NYC Department of Education, uh, in Brooklyn which is actually also where I’m from in good old Brooklyn, uh, you raised 11 million.
[00:26:17] And then on top of that, your awarded grant history seems to total up to about 6.5 million. So, I mean, , you’re coming in at a close 20 million in terms of, uh, total, if I’m getting these numbers right, for winning grants, that’s, and I retired. It’s strong, and I retired from grant writing and people were throwing money at me.
[00:26:36] Libby, please write this grant, please. This grant. And I said, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I opened the business and it was just too much. You either running a, running a company, or now it’s companies or you’re a grant. and we built grant writer team because the realization is that if you have to go out there and look for jobs, you can’t write grants.
[00:27:02] So you need to have the, the projects flowing into you, not you going out and searching. So we built it and it’s, it’s working. There are always grant writers looking for work. They come to us and they, they’re fed constant. . Yeah. No, it’s, it’s uniquely different too, in terms of, oh, I need someone to write this, you know, you know, blog post or resource article, this generic, go find a writer versus like, we need our story told in the right way, in the right word count based on this grant, you know?
[00:27:36] Mm-hmm. , I, I think it is uniquely different, isn’t it? Yeah. And you also need your story told with your passion. So if, if you are, if you hire a grant writer, And they have no connection whatsoever to what you wanna do. You sh that’s the wrong person for you. I always tell my grant writers if there’s a job out there, and hypothetically, let’s just take a Alzheimer’s, and that’s what it’s for, what the grant is for.
[00:28:06] If you have an uncle, and hopefully not, but if you have an uncle who has it and suffered from it, or a best friend and you. Then you should write that grant because you can speak in the same passion as the nonprofit you’re representing, but if you’ve never seen it, if you have no connection to what it is, that’s not your job.
[00:28:29] And that’s how we want the grant writers to apply. We want them to look at the look at what the nonprofit is saying and see if you have any background whatsoever in that, because otherwise you can’t speak to that passion. . That makes sense. I’m curious, I think I know what your answer will be, but let me just map out something.
[00:28:49] I, I’m not sure if you’ve seen the many articles that have been coming out about AI tools that can write, like people, uh, tools like, uh, chat, G B T and others. I’m, I’m curious because one of the concerns I see is, is that with the proliferation of just general writing, Computers. I am afraid that it’s gonna be creating a lot more things like grant submissions and has this, you know, one unintended consequence maybe of saturating certain foundations and application processes with just tons of generically written grant submissions, which could make it harder for folks playing by standard rules.
[00:29:38] I, I don’t know if you. . So a hot take on this or not, my take is that we use what’s available, right? I mean, I wrote my first grant on, uh, Commodore 64, right? I had one of those Dynamite Machine. . Okay. So what, what’s available we use, however, the chat bot is a language. a good English language writer. So if you want to answer a question to that’s posed in the grant application and you write your answer now, you can give it to chatbot and say, edit this, and then paste your paragraphs in and they’ll spit it back out to you with all of your information.
[00:30:28] And now you have better English language. Right? But you, you wrote. , it’s just being edited. So you may have saved the editor, but if you say, Hmm, I, uh, chatbot, I need, um, a paragraph on the statistics of car steps in KSI, right. , that’s not good. You didn’t do any of the research and you shouldn’t use it that way.
[00:30:58] First of all, because you don’t know what it’s looking at. You don’t know what the primary or secondary source was. You have no idea. It’s not quoting anything. And the one that’s out there is based on 2021. That was the last time it was updated. So anybody using that for that kind of research is making a big mistake.
[00:31:17] And a lot of it can be. from somebody else’s article or whatever. But if you are giving the information, you already wrote it and all this chatbot is doing is rearranging your paragraph a little bit, a little better. I don’t see the problem with that. It’s, uh, it’s interesting. I, I think absolutely, it’s, uh, it’s an addition to nu instead of, and frankly, not ignoring it might.
[00:31:43] At your own peril because I think it can accelerate and improve when used correctly. I’m not sure how many people actually understand the nuance that it’s going to, uh, lie about facts, but actually be decent about what it’s supposed to do, which is predict the next word that should come in the sentence and follow directions, uh mm-hmm.
[00:32:03] So what I hope is super important note, right? But I hope it’s not taking my information and giving it to somebody. Am I teaching the chatbot? Yes, you are. Okay. So I might be causing myself some competition if I’m a grant writer. You are. It’s, uh, it’s so hard because it is unfortunately, like, you know, this catch 22 where certainly you could hold back, but you know, the, the fact that you’re writing a book and.
[00:32:34] You know, pieces that you have done writing on in terms of your approach and strategy like that. You know, has been hoovered up by the trillions of data points that this thing has been trained on, and I’m, you know, curious and, and how that impacts the, the ecosystem of grant writing. And also, like, I, I mean it from the foundation side, I’m, uh, I’m worried about humans trying to keep up with robots on one side of it because you need a human to evaluate it.
[00:33:02] You can’t fake that. Can you have a lazy grant written by, uh, chat G P t? Yeah, you can. Yeah. But you have, you still have to have a plan, a grant, there’s a program. I need money. What do I need the money for? Yeah. Well, I need the money for I always go back to preschool. I love that or, you know, raising reading scores and I’m going to teach, uh, reading through the arts.
[00:33:29] That’s my program. And because of that, I need this much money in supplies and, and th these are the supplies I wanna buy. I don’t see chat. Um, doing that, I see chat, taking my opening paragraph and making it, and beefing it up and giving me some alternatives to what I wanna say. I write three sentences and I don’t think it’s really punchy enough.
[00:33:52] And I say to Chad, you know, edit this, make it more exciting. And they give me three different version. and it’s all my words, and now I have it and it sounds a little better. That’s how I see it. You can’t, you can’t. Chad’s not making me a budget for my proposal. Not a good one, . No. I mean, no, it’s not right.
[00:34:10] It’ll guess that I need to know the salaries of the people that I wanna hire. I need to know what, uh, percentage of the, their full-time equivalent is going to be used for this program. I mean, if I have a supervisor in a. And that supervisor is going to supervise the afterschool program, but they also supervise the adult education program.
[00:34:31] There’s a percentage of their time that’s allotted for my program. Chad’s not doing that, so I think that those, those grants are gonna be spotted right away. . Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Uh, I have one more question before we go to, to rapid fire cuz I’m just kind of curious about, uh, another pitfall I’d say of frankly what happens when a nonprofit that you know, helps preschool, but then also sees a tempting grant, but would have to extend their programs to go get it.
[00:35:07] Such as, let’s just say like gardens in schools and they’re like, well, I guess we could create a whole gardening program because we see this grant, this, you know, tail wagging the dog sort of thing. How, how do you view it given your history with the relationship of the grant making process and when we’re trying to fit our new program together, we get money.
[00:35:30] Well, if that garden is going to enhance their preschool program, that’s great. They just never thought of it before, are they? But you know, how are they going to use it? And now they really have to show how. The children may be learning to identify plants, how they’re going to learn the colors because of the garden.
[00:35:51] If they’re going to take all of that and include it in the gardening and they’re really committed to doing it, that’s great. If they’re not committed to doing it, you know, a foundation can say, Hey, we wanna come visit. because they wanna do some press and they never even started the garden. They’re gonna have to give all that money down.
[00:36:07] Show me some carrots. Yeah. Now those carrots take a while to grow . Right? Right. And some foundations wanna get pictures because they wanna put it up on their website. So you know, you can write a great grant, but if you don’t really plan to implement it, you’re gonna have to give the money back. Yeah. I’d say other cautionary tales include sort of when you see, hey, we.
[00:36:31] A program developed in a city where you aren’t and you’re like, oh, we can, you know, create a footprint here and develop, develop our services. And the problem is when that grant runs out, you still have an obligation to that community, employees and a foot footprint. And I have seen that happen. And that’s, uh, that’s disastrous actually.
[00:36:49] Right? Well, the, a good organization gets a grant and immediately starts applying for. . You don’t get one grant and say, oh, we’re done. We don’t have to do this anymore. That’s what happened in, uh, community School District 18. We had to constantly write grants. It wasn’t, you get one pat on the back and that’s great.
[00:37:12] You just keep writing and writing
[00:37:14] Oh gosh. It sounds, sounds like a lot of fun. Um, yeah. Well, I learned it was a great learning. . All right. Let’s jump into the rapid fire questions and hopefully, uh, give you a quick response to, to some of these. Uh, let’s just kick it off. What, uh, tech tool or website, uh, have you started using in the last year?
[00:37:39] Well, we used SIM Rush, and that is very helpful. A lot of people in the organization use it for different things. The developers use it to look at. links that are not, that are giving 4 0 4 errors. It identifies that the marketing people use it for seo. So it’s very versatile. What tech issues are you currently battling with inner joining tables?
[00:38:06] That, that is something I’m, I’m battling with because I wanna inter joinin three tables for the nine 90 reports, and that’s giving me a little trouble. But hopefully we’ll get through it every time we, we want to do something, we find a way. Uh, what is coming in the next year that has you the most excited?
[00:38:25] Well, I’m really excited about the nine 90 report. The next is the calendar to make it much more interac. And at the same time, my book finishing it up. Can you talk about a mistake that you made earlier in your career that shapes the way you do things today? Well, early in my career we, in my career in Grant watch, you can, you can choose, so you can say earlier in grant watch, or you can go back
[00:38:59] Okay. In Grant watch. I knew we could build a website, but I didn’t know anything at all about code. So we had hired somebody and he was right out of school and he was like leading us, but we knew what, we knew what we wanted Grant watch to do, and it was then called NYC Grants watch to show you how my dream was so small that it was just NY.
[00:39:27] and then it went to New York State and then it went to all the states around it, and then it went throughout the United States. Then it became International Israel, Canada, and kept growing. Now, you know, when you build, you build small. You keep having to do things and add, and add and add. You know, since then we’ve now we changed our, our server just.
[00:39:48] In November and we went from a small ser, you know, a smaller server to a very large humongous server. So I think the mistake was not seeing all that. It could be how great it could be. I was just focused on NYC and it just kept going. So I, I think that’s pretty much it. And I, if we say a mistake, I should have gone back to school and learned to code.
[00:40:12] Do you believe nonprofits can successfully go out of business, can go out of business successfully? I How do you successfully go out of business? I mean, go out of business, you close your doors because you, you can’t provide services anymore. So how do you successfully go out of. Well, hypothetically in the case where you were tasked to solve a social problem and you solve it such as, you know, we did it polio solved, we can close the door successfully would be one example.
[00:40:47] Okay. I guess they could, um, , but if I, if I was that same nonprofit, I would say, Hey, let’s take on another disease and let’s go further. We, we have the recipe. for success. So why, why close the doors
[00:41:03] if I were to put you in a hot tub time machine? And I think I’m, I know what you’re gonna say, but we’ll go through it anyway. A hot tub time machine. Back to the beginning of your work with Grant watch, what advice would you give yourself? Well, I said I probably learned to code. What advice would I give myself?
[00:41:20] I think I would, my biggest problem. Today is finding my successor. That’s, that’s my problem. Within my family, I have you know, people in the business, but because the business has grown so much, we each take a different leadership role and there’s nobody to take my leadership role at this point. And so that’s my greatest.
[00:41:48] And if anybody’s out there listening and you think you can be me, let me know.
[00:41:53] That’s that. I think that is a first for our podcast. Well, there you go. We’ll see who gets back to you. What, what is something you think that you should stop doing? Well, I have been in development from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Every day since Grant watch began, and that’s, it’s time to move that over to somebody else.
[00:42:18] Um, I’ve worked hand, you know, right, with the developers many times just on shared screen, directing every single color, every single letter and word on the website. And that’s something that I need to be able to pass over to someone else. If I were to give you a magic wand to wave across the social impact sector, or maybe we can say the philanthropic sector, what would it do?
[00:42:46] Uh, I would tell them to not react to everything going on in the, in the chaos and follow your gut. The nonprofits just keep reinventing, reinventing what their focus is because of what’s going on in the world. And I think that we know who we need to provide services for and why and how, and we should stay the course.
[00:43:22] What advice would you give college graduates looking to enter the social impact sector? I would tell them to take a grant writing. And go and volunteer at a nonprofit and write grants for them. And even if you don’t win immediately, you will because you’ll be persistent and you will have a career.
[00:43:47] What advice did your parents give you that you either followed or did not follow? Well, I was supposed to go to. , I got accepted to Pratt. I had a portfolio and my parents did not want me in an art school during the time of the hippies. Uh, so I didn’t go. I went to Brooklyn College, minored in fine arts and, uh, majored in education.
[00:44:13] So I did follow. My parents were active in the community wherever they lived, so, and I learned that. You know, the impact that people could have on social organizations. So I think I followed everything. I, I was always a good kid, . All right. Final question. How do people find you? How do people help you? Well, grant watch.com.
[00:44:42] G R A N T W A T C H. Our phone number, uh, our contact information is there. We have a chat, uh, that’s open during office hours. If you leave us a mess, a message on the chat, we’ll get back to you. We return phone calls, uh, we’re right there and we, we answer the phones.
[00:45:05] Well, I appreciate the resource you’ve created for the sector and for sharing, uh, for sharing some strategies with us today. Uh, thank you so much. Thank you. It was fun going down memory lane with you, .