Behind the Foundation Curtain Part 3 cover image

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In Part 3 this exclusive four part Nonprofit.Courses interview, Lorrie Hartley, Executive Director of the TKD Foundation, a family foundation in Missouri, talks about the importance of your relationship with a grant funder.


Here’s a Transcript of our Conversation

Behind the Foundation Curtain Part 3

Matt Hugg:  Hi, this is Matt Hugg with Nonprofit.Courses, and I’m pleased to bring you part three of a four-part series on “What it’s like to be a Funder. We have a special guest throughout this series, Lorrie Hartley, Executive Director of the TKD Foundation of Missouri. So, let’s get started.

[Music]

I have Lorrie Hartley here from the TKD Foundation. She’s smiling because I’m going to pass out. And we’re having fun here talking about her point of view as a funder in the grant proposal process. And in all seriousness, I think she’s really been generous with her thoughts on this. And it’s really been helpful. And like I said in the first video, I forgot what I said in the second video, this isn’t an invitation to hit her with applications, she’s really just being helpful to give us an insight.

And Lorrie has some really good perspective, because she’s been on both sides of the fence as a funder and then as a fund recipient in a nonprofit organization. She has a CFRE so she’s really a top-notch fundraiser as well. We talked, I think, one of the other two videos you mentioned what I think of as the ‘R’ word, Relationships. And you know, where does relationships fit into this process? Because you also said that it’s about process. So, do those two get in the way of each other?

Lorrie Hartley: No, because process for us, since we work on a closed application process, everything, the process, everyone’s been vetted out. Every organization we visit has been vetted out. However, the relationship starts the minute that we pick up the phone to call you and ask if we can visit with you, and just hear what you’re doing. And ask the questions. How’s it going? What challenges are you working on? And what’s it look like? And that’s when the relationship really, that’s when it starts.

Matt Hugg:  Now, obviously, up to a few months ago, you do that in person. I imagine you do that through video calls now or whatever.

Lorrie Hartley: That’s correct. So our mid grant reporting, that was done through Zoom, and then also end of year was through Zoom.

Matt Hugg:  Do all successful relationships end in funding?

Lorrie Hartley: No, they don’t. Not always.

Matt Hugg:  So what defines success, then?

Lorrie Hartley: Success is when you have good communication, and it’s open communication, there’s an ebb and flow. You talk about a challenge, you talk about what’s working well, and more importantly, you talk about maybe some changes that are coming up. Because again, we want to be apprised, not a surprise. And we’re very flexible with that. We want to know, we understand business. And we understand that you can get halfway through a project and things take a turn. For example, we funded a program training position. It turned out that the lady, halfway through she was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Matt Hugg:  Oh.

Lorrie Hartley: But the executive director called and share that, and during the time she was there, she already created the training modules, and they were able to take that and use that funding to convert to online training.

Matt Hugg:  Okay. Wow!

Lorrie Hartley: Which is a huge success, because they actually did that in December before COVID-19. And that forward thinking, they were already prepared to do everything online, unbeknownst to what’s going to happen.

Matt Hugg:  Yeah, they were just watching the newspapers for the hints of anything.

Lorrie Hartley: Right. [Laughs]

Matt Hugg:   But no, that’s great. So a good relationship then obviously goes over bumps. You talked about site visits. And people can be really weird about foundation site visits. I mean, when you show up, right, all the rails are scrubbed, all the windows are clean, you know, everything’s all bright and shiny, the grass is cut. I imagine you realize that. How do you put people at ease? I mean, how does that work?

Lorrie Hartley: No, we would never just show up at a nonprofit, that’s disrespectful. Just like the same respect that you make an appointment with us instead of just show up. But when we’re there, we’re not there to audit them. We’re there to visit them. And I understand coming from the other side of nonprofits working with your state and federal grants, you get audits. And that’s different from a funder site visit; where we’re really there to just see about the partnership and how things have been going. And it’s really, we want that conversation. We want the discussion. We’re not looking for a dog and pony show.

Matt Hugg:  Have you run into situations where staff or you volunteers are guarded about responses or you feel like you’re being guided one way or another?

Lorrie Hartley: Actually, now, I think they’ve really done a good job up front. And I really think when we first started grant funding, we brought all the grantees together. And so they really got to see the heart of who we are. And we really mean what we say that it’s a relationship and we open honest communication. We want that ebb and flow. We don’t expect everything to just go in order as presented in the grant because that’s not reality of a nonprofit organization or any other organization for that matter.

Matt Hugg:  Sure, sure. Wow. Okay, good. That’s really good. I think it’s important that…One of the things I talked about in my classes another and you’re obviously reflecting this, is that you’re people.

Lorrie Hartley: We are people, and we’re people, you know, philanthropy means for the love of mankind. And the whole heart of the funders is to help humankind go forward. And we’d love to do that through nonprofit organizations.

Matt Hugg:  Yeah. I mean, so you’re people, not an institution?

Lorrie Hartley:  That’s correct.

Matt Hugg:  You’re not the foundation coming, you’re Lorrie coming?

Lorrie Hartley:  Exactly. And we want you to share what’s going on? And is there a chance that we can help do something else? Do you need something? Are you in dire straits? Is there an emergency? You know, COVID-19, that was a great example for two of our grantees. They reached out and we provided emergency funding for them.

Matt Hugg:  Okay, that’s good.

Lorrie Hartley: And the good thing about a private family foundation, they requested; we were able to do that within four hours from start to finish. So we can expedite the process very quickly.

Matt Hugg:  Right. And obviously, they were in a tough spot that way. Did they have to, like really prove to you that this was an issue or…? I mean, were you looking for like, okay, so show me your budget and where you plan to be and where you are, anything like that?

Lorrie Hartley: Oh, absolutely not. We knew… I got a text from one of the executive directors saying, “Can you have a phone conversation?” I talked with him. I met with the president via Zoom. We hopped on there, and then just asked him to put a simple project budget together, what was going to happen, how much he needed, how many licenses. It was for Google Voice. Because the volunteers, they work with children, and they needed to make sure that they recorded the conversations in a text messages. And they needed that because they could no longer meet in person. So that, no. And the other was for asthma. And they that was very quick too, and that was for schools. It was for the asthma applicator, so kids could–

Matt Hugg:  The inhalers.

Lorrie Hartley: The inhalers, thank you, not medical. But they needed that in several of the rural schools because children and they had asthma, they were having trouble using their inhalers correctly. And that was just like I said, in a matter of four hours, both of those were approved.

Matt Hugg:  Wow, okay, that’s really cool. So you are flexible, obviously, and organizations shouldn’t be afraid to have that kind of discussion with you.

Lorrie Hartley: Now, let us tell no, especially if we have that relationship, that’s why the relationship is so important. It was just a really easy conversation. And we care. We want to help.

Matt Hugg:  Well, and that brings up a point that I have told my staff when I had them years ago, they don’t say no for somebody.

Lorrie Hartley: That is great, that really is and let them tell you no, and we may not have been able to have the funding, but we did. It was available.

Matt Hugg:  Right. Right. And from our conversations between you and I, it feels to me like if you couldn’t have helped them, you could have guided them, or at least been an advocate for them for somebody who could.

Lorrie Hartley: I would be on the phone trying to help them, especially if it’s an emergency.

Matt Hugg:  Yeah, yeah, exactly. You know, a lot of organizations talk about, well, we want to have a funding match. Is that just mission? What else goes into making a match with a grantee?

Lorrie Hartley: Making a match that is not to make sure that the missions align, there’s mission alignment. Make sure there’s any inclination just because…And just because there’s a mission alignment doesn’t mean that’s a priority alignment. Because even for example, we support health care, but it is the president’s personal mission to ensure every child in the state of Missouri has access to health care.

Matt Hugg:  Oh, wow.

Lorrie Hartley: And that’s our priority. So outside of that, even though you may work for healthcare, and it may fall within our mission, that’s not our priority for the year.

Matt Hugg:  Gotcha. Okay. And then how about interpersonal dynamics, does that make a difference?

Lorrie Hartley: It is good to be able to communicate and be thoughtful and mindful. Make sure to follow the process, honor the process. Honor, if we request email or call the office, don’t try to circumvent and go around us to go to the founders because again, we’re gatekeepers, we’re there for a reason. And we’re there because they put us there and ask us to be there. And we really want to help you.

Matt Hugg:  Right. Right. And being grumpy to you isn’t necessarily making that happen.

Lorrie Hartley: It is not, and if I appear grumpy, it is for protection, because there’s legalities, there’s laws that we have to follow too. And there’s always donor intent and honoring what the founders want.

Matt Hugg:  Right. Yeah.

Lorrie Hartley: And working for them, I understand them personally and their personal philanthropic values better than you as a grant seeker would.

Matt Hugg:  Yes, even if somebody was a buddy of one of your benefactors from years gone by.

Lorrie Hartley: Lots of buddies. Lots of buddies,

Matt Hugg:  I’m sure. What was the biggest mistake you’ve seen an applicant make in approaching you? Even if it met the mission, they were good on mission. They were good on other things, but it just that was bad.

Lorrie Hartley: So I’ve got two. I’m trying to figure out what the biggest one was.

Matt Hugg:  You can get well… I’m going to ask you what the second one was too, so take your pick.

Lorrie Hartley: Okay. So we chose in 2019, that was our first funding cycle, that we vetted out nine organizations. And nine, were invited to apply. And the one that we invited, we let her know—she was the CEO of a community health center—we let her know how much she could apply for. And the deadline kept approaching getting closer, and so we reached out to her and asked if she was going to apply. She said, “No, I have bigger fish to fry. There’s a bigger grant that I can apply for, and I just don’t have the time.” So that relationship is no longer fruitful.

Matt Hugg:  Yeah, viable, maybe.

Lorrie Hartley: Yeah, right. But what grantees need to understand, or potential grantees, is that if the relationships do, they’re going to have to do 10,000 before they get 50,000, 50,000 before 100,000. And it’s building that and you know, it’s kind of like dating. You date somebody and then if it works out, then you get engaged, and then you get married. It’s the same type of relationship that has to progress. And basically, she didn’t want to go on a date with us.

Matt Hugg:  Well, that makes a big difference, especially… I mean, honesty is important, but it’s like, you know, what you say versus how you say it.

Lorrie Hartley: Okay, even saying, could the dates be flexible by a week to 10 days, because I have other priorities that are in play? What’s interesting about the rest of the story is…

Matt Hugg:  Remembering Paul Harvey.

Lorrie Hartley: Yes. honoring him. And she didn’t receive that funding either.

Matt Hugg:  You know, it’s funny. I was wondering about that. Wow. Yeah, that’s just bad decision.

Lorrie Hartley: That’s just serendipity right there.

Matt Hugg:  Well, so what’s the other story? So the other one is, so there was a shelter for battered women and children, and the executive director come in and they wanted a new playground. So we went and took a look at the facility and we’re like, “Yeah, this is something we could support.” So she come in, and we told her how much she had to work with, fill out the grant. Everything was filled out top to bottom. She resigned probably a week before the grant was to be finalized. Yep, the new executive director comes in, all she literally has to do is sign it. That’s it.

Matt Hugg:  Hit the bid button, done.

Lorrie Hartley: And she did not sign it and submit it.

Matt Hugg:  Wow. That’s too bad.

Lorrie Hartley: Yes, it is. And it’s not like the deadlines missed and there was no communication.

Matt Hugg:  Well, and you know, for me, I see it’s too bad, yes, for the organization, but really for the kids.

Lorrie Hartley: 2It is too bad for the kids.

Matt Hugg:  Yeah, who really, they deserve that playground.

Lorrie Hartley: They do. And we had reached out to her so many times, “All you got to do is submit. Do you need help?”

Matt Hugg:  So one of the things that hits my head with that is, was there an ego issue? Was it well, that’s the past person, I want to do my own thing now, so…

Lorrie Hartley: Absolutely. She said that the playground equipment was adequate. And for me, I used to work for a shelter for battered women and children. And I’m not into adequate or mediocracy. So that hit a big red button with me.

Matt Hugg:  Wow!

Lorrie Hartley: Adequate? Well, let’s go above and beyond.

Matt Hugg:  And it wasn’t like you were going to fund anything else in the organization.

Lorrie Hartley: No, that was it.

Matt Hugg:  Right. So take the money and go do the thing, make it better and have a new playground.

Lorrie Hartley: Right? It wasn’t taken from them.

Matt Hugg:  Wow. Okay, yeah. All right. What are the best ways for funder for grantees to communicate with you?

Lorrie Hartley: We’re open to email, texting, call, but just make sure it’s the staff that you’re contacting and not the founders.

Matt Hugg:  Okay. And you find when you talk to other foundation folks, that’s the same with them, or are they more restrictive? Or I mean, I’m going to say less restrictive, it sounds like you’re about as open as you can be.

Lorrie Hartley:  A lot of them have more of a, depending on the size of the foundation, because there could be a program manager just assigned to your organization, depending on the size. But for the most part, if they’re your partner, your family foundations, they’re looking for partnerships, they’re not looking for one and done. This is their private family philanthropy. And we’re in the first generation of the TKD Foundation, but when you get generation G2’s, G3’s, there’s a lot of family dynamics that are a little different there as well.

Matt Hugg:  Yeah. Yeah. And I’ve seen that. I’m sure you have.

Lorrie Hartley: Yes.

Matt Hugg:  Yeah, that makes a big difference. But have you ever given money to an organization with which you have no relationship?

Lorrie Hartley: Well, since we’re a startup foundation, we really didn’t have a relationship with any of the grantees that were chosen. But it was through another foundation how we got connected with one of our major grantees. It was through a recommendation. They knew of a great program, they just didn’t have the funding. That wasn’t their priority at the time they asked us and now we have a great relationship with them.

Matt Hugg:  Okay, well, that’s cool. But whether you just started or now they’re established these relationships, but nobody’s just kind of shows up to your door and you say, “Oh, that’s great. Here’s the money. And you don’t have any…” because it sounds to me you obviously do the background and all that word about them.

Lorrie Hartley: We have a lot of people show up to our door unannounced. We do. But no, they just don’t get money for that.

Matt Hugg:  Right.

Lorrie Hartley: And again, you have to honor the process. And if you have a question, first go to our website, everything is on there. It’s listed on there. And then make sure not to circumvent that. And if you have an offline question you can connect with me on LinkedIn and start that relationship. And that’s just, “Hey, do you have an opportunity to network and connect? I’d love to just get to know your background, show some care.”

[Silence]

Matt Hugg:  In your case, everybody has a relationship with you in terms of with the organization. But you mentioned to me and other times, folks might just show up, right? I don’t imagine that you know, I mean, relationship makes a huge difference, correct?

Lorrie Hartley: Relationships does make a huge difference. We’re a small community and because they know the founders, we have a lot of people that will stop by drop by the office and come in and share their idea for funding and why they should be funded.  And it would be nice to make an appointment. Because we have a standard office number, it’s important to call and make that because you’re just assuming that we have time to meet with you. We had somebody stopped by when it was a board meeting. And then we’re rushing around to try to, you know, get them out of the building. And if you would’ve called, we would certainly make time to speak with you. And we’ll explain the process to you and explain that we have a closed application process. But we’d be happy to take their information and we will save it – because we do, it’s not a…Because we’re going to respect everybody that’s coming in because everyone’s doing good works.

Matt Hugg:  Yeah. Well, we talked about in another video about having a grant management system and so you keep track of things like that. So there’s not just the sack of money in the back that you’re grabbing and saying, “Great idea, here.”

Lorrie Hartley:  That’s a good point, the sack of money is great, but just as a nonprofit organization has their budget, we have a budget too. We already know how much money that we’re going to distribute by the time January 1 of each year comes around.

Matt Hugg:  January 1 say is your fiscal year term, right?

Lorrie Hartley: Correct.

Matt Hugg:  Are all the decisions made by January 2? In other words, if somebody comes to you in March, are they basically saying you got to wait till next January?

Lorrie Hartley: In this instance, yes, we already know who we’re going to fund. Because we’re a closed application process. Everybody wouldn’t be that way; other foundations, but we already know. We have a couple with multiyear grants, grant funding. And so the funds are already allocated. And because we have relationships, we want to continue our partnership and grow them.

Matt Hugg:  Right. Right. And so what this comes down to is that organizations need to plan.

Lorrie Hartley: They do need a plan.

Matt Hugg:  Yeah. They need to plan on, even if they come up with this brilliant idea in March, that they have to build that relationship, they have to work with you so that even any kind of consideration would occur later on.

Lorrie Hartley: That is correct. So we can see throw already by, if we’re going to look for a new organization for next year, we’re going to visit, and all those visits will be done by October. Because we meet quarterly at our board meeting. So the first draft of our budget will go in October, and then it’s approved by the year end.

Matt Hugg:  Right. All right. Well, that makes a lot of sense. And I’m sure that that’s helpful to folks because I hear that—some people will tell me, “Well, you know, we don’t want to go to major gift people, because it takes too long to build that relationship.” But it sounds like it takes a long, you know, it’s not like instant relationship with you guys. You’re not an ATM.

Lorrie Hartley: We’re not an ATM and other foundations and other major gifts, they’re not an ATM either. And I bet, if I heard somebody say that it takes too long to build a relationship, I could look at their major gift program and there wouldn’t be any.

Matt Hugg:  Yep, you know, you’re right.

Lorrie Hartley: It’s all about relationship. It really is. And you know, it’s throwing a ball out. And someone’s got to give you $25 before they’re going to give me 50, 1000, how are you honoring that?

Matt Hugg:  Yeah, no, exactly. Well, hey, this has been great. Why don’t we wrap up this particular video, and we’ll come back and we’ll make our last one about some of the mechanics of a grant proposal. And Lorrie, thank you so much, you’ve been really so generous with your time and your thoughts. And again, I just want to say thank you. I want to say to everybody who’s watching, to reiterate, this isn’t an invitation to apply to [Laughs], but we really do appreciate your insights.

Lorrie Hartley: Thank you.

Matt Hugg:  We’ll be back.