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In Part 4 this exclusive four part Nonprofit.Courses interview, Lorrie Hartley, Executive Director of the TKD Foundation, a family foundation in Missouri, talks about the mechanics of a proposal and her most humorous funding moment!
Here’s a Transcript of our Conversation
Behind the Foundation Curtain Part 4
Matt Hugg: Hi, this is Matt Hugg with Nonprofit.Courses. And today, we’re here with Lorrie Hartley of the TKD Foundation in what is part four of a four-part series on “What it’s Like to be a Funder,” what it’s like to look at the world from a foundation point of view. So let’s get started.
We’re here with Lorrie Hartley of the TKD Foundation, and we’re talking about what it is to look at grant proposals from the other side, from the grant funder’s side. And if you haven’t seen the other three videos already, please check them out. Not to go in a particular order. But just to tell you that, like we’ve tried to emphasize in each of them, this isn’t an invitation to apply to the TKD foundation. [Laughs] She’s just being really generous with our thoughts to help nonprofits broadly, and we’re really grateful for that. Thank you very much. What makes a successful proposal?
Lorrie Hartley: Following the directions, that…
Matt Hugg: Follow directions.
Lorrie Hartley: We’ve been very mindful not to make our process cumbersome, and we’re only looking for information that we absolutely need. And so making sure that you attach the board of directors list: your financials, your audited financials, your budget, and not just the budget for your proposal, but your full organization.
Matt Hugg: Wow. Okay.
Lorrie Hartley: Yeah, those are things that we’re looking for. And making sure that you get it in on time and you have the right signatures and you have approval and authority from the governing board to apply for this grant.
Matt Hugg: Right. Right. Because it as much as you don’t want surprises, the organization shouldn’t have internal surprises on this either.
Lorrie Hartley: Correct.
Matt Hugg: I know you want proposals to be accurate. And I think you talked a little bit about this in another one of the videos but, you know, typos count?
Lorrie Hartley: Typos? No, we’re all human in that sense, but spelling our name wrong, that counts. That’s a typo that matters.
Matt Hugg: That’s a typo that matters. Or even put the right name in the proposal, correct?
Lorrie Hartley: Having the right name in the proposal, having the address right, and making sure that you just didn’t replace our name. And then you’ve copied and pasted from another grant proposal and you don’t have our address on there, but somebody else’s, or not reading down in the proposal and you’ve copied and pasted and it lists the other organization inside the grant.
Matt Hugg: Well, I guess given the nature that you’re in a smaller rural community, you’re going to know who else is you know, who that address is, even though it’s not yours.
Lorrie Hartley: We sure do.
Matt Hugg: A proposal writer is challenged as you know, because you’ve been on both sides of this fence.
Lorrie Hartley: Correct.
Matt Hugg: There are translator, a lot of times, there’s somebody over here who has much more technical expertise, and then there’s you who doesn’t, you know, and that’s all right. And they have to translate things in between. How do you suggest they strike that balance?
Lorrie Hartley: I would strike the balance by telling a story, making sure that you are removing any jargon, any words that are just specific for the organization, and making sure that when we read it, we understand exactly what you’re asking for. And I would do that by having somebody else outside your organization read your grant application that doesn’t know about what you’re doing. And do they understand it? And do they have questions? Because most likely, we’re going to have those same questions.
Matt Hugg: Well, that’s a very good suggestion, that really is, to have a reader, a few readers that way.
Lorrie Hartley: Absolutely. And then do they get it? And they’ll ask you if they don’t understand and then answer those questions.
Matt Hugg: Yeah. Well, that assumes, and I think we should try to, is that there’s some level of preparedness, and this isn’t a last-minute kind of pull it together thing, that somebody is going to have a chance to do that.
Lorrie Hartley: Absolutely.
Matt Hugg: I imagine you can tell.
Lorrie Hartley: We can tell. And we can tell when it’s been copied and pasted from another grant. And we can tell when it’s been piecemealed, because sometimes in an organization, they’ll have different people write different portions of the grant, but then they have not taken the time to massage it into one. And you can tell; the ebb and flows aren’t there, it’s not the same writer and we actually went back to somebody and asked them to make the grant that, uh…
Matt Hugg: Smooth it.
Lorrie Hartley: Just smooth it out, and so it would flow all the way through. Because a lot of times…and you could tell to which was disappointing that this particular grant writer did not read the proposal that was submitted, written by multiple people, as a whole. I want to reiterate too, for us, we read your proposal out loud. That’s reading out loud, every word together.
Lorrie Hartley: Wow. Wow. And that’s an ancient art [Laughs] reading out loud. But, no, that’s really interesting. So you will catch things that way that people will skim over otherwise.
Matt Hugg: Yeah. And I think reading out loud because we’re at the time that we got cell phones and everything, we’re just skimming, and it makes us stop and slow down and really seek to understand what your nonprofit is trying to do. And so we can make sure that we don’t come back with questions that you’ve already answered because we have not taken the time to honor the time you put in for making the grant request.
Matt Hugg: Right. Right. Yeah. And that’s really good. But with all the years there as well, if something isn’t understood, something, “Oh, no, we cover that back there.” Because maybe, you know, when you read aloud, you’re focusing on what’s in front of you and might not process the entirety of it sometimes too, so they can, you know, other people around to work with it. That’s cool.
Lorrie Hartley: Well, like, the president of our foundation, she’s very detail oriented. So if there’s a detail missing, she will catch it. And I am more visionary, I’m bigger picture. And then I have my other counterpart, she is a feeler so she’s looking for the story. She’s looking for the feel good. And so it’s a really good balance for all of us.
Matt Hugg: Do you look for publicity for funded work? Do you want your foundation, TKD to get in the newspaper about things?
Lorrie Hartley: Sure, we like that to a degree. So we have grant contracts with all of our grantees. And that is stated very clearly what can and cannot be done. And it has to be approved prior to. For example, the founders don’t want the amount that was given out listed. So that’s something they could never do.
Matt Hugg: Okay.
Lorrie Hartley: But they can talk about the funding, what project was funded, and what the periods were and what they’re doing, and now they’re moving the needle.
Matt Hugg: Oh, that’s interesting. You talked about that before about a grant contract. So one of the things I talked about with some people when I discuss grants is the grant application itself is in some respects a contract. You’re proposing this and if they accept it, then you’re bound to do that. But you’re developing a separate document, it sounds like.
Lorrie Hartley: We have a contract. Everything runs through our attorney, through legal, and from start to finish, it talks about how much money is given, what you can and can’t do with the money, what we can and cannot do with your information. I mean, it’s an ebb and flow on both sides. It talks about grant reporting deadlines, expectations. And it talks about there’s any changes. I mean, if there’s a change in your program, you’re required to let us know. And that way, we can just make a decision together on how the best move forward.
Matt Hugg: And if people… have you had anybody… I mean, you’re a relatively new organization, has anybody broken the contract that has become a problem?
Lorrie Hartley: We’re not sure yet, we are in the process, so maybe. So we funded organization and we helped them pay their final payments on their building. And now that organization, as of January 2021, is not going to exist anymore. So we are waiting to see what the response is after their August board meeting. And then we will determine if we need to go back to our legal and look at the contract. And they’re aware of this. And it’s been a meaningful conversation. But it was not a conversation on the front end. It’s been a conversation on the back end after their final grant report was due.
Matt Hugg: Ah. So it sounds to me, you’re talking and, you know, go to another video, we talked about relationships, and that’s really important is to have that relationship to be able to have that discussion. And that sounds like a major discussion to have. But I would imagine if an organization is meeting or at least, you know, you’re getting the information you want as a result of that contract, that is going to make a huge difference in them getting a new grant from your organization.
Lorrie Hartley: Yeah, I think the new grant for that organization, that ship has sailed.
Matt Hugg: I’m thinking about for any organization, just to have that…
Lorrie Hartley: Absolutely.
Matt Hugg: Yeah. Right.
Lorrie Hartley: But for that particular organization, we found out in a roundabout way that that was happening. And we are the ones that reached out to them and requested the meeting.
Matt Hugg: Did they feel like they didn’t have to do, because everything’s done, they had free hand in doing things. Is that part of that?
Lorrie Hartley: I don’t think so. I think the things just happened so quick. And you don’t know the internal challenges that went on. And we don’t need to, we’re just focused on the money and the donations that we made to make sure that donor intent is met.
Matt Hugg: Right. Yeah. And that’s the most important part. In past videos, you talk a little bit about budget and how important it is to have a budget one way or another. Have you seen any issues or I mean, I know I hear sometimes where an organization will underprice their services; sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. But the idea is they feel like if they can bend it down a little bit, then they have a better chance of getting that funding. Where are you on that?
Lorrie Hartley: There’s a couple of examples that I could use. So we had a one of our nonprofits, they applied for funding for a bus, and it was a bus for people with disabilities. So he knew the amount of funding that was allotted. And he had come up with a plan that he could raise together money should this portion come in, but he put the whole project budget in there. And he gave three quotes from different places to get this bus. And it turned out after our founder looked at it, our president, she ended up funding the whole thing. Even though…because we had two organizations that did not receive funding one, because they chose not to apply and the other because they missed the deadline. So there was extra money. It was already in the budget, and that went from his boss. And it was 100%.
Matt Hugg: Wow, that’s great. But in a case where somebody tries to… I mean, that’s super, but they showed their whole budget and then showed you what your portion was going to be versus the others. And that was okay. You got a big picture view of it.
Lorrie Hartley: Yes, transparency is key. Don’t try to fudge the numbers. We will find out. It all comes out in the wash, it really does. We had two of our organizations, three of our organizations this year have a surplus, and that was because COVID-19 so some of their services were stopped. And so we had two of our organizations that shared very much about their surplus and they provided a budget, and they asked to roll that funding over for this next year. And then we have one organization just tell us about they had a surplus, they did not put how much was a surplus and what they wanted to do with it, but they want to make sure they kept the money. So this gentleman’s in the process of filling out the proper budget paperwork. And we did not have a standard form. We’re just being transparent, being honest, giving us the information. So we could make a judgment call based on what’s provided. And since he did not provide us information to make a judgment call, it’s hanging out there waiting to be approved. And so they’re three weeks past their time of getting their next installment because we need to know what they’re doing with that surplus. And then I don’t know if it’s going to be approved or not.
Matt Hugg: Right, right. And again, transparency, lay it all out. I think that’s important for all nonprofits to do for any of their dealings. But especially when you’re dealing with a funder who is there to help you.
Lorrie Hartley: Exactly.
Matt Hugg: If a nonprofit project needs more than you typically give, what you do, and it sounds like lay it all out. Now, would you reserve that, would you say, “This is good, we’ll do our portion. But we’re not going to give you that until you get the other two,” or something like with the bus, if you hadn’t done the whole thing?
Lorrie Hartley: Oh, no, we went ahead as a good faith effort. Because sometimes, you know, nonprofits only have so much time, resources and money, we would have already went ahead and approve that so he could use that for leverage. And I think that’s where it’s so important too to…We have the fundraising experience. We’ve been on that side, and we honor that.
Matt Hugg: Is it true that funders, like yourself, eliminate proposals to make their job easier?
Lorrie Hartley: Absolutely. We get several proposals, and if you’re not following the directions, you never make it to the cutoff period where it actually gets where we’re reviewing it and waiting it, based on giving answers. For example, getting our name wrong.
Matt Hugg: I’ve heard that.
Lorrie Hartley: Missing deadlines, that makes it easy, you count yourself out. We don’t have to do anything because you’ve already done that for us. And thank you because all nonprofits are doing good work. And we can’t fund everybody, so when you put yourself in the elimination box, and we don’t have to, we appreciate that. If you get denied, or get a declination letter, call and ask for feedback.
Matt Hugg: My question, I said, what should you do if you’re turned down? Right. So yeah, thank you.
Lorrie Hartley: And say, is there anything that I could have done better? And sometimes it’s yes, sometimes it’s no, sometimes it could be you’re outside of our mission. So don’t spend your resources that you have applying for funds where you’re out, there’s no mission alignment, and no inclination, right?
Matt Hugg: Yeah. And that makes a big difference. Even though they might see you in the grocery store every week, doesn’t mean they’re going to get funding for their nonprofit?
Lorrie Hartley: That’s correct.
Matt Hugg: You talk a little bit about post grant communications. I mean, what’s the importance of that? You know, obviously, you haven’t laid out exactly what you want, or do you….? What are you looking for?
Lorrie Hartley: So, post grant, we’re looking, we want to know what your organization’s doing. If you have a newsletter, send it to us. We’re interested, because we’re vested in your organization. We are now partners, we want to know what’s going on. Share the good stuff, share the challenges, stay in touch. We are one of the major gift donor. So say thank you, if you’ve got things coming up, if you’re doing stewardship, make sure to include us on that.
Matt Hugg: Especially since you’re a family foundation and you have benefactors that are alive and with you and actively engage to honor them at events at appropriate levels in appropriate times, that’s a positive thing for you.
Lorrie Hartley: It could be a positive thing, but it should always be asked, depending on— the answer could be no, but the answer could be yes. Or even asking how much you’d like to be recognized. So something that’s in our grant contract is that we do not want plaques, we don’t want certificates. We do not want…How many of those can you really put on your wall?
Matt Hugg: Because you’re not collecting trophies all around.
Lorrie Hartley: Because that’s not the heart of who we are. And so that’s in the contract, “Please do not give that to us.” At this point, so the example I will use is that we do telehealth. And so the telehealth program that’s in two of the rural schools that we support, our name is on that, “Supported by…,” and that’s very much appreciated.
Matt Hugg: Right. Right. And is it important for… Obviously, you don’t want to litter your office with plaques. But do you want to have the people in the community know that you’re out there?
Lorrie Hartley: Yeah, we want them to know, so if we’ve given money, make sure that you tag us on social media if you do a newspaper article. We appreciate those things, and being honored.
Matt Hugg: But a funder, or excuse me, a grantee should ask you about all that. Just like they would ask a donor the same way, you know, an individual donor.
Lorrie Hartley: Correct. And a lot of that’s in our contract. But a lot of times too, if you call, our president will give you a quote for your article. And that’s part of the relationship sustainability and going forward for longevity.
Matt Hugg: I think it’s important for folks to remember, and I hope you would agree, that they can leverage their relationship with you to get other funding.
Lorrie Hartley: Absolutely.
Matt Hugg: You’ve done… And that’s one of the interesting things I’ve always found about working with foundations is it—and you described in one of the earlier videos, how you really go through a vetting process and work with an organization to say, “yeah, you know, you’re the real deal. We’re going to give you money,” where an individual may not do that.
Lorrie Hartley: Correct.
Matt Hugg: You are, in effect, the good housekeeping seal for the community for certain nonprofits, I guess.
Lorrie Hartley: And certainly, I feel very responsible to ensure that TKD who represents Ted and Kim Day, that their name is only going on organizations that represent their core values and who they are.
Matt Hugg: Yeah. But then they can take that endorsement, you might say, and say, “Hey, these guys helped us.”
Lorrie Hartley: Absolutely.
Matt Hugg: We’re just kind of wrapping things up this whole series and like I said, thank you so much for being with us, anything funny ever happened in the grant process or as a result of a grant or is like, “I don’t believe that that occurred.”
Lorrie Hartley: One of our funny stories was in our vetting out process. So we go and we were meeting with…we had nine grantees, potential grantees we’re meeting with, and the first couple, me my counterpart, we went, and then when Kim, our president, her and Ted went on this particular one, and something that we always asked was, “what keeps you up at night?” And, you know, trying to learn about the organization and the executive director, he’s like, “Nothing, nothing keeps me up at night. Never. Asked my wife Lorrie, my head hits the pillow and I’m out.” So, that has been an ongoing joke. It’s like, “What keeps you up at night.” “Nothing.”
Matt Hugg: A little bit of a literalist there.
Lorrie Hartley: It was. It was so funny.
Matt Hugg: Well, is there anything else you’d like to let people know about in the wonderful world of being on the foundation side of a philanthropic relationship?
Lorrie Hartley: I guess my best piece of advice would just be to build a relationship. Reach out and reach out and honor the process. If you know the founders of a family foundation, don’t approach them at dinner, and interrupt and ask for money. Make sure whatever process is in place that you follow that and respect it.
Matt Hugg: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s a good advice and it’s extendable to bigger organizations that have bigger boards and all that.
Lorrie Hartley: Absolutely. Yes.
Matt Hugg: Thank you very much, Lorrie, really grateful that you’ve spent this time with us. I hope everybody who’s been watching this has not only gotten some good information but enjoyed it. And I think you know, if you have any thoughts or questions about other things, other people we can interview like this. You know, it’d be hard to beat when Lorrie’s done with us today.
Lorrie Hartley: Thank you so much for the opportunity. I really appreciate it.
Matt Hugg: Well, thank you. It’s really great. Okay, everybody well, as you’ve heard me say, time before, have a great nonprofit day.