E-023 Big Topics in Philanthropy with Rachel Werner and Lucy Morgan

Episode Summary:

### Quick Episode Summary Grant Talks Podcast [#023]

*Intro ***.40***

* Fire Away Questions with Rachel Werner and Lucy Morgan CPA***1:28***

* How Grants Intersect with the Big Social Issues of Today ***3:55***

* How to Lead “Prickly” Conversations for Community Solutions ***5:09***

* Best Practices: Building Collaboration for Better Solutions ***6:25***

* Getting Started Questions for Working with Diverse Perspectives ***7:27***

* Funding Trends: What’s Coming for Grant Professionals? ***9:34***

* Changing Expectations: Leading in Times of Funding Uncertainty ***11:31***

* Two Trends for Federal Grants***14:47***

* Mindful Money: Creating Scalable Solutions to Big Issues ***15:46***

* Eternal Truths for Grant Professionals: Mission and Purpose ***16:56***

* The Last Word with Rachel Werner and Lucy Morgan CPA ***18:33***

*Outro Audio GrantTalks Podcast with Lucy M. Morgan CPA ***19.46***

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Introducing Rachel Werner from the RBW Strategy

Intro: 00:04

Welcome to the Grant Talks podcast with Lucy Morgan. Lucy is the CEO and director of MyFedTrainer.com a leading provider of grant management training and templates for federal grant recipients. This show is for grant professionals looking to gain confidence managing their grants. In an age of increasing complexity, you'll hear from leading professionals on the best practices surrounding grants, what's involved in successfully managing the grants lifecycle and how to make sure your grants are managed correctly. Now here's your host Lucy Morgan. 

Lucy Morgan: 00:42

Welcome, everyone, to this conversation with Rachel Werner. Rachel holds a PMP certification and is designated by the Grant Professional Association as a Certified Grant Professional or GPC. Rachel is the owner and CEO of RBW Strategy and is an experienced public sector manager and consultant with an emphasis on the grants' life cycle, proposal development, project management, and strategic planning.

Rachel has over 16 years of grants and project management experience spanning the corporate, nonprofit, and the public sectors, and has helped bring in over $30 million in grants and contracts. And I'm Lucy Morgan, your host for this session.

Welcome, Rachel. I am thrilled to have you here for this podcast.

Rachel Werner: 01:25

Welcome. Happy to be here, my hometown.

Fire Away Questions with Rachel Werner and Lucy Morgan CPA

Lucy Morgan: 01:28

So, it's your hometown. We're in Washington, D.C., at the GPA Conference talking about your conference presentation, "What's Happening in the World," discussing big topics in philanthropy and the public sector. And I have a few fire-away questions to introduce to you further to our audience. Are you ready?

Rachel Werner: 01:45

Yes. Let's get started.

Lucy Morgan: 01:46

All right. So, first of all, since we are in D.C. and you are from the area, what are your recommendations for a couple of must-see things to do while we are at the capital, because I know I feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities?

Rachel Werner: 01:58

Yes. That's a tough one because it just really depends on your interests. But definitely, the monuments at night would be a top recommendation because I think there's nothing more beautiful than seeing the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument lit up at night. The Kennedy Center is also a wonderful cultural experience and going in there and seeing a great performance from the symphony.

And I mean, well, the Nats [Nationals] just won so you can't catch a Nats game, but, you know, certainly seeing some of the other things that are going on like a Caps game, or if it's a beautiful day going to the zoo.

Or, in this area, there are wonderful embassies that you can go around and take a tour of if you want to get more of that sort of international cultural experience. But there's just a lot to see and do and also take advantage of the Smithsonian museums. It is always a top pick as well.

Lucy Morgan: 02:57

Do you have any recommendations for out-of-town guests on a bit of the local flavor in a restaurant or cafe in the area?

Rachel Werner: 03:04

You know, one of my favorite places here is a place called Kramerbooks, and especially because a lot of people here, grant professionals tend to do a lot of reading, and so there's definitely a focus on that. It's a great little independent bookstore, and they have a cafe in the back. So, I highly recommend that as a good lunch spot.

Ben's Chili Bowl is another cultural institution. It's not necessarily close to where we are, but it's definitely...if you want a good local greasy meal, then that's where you want to go.

And I think the Chinatown Penn Quarter area has some really nice restaurants because that's where Jose Andres, you know, has a couple of his restaurants. So, if you want Thai, Mexican, all different kinds of food, there's a really good food scene down there now.

Lucy Morgan: 03:52

That sounds...that's making me hungry just thinking about that.

Rachel Werner: 03:54

Yes, I know.

How Grants Intersect with the Big Social Issues of Today

Lucy Morgan: 03:55

Well, the topic of your presentation at the conference has to do with how the world of grants intersects with big issues that people in governments are facing today. What are some of the key areas that you are addressing in your presentation?

Rachel Werner: 04:08

Well, you know, one of the things that drew me to talk about this was that I feel that around the world, there are so many social issues that are really impacting people in the nonprofit sector, in the local government sector, in all different facts of life.

So, you will get an onslaught of news media about things happening, and I really didn't want to focus on the political aspects and really just wanted to find the commonality issues such as immigration reform, for instance, or the #MeToo movement, or, you know, waves of antisemitism, or rising inequality and just trying to see that within our sectors and within our communities, what are we doing together to address these issues? How are we learning from one another? What are some case studies?

So that's really what I wanted to focus on was to get a conversation about those elements rather than not really focusing on the work that we do, but more about how we're impacted by a lot of these things happening in the world.

How to Lead “Prickly” Conversations for Community Solutions

Lucy Morgan: 05:09

Sure. And there's no doubt the political climate impacts the work that we do in our communities and affects our communities as well. What are some of the ways that these topics divide us as individuals? And as grant professionals, how can we serve a role as a unifying force around what I'm going to call these "prickly," I've got the air quotes going on, "prickly," but important conversations?

Rachel Werner: 05:32

Well, it's kind of interesting because I think that a lot of times, especially those in the nonprofit sector and local government, are really just trying to help their constituents. So, I think that when we talked during my session, we talked a lot about collaboration. So, I definitely see that as one of the things that people are doing because it's not about, "Oh, okay, this is...you know, you're Republican, Democrat. Okay, we have to separate, be on either side of the rooms."

It's just, "Okay, we see more people coming in needing housing; how are we addressing this as a community?" So, I think it's focusing on the issue because if we don't focus on that, then there are going to be more people living in poverty. There are going to be more people in need. So, we have to kind of be at the forefront of that and be more proactive so that we can support them during their time of need.

Best Practices: Building Collaboration for Better Solutions

Lucy Morgan: 06:25

You know, walk us through how the public sector is addressing these areas, and what surprised you the most about the response to some of these high-profile issues, which I think tend to divide people and how grant professionals can help unify in those areas?

Rachel Werner: 06:38

You know, I think it's going back to the collaborations piece. I really think that they're building very more meaningful collaboration, so not just saying, "In an application, we collaborate together," but actually building up task forces, actually co-locating services.

And also, it's interesting, during the session, there was a representative from a community foundation in the Texas Panhandle, and so just talking about his perspective about how funders also can serve a role in that aspect. And I also think only speaks to the resourcefulness of the people in our community because as grant professionals are always kind of trying to make something with maybe limited information, they're just really using resources and trying to be thoughtful in their approaches given some of the sensitive topics that they're dealing with.

Getting Started Questions for Working with Diverse Perspectives

Lucy Morgan: 07:27

You know, in one of the podcast interviews that I did recently, we were talking about the concept of how when you say, "I can't," how your brain just shuts down and when you say, "How can I?" your brain opens up and starts imagining the possibilities.

And in hearing your discussions, I was reflecting on how when we say, "I can't work with a person or an ideology," but by the same token, when you say, "How can I?" you can see how results could happen for things we all care about like housings, like children, you know, all the other causes that people are very passionate about.

So, walk us through how these sensitive issues change how you do your work. I mean, it's not just about what's going on in a community, but it actually is affecting us on our day-to-day lives as well. And, how does that impact you as a grant consultant or other grant consultants?

Rachel Werner: 08:16

I think it's just being really mindful of...because I think now, we live in a culture where things change on a daily basis. So, I think that just being on top of the issues and trying to also look at things happening in the future and just trying to be mindful of, "Okay, what can we potentially anticipate?"

So, I think that you know, grant professionals are asked to do so much anyway. And so, on top of that, okay, now you'd have to get a crystal ball and predict the future as best you can, and that's really difficult.

I think that to the extent of using better practices to create more efficiencies in their work is really helpful and trying to focus on the key priorities. Because I think that obviously, we can't resolve systemic racial inequality, you know, within this fiscal year, but what are the steps that you can take to kind of move towards that, and are you getting buy-in from leadership?

Because I think it has to be a team effort, and it can't just be one person, because you are part of a whole network. And so, within that, are you also getting support from other peer organizations? Are you also collaborating with your elected officials, other funders, and so making sure that that's part of the framework for addressing some of these items?

Funding Trends: What’s Coming for Grant Professionals?

Lucy Morgan: 09:34

Well, I appreciate your insights. And I'm sure that those are some of the challenges that most people in our audience can relate to in their day-to-day jobs as well. You referenced the ability to get funding in your presentation, and you were talking about funders just a minute ago. What are some additional trends that you think are going to start to shape the work of grant recipients and how the funders are thinking if we could get inside their heads a little bit?

Rachel Werner: 09:58

Well, I have thought about this a lot, and there are a few things. One is the looming talk of a recession because that's going to impact the funder's ability to disperse funds, especially if some of their funds are tied to specific endowment stocks, you know, whatever it is that they have their funds tied to that can impact their ability, their assets, and how much they can distribute. So that's one.

Another thing is the election because I've already heard that some funders are going to put money towards a certain side and maybe not another side. And so, they might be focused more on advocacy, social action type of causes than perhaps direct service. So that could impact recipients who might be used to getting funding from some of those. And I've seen a couple of shifts within the D.C. area as well specifically.

Also, there's a huge focus, and this is national now, focus on systemic racial inequality that's coming up in all grant applications. And that is impacting how people are responding to it because it has to change within the organization as well and their operation.

So those are some of the trends I see in philanthropy that are coming up. And I'm sure that there are others, but I've definitely seen more funding focused more on the advocacy and policy side as well, you know, even just beyond the general election, but just on causes. So, that's a big shift too beyond direct service.

Changing Expectations: Leading in Times of Funding Uncertainty

Lucy Morgan: 11:31

Do you think it's fair to say that what's worked in the past may not be working that well, at least in the near future?

Rachel Werner: 11:38

Could be. I mean, it's tricky. Because if you have a social service organization that's been operating for 40 years and all of a sudden, you're asked to shift and tweak what you do, I mean, that's almost an identity crisis. And even with local governments who've received, you know, federal-state funding, if you see diminishing amounts given out and also changing focus depending on what the political winds might be, that also impacts how you can distribute funding within your community.

Lucy Morgan: 12:13

Yes. I'm often stunned when I look at what the trends have been in federal grants, you know, going back to 2008, 2009, in the ARRA days during the Great Recession when we jumped from less than $400 billion in federal funding up to almost $700 billion. And now, here we are, right at the moment in a roaring economy, and the funding has gone up to $755 billion.

So, I can remember my mom; my mom is 95. And a couple of years ago in the change in administration, she said, "I heard there aren't going to be any more grants," I think she read it on the internet or something, but, you know, I don't think it's going to go to zero. I told my mom, "I don't think it'll go to zero. I don't know what will happen. It might change priorities or amounts, but it probably won't remain at this high level."

Only then I saw it continue to go up. So, who knows how long that's sustainable when we talk about the sustainability of grants?

You know, I'm sure that organizations, especially ones that have been in that climate of doing the same thing year after year, there might be some mistakes or speed bumps that you commonly see with both the grant writers and the managers who are not aware of how these big trends are going to impact them.

Rachel Werner: 13:22

You know, I think that the key is openness right now and flexibility because I think that we live in a time, as I said, that we're getting an onslaught of news all the time and that things happen on a daily basis. There are policy shifts. And also, what's interesting is that when we talked at my session, there are also shifts within your local county or your city versus your state. So, there's that differentiation.

And so being able to try to move along with those trends because I think with a lot of organizations, they're very process-oriented. So, changing a process is much trickier than changing a policy because you have to change the tools that you use. You have to change how people are trained to do those roles. And so, I think that people kind of fear those changes versus being adaptive and saying that it'll actually make our work better will actually be able to fulfill our mission and our priorities if we try to be more responsive.

So, I think it just takes leadership and support to advocate for their staff to move forward and also to...I mean, you have to take the trends with the...you have to have your priorities and move along with the trends. You don't want to constantly be shifting, but you have to have a vision and see things and be forward-looking in order to move along with what's happening.

Two Trends for Federal Grants

Lucy Morgan: 14:47

I appreciate your insights into the world of philanthropy as well as even the federal grants' side. And since we started this conversation talking about Washington, D.C., are there some particular trends that you see on the federal side that you want to highlight for some of our listeners?

Rachel Werner: 15:02

Sure. I mean, it's interesting because I think...I'll use this example because I've written a lot of education and justice grants is that there's more emphasis on school safety. So, before, I mean, horribly, we've had a lot of mass shootings in schools, and so one of the trends is more security measures in schools. So, I've definitely seen more of a focus on that.

And so, more focused on mental health and opioids. So, I think that there's a lot more of that mental health first aid training, more of those kinds of funds. So, definitely things like that when there's a crisis, I definitely see more money being put into those areas. So those are just a couple of examples.

Mindful Money: Creating Scalable Solutions to Big Issues

Lucy Morgan: 15:46

And it seems like the...I appreciate you highlighting the opioid money. It seems like there's a lot of money flowing very fast out from the federal side on the opioid response.

Rachel Werner: 15:55

Yes. And I want to make sure it is mindful money being put out there because it's a huge crisis and involves a lot of layers. And it's not just one organization that could, you know, be responsible for developing a solution, but it's creating scalable models that can really address it. So, yes.

Lucy Morgan: 16:15

To be quite honest, I'm a little afraid with what's going on with some of the opioid money, not because of anything specific, but just the parallel of how fast that money is flowing reminds me a lot of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, and, you know, sometimes there wasn't the best oversight when the ARRA funds were spent. So, I hope I won't be writing a bunch of case studies about good grants gone bad with opioid response dollars in the future.

Rachel Werner: 16:41

I agree with you. And also, just you don't want it to be a Band-Aid on a much larger issue because, as I said, there's a lot of nuances here. And grant funds can help supplement and support, but it has to be part of a larger national conversation.

Eternal Truths for Grant Professionals: Mission and Purpose

Lucy Morgan: 16:56

Yes. Thanks for highlighting that. And I think myself and probably others out there, it feels almost overwhelming trying to stay on top of how things are changing from day-to-day even. So, when you think about, okay, what's changing, your impact by social media and the news cycle, which just seems to be shorter and shorter before it moves on to the next thing before we can even solve a problem.

Are there any eternal truths or things that we can always keep in mind mindfully about our profession that you'd like to share and how that could impact upcoming trends or scenarios that impact not only our work but the people we serve, you know, those things we can hold on to as the rock?

Rachel Werner: 17:36

You know, I think that we just have to stay true to our mission and that it's serving a broader purpose. I think that we always have to be mindful of the people that we're trying to help. And as long as we try to focus on whatever it is, if it's animals, if it's the environment, if it's people, whatever your cause is, if you can remain focused on, what can we do to best serve the target population or the target group that we're trying to...the causes or the issues we're trying to resolve is we can try to do that in the most meaningful and impactful way, that's really what we're here to do.

And that's what the grants are for, to help support those causes.

Lucy Morgan: 18:17

That's great advice. It's so easy to get wrapped up in all the details and forget the bigger picture, which is what gets us into this profession in the first place. It's not all the rules; it's really about helping who we want to help.

Rachel Werner: 18:31

Exactly, exactly.

The Last Word with Rachel Werner and Lucy Morgan CPA

Lucy Morgan: 18:33

Well, thank you, Rachel. I'd like to give you the last word. Is there something I should have asked, but I didn't?

Rachel Werner: 18:38

You know, I think you asked some great questions. So I think that if I could leave anything at the end here, it's just to say try to breathe and try to take it one step at a time, is that you're not going to solve the world's issues within a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years.

So, I think the key is to try to think about one thing that you can do to make a difference and maybe make something better and try to do that. Take it one step at a time.

Lucy Morgan: 19:09

That's great advice. If someone would like to find out more about you and RBW Strategy, how should they get in touch with you?

Rachel Werner: 19:15

Well, you can definitely email me at [email protected], or you can go to my website, rbwstrategy.com. And you can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter as well.

Lucy Morgan: 19:30

Thank you so much for participating in the "Grant Talks Podcast." Listeners, you can find all the episodes that are out on granttalks.com, and we've got some additional resources out there around our topics. So, thank you for tuning in.

Rachel Werner: 19:43

Thank you.

Outro Audio GrantTalks Podcast with Lucy M. Morgan CPA

Outro: 19:46

To learn more about how MyFedTrainer.com makes grant management more manageable, visit MyFedTrainer.com. That's MyFedTrainere.com. You'll find all the Grant Talks episodes at GrantTalks.com. That's GrantTalks.com.

More About Rachel Werner:

Rachel Werner, Owner, and CEO of RBW Strategy, a woman-owned consulting firm located in the Washington, DC Metro area. She has over 16 years of experience in the corporate, nonprofit, and public sectors. Due to her experience as a project manager, grant seeker, and grant manager, she has expertise in the full lifecycle of grants activities, and currently provides fundraising, project management and strategic planning support to nonprofit, public sector and for-profit clients. Since the beginning of her career, she has helped to garner over $35 million in grants and contracts and has managed over $2 billion in grant funding.

She graduated from Vassar College with a Bachelor in Arts and received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service. She has also obtained a Certificate in Grants Management (2012), is a certified Project Management Professional (since 2014), and is a Certified Grants Professional (since 2010). She is actively involved in the Grant Professionals Association and regularly conducts in-person and online trainings, most notably at the Grant Professionals Association Annual Conference, the National Grants Management Association Annual Conference, CharityHowTo, Candid, Center for Nonprofit Advancement and Catalogue for Philanthropy.

More About Lucy Morgan CPA:

Lucy M. Morgan is a CPA, MBA, GPA approved trainer, speaker, and author of 3 books including “Decoding Grant Management-The Ultimate Success Guide to the Federal Grant Regulations in 2 CFR Part 200.” As a leading authority on federal grant management for nonprofits, institutions of higher education and state, local and tribal governments she has written over 250 articles on grant management topics featured in LinkedIn, various publications and on the MyFedTrainer.com blog.

She is a sought-after presenter at national conferences sponsored by organizations such as the Grant Professional Association (GPA), National Grant Management Association (NGMA) and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Lucy is also a highly regarded trainer whose techniques and teaching style come from real-world experience. Having faced many of the same challenges her audiences have endured, Lucy understands that what looks good on paper may not always work in the real world. Because she has been there, she provides people of all professional backgrounds with practical tools to advance their careers and make a bigger difference in the world. She can be reached at [email protected].

>>Hear more about Lucy's story in Episode #004 


More Resources for Grant Professionals

Thanks for checking out the Grant Talks podcast!

In this episode of Grant Talks, we talked about a subject that you may want to know more about:

So...as promised I want to share some resources that may help you on YOUR grant journey.

Let me ask you this…

Has this podcast got you thinking more about the risks to your funding streams? 

If so, you may appreciate the similar work by federal funders to mitigate risk.

(The federal government wants to do a better job of shutting down grant applicants who are NOT a good bet to successfully manage their federal awards.)

They are tackling this challenge with a new “risk and integrity” assessment to reduce the risks of waste, fraud, and abuse associated with giving out nearly $700 billion dollars each year in federal grants. 

If this new risk assessment process makes you feel overwhelmed or confused by what your funder is looking for, that is perfectly normal!

So, I want to help you feel more confident…

That’s why I put together this simple checklist on the risk assessment framework from the Uniform Guidance. 

These are areas to consider before you apply for your next federal award.    

(Hint: Make it easy for the feds to give you money by including that answers to their questions before they even ask them!)

This little checklist provides a great first step on the journey to more federal grants and better grant management. 

This risk assessment checklist walks you through the framework that federal funders use to make sure the best grant recipient wins the funding game! 

Here's what’s included:

  • 10 areas of risk to inquire, assess and document before you send your next grant application to the feds
  • And a special bonus including seven areas of subrecipient monitoring you must-do if you are passing through federal funds to subrecipients and more…

These resources are designed for grant managers, just like you, and I hope that you will find them valuable on your grant journey.

Click here to download and share 

P.S. Discover more “real-world” examples with this mini-case-study on the risk to over $7 billion dollars in federal funds for the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program in my article at https://blog.myfedtrainer.com/mini-case-study-lax-procedures-put-billions-of-transportation-grants-at-risk/


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