Here’s my story….how I started my own business and why. Full article here:
Great ideas can come to you when you least expect them.
Margit Brazda Poirier stumbled upon the idea for Grants4Good LLC while sitting on a ski lift in Lake Placid.
“My husband and I were on a ski trip in Lake Placid and we were sitting on a chair lift and I said what can I do now from home? He said, ‘Why don’t you write grants?’” she recalled. “I started Grants4Good the next month.”
Grants4Good was founded in 2009 as the nation was emerging from the Great Recession. Poirier had found that nonprofit organizations and businesses were in need of grant funding to do their work and not shut down as a result of the recession. But many did not have a dedicated grant writer or know how to find and apply for grants.
The company’s goal since its founding has been to empower nonprofits and businesses to get grants through Grants4Good’s hands-on training programs, customized coaching and user-friendly products. Its mission is to be the catalyst that helps organizations turn their ideas into reality through the power of grants.
Grants4Good works with nonprofit organizations of all sizes, municipalities, schools and businesses throughout the U.S. Its projects include youth education, environmental technologies, arts & culture, health, human services and more. The company works one-on-one with clients, but also offers online courses to walk organizations through the grant-writing process.
The idea to start a business may have happened serendipitously, but it was much more than a whim. Poirier had spent a number of years writing grants prior to 2009.
“I have been writing grants since the early 1990s, when I worked for the Monroe County Planning Department and Monroe County Health Department,” she explained. “I started writing grants purely by accident because my master’s degree is in environmental science and I worked in that capacity for Monroe County Water quality protection of the Great Lakes. The county had budget cuts in the early ’90s and the only way to do some really important environmental projects was to get grant funding from other sources.”
Poirier was able to find state and regional grants and suddenly realized the power of grants to make a big impact in the community.
When Poirier left her job with the county, she joined the Marie C. & Joseph C. Wilson Foundation as its executive director. The role gave her an interesting perspective of what it is like to work with nonprofits in the community and disperse funding.
“It was about getting to know the nonprofits and their mission and seeing what a huge difference they were making in the community, whether it was an arts organization that was working with at-risk youth or a mentoring organization working with teens, people working with seniors, people working with veterans who had been injured or have PTSD,” she said. “I just saw this big change happening. Slowly. Everyone was a spoke in the wheel in terms of making a change in our region. That was a great experience.”
Grants4Good came about when Poirier and her husband adopted their son and she decided she wanted to be home more. She started the business as a part-time venture, but she was fortunate because from the beginning she knew of a few nonprofits that needed help putting grant applications together.
A dozen years later and Grants4Good has helped organizations accumulate more than $30 million in grants, most of which has come to the Finger Lakes region. Poirier has four staffers and has worked with myriad nonprofits and businesses that include the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival, Dress for Success, Baden Street Settlement, the National Women’s Hall of Fame and more.
Finding clients, primarily through word of mouth, is much easier than finding funders, Poirier said.
“That is a pretty detailed process and it requires a lot of research,” she acknowledged. “I do teach that and I’ve taught many webinars and workshops. I think it’s the most requested topic because people are stuck on where to find them.”
But, she said, there are more than 87,000 foundations in the U.S. that make grants each year, as well as regional, state and federal government grants that primarily are dedicated to economic development, environment and workforce development areas.
“If anyone says there’s no funding out there, it’s simply not true,” Poirier said. “I think the biggest challenge is narrowing that down to find the ones that are a great fit with your mission, with your work and the region that you serve.”
Grants4Good’s success is a result of constant learning and teaching, she said.
“We are always on the forefront of learning. Being a grant professional isn’t about filling out a grant form,” Poirier said. “I really believe in always learning more about how to find the best funders, how to write compelling grants and also how to evaluate the effectiveness of your programs because that’s a significant component of every grant application.”
But the bottom line, she said, is the personal interaction that Grants4Good offers.
“We care about our clients and we really take the time to get to know their organization and invest in them, just as they invest in us,” she said.
Grants4Good has experienced a good deal of growth, both in clients and grants received, in recent months and years. The future holds more of the same, with a strong focus on teaching others to do the work for themselves.
“Somebody said to me grants aren’t all that sexy and I said well, they are when you get them,” Poirier said with a laugh. “When you can say that the funding you got helped you work with veterans who were on the brink of suicide, when you can save lives, that is proof right there.”