Dana Schuler Drummond: Shares her heart for helping nonprofit organizations

Life-long Tulsan Dana Schuler Drummond has a heart for helping non-profit organizations. As the founder of Sharpshooter Communications, she assists nonprofits in seeking, securing and managing grants. She knows the impact grants give to philanthropic organizations and the resulting impact on those they serve.

Dana Drummon Headshot 2022Throughout her career, Dana has helped nonprofits secure over $50 million in funding. She recently received the Outstanding Professional Fundraiser Award from the Northeast Oklahoma Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

This interview will share more about Dana’s background, including some surprising side hustles that include hosting a semi-weekly podcast and singing in a local rock band.

TK: Tell us about your background and how you began grant writing.

Dana: Like most of my peers, my path was serendipitous. After graduating from college, I spent the first 15 years of my career in nonprofit administration and outreach. I got to help put together some grant proposals and, while everyone else was moaning about how awful it was, I was having a great time!

Fast-forward a few years and, with my growing family, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom while finishing my master’s degree. Around the same time, a friend of mine knew I had grant writing experience and called me when a nonprofit she worked with had a grant they needed to have completed. They even paid me! That one-time freelance job turned into a client, then I gained more clients. In 2007, I started grant consulting full time and incorporated Sharpshooter in 2009. Now I have a staff of eight, with dozens of clients around the nation.

TK: Your passion for grant writing launched a business, Sharpshooter Communications. Tell us about what Sharpshooter does and the services you offer.

Dana: I started as a grant writer, but soon realized I wanted to be a grant professional. There’s a big difference. A grant writer can put together a proposal for you, but a grant professional provides a higher level of services. This includes organizational development, program development, prospecting and identifying prospective grantors, developing evaluation tools, managing deadlines and ensuring that post-award obligations are met. These are the keys to having a successful grant strategy, and that’s what we do at Sharpshooter.

TK: You caution people about starting their own nonprofits. Can you share more about your reasoning behind that?

Dana: According to the IRS, there are more than 5,000 nonprofits in the Tulsa area. Most of them are what I call Nonprofit Zombies – they do very little (or nothing) but still take resources from the community. These are resources that could be going to nonprofits that are making a difference, not just existing.

The reason we have so many nonprofits is because people in Tulsa are so passionate about helping others – this is a great thing, so I never want to discourage anyone from doing what they are called to do.

But when you are focused on making the world a better place, it’s easy to forget a nonprofit is a business – it’s just a business that puts its net revenue (profits) back toward the mission, rather than giving it to the owners. Just like any business, a nonprofit must have a good business plan, there must be a “market” for the services provided, and the people involved must have the right skill set.

Not every person’s passion project needs its own nonprofit. No matter what your philanthropic passion is, there is probably already a nonprofit in Tulsa doing that work. Go work with them; donate to them; volunteer for them; serve on their board of directors. I promise they need your help!

TK: For someone thinking about starting their own nonprofit, do you have a checklist of things they should consider before embarking on that journey?

Dana: If my previous comments haven’t crushed their dreams and someone still wants to start a nonprofit, there are many things they need to do. The first thing I recommend is to read a few books on starting nonprofits – there is a great one called Nonprofit Kit for Dummies that outlines a lot of the steps required.

They need to do a lot of research and write a solid business plan. Then they can take that plan to some funding organizations or talk to someone at the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits. Also, talk to an existing organization that is doing similar work and get their feedback. Finally, it may be best to work with a consultant to be sure you get started on the right track.

A word of caution – there are fraudsters who will charge ridiculous amounts of money to “start” your nonprofit. Don’t fall for it. Get a local consultant who understands the community, has a record of success and is willing to provide a list of referrals you can call.

TK: Give us an idea of the average time of the process to apply for a grant to when money is granted.

Dana: Each grant takes as long as it takes. Giving an average isn’t possible because there are so many variables. A federal grant could take 100-150 hours just to write. But a federal grant you’ve applied to in the past wouldn’t take as long.

A foundation or corporate grant might only take 20-30 hours to apply for if you have all your documentation on hand. If not, it could take two or three times as long.

Because Sharpshooter charges by the hour, clients often need to know the upfront cost. Once we know which grantors are the best fit for a client, we can usually determine how long a grant will take.

TK: You developed a cloud-based grant-tracking program for nonprofits called Grant Holster. What are the benefits of this program?

Dana: Each year that I’ve been writing grants, funders have continued to add additional steps and requirements – both at the proposal stage and during post-award.

As the process became more complicated, I became more and more frustrated and stressed out about deadlines. I couldn’t find a good calendar system, and spreadsheets just weren’t cutting it. I did some research and found that, although there were more than a hundred software platforms for grant makers, there was nothing for grant seekers.

Grant Holster was the first platform designed for grant professionals by a grant professional. It helps us track deadlines as well as create reports, keep track of vital grant information and more. We have hundreds of nonprofit users around the world using Grant Holster, and they say great things about how it helps the process.

TK: People are savvy donors. What are some tips for people to consider before they write a check to a nonprofit?

Dana: First if all, please give to nonprofits if you can. 2022 was brutal. Our community needs your support more than ever. Before writing a check, there are some things you can do to ensure you are making a good investment. The larger your donation, the more research you should do!

Obviously, the website of the nonprofit should give you information about what they do, whom they serve and how your investment will be used. But you can get more information by looking at other free sites – such as GuideStar – and seeing what kind of ratings the organization has. You can also look at the organization’s “tax return,” which is called a 990, on the IRS website’s charity search. It shows you how the organization spends its money and what kind of results they get.

TK: You and your husband are recent empty nesters! How has that been?

Dana: If any of our three kids are reading this, it has been horrible. I walk around crying all day because I miss them so much. Truthfully, it’s awesome. I was a teenage mom, so I had kids at home for 36 years. Of course, I miss them, but we talk all the time, and they are off doing their own thing, which is how it is supposed to work. My husband, Doug, and I love hanging out together, so it has been wonderful to reconnect and remember why we became friends to begin with.

TK: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Dana: In addition to Sharpshooter and Grant Holster, I have lots of other activities – I sing in a rock band called Beautiful Chaos, and that is tremendous fun. I started a podcast in 2021 called Bible Bedtime, in which I read a chapter of the Bible that people can fall asleep to. So far, we have about 150,000 downloads.

In addition to these things, I also do a lot of teaching and training on nonprofit management and grant seeking. I volunteer through my church and other nonprofits.

TK: What else would you like to mention?

Dana: This year, I am starting a series of free webinars on grants, fundraising, and nonprofit strategy in general. You can visit my website, SharpshooterOK.com to learn more. I am also available as a keynote speaker. You can also reach me directly at: dana@sharpshootercommunications.com.

Dana is the great-granddaughter of a famous gangster! To find out who that was and how philanthropy helped change the fate of her family, listen to the full interview through the   Sharing Passion ad Purpose podcast on your favorite podcasting platform or directly at SharingPassionandPurpose.com.

Nancy Moore HeadshotNancy A. Moore is a Public Relations Coordinator at Montreau and Adjunct Professor at Tulsa Community College. She has been writing for TulsaKids for almost 20 years.

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