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Success Story: Improving Grant Submission Cycle Time by an Entire Week -

Cape Cod Child Development is a trailblazer in applying Lean Six Sigma to the nonprofit world. Watch this 30 minute success story webinar to learn how Amanda Booth improved the time to deliver of grant information by an entire week. Find out how more lead time allowed them to win more grants!

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Success Story Transcript

Elisabeth Swan: Hello and welcome to our Success Story series hosted by My name is Elisabeth Swan and I’m a Managing Partner and Executive Advisor at

And we are very excited to have this offering for our audience because this is where the rubber meets the road. This is where we highlight someone has completed an actual project and have applied Lean Six Sigma inside their organization and we get to share those stories with you.

And today, we are highlighting a project success story from Cape Cod Child Development. This is a nonprofit based on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. And for those of you unfamiliar with Cape Cod, they are right next to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket where Cape Cod Child Development also does work. So that’s part of their area.

Their mission is to provide world-class child and family-focused programs that nurtured each child’s full potential. And their vision is taking care of Cape Cod’s children and their families. So, really wonderful mission and great to be able to present the series on nonprofits.

Today’s presenter is Amanda Booth and she is the Director of Development and Communications here at Cape Cod Child Development. And let me tell you a little bit about Amanda. Amanda is just a month shy of 30. You’re so young, Amanda. This newlywed is a Cape Cod native and she has worked for Cape Cod Child Development for 15 months. So, pretty new.

Being the quirky, extrovert that she is, she found a passion for development and communications back when she interned for a nonprofit in her undergrad at Bridgewater State University. She also loves that she goes to her job every day with the purpose of helping others, which is really nice.

And after finishing her masters at Suffolk University, she worked in marketing for nonprofit in Boston and she was recruited for a small nonprofit in Chatham that’s also on Cape Cod, very nearby.

The nonprofit sector was exciting for Amanda because she never knew who she was going to meet or what to expect and she loves being on her toes. Don’t you, Amanda?

She then settled in Harwich and bought a home with her now husband. And knowing the importance of networking, she met her now CEO at an event almost three years ago. And after numerous conversations and meetings, she decided Cape Cod Child Development was where she wanted to be.

A few fun facts. Amanda is a yoga practitioner, a coffee connoisseur, and yet, she is always going to enjoy a nice glass of champagne. You’re well-rounded.

Amanda Booth: Thank you.

Elisabeth Swan: You’re well-rounded, Amanda. She is also wanderlust and she has traveled all over the world. She has skydived five times. Is that right? And zip lined in the jungles of Costa Rica. That’s an accomplishment. That got you ready for doing Lean Six Sigma, doesn’t it?

Amanda Booth: Yes, all that.

Elisabeth Swan: Well, let’s get into your project, Amanda. Let’s hear what you did.

Project Charter

Amanda Booth: OK. So thank you so much for that introduction, Lis. And just to give you a little bit of a backstory, so first, I’ll tell you the title of my project and so it’s to increase the number of grants ready from one day out to one week out.

When I started at Cape Cod Child Development, there was a lot of turnover in the senior management and there wasn’t a really a process put in place. And so, a lot of the time, people are really busy and I’ll get into all of that later in this project. But people just really didn’t have the time to get things in on time and it was very stressful for me because these grants equal dollars for our organization and as some of you may or may not know that nonprofits are run a lot through grant’s fundings. So it’s huge, huge important not only to my position but the nonprofit overall.

So like I said, grants were completed 90% of the time, sometimes almost 100% of the time within 24 hours of that. And the goal is to increase the number of grants ready from one day out to one week out by July 2017 that actually continued into today. It’s still a work in progress.

Elisabeth Swan: So let me just clarify when you say from one day out to one week out. People were giving you things the day before you had to get them back and submit it. And you were looking for them to give you more like a week before you had to submit it. So you were scrambling at that last second.

Amanda Booth: Absolutely. And just in case anybody is not familiar with the grant process, we get something 24 hours before you have to edit it, you have to – there are guidelines for each brand, do I have to make copies or mail it out or bring it in by a certain time? And so, there’s a lot of – I manage the grant process and there’s a lot in the last 24 hours aside from editing that you need to get done in order to complete the grant on time.

Elisabeth Swan: So it really impacts the quality of the grant and the odds of getting approved.

Amanda Booth: Yeah.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. So this is a big deal especially in the case of working for a nonprofit.

Voice of the Customer Translation Matrix

Amanda Booth: Absolutely. And so, the takeaway from my – the voice of the customer translation matrix is I’m the customer in the process and I need some grants submitted with more lead time. And so, I tried to figure out a way to make that happen.

And so, one of the first things that we did was a swim lane map and a swim map kind of maps out all the different processes from the second that you got that email or that letter in that there’s a grant that’s ready and available for nonprofit to when you actually physically email, mail it in, whatever the grant’s holders want you to do.

And so, mapping it out made it clear on how many steps are involved in the process from end to end and how many people it takes to complete the process. It’s not just one person involved in it. In my case, it could be five to seven people. And so, just mapping it out just like I said is just a clear way to get from A to Z in the grant process.

Elisabeth Swan: And you found that there were a lot more steps in there that you would actually consider.

Amanda Booth: Absolutely. And different communication styles, which I’ll touch upon again later in the slide. So, OK.

Run Chart – Baseline of Days Prior to Due Date That Grants Are Submitted

So the first thing I will do is a run chart and it’s the baseline of days prior to the due date that the grants are submitted. So what I had done is looked at four different grants back in – so our project started in about February 2017. So I looked at – these were March and April and they were being submitted less than two year from the due date. And there was only one that two days before the due date. So three out of the four, just to put it a little bit more into perspective where both 24 hours before.

And the volume of grants which I’ll get into the fishbone diagram is a huge issue too because it ebbs and flows and sometimes multiple grants will come at once and sometimes the due dates are within a couple of weeks of each other. So, it’s very stressful, can be very stressful.

Elisabeth Swan: I can read in this chart that when I see that line running along one day out that that line is just pure stress for you. I’m also remembering that to get this data, you were digging into the emails to actually see the dates you got things back from folks.

Amanda Booth: Yes.

Elisabeth Swan: You got creative.

Amanda Booth: Yeah. Looking back in my emails, I would just – and that’s the best way to map it out. There’s a multitude of different communication styles that I do. I work with my grant team but email is probably the most frequent that I could actually track down to almost the hours. I could have done any – we did days in this project. But I could go 36 hours before or 12 hours before. It definitely revealed a lot of scary information. It gives me anxiety thinking about it right now.

Grant Process

So the three biggest issues within my fishbone diagram is the volume of grants. My grant team not making it a priority and other tasks are taking precedence is why it was not met one week or more ahead. And I’d like to get more than a week ahead but more focusing on getting from one day to one week out in this current process. And that’s why I continue to say that this is a work in progress. We’d like to get even more structured which is why this project has helped tremendously and not a priority in other task definitely.

Work kind of in tandem with each other because I don’t want to see that the team was like looking at it and being like, “Oh, I’m going to do something else.” It’s just we have a lot going on in this organization and we’re growing bigger and bigger every day and a lot of people that are on my grant team are the leaders in this organization. So it’s not they’re being lazy or anything. It’s just that there are so many other going on that sometimes it falls to the wayside which is why I have to figure out and get creative on how we can completely scram some time.

Elisabeth Swan: Did you get the sense – were they aware of the anxiety and what happened to you when you only had 24 hours? Was that a revelation to anybody?

Amanda Booth: Not at first because I would a lot of the times keep – before I figure out a different – a variety of different communication styles to work with the team, they only saw it over email. And so, your email voice is very different than seeing the look on my face when I walk into Barbara Kozma’s office and I’m like, “Oh my goodness! We need to complete this ASAP.” So I think once they saw me – saw the look on my face and the look of aches, they were like, “OK. We need to get this done.”

Elisabeth Swan: They saw the impact on you.

Root Cause Hypothesis

Amanda Booth: Yes. The three things that caused hypothesis is again, the grants are not making them a priority and then they were being submitted within 24 hours of being due. So that’s in my run chart. Other tasks taking precedence, again, that will be in my run chart and fishbone diagram and the volume of grants.

And so, measuring the cycle time helped me understand why the grant information came in so late. It just mapped it out very clearly for me when I kind of knew it but put a little couple of charts and some visual aids for me, it really helped me in the beginning stages of this project.

Solution Selection Matrix

So in my Solution Selection Matrix, I touched a little bit upon it but learning how important it is to implement people’s different communication styles. And so, what I started to do once I looked at the first four grants in that February-March timeframe, I started setting out weekly calendar reminders.

There was a mandatory monthly meeting even if we didn’t have any grants. We could backtrack. We could look at the grant communication calendar that I’ve now created. It’s just good to like meet with everybody and make sure we’re all on the same page and making sure that they are making it a priority.

I also followed up people as the due date approach in person. Sometimes it’s a little bit more powerful like I said to show up in person than over email so that they know that we really need to make this a serious priority.

The most important thing of all it is adapting the communication styles of each colleague like my colleague, Sonia, prefers text messaging. So if I shoot her a text reminder about something, she’ll get it done. I know she will within like a day or so if I’m like, “I really need this done.”

Barbara Kozma like I had mentioned before, you got to go to her in person and say, “Hey, this is what’s going on. This is what I need to get completed. How can you help me?”

And then in the beginning stages of the process, we do a mandatory brainstorming session before each grant for the grant team to go over grant guidelines, what to write about, what we’re going to decide on, make sure we’re all on the same page, listen to everybody’s opinions.

And brainstorm session is one of the most important parts of all of this, the whole communication and on grant process because we choose the topic together, we meet together, and it makes us just a stronger team because we all know we’re on the same page right from the beginning.

The communication tactics that are like huge and it’s one of the biggest things I learned in this project.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah, you learned a lot on that one.

Run Chart Post – Improvement of Days Prior to Due Date That Grants Are Submitted

Amanda Booth: Yes. I love this chart because this is my run chart post and it’s improvement of days. Again, prior to due date the grants are submitted. And so, resolving those issues from my root cause analysis made the biggest improvement so the volume, the other tasks, and not making it a priority. And so, when I looked at several other grants, it started too with from one day, one day, one day, two days to five days, seven days.

One of our grants, I think it was the Cape Cod Healthcare grant, I had time to edit and submit it nine days ahead of time, which was huge. You can see a little bit of a dip, a day or two in the last grant. But like I said, it’s a work in progress. And just to see the improvement from March to December is amazing. It’s like life-changing especially in my world, the communications and fundraising fields.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah, it makes a huge difference.

Amanda Booth: Huge.

Elisabeth Swan: And you said you won.

Amanda Booth: Yes. And sorry, I didn’t even mention that. And so, one of my predictors I said, if were passing in things ahead of time we have plenty of time to proofread and edit and submit and like we’re good to go. It resulted in a yes pretty quickly. It was – usually, we hear from these people weeks – like it takes weeks, sometimes months to hear back. We heard back a couple of weeks later and they were like, “This is great. We have the money.” So that was a huge win for us.

And that moment, that was back in I believe the beginning of September, kind of solidified for me like OK then it really does work, if you instill all these processes and you record your data and you’re very communicative with your team and you get things done ahead of time with being able to edit and proofread and whatnot that it does result in yes and essentially dollars for your organization.

Elisabeth Swan: Huge.

Amanda Booth: Huge.

Innovation Transfer Opportunities

OK. So this is in my Innovation Transfer Opportunities, the more reminders – the biggest takeaway, the more reminders I sent to the grant team, the faster I get information needed back. And so, the three different ways that I did this, we touched a little bit upon this in the beginning but just to paraphrase bi-weekly reminders for various grants. So bi-weekly meaning like OK, if there are two grants, they’re usually getting at least a couple of reminders each week on there. And anyone who is not familiar with Outlook, you got it puffed out on your computer in your face. If you have the app on your phone, it’s on your phone. So it’s not like it’s just a calendar reminder that shows up in your email. It’s very like popping up in your face.

The monthly mandatory meetings again are huge. It’s us meeting up knowing what we did in the past, what’s coming up in the future and so we can get prepared. If there are five grants coming in the month of January, we can be in end of December and say, “OK, this is how we’re going to divide and conquer. This is what’s going to go on for 2018.”

And then the monthly communication with the grant holders, oh yeah, that’s huge. Going on the other side of things, one example that would be Tower, they have three grants that go in January, May, and September. They are like told monthly communication meeting between the Program Officer with the person that manages the grant process. And that’s huge too because says, we’re going to get a no from Tower, they’ll tell you what you need to do to improve. So yeah, the more reminders I send to the grant team the faster. And then more things that aren’t on here are the text messaging, the in-person reminders.

We have a weekly senior staff meeting. If I know something is coming up in a couple of weeks, I like to mention that. We all have time to do that weekly. So that’s another thing that I actually didn’t mention and it’s huge because we’re like, “OK, Cape Cod Health Care is coming up in two weeks. We really need to have it done by next Friday. No leader in the next Friday.” Ideally, it would be next Wednesday. And sometimes I’ll even like maybe a little white lie and tell people that it’s due the Wednesday so that I’ll have it a couple of days ahead of time. Sometimes it helps that we give people a deadline.

Elisabeth Swan: Amanda, once they see this webinar, they’re going to know about your little white lie.

Amanda Booth: Yeah, exactly.

Elisabeth Swan: Well, that’s great because it was internal communication and then it was with the grant.

Amanda Booth: Absolutely. And we just started implementing that seriously since we started Six Sigma. It’s going like – it’s not just our communications team and that’s what I need to focus on in this project but it’s like who were the external grant holders? What do they want? What are we doing wrong? What can we do to improve?

And if you reach out to them and even if they don’t hold the monthly communication meetings like someone like Tower or Lowes does it, Cape Cod Healthcare does it, you can reach out to them and most of the time they’re really open and willing to speak with you.

Elisabeth Swan: And you can improve your process listening to them.

Lessons Learned

Amanda Booth: Totally. So I will just highlight five of the biggest lessons learned that I learned in this whole is again, the importance of three-way communication with the grant team.

The importance of the grant calendar, we have a shared Google Doc and Excel spreadsheet calendar because some people use Google Docs and people use Excel so we like to work on these two main spreadsheets. And the data is on what was done the year before and it’s a working document. So if we know that there are other grants coming up, I’m the only editor of both because people let me know. I think if you have too many cooks in the kitchen, the calendar can get a little messed up. So I know who manages those calendars.

The importance of brainstorming. So a lot of the time, the bigger grants like Tower, they’ll put out four or five categories. It’s good to have those brainstorming sessions. We pick the category and then we pick the program within that category that you’re going to apply for from your nonprofit.

The importance of learning each individual’s preferred communication styles for sure because people are going to work better if you’re working within what they want to do. So it wasn’t like it was all their fault that everything was being done 24 hours before. Sometimes I was just sending emails in the beginning and it’s like you got to do more than that. So that was huge.

And then the importance of working ahead of time on each grant. The more time you have with your final draft, the better in my opinion because it’s another fresh pair of eyes to look at things, to proofread for simple things like grammatical errors or as they guess, maybe parts of the budget are missing and we can go back and fix those so that we have everything a hundred percent completed because if anyone is not in line with the grant process, if you submit a grant with a missing piece, sometimes they will come back to you and let you know but most of the time, they just throw your grant away.

So you could spend weeks on something and then if you don’t – if you’re scrambling 24 hours before and you’re like, “Oh my gosh! I forgot my cover sheet.” They might just be like, “You know what? We’re not even going to bother with it.”

Elisabeth Swan: It’s a total waste.

Amanda Booth: It’s a total waste. So you have to be super meticulous with how you submit your grants. And I’m the one who submits it. I’m the one who press the final submit. So I want to make sure I have everything incorporated before.

Project Benefits

And then my four biggest project benefits is working ahead of time. We’ll give more time to review and perfect the grant before submission. So I touched a little bit upon that already.

Completing grants ahead of time will essentially results in more yeses. The Cape Cod Healthcare was the example from earlier. That was a yes. So it’s huge obviously, probably the most important.

Learning communication styles of each member of the gran team results in working better together and makes us stronger as a whole because like I said, I would not be able to complete this without our whole team working together and there are so many – every person is important in this whole process so we’re constantly communicating and let each other know what’s going on then we’re just going to be stronger and we’re going to submit at our grants.

And the more yeses our nonprofit receives, the stronger our programming and organization will be as a whole. So like I said, a lot of our revenue comes from grants. So if we don’t get grants, we can’t fund our programs and it could be really bad if we didn’t get our yesses. So the more yeses, the better to grow and expand all of our programming so that we can continue to be a flourishing and thriving nonprofit like we have been through the last 45 years.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s great. Thank you, Amanda.

Amanda Booth: You’re welcome.


Elisabeth Swan: So, just a couple of questions for you. How has doing this project impacted the way you look at things in general?

Amanda Booth: Oh, it’s incredible. And not even just in the grant process, I find it in my personal life, when I organize – when I go to organize my closet for each season, I’m like, “All right. What’s the leanest way? Do I really need this sweater that my aunt gave to me four years ago?” Like let’s get rid of stuff. Let’s purge. Let’s clean. Let’s organize.

It’s funny around our office, we talk about Six Sigma all the time. We’re like, “All right. What’s the lean way to do this?” So I feel like it has made a huge impact honestly in my professional and my personal life because I look at things from a different angle and I look at what is the most efficient way we can do things?

Elisabeth Swan: Didn’t you have an event where it was people lining at tables and they decided it wasn’t being done efficiently? And so, they rearranged how it was being done. I think – was it meals for people?

Amanda Booth: Oh yes. So we just had back in November a huge distribution, our Truckee distribution.

Elisabeth Swan: Yes.

Amanda Booth: OK. So we had about 60 volunteers come to the stoppage hub down the Cape and we distributed 400 bags to 400 of our neediest families and gave them nonperishable goods and gift cards. And the way that they had – so I went there about an hour or two earlier with a few other volunteers to get everything set up so that it was a nice assembly line and everything would go smoothly.

And Jennifer and I were looking at things and we were like, “Oh no!” Just the way that there wasn’t enough room for people to go around in a circle and grab one thing after the other, there wouldn’t enough room for people to hand things to other people to put in the bag. And so the way that we set it up, space things out. Set them up by food in their particular areas, knew which volunteer was going to be where. It went so smoothly like it just – it helped tremendously with the way that things were set up and we were like, “What’s leanest way we could do things?”

Elisabeth Swan: I think I heard Jennifer say something like that like, “This is not Lean Six Sigma. We got to change this.”

Amanda Booth: No. We got to change that. And so, it was a little crazy at first. And then once we really took a step back, kind of mapped out. We were literally drawing it on the piece of paper next to the food and figuring out like what is the best way to get this done and make sure that people are in and out.

We have so many – such a variety of volunteers from kids from the high school to older individuals. There are just so many different people. We’re like, what’s the most efficient way? And we don’t want people to be here for six hours when they can be here for three.

Elisabeth Swan: No. So you did a real workspace layout redesign.

Amanda Booth: Yes.

Elisabeth Swan: But it was for people to get food and for families to get what they needed.

Amanda Booth: Yeah. It was amazing.

Elisabeth Swan: Such a great story. This is really lovely, Amanda. This is just great to hear.

I am Elisabeth Swan and you’re listening to a’s Success Story highlighting Amanda Booth and her work with the grant process. Thank you, Amanda, for joining us today.

Amanda Booth: Thank you for having me.

Elisabeth Swan: And for sharing your success story with us. I also want to thank our listeners for joining us today. I hope you found the success story helpful and as inspirational as I found it.

Getting Started

If you have a success story and you’d like to share, please send us a note at [email protected] Don’t forget to go to our website and view all of our other success stories. We’ve got a series of government projects. And now, we have a series of nonprofit projects. So we really got some great stories to listen. And you can download any of the free tools, templates, blogs, webinars, podcasts all for free on our website.

Until next time. Thank you all for joining us.

Get the inside scoop on many other successful Lean Six Sigma projects at our Super Stories of Success page. Do you have a story to tell? We’d love to hear about your own project success! Please contact us.

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.