Looking for money to take your projects to the next level, or to improve life for the homeless, or to make capital improvements to your community centre or sports facility? Are you looking for a few hundred dollars or are you focused on $1,000,000 plus. Whether it be through government departments, philanthropic organisations, industry bodies, research councils or sector specific grant givers, there’s probably a grant out there for you. The problem is, others will also be looking at the same bucket of money. The successful grant winners will demonstrate why the funder should be confident that their money will be in good hands. So what drives this confidence?
Here are nine confidence boosters to consider when you are writing your applications for grants.
1 Be mindful that getting a grant is not a license to print money, The hand that feeds has its own agenda and conditions for use of the funds it distributes. Find out what policy or impetus is driving the need to issue the grant. Does your project help the funder to achieve the outcomes they are accountable for? Otherwise why would they be interested in helping you? Helping the funding body to achieve its accountability outcomes is one of the most important factors in deciding who gets the grants. If you miss this one, you might as well forget about applying.
2 The easiest grant applications to write are those where the need is clearly backed up by research. Put together your business case, link to policy and strategy documents, and justify your argument with well researched and evidenced statistics. This information won’t be wasted because it can be used for evaluating your project later on. Numbers help tell the story the funding body is looking for. Don’t embellish, be factual – Data is king.
3 Technology is your friend. It enables you to download the guidelines and application forms as soon as the guidelines about the grants are made available. Get yourself on mailing lists for notifications of funding opportunities to give you the maximum time to put together your application. Search online for examples of previously funded projects and how much they were funded for. Keep up to date with the Frequently Asked Questions – somebody else might have been asking the same questions you’d been thinking about. Funders are now offering briefing sessions online so you won’t have to take a day out of your valuable work time to travel to your nearest capital city and back for a one hour meeting. And finally, you can submit your application online, even on the closing day if you need to. Make sure your hardware, software and internet connections are up to the job.
4. It may take months for the funding body to announce successful grants and that’s before the official start dates. If you can’t wait that long to get started, don’t apply. Look elsewhere.
5 If you’re going to apply with partners, make sure they are committed and will play an active role in the project. List each partner in the application. Evidence their involvement not just in letters signed at the highest level, but also in detail in your responses to the criteria questions and in the project plan. If you then get funded and partners can no longer commit, it’s usually ok to change as long as you inform the funder.
6 Get the balance right. On the one hand, don’t chase every taxi that comes your way and on the other hand, be careful when you get a grant that is so large that it consumes the resources of the organisation. When you chase every grant there is, you dilute your resources and in some cases may find you’re working outside your core purpose. When you put your energy into a large grant, it can take over the organisation to the exclusion of everything else and when the project ends, there is nothing else left.
7 Don’t skip on the project plan. A realistic plan broken down to its components, which defines the resources and how they will be used demonstrates a quality application. Break the plan down into stages – when application rounds are oversubscribed, some funders will consider at least part funding your project.
8. Don’t be too competitive with the budget to the point that the project becomes unrealistic. Value for money doesn’t mean ‘on the smell of an oily rag’. If the project calls for a professional pitch, complete with infrastructure and transport, then cost them in (if eligible within the guidelines). Budget staff costs realistically to attract the staff with the right skills to make the project a success. Sometimes applications are rejected because they are perceived to be too cheap.
Getting the right balance is paramount. You can’t go back and ask for more if you ask for too little and you won’t be credible if your budget far exceeds the activities of the project plan
9 Finally, grants are welcome contributors to revenue – but don’t become grant dependent. Try to diversity your income streams to at least three sources of income to reduce the risk of organisational failure when the grants dry up. Financial independence also means that when policy and rules change out of your favour, your organisation is not going to find itself in financial dire straits.
Following these nine principles will help build confidence in your proposed project. Treat the funding body with respect. Give them what they want. Make sure you can contribute to their policy outcomes. Argue the need for your project as factually as you can – generalisation doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Gone are the days of hand written submissions – use technology to show you are serious and to save you time. Be selective in the grants you apply for – choose the ones that are a mutual fit and that you can deliver in the time frame specified by the funding body. Working with partners shows wider commitment and sharing of skills and resources – evidence this wherever you can. Don’t skimp on the project plan – it’s vital to show how you are planning to deliver on the outcomes you’ve committed to. Get the budget right and don’t become dependent on grants as your sole source of income.
Access a free copy of our eguide – The Grant Winning Success Formula from our website today.
Given that funding rounds are time limited, how much time, effort and expertise do you dedicate to writing grant applications, especially those that require a lot of planning and contributions from partners?
If your time is important to you and there’s a grant opportunity that is too good to miss, contact us to discuss how we can assist. We know what we’re talking about. We’ve helped build not-for-profits through grant strategies and organisational support to ensure success.
Author: Pat Grosse
Grant writer, strategic thinker and Manager at The Community Entrepreneur, Pat has worked on both sides of the funding fence, both in Australia and in the UK. Pat has worked for funding bodies, put together guidelines and criteria, as well as assessed applications. She has not only managed multi-million pound projects but also worked with organisations to build their profiles and attract large grants. Between 2011 and 2013, she took one organisation from crisis to one million dollars in grant income whilst providing support services to manage the new business activity.