Charlotte Melbourne

Author: Charlotte Francis



A recent report Grants in Australia 2017 – a research study canvassing the views of more than 1,200 grants-seekers as part of a decade-long research project by Our Community’s Innovation Lab – has revealed some interesting findings about grant-making.

One of the more surprising finds is that many applications never get completed, or submitted. In fact, 54 % of respondents confessed to starting but not completing an application, the majority of them from medium and large organisations. And the key reason is that halfway through filling out the form, they discovered that their organisation or project was not eligible.

One of our roles at Strategic Grants is to be the stuck record and repeatedly remind you busy, multi-hat wearing, task-juggling nonprofit folk that it’s vital to not just read but scrutinise a funder’s guidelines, focus areas and eligibility criteria. It’s grant-seeking 101. (Sometimes even the most effective and efficient of us need a pal to remind us to pack an umbrella and cardigan on a rainy day!).

The report also noted that more than a third of grant-seekers found it difficult to establish a meaningful relationship with a grant-maker. Funder engagement is critical to the grant-seeking process. It goes back to that old adage that people give to people not projects. We always recommend phoning the funder before submitting an application as part of the relationship building process. Treating funders with respect and engaging them with your organisation – from the initial submission through to reporting well on successful grants – can make all the difference. I’d like to share a story from one of my clients to demonstrate how this works:letter

The organisation in question received a donation from a relative of one of their service users via a family-run Private Ancillary Fund (PAF). This donation was acknowledged with a standard template letter and receipt. And that was that. What could they have done better?

A year and a bit later, I suggested that it might be a good idea to show the funder a bit more love by sending a warmer, more personalised letter, informing them how their money had been spent and what current needs were.

Guess what? The funder wrote back saying they had not felt minded to make a repeat donation as the initial acknowledgement was very impersonal and they did not feel valued. But that they were now keen to make another donation. Bingo!

By contrast, another client in receipt of funding from a charitable trust had kept the funder very involved, inviting them to events and presenting a very detailed and thorough acquittal report documenting not just how outcomes were met but also what challenges they encountered along the way. Although this funder does not normally invite new submissions until two years after the final acquittal, they funder was so impressed with this organisation’s performance that they waived the rule and invited them to reapply sooner.

Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!