This article originally appeared in the FINZ magazine.

Incorporating grant-seeking and writing into your fundraising strategy can seem overwhelming and time consuming, regardless of whether you’re new to grant-writing or an experienced fundraiser. How do you know where to begin when it comes to finding the right grant for your project, and then writing a good application that meets all the funders’ criteria? 

And in a time where there are more registered charities in Aotearoa than ever – over 27,000 (Charities Services Annual Review 2019/2020), the competition for grant funding has never been higher. 

The good news is that New Zealand fundraisers are in the right place – New Zealand is ranked the third most charitable country in the world – above Australia (World Giving Index 2019).  

So, in a country where there are many registered charities, but where philanthropy is also high, how does a nonprofit cut through the competition to secure grant funds?  

Understand where grants come from and what is a good fit for your organisation’s project 

There are many sources of grant funding in Aotearoa, ranging from government grants, lottery grants, private and family foundations, corporate and community foundations, trustees, and giving circles. But just because an organisation is giving out funds doesn’t mean that it’s the right fit for your organisation.  

It’s important that your project meets the funding criteria and guidelines. You’ll save yourself (and the funder!) a lot of time if you are only applying for grants that you are eligible for and provide a quality application.  

If you need help finding grant opportunities that are a good fit for your charity, check out our Grants Expertise Management System (GEMS). It’s the only grants system that has both all the grants that are relevant to your organisation and the ability to fully customise so you can track your funder history, grants success and when accountabilities are due. And you can trust that your data stays current and relevant thanks to our research team who put in over 80 hours of research a week.  

Get your organisation grant ready 

Determing whether your organisation is grant ready is a key step before taking the plunge into writing applications. If your organisation is grant ready, it will probably have most of these things: 

  • A strategic or operational plan 
  • A set of key messages 
  • A project wish list of all the things you need funding for 
  • Project plans that show why that project is needed  
  • Project outcomes and measures of success 
  • Details of any previous grants applied for – successful or not 
  • A plan for managing funder relationships 

Write a strong application 

Strong grant applications that have a higher chance of making it to the top of the funders pile: 

  • Meet the funder eligibility – if in doubt, contact the funder directly (in fact it is good to speak to funders first, if possible – most prefer this). 
  • Have responses that specifically address the funder criteria, using keywords from their guidelines. 
  • Carefully consider the questions being asked and answer them directly 
  • Include the ‘ask’ at the top of the application – don’t make funders search for what it is that you need and why you need it.  
  • Include evidence to support all claims of both need and anticipated outcomes (the benefits that will be delivered). 
  • Are written by a strong writer and are thoroughly proofread. They are easy to read and leave no unanswered questions in the reviewer’s mind.  

Don’t forget about relationships 

The key to a great grants strategy is funder relationships. This is no different to the relationships you hold with your current or prospective donors! Our rule of thumb is “ring before writing” – or at the very least, email. And especially, if your grant is successful, nurture your relationship with the funder. Keep them updated on the progress of your project, and if you meet any setbacks in delivering your project, be up front and let them know. And of course, don’t forget to say thank you!