Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity
- Published: Tuesday, 24 May 2016 12:12
Author: Charlotte Francis
Let’s imagine someone on the program delivery side in your organisation has forwarded you an email about an upcoming grant round. You have only been in the role for a few months, and at first glance, it seems a perfect fit for your programs. So much that Bob, the program manager, has emailed some notes about what you could apply for. His proposed project is news to you and it doesn’t fit with your current organisational priorities, but why not?
You feel a rush of enthusiasm; a $50,000 grant would really help you meet your annual target. Then you notice that the deadline is only a week away. In haste, you open the application form and start drafting responses. You reckon you can nail the project description but you hit a roadblock when you come to the question about evidence of need and how you will evaluate the project. Reaching for another cup of coffee, you send a high priority email to Bob only to find he is out of the office for the next few days.
A nagging voice in your head prompts you to check the guidelines of the Golden Goose Trust. Although they do fund disadvantaged children, their focus is on health and wellbeing. That’s sort of implicit in your project, which is about education and training, but you’d have to be a bit creative with the outcomes. Oh, and what’s this? You need to provide 50% match funding and provide details of two external referees.
With the clock ticking, you decide to call the trust, and find out if your organisation can put up the match funding. When you get through to Esmeralda at the Golden Goose, you find out that you can provide the match funding, but as you have not yet acquitted the previous year’s grant, you are not eligible to apply. After apologising profusely for the oversight, you check your CRM system and see that your CEO was due to invite the Director of the Golden Goose for a tour of your offices. It’s not clear if this has happened or not. A bit further down you see that Bob has sent a thank-you letter and a copy of your annual report. The trouble is that the Golden Goose requires grantees to download and complete an acquittal form template.
Are you, or have you ever been, in this situation? Where it’s a last minute dash for grants? Where you’re cobbling together projects? Where it’s not clear who is managing the relationship with the funder?
If the answer is yes, don’t despair, help is at hand! Strategic Grants runs half-day workshops tailored to an organisation’s specific context and needs, where we bring together all key staff – fundraising, program managers and members of the executive team – and help to foster a culture that supports and understands the requirements of philanthropic funders.
Working in the grants space is not about bashing out applications, in fact the writing is only about 20% of the process. It requires strategic thinking and planning; we always say that a poorly written application for a strong, well-planned project may get funded, but, however glossy and slick the application, a poorly thought out project will never pass muster.
Before you put pen to paper, you need to educate your project leaders, develop plans and budgets for each project well in advance of trust deadlines. Your aim should be to have a wish list of signed off prioritised projects with key information and evaluation methodologies in place. And project leaders should understand before you apply for a grant, what the reporting and acquittal requirements are and who will manage the relationship with the trust.
Just imagine how much more effective your grant-seeking would be if you were working from a wish-list of mission-aligned projects that were grant-ready and appealing to funders, and if there was whole-of-organisation investment in and understanding of grants!
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