Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Jo BNE Author: Jo Garner

Whether you are writing a donor appeal, government tender, sponsorship proposal or a funding application, evidence of the need for the project you are raising funds for is critical to motivate your supporters to give to your organisation, over others they are receiving requests from.  

In addition to connecting through emotive appeal, there has to be strong evidence that you are the best organisation to meet the need you want your prospective donors to support.  

These memes doing the rounds on social media, encapsulate perfectly the different spin you can put on communications to different donor segments. Just like Dolly and Ellen’s “would be” profile pictures differ hugely between what they are looking for from each social media platform, we also need to adapt the same core content and present it in different ways across our different donor communication strategies.

Jo Blog UsingMoreThanCleverWords March2020

As a communications expert – you have the power! You have to work with the relevant people in your organisation (and beyond) to extract and gather the best information to communicate your messages to your donors.

BUT! It is about getting the mix of heart and head correct depending on the TYPE of donor communications.  We need to be sure we are answering the donor’s agenda. For example, a grant application is going to need a lot more stats and facts, demonstrable need and proof of how you are going to measure and report on outcomes and impact, compared to a donor appeal to your regular givers.

What do you do if that evidence base doesn’t exist?  This signals time for a high- level discussion with your organisation’s leadership.  There has never been a better time than NOW to ensure that your organisation has the appropriate monitoring and evaluation frameworks in place.

Some of the most common fails in effective major donor communications that we see include:

* Responses contain interesting information, but no substantiated evidence of the claims being made.

* The project need is not evident. Lack of data and references. And no clear definition of how it is different to what others are doing and the gap your work is filling.

* Project implementation plan has not been well thought out and is hard to understand.

* The budget does not make sense according to the project implementation plan.

* Outputs and outcomes are confused. 

Needs data needs to be collected at three levels: organisational, sector and global.

1. Your organisation is the expert. What kinds of evidence do you have to draw on?  Have you surveyed your supporters? Do you have:

* Documented observations from your staff

* Demand for your services (i.e. waiting lists for services / is demand outstripping your capacity to deliver?)

* Service / activity use or attendance statistics

* Evaluations of previous programs

* Beneficiary survey results

2. What does the sector say about the need for what you do?

* What do local council statistics say about the need you are addressing?

* How about peak bodies and government?

* If you sit on reference groups, what is the evidence they have?

3. What international data exists to back up how you know your proposed project will work?

* What are the similarities between what you want to do and what has been successful elsewhere?

* What do you need to adapt?

* Has impact data been collected elsewhere that you can base some assumed outcomes and impact on? Of course, with the appropriate M&E frameworks in place.

* Google is your best friend… but make sure your evidence base is credible!

Jo Blog Image2

To conclude, we need to ensure our supporters have a clear understanding and proof of why your organisation is the best to deliver the project for which you are seeking funding. Motivate your supporters with a strong evidence base and ensure that the right balance of heart and head is present, according to which supporter segment you are communicating with. 


Alicia3 Author: Alicia Edwards

If you’re reading the beginning of this blog and think, “professional career development” is a bit bland, then perhaps you haven’t discovered the world of incredibly rewarding and engaging professional development opportunities that exist!

Professional development is an ongoing process (the key word being “ongoing”) and it should rightfully continue throughout your life.

Whether you are starting your career and looking for professional development (PD), or established in your career, it is so important to set as a priority.

The benefits you can gain from professional development include:

- Acquiring new ways to think and act

- Gaining essential knowledge and skills

- Learning how to develop new skills

- Developing capabilities to transform your organisation

- Raising productivity

- Learning best-practice and, even

- Building on strategies for personal growth

There have been times in my career where Directors of organisations I have worked for, encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and attend a  PD course or session that was incredibly beneficial. One of the most immersive PD opportunities to date, was when I attended the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Congress in Toronto almost 13-years ago. Fast forward to 2020, I remain connected with individuals from the other side of the world, who continue to mentor and teach me invaluable skills.Alicia Blog Image1


Of course, I acknowledge that travelling overseas or indeed even attending local  PD courses may not necessarily be in your organisation’s budget. So, if you really believe in the value of developing yourself professionally, which I do believe also develops you personally, then you should consider taking charge of your PD on your own terms.


 (Picture L to R - Vicki James, Steve Thomas and Alicia Edwards, attending the FIA professional development breakfast - Feb 2020)

As Vicki James from the Gold Coast Hospital Foundation said to me recently “It’s an individual responsibility to invest in professional development. A lot of people use the excuse that their organisation doesn’t have it in the budget but it’s not always up to the organisation.”

There is a myriad of professional development opportunities available to anyone working in the not-for-profit sector. In 2020 alone, there are conferences, short courses and online training sessions to upskill, motivate, refresh and educate.

You can check out the list of not-for-profit professional development sources that are available in:

Australia and New Zealand

- Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies (ACPNS)

- Connecting Up

- Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA)

- Fundraising Institute of New Zealand (FINZ)

- Fundraising & Philanthropy (F&P)

- Philanthropy Australia

- Pro Bono


- Association of Fundraising Professionals – Canada (AFP)

- Association of Fundraising Professionals - USA

- International Fundraising Congress (IFC) - Europe

- Institute of Fundraising – UK

Strategic Grants is also committed to advancing best-practice and I encourage you to participate in our training opportunities we have carefully curated for this year.

There are quick and budget friendly online webinars, insightful workshops and bespoke training day options that we can tailor for your organisation.  

SG conducts many types of training solutions to develop the capacity of our incredible sector.

Over a year we aim to host and present:

- 10 half-day workshops to upskill anyone who wishes to draw on best-practice grant-seeking techniques

- Approximately 80 tutorials for GEM Portal users

- At least 10 free GEM Portal training refresher courses for anyone who subscribes to our Grants Expertise Management System - GEMS

- new online webinars

- at many sector conferences

We also offer:

- An online library with recorded webinars that cover a range of topics from developing your project plans, beginner and advanced writing skills, evaluation and meeting funder expectations and;

- Engaging podcasts to listen to and blogs to read (free resources on the SG website)

So, my advice is not to delay. Schedule your professional development just as you would with any task you need to complete this year!

I look forward to seeing you at the next development opportunity.

For further information, check out the SG website Training AND Free Resources page