Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Ruth Author: Ruth Button

With Valentines’ Day just behind us, the topic of relationships has been high on the agenda in the media and there has been no escaping the round of cheesy love songs pumping out of the shops and radio stations. Enter the inspiration for this blog, combining the topic of relationships with some cheesy (and some not so cheesy) songs, about the wonderful world of funder-grantee relationships.     

The start of the relationship (the blind date)
Sometimes making that first contact with a funder can elicit feelings similar to those of an impending blind date – nervousness, fear, worrying about what to say and how not to mess things up, all bundled up with the excitement that if this works out it could be the start of a great long-term relationship.

Despite this, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to funders – they are human too! Just make sure you have done your research first and if you feel that your organisation / project is a good match for a potential grant give the funder a call (unless they specifically request no contact). Be prepared with relevant questions and information about your project, so that you can discuss this confidently with the funder. Where possible set up face to face meetings – these conversations can be the key to starting a relationship that will lead to more involved longer-term funding partnerships. 

Beyond the first date

Once you have got over that “blind date” hurdle there are some key elements which are essential to the success of your ongoing relationship. Here are five of my top relationship essentials (along with their “theme tunes” as promised!):     

1) Communication– Spandau Ballet

Communication - Catch up regularly, agree with your funding partner how you both plan to keep contact and how often. For example, will you meet every month? What are your expectations of those meetings? What kind of reporting back is required? As well as keeping things ticking along in the relationship, open communication works wonders in addressing matters instantly and is essential to prevent unresolved issues that can threaten the relationship. Which brings me to point two…

2) We can work it out – The Beatles

There are times in funder–grantee relationships when things don’t go quite go to plan. For whatever reason, your project isn’t going as expected and you are behind schedule. Delays like this are not uncommon - it is how you deal with them that is important. Being honest with the funder about these kinds of issues as they arise is crucial to the viability of the relationship; given both your organisation and the Funder are willing to openly address any concerns - you can work it out.

3) Count On Me - Bruno Mars 

Support - Let’s not forget that relationships are a two-way thing. Too often there is a perceived power imbalance in favour of the funder as they are the ones with the money! However, funders need their not-for-profit partners to deliver the services on the ground and grantees need the funds to do this. Grantees can also support funders’ understanding of the communities they serve, by sharing knowledge gained through their projects and their frontline experience with the beneficiaries. Mutually supportive relationships enable funders and grantees to better serve their shared vision and potentially achieve a greater impact for those they are aiming to help.

4) Respect – Aretha Franklin

Respect - As with any partnership when everyone is so busy and, as is often the case in the NFP sector, juggling multiple roles, simple everyday stresses can strain a relationship. Throughout the relationship it is important that both partners remember to value each other and take care with their words, actions, and behaviours.

5) Thank you - Adeva

Appreciation – It’s important to let your funding partner know that you appreciate them and their efforts. Grantees - make sure you don’t miss any opportunity to acknowledge and thank your funder either publicly or in person. And funders can acknowledge the great work their not-for-profit partners do too in person or, for example, by featuring them on their website or at conferences and events. Mutual appreciation of each-other’s efforts will help strengthen the relationship.      

So there you have it, a few basic tips for healthy funder relationships which can pave the way for positive impact on those around us - not least the people and communities our organisations serve.

For more in-depth strategies for building strong long-term relationships with your funders, sign up for our Advanced Webinar: Thinking Creatively about Funder Engagement and Reporting coming up on Tuesday 5 March.

Finally, keeping a good sense of humour can help smooth things over along the along the way – I couldn’t resist including this one...

Always look on the bright side of life – Monty Python


NancyVic Author: Nancy Vaughan

Oh my goodness, it’s already the end of January!  How did that happen?  What is it about time that is so evasive and contrary?  It expands when you least appreciate it (like when you are walking across red-hot sand to get to your beach towel) and contracts when you need it most (grant submission deadlines!).

Effective time management is particularly crucial for those of us working in grant-seeking and grant-writing.  Long-term, big picture time management underpins the successful development of funder relationships; while short-term time management is critical for ensuring grant application and EOIs are submitted on time. 

Yes, I know that books, blogs and websites about time management are everywhere. The challenge is finding time to read them!  While there is some contradictory advice out there, most sources have these key elements in common: 1. Know what is most important to you (your priorities),  2. Focus your time on these, and  3. Use a range of tools and systems to help you focus your time on these priorities.

1. Know your priorities

Read just a handful of time management or productivity books and you will quickly notice that knowing what is most important to you (your priorities) and then focusing your effort on these is at the heart of effective time management. It stops us confusing being busy with being effective and makes sure we stay focused on what matters most.  Or, as Stephen Covey says in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People … you must “Begin with the end in mind.”  Ideally, your organisation has a strategic plan that identifies priorities for the organisation, and your list of grant-seeking priorities is a logical extension of this.

2. Create your Road Map and stick it to your wall

After you have identified your priorities and written these down, most time management experts suggest the best way to tackle these is by breaking them down into smaller, achievable steps.  I have called this a Road Map. Your Road Map is a one-page document that clearly sets out each step - with a timeline and any resources needed - that must be taken to achieve each of your grant-seeking priorities.  Priorities plus clear steps and timelines = Road Map.  Keep it simple.  This isn’t a list of every single work task but a list of your priorities.  Display it somewhere you can see it.

A Road Map will tell you when you have detoured too far from the track and will guide you back. This is reminding me of the time my sister and I ended up lost and bogged in the dark with no mobile reception somewhere off a logging track in the Alpine region of Victoria.  We had to hitch a lift from a one-armed truck driver back to the nearest town and his dog farted the whole way. True Story. Like I say, we all need a road map.

3. Use your Road MapRoadMapBlogImage2

This is the key.  Allocate your time so that the priorities in your Road Map take precedence.

‘Always keep your focus on your most important tasks.’ –  Craig Jarrow (Time Management Ninja)

Here are some common time management systems and tools to help you stick to your Road Map and have your most productive year yet:

·       Break down your priorities into monthly or weekly tasks and then block these out in your calendar as chunks of uninterrupted time. The general advice is to block this time out for first thing in the day. Let your colleagues, staff and other contacts know about this commitment.

·       Take 10 minutes at the end of the day to prepare a list of priority tasks to complete the following day. Remember: Focus on the important things first. 

·       Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day or week and factor in time for the unexpected and distractions.

·       If your workplace allows for this, turn off your email and social media notifications, and check these a handful of times a day only. Craig Jarrow, author of the Time Management Ninja, recommends only checking email three times a day: morning, noon, and end of day. The Ninja also suggests that picking up the phone is much faster than engaging in email ‘ping pong’.

·       Keep messages short and clear and don’t reply unless this is actually required.

·       Recognise when you are simply spinning your wheels on a task and take a break.

·       Set time-limits for tasks. Parkinson’s Law says that ‘Work expands to fill the available time available for its completion’.  In other words, if you allocate 2 weeks to complete a task that can be completed properly in 2 hours, you will find a way to complicate/expand the task so that its fill up the hours of that 2 weeks. 

·       Within reason, say No to requests for your time when they do not contribute to your progress towards your priorities. Stay focused on what is most important.

·       Stop multi-tasking.  Focus on one task and finish it then start on the next.  Evidently, we end up spending less time on a task and make less errors when we focus on one task at a time. This Psychology Today article has some great tips on increasing productivity at work and expands on many of the tips covered in this blog.

So, there you have it.  Your 3-step plan for a focused and effective 2019.