Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

HarriettAuthor: Harriett Carter

Consider the family who wants to buy a hen house.

Having chooks at home sounds great; they all love animals and the kids love the idea of fresh scrambled eggs.

That very day, the family spots hen houses for an excellent price at their local hardware. Bang, job done, they are now proud owners of one large white hen house. What a bargain!

Problem is – they hadn’t really thought through the project. How many hens will they need? What do hens cost? Who will feed the hens when they’re away and WHAT do you feed them?

And did anyone remember to consult with Buster the Blue Heeler?

Thinking through a grants project before you consider an application is much the same.

Ask yourself:

  • Why are we doing this project? Is it relevant to our mission?

  • What will the full project cost be?

  • Who needs to be involved?

  • What exactly will it take to get this project off the ground?

  • How will we evaluate it?

Just like the family with the bargain hen house, beware the grant that looks too good to miss. If you can’t answer these questions, perhaps this opportunity isn’t for you.

JudyAuthor: Judy Lewis

Many fundraisers view grant-seeking a bit like a cross between roulette and a chocolate wheel at the school fete. You’ve gotta be in it to win it, and success is just a matter of luck. Like roulette, you rub shoulders with the top end of town and the potential if you win is huge … but like the chocolate wheel, anyone can enter.

But is there really more to it than that? Have you noticed that there are a relatively small number of organisations who seem to be more successful at gaining this type of support than others? Do their fundraisers just look good in a dinner suit … or is there some skill involved in this game?

I’ve had the great privilege of administering a significant national grants program. I’ve waded through thousands of applications from fantastic organisations, who are making a very real difference in the communities they serve … and who are let down by their 'luck of the draw' approach to grant-seeking.

Preparing a grant application requires time and effort. If you don't put in those things, it's evident to the assessors that your application is not well thought-out. But if you do pour your heart into every grant opportunity you see, rather than just choosing the ones that are good prospects for your project, you'll have no time for anything else.

Strategic grant-seeking is a highly valuable skillset. It involves research, strategy and relationship building … oh and great writing skills. And it is a skillset that can be learned.

And finally … a plea from all my grant-maker mates. If you want to do just one thing to take the gambling element out of grant-seeking …please, please, please read the guidelines!