Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

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

Ruth   Author: Ruth Button


So you are writing your grant application, you’re sailing through the organisation and project questions and feel like it is going ok, then ‘BAM’ up pops this question:

What are the expected outcomes of your project?

Funders asking for outcome information is nothing new, however, based on our experience of critiquing grant applications, it is still one of the most common questions that grant seekers get confused with - the difference between OUTCOMES with OUTPUTS.

Here is an explanation to help differentiate between an outcome and an output.


Outputs are the activities or services you will provide, deliver, produce, build or do.

As a shortcut to help you remember, it can help to think of this as outputs = activities/services.

For example, delivering a number of products, facilities, training, publications, projects, activities, research or workshops are all outputs.

Some funders ask applicants to break this down further, into activities AND outputs – an example of this could be an activity of delivering counselling sessions and the output would be 10 people receive counselling.


Outcomes are the specific changes that result from your project.

It can help to think of it as outcomes = results/changes.

For example, improved health, new skills or more confidence are all outcomes. Use words of change, such as: 'more', 'better', 'less' or 'improved'. Also remember to link your outcomes back to your responses about why your project is needed.

Depending on your project, outcomes can occur at different levels of the community – some examples….

Individuals & families: Fathers improve their parenting skills resulting in stronger family relationships

Communities: Fewer young people involved in criminal or anti-social behaviour as a result of participating in a range of positive activities

Organisations: Charities have greater skills and capacity to meet local needs

Systems & structures: Decrease in congestion city-wide from an increase in cycle routes. (Ref 1#)

Let’s use the analogy of baking a cake to better explain – check out the image below (Ref 2#)

Ruth Blog Feb outcomesinfographicfinal

Why is the outcome question so important?
Funders often ask this question because it demonstrates that the organisation has identified the need, how to meet that need, and what your program hopes to achieve for the end beneficiaries. It also helps funders to quickly understand and assess the program; and gives the funder and organisation an agreed framework to monitor progress if the project is funded. In short, it helps you to focus on what the program strives to achieve and explain to the funder why your project should be funded.

Ruth Blog impactoutputoutcome Image

People often confuse outputs and outcomes, but the examples above will help you differentiate between the two and be better informed to respond to the question in future applications.

If you would like grant writing or critiquing support, be sure to contact us.



1# Big Lottery Fund – archives

2# National Lottery Community Fund Scotland blog