Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

MariaAuck  Author: Maria Hernandez-Curry

May was a dynamic month for the Strategic Grants team, with lots of great events across New Zealand, which brought the fundraising and grant seeking community together to learn, network and celebrate. 

Fundraising Institute of New Zealand 2018 Conference

We kicked the month off presenting, exhibiting and catching up with lots of great NFP partners at the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand 2018 Conference, aptly titled Goodness! The Best in Fundraising, held at Te Papa in Wellington over three days. The conference provided a wide selection of masterclasses, workshops and panel discussions that covered some of the latest innovations as well as best practice refreshers in fundraising. It was great hearing from the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, the Honourable Peeni Henare, who acknowledged the trends and challenges experienced in our sector: the reality of the challenge of short term funding; lack of multi-year funding available; and complex organisational structures. It is encouraging to know that these challenges are being examined with the ultimate goal of working out how government can refine policies and processes to best serve and empower the not-for-profit community.

The workshop which our Director, Jo Garner, facilitated, provided an overview of what we know as best practice, tried and tested processes, tools and skills required to grow and sustain effective grant-seeking.

A highlight of the conference was a Night at the Museum– where awards were presented, an excellent dinner was had, as well as some dancing to the tunes of Barnaby Weir and friends. During the awards ceremony, it was wonderful to see the amazing Kitty Hilton (FFINZ CFRE) acknowledged for her outstanding contribution to the Conference as the Chair of the Conference Committee, and the sector at large through her extensive involvement in FINZ and international peak bodies that work to advance the Profession of Fundraising.

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Both Sides of the Coin

In late May, Strategic Grants partnered with Philanthropy New Zealand to deliver three Both Sides of the Coin events – held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. These very well attended events which brought together the not-for-profit and philanthropic sectors and were developed as a platform for generous and deep conversations between grant-makers and grant-seekers. They focussed on exploring what both sides each need and want from each other and how to make each other’s job easier.  Each event had its own flavour, which very much reflected the local community and highlighted the diversity in New Zealand’s funding landscape.

Both Strategic Grants and Philanthropy New Zealand presented an overview for not-for-profit organisations and the philanthropic sector as well as future trends. We then handed it over to a panel consisting of three funder and not-for-profit partnerships. Each pair shared their approaches, successes and challenges, and how they overcame hurdles to create successful, long-term and impactful funding relationships. We thank our panel members for having very real discussions and frank dialogue up on stage.  

One of the major themes across all conversations was the fundamental importance of open and honest communication, being clear and realistic about each party’s expectations, and a real willingness to see things from a different perspective.

We look forward to planning the next series of events and to see you at one of our upcoming events across New Zealand.

PNZSGWorkshopMariaBlogPNZ Logo MariaBlog

Bianca BNE


  Author: Bianca Williams

So - you worked tirelessly on a high-quality grant application….

You submitted the application BEFORE the due date…..

Your application was successful…….

The funding was committed to delivering the identified program, then……

The program did not achieve its objectives!!

 And NOW you need to submit a funder report??? Arghhhhh!!

A rare scenario, but none the less, a dramatic example to identify the importance of documented reporting processes and in maintaining a transparent and honest relationship with your Funders.

In a perfect world, every project would exceed expectations in outcomes delivered, come in under budget, and produce high calibre data to prove its viability. But, sometimes in grant-funded projects, new interventions are being trialled of which have associated risks (every project has risks!) and sometimes this means that the project just doesn’t create the expected outcomes. But that’s definitely not a reason not to report back!

Funders understand that even the most thoroughly planned projects can go askew. However, three key things will greatly influence a funders’ impression of your organisation and possibly determine if future funding will be granted;

1)      Monitoring and Evaluation of the program – ensure your organisation has evaluation and performance monitoring systems in place to proficiently identify areas of the project that are working, and those that are not. Use these evaluation measures to inform decisions of whether the project is achieving its deliverables, and if not, how to improve your project to ensure every possibility for success.

2)      Communication – maintain transparent and honest communication with the funder. Strategically plan your communications around key milestones, celebrations or updates relevant to the project. And of course, if things are going wrong, or if you need to make changes to your program based on what your evaluation data is telling you, talk to the funder and keep them involved in decision making! Make sure you’re communicating with the funder who has invested into your organisation as a partner in the project’s delivery.

3)       Learnings – If things haven’t gone to plan in your project, or if you haven’t reached your expected outcomes, that’s fine, but get ready to answer the question ‘Why didn’t it go to plan, and what did you do about it? For funders, as long as your organisation is able to learn from the experience and clearly articulate those learnings, that’s an outcome! Funders want to know that your organisation is a learning organisation, so you need to be able to reflect on what you’d do differently next time. Was there something about the implementation that meant the project didn’t quite reach the intended beneficiaries? Or maybe you needed more concrete frameworks around your partnership with another non-profit? Whatever it is, you won’t be able to share those insights with your funder unless you have those monitoring and evaluation systems in place! Microphone image BWBlog

When you receive notification of a successful grant application, take that as the beginning of the funding journey, not the end. Often the reporting process isn’t considered until the very end of a grants program – but that’s far too late! You need to ensure that you’ve considered reporting from the word go.

You need a knowledgeable team to collect the right data at the right time to inform any required tweaks to your project and to be able to confidently report the outcomes (including your learnings) to your funder.

If your organisation does not have the tools and processes to capture the value your programs deliver, Strategic Grants offers several Evaluation Services to help you better understand and make better decisions on your projects, and importantly, report to your stakeholders on how well your organisation meeting its mission.

So, be proactive – continually monitor your projects and ensure any relevant updates are communicated with the Funder. Lean into the learnings, face the music….and sing along with it!