Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity
Author: Dr Karleen Gwinner
#the_characters, #the_need, #back_it_up, #goal_posts, #dig_down, #how_to, #budget_value, #access_yourself
Does the thought of writing a project proposal paralyse you with fear?
Do your eyes widen, do you gasp in preparation to scream?
Well relax! This is a normal and instinctual reaction. Your brain is preparing you for a deadly combat with words. Luckily, we are here to help you overcome your fear. We have plotted a few #hashtags to help you order the information you need for a killer project proposal. Use these and soon enough, you will win your battle with words and create dynamic well-structured project proposals for grant applications.
All good stories start by introducing the characters, and so too does a well-crafted project proposal. Introduce the people of your project; your organisation, partners and beneficiaries. Who will be the key driver/s for the project? Describe other key stakeholders and what they might do in the story. Who will benefit from the project? Are there any special skills or resources needed for the project? Articulate the vision guiding your organisation’s mission. Tell the reader where the project will take place and who will take charge.
Why does it need to happen? EPIC project ideas are great but highlighting the need for your project is your next task to craft a well-written project proposal. Defining what is needed is the fundamental ingredient of your project proposal. Ask who, why, what and when questions to define and fully understand your project’s need. Be as realistic and specific as possible about the needs you are addressing. There may be many unmet needs, so focus on the main need(s) you have identified. Make sure the need aligns to the core mission and objectives of your organisation. Write down a clear statement, one to two sentences describing your need, e.g. young mums need stable and suitable housing to provide best care for their children. This helps to ensure that everybody involved in your project knows what you are trying to support, and funders understand the impact you are trying to have.
How do you know the unmet need exists and why? Did you talk with your beneficiaries, do the local statistics indicate a problem, do your partners and stakeholders have a shared understanding of a problem, does the research support your observations of the need? Demonstrate how you know the unmet need exists. Write down what you know about the need, provide some recent and relevant evidence. Talk to our Evaluation Team if you are not sure about how to identify the need.
Needs are things that can be directly tied to the project goal and objectives. The goals are necessary for the project to be successful. Defining clear goals and objectives aligned to your organisations’ core mission is a critical part of the project proposal. Goals are your high-level statements about what the project will achieve. Goals map the key elements for success, e.g. the parenting program’s goal is to provide safe, social and educational support for young parents.
Objectives describe the specific outcomes and deliverables of the project. You will have objectives for each phase of the project. Objectives dig down to the aims that support the goals. Objectives are statements about the desired outcomes e.g. reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an objective; the level of greenhouse gas emissions is an outcome. An objective is specific and measurable, and must meet time, budget, and quality constraints.
Explain the how. What do you need to do to implement the activities to achieve the objectives, and the goals. When is it going to happen and how long will it take? Sometimes it helps to outline your key project activities into an easy to follow format (project table) and list the corresponding timetable (completion date) and the person responsible for each task. Think carefully about the time and resources needed to complete each phase successfully within the specified period. Go into detail to convince the funder you and your organisation know how to carry out the activities. A few questions to help put together the how to ask include - How will we do this project?; What are the boundaries of this project - what is outside the scope of the project?; What are the risks? -Financial, Social, Seasonal; What are the strategies for overcoming risks? - Risk Management, Back-up plan.
With the project activities mapped out you can outline the costs to undertake each activity and task of the project. What will it take (in terms of resources) to accomplish the goals of the project? Will you need more staff, and/or better trained staff? A new building? Write down a list of what you would need over what period to make the project happen. Then, next to each item, write down an estimate of what that would cost. Don’t forget to include the in-kind cost of the project such as volunteer time or shared resources from other organisations. Does the project represent good value and benefit to achieve the goals? How will the funds be managed? Describe how the costs are justified and how the project can build capacity for your organisation and in the community. Be rigorous with your budget.
With the project proposal developed ask others in your organisation to provide feedback. Is the information clear enough that someone else can implement the project if needed? Does the budget align to the tasks of the project? Once you have a well-planned project it is much easier to seek funding for a project. Make sure you assess your project against the grant selection criteria. If you need to fundamentally change your project to suit the grant provider, it is the wrong grant program for you. Leave it for another time or grant program.
Author: Charlotte Francis
When approaching funders and deciding which ones to target, where do you start? And are some ‘easier’ than others and which ones give feedback? These are some common questions we get asked. The short answer is to do thorough research and find out all you can about the funder. But here are some tips to help you sort the wheat from the chaff.
Which funders offer feedback?
Our advice is always to do two things: scrutinise the funder’s website and guidelines and build the relationship by first phoning before you put in an application. Some funders state on their website whether or not they give feedback. But if you have built a relationship with a funder and followed best practice guidelines throughout the process – including acquitting previous grants well – then you may well find they are open to providing feedback.
Which grants should we apply for – is there a recommended application rating?
Choosing to apply to a funder requires you to do your research and assess whether your project matches the funder’s criteria and focus areas. Your research needs to be thorough and you should invest time looking at what organisations they have funded in the past, what kinds of projects, their average funding amounts and geographic area. Of course, subscribing to a Strategic Grants’ Customised Grants Calendar will save you hours and hours in finding the right grants - freeing you up to read the fine print and build the relationship.
What is the average success rate among Funders?
There are many different factors that influence your chances of getting funded, and different funders vary in their approach and aims. Moreover, a lack of mandatory reporting for charitable Trusts and Foundations means there is a lack of data making it impossible to arrive at an average rate. However, some funders do publish detailed information on their giving. Once again, do your homework!
How can we maximise our chance of success?
The first thing to note is that the writing is only about 20 per cent of the process. Before you start drafting an application, you need to have a long-term grant-seeking strategy in place and to engage and build the relationship with funders. Bashing out grant applications – playing the numbers game – won’t lead to success. For example, we recently heard of one grant writer who had written over 230 applications in one year (about one application per day), but only secured around $18,000. That, by anyone’s standards, is a very poor return on investment. By contrast, we have clients who have much higher success rates and win repeat grants from the same funder.
Some grant winning essentials include:
- Your organisation’s track record and ability to deliver projects with measurable outcomes
- Demonstrating an evidence-based need
- Ensuring that your project and funding amount align with the funder’s criteria and funding range
- Evidence that you are collaborating with partners and not duplicating effort
- Planned, strategic applications that are submitted well in advance of the deadline.
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