After the FIA Conference in 2016, Kerin Welford Fundraising Manager at Assistance Dogs Australia, approached Strategic Grants for some grant-writing support. Founded in 1996, Assistance Dogs Australia is a national charity which trains Labradors and Golden Retrievers to perform everyday tasks to help improve the quality of life for people living with disabilities.
Strategic Grants were able to step in and support Kerin, who manages a team of seven, with grant-writing support for a period of time while there was no Grants Officer in post. And Assistance Dogs Australia kept us busy! But, of course, the number of grants submitted in any defined period is not an accurate measure of a grant program’s success. It gives us no indication as to the quality of the applications, the cost-profit ratio of a grants program or even our success rate. It’s merely a numbers game. Accurate KPI of a grants program can include:
• New grant sources identified
• Numbers of conversations with grant-makers
• Positive feedback received
• Increased interest from funders
• Achieving budget targets
• Securing repeat gifts
• Satisfactory cost-profit ratios
Between March and end August 2016, Strategic Grants and Assistance Dogs Australia worked together on 14 applications. With each application, Strategic Grants supported a best practice approach to maximise grant seeking success.
After first combing through the funder’s guidelines and checking criteria (did we need co-funding or match-funding? Was the funding tied to a particular geographic area? Were there any particular grant agreement conditions? Had all previous grants to funders been acquitted? What outcomes were funders looking for? Was it a corporate foundation looking for joint promotion opportunities?) we also encouraged Kerin to always call the funder to discuss the project before putting pen to paper.
“Conversations help build the relationship with the funder and keep you top of mind when the application reaches them. They like the fact you are trying to get it right for them by doing your homework. You also find out nuances in terms of how to put your application together to ensure you hit the mark for each funder,” says Kerin.
We spent some time working on evaluation measures and being clear about pre and post project outcomes, being careful to distinguish between outputs (products, services delivered) and outcomes (changes in behaviour, attitude or thinking as a result of project activities). We made sure we demonstrated the need, gave evidence-based research and explained why Assistance Dogs was the most appropriate organisation to deliver the program.
Of the 14 applications submitted, 5 were successful with some large grants among them: (Scentre Group Westfield $110,000, a corporate foundation $80,000, Sutherland Shire ClubGRANTS $20,000 and Cook Stronger Communities $17,000). Four of the submissions are still pending. In August Dee Vodden joined Kerin’s team as Grants Officer. Assistance Dogs have also signed up to a Strategic Grants customised calendar and are making full use of the GEM Portal, our online grants management system to stay on top of funding opportunities, log and track applications as well as receive relevant deadline alerts and notification of when acquittals are due.