The article “Working together for the greater good” first appeared in Pro Bono Australia.

If there is anything that we have learned from the organisations we work with on fundraising and grants strategy and success, it is the need for program delivery teams and fundraising teams who are raising the money for the programs to work efficiently. This is critical now, more than ever, in the wake of so many priority community needs and increasing expectations on outcomes delivery. 

With our climate in the spotlight, we asked long-time partners of Strategic Grants, The Nature Conservancy Australia (TNC) what they believe are the critical elements of grants success. 

David Stewart, executive director of philanthropy and engagement, shares with us how their program teams and development team are working together to fight the climate crisis, and practical tips that you can apply to your own organisation. 

Can you tell us a little bit about TNC’s grants strategy?

The TNC development and philanthropy team work closely with Strategic Grants to align funding opportunities to our programs’ priorities, which are healthy oceans, freshwater and lands plus climate change mitigation and adaptation. We drill down into aligning specific funder’s objectives, to the outcomes of each project for which we are seeking funding.   

How are prospective funders communicated between the programs team and those who are writing the applications in the development team?

When we identify a grant that matches our mission and a particular program, we connect the program director to the grant expression of interest and ensure the program leads are fully engaged. It is a team effort between the grants writer, the program team, and the development team. We engage the program team with Strategic Grants so that they can work together on the application, to ensure the application responses completely demonstrate need, outcomes and leave no unanswered questions in the funders’ minds. It is an open, honest, and efficient process. 

Can you tell us about a specific project that your team is working on to secure grant funding and the internal processes that TNC takes to ensure clear communication between all team members involved?

The TNC vision is a world where the diversity of life thrives, and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfil our needs and enrich our lives. 

Blue Carbon is an evolving piece of that vision. Australia is home to 10 per cent of the world’s blue carbon wetlands and has the world’s third largest stand of mangroves, which absorb 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Yet we have lost more than 11,500 square kilometres of mangroves (52-78 per cent of its original extent) and continue to lose more each year. 

TNC Australia Blue Carbon is a pioneering project that has yet to be implemented in Australia for carbon but has the potential to act as a lighthouse project. It could catalyse other private sector partnerships that provide environmental and climate solutions. 

We have had some recent grant success in this space, which can be credited to team effort with all stakeholders. Our development team knows in intimate detail the projects for which they are raising money. The program team understands the expectations of funding partners to deliver according to the way we say we are going to and know that we need to let funders know if things are not going according to plan. They have robust monitoring and evaluation systems in place so we can be sure to always deliver the outcomes. The development team stays connected through the project so they can be sure funder reporting deadlines are met. Clear communication is using all communication methods to ensure transparency is upheld and funder expectations are fully met, and where possible, exceeded. 

Do you have any advice for other for-purpose organisations who may be having trouble collaborating with others in their organisation when it comes to grant applications? 

Clear communication amongst any party involved is key – whether it is your internal team or external stakeholders who are also involved in your project. Communicate early and communicate often. If your development team are the ones sourcing the funding opportunities and doing the writing, make sure that the project or program leads are fully engaged in the process, too. And remember that everyone in the organisation is working toward the same common goal – just be open, honest, and transparent.

Just like The Nature Conservancy Australia is passionate about creating positive change for our environment, we are passionate about helping for-purpose organisations make a difference. We are here to help with all aspects of your grant-seeking strategy – get in touch to see how we can help.