This article first appeared as part of the “State of the Fundraising Nation” special in the Summer 2021/22 edition of Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine.

Sector trends  

Funders and charities alike were, and continue to be, impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite a dynamic landscape with rapidly changing grant round announcements, increased competitiveness and internal capacity uncertainty, many organisations reported achieving their financial grants goals over the past financial year, which is encouraging news!  

And even though some funders suspended grant funding rounds and had to deal with higher volumes of applications than ever before, there have been some incredibly positive changes from funders.  This includes the increased acknowledgement of the need for capacity-building grants and unrestricted funding, as highlighted by Philanthropy Australia.  

One notable change that is important for grant-seekers, is that both government and philanthropic grant-makers may now include questions to assess organisational capacity to review strategic planning, business plans and project delivery models in line with COVID-19 and other crises.  They want to be sure there are risk management and contingency plans in place.   

Essentials for a new era   

There’s no doubt that the grants landscape has changed. The best way to ensure that your organisation is “fit for grants success” as we move into this new era, is to score yourself against our key questions, to determine where the gaps are between your current strategies and grants success.  

If you aren’t doing all, or most, of these things well (4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5) – there is room to improve. It is assumed your Strategic Plan is up to date.   

  1. Internal project planning and development – Do you have an agreed process for internal project planning and development?  
  1. Project wish list – Do you have a prioritised wish list of fundable projects that deliver your strategic objectives/align to your strategic plan? Can you validate the need, measure and report on the outcomes and know how much each will really cost?   
  1. Grants prospect identification and project matching – Do you have an efficient, regular, systematic approach to finding grant opportunities?  
  1. Application writing – Does your team have the skills to write grant applications that provide strong evidence, rate highly and leave no unanswered questions in the funders’ minds?  
  1. Funding success and reports – Do you carry out all accountability reports for funding you have received? Do you have a good return on investment?  
  1. Donor stewardship – Do you spend time building relationships with funders prior to applying for grants and funding, thank them for grants, and provide robust outcomes reports to exceed their expectations?   

Timeless advice  

Along with most sectors, the for-purpose sector has faced some immense challenges over the past few years, and no doubt there will be more to come. But the relationships between funders and charities have continued to grow and should continue to remain a key focus in your organisation’s fundraising and grants strategy.   

Strategic Grants’ golden rule is “ring before writing.” And especially if you are successful, make sure you say thank you and keep the funder updated on your project and any organisational changes. Nurturing relationships is something that will never go out of style, regardless of the grants and fundraising landscape! 

Want to find out more about how we can support your grants strategy? Get in touch!