The article was first published as “Feeling stressed? You’re not alone” in Pro Bono Australia.

Well, here we are. A New Year, but somehow, all too familiar? 

I started the year by attending a health and wellness retreat in Queensland. A week of organic food, no caffeine or alcohol, mindfulness activities and keeping active. It was pure bliss and just what the doctor ordered, so to speak, after another long year of rolling lockdowns, cancelled conferences, uncertainty, and a couple of life’s general challenges. 

And then I got COVID. So rather than hitting the ground running and full of energy, it was a slow week in home isolation, resting up – fully recovered now though!  

With so much uncertainty and complete flexibility required with plans that require travel and face-to-face meetings, does it really feel different to where we left off before the holidays? Particularly if, like so many, your holiday plans were hampered.  

Having worked with hundreds of for-purpose organisations over the past 20 years, helping them build their fundraising and grants capacity and capability, there is a lot of unnecessary perceived stress when it comes to grant deadlines. 

And as we are all aware – keeping stress down and looking after our mental health is more important than ever as we continue to juggle and achieve that perfect work/life balance. 

Below are some of Strategic Grants’ top tips for reducing stress when it comes to grants (which will hopefully leave you with more capacity and energy for other things!).  

We also share expert advice from our friends and clients at Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation about how we can best look after ourselves in and out of the workplace, when we aren’t quite feeling as refreshed as we had hoped. 

Reducing stress when it comes to your grants strategy 

  1. Don’t apply for grants that you aren’t eligible for. Funders still report a high percentage of applications they receive as ineligible. Not only is it a waste of their time, but it’s a waste of your time if you are applying for funding that doesn’t match the criteria. So, before you even begin to write an application, carefully read the guidelines, and ask yourself “Does our organisation, and our project, align with the funder’s vision and meet their eligibility requirements?” If not, don’t apply – you will save yourself precious time that you can devote elsewhere. 
  1. Create your organisational wish list. Ever identify a funding opportunity and then think “now, what will we apply for?” This is the wrong way to go about it. Having a central wish list of projects your organisation needs funding for to achieve its mission and strategic objectives, created in consultation with the relevant team members, means you aren’t scrambling to come up with an idea to pitch at the last minute – how stressful! Instead, you seek funding opportunities that match your project needs. (And if you need help identifying suitable grant funding opportunities – Strategic Grants can help with that too.)  
  1. Develop key messages. There’s nothing more frustrating than when colleagues aren’t on the same page. We’ve all got competing deadlines and our own schedules, but when we don’t communicate with one another – well, that’s when things can start to get stressful. We wrote a piece with our friends from The Nature Conservancy Australia on the importance of internal communication when it comes to a successful grants strategy here, but I also recommend getting your key messages in order – that is, creating one central document, accessible by all staff, that clearly outlines your mission, vision, organisational history, your niche offering, case studies, and all your organisation’s admin details, to name a few. That way you can rest assured that everyone is on the same page when it comes to communicating with stakeholders and writing applications. This is especially important as we find ourselves having to take time off to isolate or work remotely.  
  1. Build relationships. Yes – this one does take time and effort, but the long-term benefits are worth it. Your grantors are your donors and key stakeholders. It is critical that all partners feel like partners and are consulted and engaged. Wherever possible, this relationship should begin before you even put pen to paper. Ring the funder first. Introduce yourself, your organisation, and ask if they have a few minutes to answer a couple of questions you have regarding an application you want to submit. Or at the very least, email them. This relationship should then be stewarded throughout the lifecycle of the grant and beyond.  
  1. And from a personal perspective: Eat well, move well, sleep well. Practice gratitude daily and fill your life with the things that make you happiest.  

Looking after your mental health 

Breakthrough executive director and South Australian mental health commissioner John Mannion has some tips on how to look after your mental health during this time. 

“The situation this year has almost been more difficult for everyone due to the pandemic fatigue we are feeling. Most of us feel like we’re at a loss and it will never end but it’s important to remember this is just a phase and we will come out of this,” Mannion said. 

“The important thing is to not put too much pressure on ourselves during this time. 

“It’s hard when our routines go out the window, but a great tip is to try and keep them as much as possible. Set up a space for work or school without distraction and have breaks during the day. Try to go to sleep and wake up around the same time.” 

Breakthrough works very closely with the Órama Institute, a multi-disciplinary research institute for mental health, wellbeing, and neuroscience at Flinders University. Previous director Mike Kyrios developed the below wellbeing interventions that can provide strategies to counter the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.  

  • S is for social networking  
  • T is for time out  
  • R is for relaxation, mindfulness or yoga  
  • E is for exercise and entertainment  
  • A is for alternative thinking 
  • M is for mindful of others 

For some more information on STREAM visit: Breakthrough – Mental health advice amid COVID-19 concerns. 

I hope that our strategies when approaching grants, as well as this practical advice from our friends at Breakthrough, have you feeling like you can tackle whatever comes your way. Stay safe and healthy! 

Applying for grants doesn’t have to be stressful – the Strategic Grants team is here to help. Get in touch or find out more.