Cathy Melbourne


Author: Cathy Kirwan


We often get asked if we have access to secret grants nobody else knows about. As much as we would love to say that we do (because it makes us sound like FBI operatives), all the grants that are in our system are publicly accessible. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are easy to find!  

To demystify the shroud of X-Files-level mystery around our database and how we find all the information on all the grants that go into it, we thought we’d provide you with a bit of an overview of our process.  

The first mystery we can myth-bust is Private Ancilliary Funds (PAFS). While many PAFs prefer to remain private and do not have open grant rounds, we do have all of them listed in our database based on information from the Australian Nonprofit and Charities Commission (ACNC) which is publicly available.  This data is also supplemented with our own desktop research and relationship with funders.

We have a team of specialist grants researchers who are in our database daily, updating and checking the existing grants in our database, and also searching the web for newly created grants and grant rounds. We’re constantly entering new information about what funders have granted to in the past and what their areas of interest might be, as well as alerting our subscribers to any changes in trustees, interests, geographic regions of granting, increases or decreases in granting amounts, or changes to eligibility.  

We have google alerts set up for all things grants and funding, and we are subscribed to every Government tendering site, council email alert list and philanthropic funder’s email newsletter we can find. We follow many funders’ social media accounts and we’re in regular contact via email with many funders.  

Funders themselves often come to us with updates of their information, as we’ve built strong relationships with many of them over the years, and we also catch up with them regularly at industry events held by Philanthropy Australia and Philanthropy New Zealand (so while we might not have a secret cache of grants, we do have great insight into funders motivations and interests!). We also work with many funders, to provide training and support to their applicants. 


Sometimes we also work with other partner consultancies to ensure our data is as up to date and comprehensive as possible!  

In terms of our categorising of grants, the system has been built in line with categories used by Philanthropy Australia and The Foundation Centre’s Foundation Directory Online, in order to provide a consistent and uniform approach to categorisation in line with other key information providers. 

My job as Research Manager is to coordinate all of our grants research, keep the data clean (dirty data is the bane of everyone’s existence after all), and identify any big research projects we need to work on. I dream data!  

Of course, excellent data is such a hugely important part of what we provide to nonprofits subscribed to our Grants Expertise Management Systems (GEMS), GEM Portal and GEM Local. While we don’t have any secret squirrel grants you can be assured that your customised grants calendar, kept up to date by GEMS, will save you hundreds of hours of research time searching for relevant grants, by showing you just the grants that are relevant to your work, legal eligibility and geographic reach! And even our most experienced and well-researched subscribers are always surprised at the number of new grants that GEMS find for them, when they move from their old internal research system to embracing our Research Team doing all the hard work for them. 



Jo BNE Author: Jo Garner

Last week our NZ Grants Strategist Therese and I attended the Philanthropy New Zealand conference, an excellent event for thought-provoking discussion around giving for both NZ and Australian funders alike, with fantastic integration of Maori culture woven in. We were welcomed to the conference with a pōwhiri in the Te Papa wharenui.

The resounding message of what matters? Trust! Building that trust between the community organisations receiving funding and the philanthropic donor is an absolutely essential part of grants, wherever you’re operating in the world. Keynote speaker Akaya Windwood from Rockwood Leadership Institute spoke about the importance of reciprocity and partnership and keeping the trust circle tight. For Kiwis this aligns with concept of Whanaungatanga (relationships).

The other emphasis from speakers was on expanding from Transactional (traditional, timebound and project based) to Systematic and Transformational (collaborative, long term and funds treating root causes not the symptoms). Some great discussions between funders about the evolution needed to achieve this. Within this discussion it was refreshing to hear the growing acknowledgement from funders that there will always be a need for transactional grant-making, to ensure that community organisations are able to access funds for necessary operational costs, while they are diversifying and growing their revenue base to work towards sustainability.PNZ1

There were some excellent sessions with speakers from all over the world and varied sectors. Some highlights were Katy Love from the Wikimedia Foundation, who spoke about participatory grantmaking, a pioneering movement to empower communities in the decision-making process of what is needed within their communites, to create the changes that will address issues through an open two-way discussion.  Within this model, authentic grantee – grantor relationships are created through consultative community workshops to identify the true needs and how best they will be met. This then enables grant-makers to be able to confidently answer the question, what has motivated a particular focus of their granting at any given time.

The important message from this for grant-seekers: ensure action research results are shared with all stakeholders, so that funding partners can be involved in the problem-solving process. Honesty and transparency, as always, are essential for successful long-term partnerships.

These messages were further enforced by the inspiring Hon Alfred Ngaro, Minister for Pacific Peoples, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Associate Minister for Children, and Associate Minister for Social Housing. (Sadly, there is no Australian equivalent).  Minister Ngaro also spoke of the importance of involving community in asking what it is they need. A refreshing perspective from government!

And from the Corporate grants and giving perspective, we heard from Antony Welton, the Vodafone NZ Foundation Chair, James Walker, GM Corporate Affairs at Countdown and Michael Brick, Director Corporate Affairs at Microsoft NZ, who highlighted that while Corporates may have big shiny buildings, inside, there are people, who like to feel involved.

There was a great session on investing for impact and evaluation with Fiona Kram of Katoa Ltd. A great reminder for grant-seekers: ensure the cost of evaluating your project is included in the project budget and funding request - it’s higher than most think! There are some great free articles online by Fiona and colleagues in the Evaluation Matters Journal:

A fantastic reminder, again from Akaya Windwood, that your vision needs to be a ‘living vision’ – not something that gets written down and put in a draw, but something that your organisation embodies day to day. Is it clear and compelling?

We’ll leave you with the quote Judge Andrew Becroft ended his talk with, from Martin Luther King Jr., which speaks to the heart of community-led organisations changing one person or one problem one day at a time:

 “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”