Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Heart versus head: balancing emotion and reason in grant applications

JaneAuthor: Jane Symonds

Fundraising is a passionate business. It’s serious work – most effective when strategic, smart, skilled and systematic – but it’s got serious heart, too.

For most people involved in a project, there’s at least some element of emotion about the objectives.

Passion is what makes social good so…well, good. It drives change and generates energy to overcome challenges.

Sometimes, though, passion and emotion make it hard to clearly explain a project in terms of the need, the solution, the outcomes and impact.

Think of this: if someone ran up to you in the street and asked for your mobile phone, what’s the first thing you’re going to want to know before you hand it over?

Why?

Of course, you need to satisfy yourself that their need is acceptable to you. If they've just been mugged and need to call the police, you might be happy to let them borrow it. Unless you know that, though, you probably won’t fancy handing it over.

When you’re preparing a grant application, never assume the funder knows what the need is. Explain it clearly, using evidence to demonstrate it.

Remember that the funder doesn’t live and breathe the need the way you do. A lot of the time, they are not already emotionally invested, so you need to make a clear case to win them over.

“Good for you, but…”

Another hypothetical: you know someone who knows someone and you can get a corporate box at the AFL Grand Final for a discounted rate. You call a friend, jumping out of your skin, to get them on board.

They laugh at you. Why? Because you’ve forgotten that they’re a diehard cricket fan and have no time for AFL (as they’ve told you many times, but you’ve refused to listen – who doesn’t love footy?!).

Don’t be the bad friend when you’re writing a funding submission. Remember to step outside yourself and try to see the application from the funder’s perspective. It might be a great project – but does it fit within what they want to fund?

Deep breaths

The best way to ensure your application strikes the right balance between passion and reason is to get someone who is not connected with the project (or even your organisation) to read it.

But that’s not always possible, and to be an effective grant-seeker, it’s important to learn how to think critically and objectively about your submissions, to ensure you’re answering the questions, providing the funder with clear, concise and relevant information, and tempering your passion with a healthy dose of logic.