Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

FIA/ACPNS Alumni Anniversary Breakfast – takeaway messages from The Ian Potter and Myer Foundations

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Author: Kate Sunners

 

A few quick insights from this morning’s FIA Queensland and ACPNS Alumni Anniversary Breakfast, featuring a panel with Janet Hirst, CEO of The Ian Potter Foundation, and Leonard Vary, CEO of The Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund.

It was great to hear these funders reiterating the messages we share constantly through our training:

-  building relationships with funders is essential
-  plan your project first before finding possible funding (rather than trying to fit a project to a funder)
-  inform yourself about what grant-makers do and do not fund before making contact with them

This last is very important, as Leonard Vary pointed out, as grant-makers such as The Myer Foundation do make funding decisions based on quality of leadership (preparation, understanding and diligence), among other factors.

It was not so great to hear that these two very large foundations are still receiving applications and contact from organisations who have not read their websites, or taken note of the guidelines. Remember: just because you have a great project, doesn’t mean it’s a great fit for every funder.tickbox

The speakers also reminded us of the need to provide evidence for all claims made in applications. If a funder says an application requires letters of support, they are not looking for a list of people who will potentially lend support – they must have the letters of support in hand. Make it easy for CEOs to go to their board with your application by ticking all the boxes!

It was encouraging to see these large grant-makers expressing an openness to long-term funding, in order to really address problems in a way that is likely to provide solutions and broader impact. Of course, this makes it all the more important to plan project evaluation right from the outset. As Janet Hirst reminded us, the only real failure is a project in which neither the funder nor the applicant learns something. The Ian Potter Foundation places such importance on evaluation and learnings that it has appointed an Evaluation Officer to run workshops with grantees.

Grant-seekers also need to be applying with sustainability in mind: funders want to understand the exit strategy for the end of the granting period (which may be other funding sources, or taking the proven service-delivery model to government).

It was great to see so many nonprofits taking the opportunity to hear directly from Janet and Leonard this morning – and to be reminded that these philanthropic leaders are also genuine, approachable, experienced people with real passion for what they do. Having been reminded of the things grant-makers are looking for from applicants, and that really make an application stand out… it’s time to start preparing for grants success in 2016!