Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity
Published: Friday, 04 May 2018 15:06
Dr Karleen Gwinner
The Grants in Australia 2017 report identified that over 50% of not-for-profit organisations who responded to the annual survey, said they started but did not submit grant applications.
The reasons given were:
1. running out of time,
2. finding out the funding program wasn’t a match,
3. realising the organisation or project did not meet the eligibility criteria, and
4. because of problems with the application form.
Un-submitted applications result in a waste of valuable time and staff resource.
On the flip side though, successful grant-seekers were less likely to have begun – and failed to submit – an application (Grants in Australia, 2017 p.17).
So what’s the secret of a successful grant-seeker? Strategic planning! Success comes down to having a strategy aligned to your organisation’s strategic plan and program delivery model. Below are four steps to cultivate a strategic grant-seeking approach. These steps will help you flip your un-submits to successful submits.
Step one -The wish list.
Before looking at the deadlines for grants, talk to your staff, project leaders and clients. Find out what is needed on the ground to deliver your programs to the community. A wish list may include equipment, activities, staff, additional programs and evaluation of activities.
The project wish list should be more than just a list of things your organisation wants. For a project to make it onto the project wish list it should be grant-ready. This means you need to have all the information required to demonstrate -the need for the project, how the project will be implemented, time frame, what it will cost and how you will know if it is successful. Each item on the wish list should have a completed project plan (Check out our podcast- Episode 7, A Prioritised Wishlist
Step two – Match making.
This step prevents the second most common reason for not submitting an application: finding out the funding program wasn’t a match.
Unfortunately, an instant ‘swipe for perfect match with funders’ tinder-style app’ doesn’t exist. However, our grants management system GEM is a great resource that helps you to make an informed match - if you use it wisely!
GEM saves you time searching numerous funding sites. Your project wish list is used to create a customised calendar relevant to your funding needs. As you review relevant grants, look at what they have funded in the past. Does your project align with the mission of the funder? What are the synergies between your organisation’s needs and funder’s charitable purpose? Does your organisation meet all the eligibility criteria?
Then, ask yourself if all the ducks are lined up? Is the timing right, is the need still a priority, do you have the resources and in-kind contributions needed if the grant is successful?
Once you have read through the detailed information and are satisfied that your project is a match, you can enter a description of your project linked to the grant in GEM. If you review your GEM calendar once a month, you will avoid the horror of last-minute grant applications! (For more prospecting tips check out GEM of a Podcast episode 8
Step three – Ring before writing.
As a rule (and a flawless way to avoid that dawning realisation that your organisation or the project does not meet the eligibility criteria), call or email the funder before you write your application. Discuss your project and confirm the match.
The GEM Portal history tab will bring up any previous grants your organisation has considered and the feedback you, or your predecessor, have documented. If there is a previously established relationship with the funder, build on these connections
Relationships are the key to success and need to be nurtured. If in doubt about the funder guidelines, criteria and timing ask the funder for help. If you need training or writing support, get it! (We can help!
Step four – Call in the A Team.
Successful grants are developed by a team with clear understanding of roles and responsibilities. Let your CEO and Board know that you are progressing an application.
Many grants also require collaboration between organisations to meet community needs. Before the pen hits the paper, meet with the project leaders, stakeholders and partners.
You can use tools like Gantt-charts to help manage the process of preparing the application (especially if it’s a big one, like a Government tender!) to identify who needs to provide information and by when.
Review the budget and any shifting requisites, and ensure you have a monitoring and evaluation plan to measure the outcomes of your project. With your ducks now in a row, you are less likely to have problems filling in the application form. But, if you do have a problem ask the funder for advice or clarification.
A strategic grant-seeking plan will ensure you avoid the episodic, fragmented, and opportunistic grant writing practices which lead to un-submitted applications.