Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Jo BNE  Author:Jo Garner

 “Philanthropy’s best role is to challenge government, present solutions and enable the competition of ideas” Karl Zinsmeister, Vice President, The Philanthropy Roundtable (USA)

The 2019 Summit, organised by the fabulous Philanthropy Australia team, featured one of the best opening plenaries of any conference I’ve attended. It ticked all the boxes; presentation of diverse, informed views, robust debate, and strong opinions (mostly informed) to challenge everyone’s thinking. It certainly sparked many conversations to come both formally and informally, for the duration of the event.

While the title was a mouthful, “How can philanthropy support considered public policy development in a post-truth political world” (clearly sticking with the political jargon in coming up with that one), the panel was a powerhouse of intelligent and passionate leaders across media, philanthropy and / or politics.

The discussion set the scene perfectly of what was to come over the remainder of the two days.

Some overarching messages and thoughts:

* Trust in our political systems, both locally and globally, is at an all time low. How can collaboration work if you don’t have trust?

* It was generally agreed (by those that spoke publicly, anyway) that private and corporate funding should NOT fund political parties. Only government funding should be used for campaigning and there should be a cap on it. Hear, hear, Kerry O’Brien (fan girl moment!)

* How do we restore trust in both politics and the private media? Is a bi-partisan approach needed to tackle the big issues? (Seems obvious, right? Let’s hope that discussion continues!)

* Our political system needs disruption if anything is going to change significantly.

* Involvement of community in the design of proposed solutions, is needed!

* The bulk of philanthropic giving comes from individuals rather than institutions (trusts and foundations). This fact fed into some great examples around successful local community programs that have mobilised all levels of community to work together to find local solutions. Community Foundations (such as Great Shepparton Lighthouse Project - are playing a key role in enabling local giving, to solve local problems.

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Discussions that are particularly relevant to those wanting to build effective, long-term funding partnerships:

* Research allows you to move on from debating the relevance of the problem! One of the most relevant key messages for our clients. If you have irrefutable evidence of the problem / need for your program, there is nothing to debate. Now you just need to work on the solution!

* Likewise, you must acknowledge (and verify) the precondition that is required for change.

* Evaluation of outcomes and changes, remains (as it should) a priority. If we don’t know what’s working and what’s not, how do we know where to (re-)invest?

* Rarely will a one size fits all model work, particularly in human services. So, while talking about scalability, we need to look at adapting and localising solutions. Loved the term used, “scalable localism”.

* How does a large scale collaboration work well? When the partners agree to work together and look after each other - a great example is Logan Together ( Other examples of successful, long-term funding partnerships were cited that included annual round tables that bring all program partners together (funders included) to look at what is working and what is not. 

* As always, there was acknowledgement from our Philanthropists that projects don’t always go to plan. It is what you learn and take away that is invaluable. And share those learnings!

* There were a number of examples of long-term philanthropic partnerships that evolved from engaged grant-making to including loans for capital purchases that would enable the development of social enterprise

One of my favourite analogies used across the two-day summit, is from Karl Zinsmeister, Vice President The Philanthropy Roundtable (USA)

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If you are not already a member of Philanthropy Australia, be sure to join so that you too can join such important discussions about the disruption that is needed to mobilise real change in addressing our most pressing societal issues.






Jo BNE AuthorJo Garner

The task of writing a grant proposal can be an exciting process. You have the opportunity to turn your organisation's ideas into something real. With a great project plan you're ready to ask for funding. But hang on a minute, where IS the project plan?

Do you find yourself racing against funder deadlines, waiting for the right project information from your service delivery team / project leads?

A very common issue encountered by grant-seeking professionals is having to chase up the depth of information required to write a strong application. This is often because of inadequate project plans. 

Robust plans for the projects on your internal funding wish list, will ensure that:

* the project is actually grant ready

* it aligns with your organisation’s mission and strategic plan

* your project leaders understand the depth of information funders expect

* your project evaluation frameworks are embedded into the project design stage. 

A collaborative relationship with your project leader is vital to preparing a project plan; commit time to discuss the project, and the funders expectations with the project leader / team before you start the project plan. Working with the project leader from the onset will ensure a diligent project plan is created, containing all of the project details required to draft a strong grant application.ProjectPlanning Image2

The key information needed in a project plan, to ensure your projects are grant-ready:

Aim – What is the goal of the project?

Project need – Why is it needed? What service gap is it fulfilling? How do you know the need exists?

Differentiating factors – How is the project different from others? Why is your organisation best suited to deliver this project?

Target group – Who is this project helping? How many people will be assisted?

Objectives – What are the project outcomes? How will they be measured to achieve the aim?

Strategies / Methodologies – What tasks will be implemented to achieve the objectives?

Timeframe / Key Milestones – What are the project milestones? When does the project start and finish?

Project risks – What are the project risks? How will those risks be mitigated?

Collaborations – Who is your organisations working with to deliver the project?

Outputs – What are the projects’ immediate deliverable elements?

Outcomes and Impact – What are the direct changes (outcomes)? What will the impact be? (sustained or systemic changes)

Evaluation measures – Who is conducting the evaluation? What measures will be used to evaluate the project?

Budget – What is the total project cost? How much will the project cost your organisation to deliver?

Using the above headings will enable you to collate the project information in a clear and logical order, and be proactive in your grant-seeking.Project PlanningBlog Image1

Having a project plan at the ready means no more chasing up information from your project team, which will lead to you submitting a stronger grant application.

If you need help in preparing a project plan, or educating your project delivery team on the depth of project information and program design planning required to secure large grants – we have a pre-recorded Project Planning webinar for you. Or of course we can help!