Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

KarleenQLD AuthorKarleen Gwinner

Applying for grants is hard work. Particularly when you consider that only 20% of your time is spent on the task of writing a successful proposal.

There are several ways to go about improving your chances for success in grant-seeking. Yes, and I can hear you ask- what are all the secrets, how does one achieve an excellent and successful grants program?

Rather than going through the tried and tested Strategic Grants best-practice grant-seeking list, I thought it worthwhile to glean knowledge straight from a successful grant-getter’s mouth, so to speak. So, I asked Julie Yeasbley from Multicap what she does as a successful grant-getter. 

Julie coordinates Multicap’s Grants Program, which involves Researching funding opportunities; managing the GEM Portal; managing relationships internally with Multicap management and teams to identify organisational needs; managing relationships with funding bodies; and writing, submission and acquittal of grants. Multicap is a Not-for-Profit dedicated to the delivery of contemporary disability support services across Queensland. Multicap has a long and successful reputation for working collaboratively alongside people with a disability, their families and the local community to design and deliver supports that assist participants in achieving their goals.


Grants are an important part of the work at Multicap. They help to fund customer-focussed initiatives. Julie’s role involves seeking grants to support planned property improvements, specialised disability equipment and innovative program development for people with disabilities and the 900 strong Multicap workforce.

Every month Julie records successful grants in Multicap’s customised GEM Portal. I asked Julie a handful of questions to glean just why she is so successful in her grant-seeking for Multicap. Her answers will help you in your grant-seeking too.

Question 1. Can you describe the key things that make your grants program great?

Our grants program is still a work in progress, but we aim to:

Centrally coordinate all components of our grants program;  Have clear guidelines in place that are well communicated throughout the organisation, so that if someone has an idea or hears of an opportunity, they know what the next steps are;  Generate revenue through a grants process that is well supported by all parts of the Multicap business

Question 2. Where do you start to seek grants?

I have only used the Strategic Grants GEM Portal since I began working with Multicap about a year ago, so it is always my starting point.  From there I explore the most relevant funding bodies related to our business, such as:

* Local, state and federal government

*Trusts and Foundations

*Private Ancillary Funds


*Peak bodies, and

*Fundraising publications

Question 3. How do you decide which grants you should apply for?

We only apply for grants that are a priority for our business, and meet a current or planned need in the organisation. 

The last thing we want to do is successfully source some funding for a project that will disrupt our business, or fail to get off the ground.  This type of outcome could create a negative perception of the grants program internally, as well as damage a well-intentioned relationship with a funding body. 

Question 4. What do you find is the best way to “drill down” to find the best grant fit using the GEM Portal?

I start by searching opening/closing date or topic, I find this is easy with the search functions available. Searching for opportunities on GEM is just the beginning.  There is enough information available initially, to decide whether the grant opportunity is a good fit with our organisation and its mission. My next step is to follow the link to the website for full guidelines.

When I have had some success with a funding body there is space to write details of the project and communication with the funder, so there is a record of the relationship easily available.  A positive funding relationship may lead to future opportunities, and the notes you put in GEM can be followed by other people in our organisation to continue my work, if I am away.

Question 5. How do you use GEM to capture your grant activities?

I make sure that I regularly update the calendar so that I can see all potential opportunities that are available.  If I am made aware of an opportunity that isn’t in the GEM Portal then I ask Strategic Grants to add it to the calendar, so that I have a complete list of proposals that I am working on.

 I manage my workflow by using all of the Application Tabs – from Wish List through to Acquittal. Each month I download and filter spreadsheets for reporting purposes. Ad hoc downloads are quick and easy if reports are needed at other times as well.

Question 6. What are the elements of the GEM Portal that you like (use) the most?

I love flicking the application online from Pending to Successful when I get good news! 

That’s a great feeling after a lot of hard work. GEM helps me manage my workflow and time. Also reporting to my manager and the board  is much easier with the capacity to download current or historical data about your grants program.

Question 7. What do you think, are the key things you do that lead to successful grant applications? KarleenBlogImage GleaningKnowledge

Start planning from before the grant opens if you can. So much of a grant application actually relies upon other people in your organisation and their availability.  Good internal relationships will stay that way if you allow people plenty of time to get their information to you.

Where possible, I ensure some sort of contact with a funding body before or during the application process to build a relationship and ensure your project is truly what they are looking to fund

I only put forward applications for projects that are fully aligned with our business, ie they are matched with our Strategic Plan, and/or approved at an executive level. These applications are usually well thought out, with a business plan, a comprehensive evidence base and budget

It’s not always possible, but is less stressful if you can get your application in before the due date. This avoids any IT issues with online applications that cannot be resolved at the last minute.

Question 8. What key piece of advice would you give to someone to be a successful grant-seeker?

* Be organised and mindful of timeframes throughout the year

* Communicate everything – make sure you provide as much information as you can about what you need from people in your organisation so that you can tell the best story and make your case for support clear in your application.

* Work on the processes, good news stories, evidence and relationships all of the time – not just when you are writing an application.


You can find further information about GEMS here - and discover how it can help your grants program 


Charlotte Melbourne Author: Charlotte Francis

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions this year? Go ahead and add a grant goal for 2019. Not to add to your to-do list, and risk feeling overwhelmed - just the opposite!

Start preparing now for your biggest grant asks, no matter how late in the year they fall!

So much of achieving success in the grants space is around forward planning to avoid the last-minute rush towards a deadline, compromising not only the quality of your application but also presenting poorly to funders. And, as you will know, some funders and funding applications require more rigour than others. One of those funders is Perpetual. If you are not familiar with Perpetual, here’s a snapshot.

- Perpetual’s IMPACT Philanthropy Program usually opens end October each year with a deadline of early December

- Perpetual Investment Trustees manage over 200 trusts and distribute approximately $25 million each year via this annual funding round, offering grants up to $200,000 averaging at $80,000

- They fund across ALL sectors and ALL program types including infrastructure, capacity-building and capital.

Perpetual are looking for organisations that are delivering on their mission and have strong and measurable outcomes. The key things they are looking for are evidence of strength in: Strategy, Leadership, Outcomes and Capability.

Measuring your performance

They want to know that you are measuring your performance as an organisation – how efficient are you in using your resources and how effective are you in delivering on your mission and strategic plan. And, this is why you need to prepare and should start NOW.

Simply put, efficiency measures are your inputs versus your outputs (think: resources, time and people) and include financial performance figures e.g. increase or decrease in income and expenditure (e.g. operational or fundraising), diversification and growth of revenue streams, staff and/or volunteer retention, number of occasions of service delivery and so on.

Effectiveness measures ares more outcomes related, often captured by qualitative AND quantitative data. That is, how are you measuring the changes your organisation is affecting? These may include things like: Increased participation and awareness, percentage rate of client satisfaction, changes in behavior, wellbeing, understanding and attitudes.


They key is to show how you are performing against your KPIs. To do that you need previous years’  data to benchmark against and show how you’re tracking over time. For example, a revenue increase from what? A percentage increase from what? In what space of time? If you have not performed well on your KPIs, give explanations why not. They are not judging your performance, they just want evidence you are measuring it. Is your organisation capturing this kind of data? If not, there’s a take-away action for you right there!

Other key sections of the Perpetual form require you to document external challenges faced by your organisation – and they don’t want to hear about lack of funding; that’s a risk shared by every applicant. What they are looking for is sector-specific changes such as the NDIS or Royal Commission into aged care. They also ask you to detail not just risks to the project, but risks to your organisation as a whole, and how you mitigate these. 

These are my actionable hot tips for the year:

  1. Start to plan your Perpetual now by gathering data on your KPIs (or setting them if you don’t already have organisational efficiency and effectiveness KPIs in place!).
  2. Seek opportunities to chat to Perpetual well ahead of the closing date (once the funding round opens, they generally do not answer enquiries).

I hope you add this to your New Year’s Resolution list, and we wish you the best of luck with those, whether they be crossing things off your bucket list, creating a better work life balance, taking up a new hobby or becoming the grants superhero of your organisation.

CharlotteBlog Perpetually Prepared2

If you need support in pre-planning your Perpetual, formulating KPIs or writing the application when underway, Strategic Grants is well placed to help. We have many years of collective experience of preparing and writing successful applications to Perpetual. Just contact us on 07 3892 1150 or