Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity


Author: Nancy Vaughan


At the Philanthropy Australia National Conference this week! A few quick updates from the field....

Day 1

Lary Kramer, President of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, urging Australian philanthropists to increase funding for operational support for grantees, and not just project funding. Kramer also declared there are two global-scale priorities that Philanthropy must focus on. 1. The decline of liberal democracy and 2. Climate Change.

Larry Kramer


 The Hon. Jeffrey Kennett AC says there needs to be more advocacy on the benefits of philanthropy to encourage others to give. For all that we're doing - we've got ot be able to do it a bit better and do it collaboratively!


John Bush of Paul Ramsay Foundation reiterated today how crucial it is for him to know what impact their funded programs are having and the importance of evaluation....incidentally, caught up on our Evaluation blog posts yet?

John Bush 


Day 2


What an epic day! Standing room only in many sessions!

Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation was talking grant-making strategy with an emphasis on increasing grant values, increasing grant periods, and increasing grants for operating costs for their grant-seekers! Blackwell said that his organisation started funding operational cost because it enabled the organisations doing good work in their community to keep doing this and provide flexibility to those organisations to use the funds for program delivery as well as the overheads.He said "Effective collaboration requires investment from funders. Great collaboration involves doing a lot of things that are not sexy. But we must invest in it. We call this investing in the backbone of the organisation." He was full of wise words, "Better to make new mistakes than remake old mistakes."

Fred Blackwell

Allan English of the English Family Foundation asked: Where are the conferences that bring together philanthropy and the organisations implementing the funded programs? There needs to be much more interaction at the sector level between these two. 


Audette Excel AO, shared her concerns about social impact investment becoming a brand and the risk of 'impact washing'. She said that Philanthropy in Australia needs to get its act together and start funding operating and administration costs, and provide longer term funding.


Este Darin-Cooper, Dr Andrew Lu OAM and Jon Myer shared thier stories of being 'next-gen' philanthropists, in the Next Generation Philanthropy: Beyond the Stereotypes breakout session. Dr Lu remarked: "We're all interested in outcomes."

 Alistair Ferguson of the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Hub with Teya Dusseldorp spoke about how the project has affected the Bourke community. "This is so much more than a project or proof of a concept to us. This is a survival strategy." What a powerful presentation!





KSBNE Author: Kate Sunners

We’ve recently had two of our nonprofit partners achieve the ultimate KPI of a grants program: being approached by their Funders for repeat funding, resulting from their excellent relationship management throughout the life of a grant program. Congratulations to you both – you know who you are!😊

Here’s what happened, to give you an idea of how to make this dream funder relationship a reality for your organisation.

Case Study 1

Step 1 –Demonstrating Capacity and Excellent Funder Stewardship

A local state team of a national organisation was successful with a grant application, partnering with a funder whose mission was well aligned with their own. The project got underway, and the funder was provided with regular reports during the program, as well as a high-quality final report.  

Step 2 – Documented Relationships for Smooth Handover

The state team were then approached to discuss a bigger, potentially national funding opportunity. While the state team continued stewardship with the funder through local events, at this point the management of relationship was handed from the state team to the national fundraising team: relationship history and past communications with the funder had been recorded, allowing a smooth handover of the funder relationship.

Step 3 – Strong Project Plans and Sustainability Planning

The National team were invited by the funder to speak to the board and present a proposal, at which point they put forward a program for $55k in the first year, with reduced amounts in the subsequent years of the program ask, to indicate increased independence and sustainability of the program. The board were happy with that proposal but counteroffered a grant of $60k per annum instead!

Paul Kelly was right, from little things, big things do grow! This is a great reminder that a small grant, if the funder is brought along a journey with you to reaching your program outcomes, can lead to an excellent relationship and greater things for you both!


UltimateKPI image

Case Study 2

Step 1 – Establishing the relationship

During an industry networking event, the nonprofit met a trustee of a prospect Funder; cards were exchanged, and a follow up email was sent to establish a relationship should the nonprofit apply for funding in the future.

Step 2 - Strategic Prospect Matching

The nonprofit committed time to strategic project matching, assessing which of their projects best matched the funder’s eligibility and area of interest in the community. Once they had made the decision to put forward this program, they sent an email to the trustee to inform them an application would be submitted in the next round, along with a brief outline of the program.

Step 2 – A compelling application

Upon reading the most recent guidelines from the funder’s website, the nonprofit got to work on compiling all of the required program information to ensure each of the criteria could be answered with relevant supportive data. Once written, and reviewed by a colleague, the application was submitted.

Step 3 – Follow up and communication with the Funder – practicing perseverance

After the expected application evaluation period, the nonprofit had not received a response - so they decided to contact the Funder to discuss the status of the application. The nonprofit also discovered a relationship existed between the Funder and one of their own Board Members; the two were soon having a discussion about the pending application.

Step 4 – Stakeholder management, dealing with the outcome

Days later, the nonprofit received a formal notification that the pending application was unsuccessful; though disappointed, they sent an email to acknowledge the outcome, and also emailed the trustee to thank them for the opportunity to apply.

Out of the blue, a couple of weeks later, the nonprofit received a phone call from the trustee, asking for the application to be resubmitted as there were some funds still available from the last grant round – the nonprofit swiftly resubmitted the application and soon after received notification that funding would be granted, but double the original amount requested!!

Step 5 – Follow up, keep the lines of communication open, share the achievements

The nonprofit now provides regular updates regarding the program, and stories on those individuals who are benefitting from the program.

The above is an excellent example of a nonprofit engaging with a prospect funder from multiple ‘touch points’, managing the relationship from beginning to end, investing in strategic planning; and dedicating time to maintain a positive relationship – even when receiving news of an unsuccessful application – these actions certainly contributed toward what is now a fruitful, and established partnership.