Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

NancyVic  Author: Nancy Vaughan

Oh my goodness, it’s already the end of January!  How did that happen?  What is it about time that is so evasive and contrary?  It expands when you least appreciate it (like when you are walking across red-hot sand to get to your beach towel) and contracts when you need it most (grant submission deadlines!).

Effective time management is particularly crucial for those of us working in grant-seeking and grant-writing.  Long-term, big picture time management underpins the successful development of funder relationships; while short-term time management is critical for ensuring grant application and EOIs are submitted on time. 

Yes, I know that books, blogs and websites about time management are everywhere. The challenge is finding time to read them! 

While there is some contradictory advice out there, most sources have these key elements in common: 1. Know what is most important to you (your priorities),  2. Focus your time on these, and  3. Use a range of tools and systems to help you focus your time on these priorities.

1. Know your Priorities

Read just a handful of time management or productivity books and you will quickly notice that knowing what is most important to you (your priorities) and then focusing your effort on these is at the heart of effective time management. It stops us confusing being busy with being effective and makes sure we stay focused on what matters most.  Or, as Stephen Covey says in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People … you must “Begin with the end in mind.”  Ideally, your organisation has a strategic plan that identifies priorities for the organisation, and your list of grant-seeking priorities is a logical extension of this.

2. Create your Road Map and stick it to your wall.

After you have identified your priorities and written these down, most time management experts suggest the best way to tackle these is by breaking them down into smaller, achievable steps.  I have called this a Road Map. Your Road Map is a one-page document that clearly sets out each step - with a timeline and any resources needed - that must be taken to achieve each of your grant-seeking priorities.  Priorities plus clear steps and timelines = Road Map.  Keep it simple.  This isn’t a list of every single work task but a list of your priorities.  Display it somewhere you can see it.

A Road Map will tell you when you have detoured too far from the track and will guide you back. This is reminding me of the time my sister and I ended up lost and bogged in the dark with no mobile reception somewhere off a logging track in the Alpine region of Victoria.  We had to hitch a lift from a one-armed truck driver back to the nearest town and his dog farted the whole way. True Story. Like I say, we all need a road map.RoadMapBlogImage2

3. Use your Road Map

This is the key.  Allocate your time so that the priorities in your Road Map take precedence.

'Always keep your focus on your most important tasks; - Craig Jarrow (Time Management Ninga)

Here are some common time management systems and tools to help you stick to your Road Map and have your most productive year yet:

  • ·       Break down your priorities into monthly or weekly tasks and then block these out in your calendar as chunks of uninterrupted time. The general advice is to block this time out for first thing in the day. Let your colleagues, staff and other contacts know about this commitment.

    ·       Take 10 minutes at the end of the day to prepare a list of priority tasks to complete the following day. Remember: Focus on the important things first. 

    ·       Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day or week and factor in time for the unexpected and distractions.

    ·       If your workplace allows for this, turn off your email and social media notifications, and check these a handful of times a day only. Craig Jarrow, author of the Time Management Ninja, recommends only checking email three times a day: morning, noon, and end of day. The Ninja also suggests that picking up the phone is much faster than engaging in email ‘ping pong’.

    ·       Keep messages short and clear and don’t reply unless this is actually required.

    ·       Recognise when you are simply spinning your wheels on a task and take a break.

    ·       Set time-limits for tasks. Parkinson’s Law says that ‘Work expands to fill the available time available for its completion’.  In other words, if you allocate 2 weeks to complete a task that can be completed properly in 2 hours, you will find a way to complicate/expand the task so that its fill up the hours of that 2 weeks. 

    ·       Within reason, say No to requests for your time when they do not contribute to your progress towards your priorities. Stay focused on what is most important.

  • ·       Stop multi-tasking.  Focus on one task and finish it then start on the next.  Evidently, we end up spending less time on a task and make less errors when we focus on one task at a time. This Psychology Today article has some great tips on increasing productivity at work and expands on many of the tips covered in this blog.    

   So, there you have it.  Your 3-step plan for a focused and effective 2019.  



Bianca BNE Author: Bianca Williams

 Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day.

– Michael Josephson

Now whilst the festive ‘merry-ness’ may be starting to waiver as you begin to focus on the key tasks for 2019, take a moment to reflect on what you achieved in 2018, and what you are yet to achieve in the year ahead. Identify your key business goals, break each one down into bite size pieces and map out a strategic plan of how to achieve each bite. Starting the year with a clear path of how you are going to achieve your business goals will help sort out your priorities and inform where to commit your resources; none more so than your grants program.

As with any business, relationships are invaluable to charitable organisations. The team at SG strongly advocates for our nonprofit partners to invest time in establishing and nurturing a relationship with funders. Trust and Foundation funder relationships should be managed similar to those of  donors, corporates or sponsors; engage purposefully on a personal level with a meaningful message.  By investing time in these relationships, you open the doors to establishing a partnership and long-term support.

Existing funding partners

Invest time in structuring a communication plan for each existing funder

Have a discussion with your funder to determine how they best like to be communicated with (phone, face to face, email, letter) and how often; the last thing you want to do is 'push the friendship'

  • Identify key project milestones of when to update the funder and report on how the project is going; an email, card or letter paired with photos of the project (site or program participants) is a great way of celebrating milestones with the funder 
  • Allocate one person exclusively in your organisation to contact the funder to ensure a coordinated approach (and save the embarrassment of having 6 different people send an email to report on program progress)
  • Only contact the funder with a specific purpose or update – this will demonstrate your organisation is strategic and effective in using its resources (i.e. your time in contacting them)

Prospect funding partners

The best place to start when identifying prospect funders are those who have funded your organisation before.

Ideally your organisation will have a centralised record of all funder history (past & current) that you can easily access – if you are a GEMS user, this information will be easy to ascertain. If you don’t use GEMS (Grants Expertise Management System) - it’s worth checking out!

Once you have researched into the history, you can plan how you will reconnect with the funder;  you could give a brief update on the project that was previously funded, report on any changes within the organisation (staff, structure, programs) or, if you are new to the organisation, send an introductory email. Invest time into developing that relationship and see what funding opportunities arise.

For those who have identified key grant rounds in 2019 to apply for diarise time to call the funder before the application due date. The purpose of the call is to introduce your organisation, ask questions to clarify the application process or funding focus areas, and gauge their interest. This phone call will alert the funder to your organisation’s project and take the first step in establishing a relationship. Be sure to read the guidelines (most recent) and funder’s website (if they have one) before making the call, and ensure you tell the funder you have done so – it will be looked upon more favourably if you are prepared.

Future funding partners

This group of funders will take some time to develop a relationship with, they could include the ‘By Invitation’ funders who seem untouchable – limited contact information available, no interest in receiving applications from unknown organisations. So how do you become known? A good place to start is by researching into any connection between your organisation and the funder’s Trustees - there may be an opportunity to be introduced by a mutual contact. But ensure you have done your research to confirm your project aligns with the funder’s area of interest.  

Multi-year funders who partner with select charities for fixed periods can sometimes be difficult to connect with outside of the usual grant round; think ahead and send an email / call to introduce yourself, your organisation, and notify the funder you are looking forward to submitting an application in the next round (whenever that may be).

The difference between a relationship and a partnership

‘A partnership is an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests’ 

It’s important not to undervalue the importance of your organisation, the service it delivers and the community sector it supports when negotiating partnerships with funders (corporates, Philanthropic or otherwise); genuine funders will partner with your organisation because they share the same values and wish to align with an organisation that will deliver on their mission.

I realise that relationships take time,  which is a precious commodity (particularly if Trusts and Foundations form only part of your role). But if one hour a week is put aside to make a phone call, draft an email, or coordinate a program update – it’s time well spent that could see your existing and future funder relationships turn into fruitful and genuine partnerships.