Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

JaneAuthor: Jane Symonds

So many of us are drawn into fundraising by a desire to do good, a yen to contribute something positive to our world and our community.

For some, fundraising is a calling.

But it's also a job, and like any job it can be hard to maintain that feeling of inspiration and purpose day in and day out, particularly when you're contending with mundane realities like budgets and processes and documents.

This week here at SG, our whole team has been working on assisting a range of small and larger nonprofit organisations with their submissions to the Federal Indigenous Advancement Strategy funding round. It's been flat out, and at times downright stressful, with a huge deadline looming and detailed criteria to meet.

But as we come to the end of the week, and the applications are safely arriving in the submissions inbox, there's an overwhelming feeling that every ounce of work is worth it.

It's worth it, obviously, because we can feel like we've helped put great organisations with great projects in the best possible position to receive much-needed funding. That's the no-brainer: where we can help organisations succeed, it's worth doing what we do.

But there are other highlights, too.

We've connected with new people (heck, scratch that – we've made new friends!) – people with fascinating experience, contagious spirit and a real connection to the needs and direction of their community.

We've learned a whole lot about community organisations from places right across Australia. We've heard their voices, and helped to tell their stories.

For me, personally, the best thing is that we've been able to give support that will endure beyond this funding round. Being able to give feedback to these nonprofits on their application drafts, and seeing them respond to that, learn from it, and produce exponentially stronger responses the second time around, is incredible – because we also know that this experience, knowledge and capacity will be with them the next time they seek funding, and the time after that, and...

It's a nice reminder, as we prepare for our next round of Grant-Seeker Workshops next week, that so much of what we do is about empowering fundraisers and nonprofits to be able to seek grants effectively, and that short-term support can mean long-term impact.

So, although Team SG needs double-strength coffee today, we're all full of renewed inspiration to get stuck into the next application, the next training session, the next challenge. And really – you can't ask for much more than that on a Friday!

JoAuthor: Jo Garner

12 months ago, I realised a personal goal of becoming a grant-maker, through my role as one of six founding members of Queensland's first Giving Circle, Women & Change.

In my role with Strategic Grants, we have consulted to various funders over the years, and have worked with many more in the delivery of our Grant-Seeker Workshops.

Through those relationships we have collated so much feedback on the challenges (and rewards) they face as grant-makers: from receiving phone calls from prospective applicants who have not yet read the guidelines, to the worst-case scenario – receiving applications that are ineligible.

Having just been through our first Women & Change grants assessment process, I have to say that (in addition to being terribly excited to award our inaugural grant of $52,000 on 5 November) there have been frustrations that I am now experiencing first-hand.

So, wearing my grant-maker hat, and to add to what we have learnt over the years in helping charities develop and sustain successful grant-seeking programs, here are the very basic but golden rules to follow when you are next applying for a grant:

  1. Read the guidelines.
  2. Don't ignore the guidelines. They are developed to ensure that the philanthropists' intent is met in grants that are awarded, so adhere to them. This includes:
    1. abiding by the word limits
    2. confirming your eligibility (for example, does your annual revenue need to be under a certain figure to be eligible to apply?)
    3. ensuring that all attachments are provided as requested
    4. providing answers to the questions asked
    5. checking spelling and grammar
  3. Don't forget: trusts, foundations, collective giving groups and other funders are established with the purpose of making grants. They want to give money to support worthy causes that align with their own missions. Encourage the growth of philanthropy by exciting philanthropists.

To learn more about best-practice grant-seeking, check out our Training page for our range of learning opportunities, including half-day workshops where you can learn all the essentials from one of our Grants Specialists and one of our funder friends.