Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

NancyVic Author: Nancy Vaughan

The team at Strategic Grant knows the importance of carefully researching every prospective funder you are intending to submit an application to, before you prepare your application. Unfortunately, many funders still report that they receive high percentages of applications that just aren’t a great fit with the guidelines, or worse still, are not eligible. While we urge all applicants to try to call the funder to discuss their application, the phone call of course comes AFTER the in-depth desk top research.

First impressions count

Demonstrate you have taken the time to know and understand the funder and their objectives before picking up the phone, and of course that you are eligible. You must be able to succinctly articulate how your organisation aligns with the Funders objectives and funding focus areas.

What does thorough research look like?

Let’s start with the obvious … visit the funder’s website and read the funding guidelines for the relevant grant program very carefully.  Read the FAQs and Hints and Tips. Then, read it all again. Is the project or program for which you are seeking funding eligible? And does it fit within the guidelines? Make sure you check for any exclusions and that the grant range and geographic focus also align.

Research the funders history – what have they supported previously?

Many funders will list previously supported projects on their website or in the Annual Report.

While this does not determine whether your project will be of interest, it does open up questions to ask when you are talking to the funder. Are they interested in funding similar or are they looking at different projects? A decision may have been made that enough funds are currently invested into a specific area, but that information may not appear in the guidelines. It will likely though come to light through a targeted conversation. Review the entire website with the aim of fully understanding the granting intentions.

Expand your sleuthing into social media

Does the funder have any social media accounts?  If so, read through their posts as they often provide extra detail about programs and organisations they support.  If your organisation is aligned with the objectives of the funder, it’s a great idea to follow or like them on social media. 

Look for connections

Look for connections between funder trustees and your organisation’s stakeholders, including your board members.  It is not uncommon for trustees and foundation staff to work across a number of grant -making bodies.  This is particularly vital when the funder is ‘by invitation only’. 

Conferences are also terrific places for learning more about funders: what they are seeking from applicants; what they consider vital for a strong application; and new ideas they are interested in hearing more about.SuperSleuth BlogImage1

Not all funders provide detailed information about their grant-making and giving.  However, some go to significant effort to provide potential applicants with all of the information they need for before, during and after the application process. 

A selection of funders with fantastic websites and resources for applicants include; The Ian Potter Foundation; Helen MacPherson Smith Trust; Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation; Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR); The Ross Trust; and Perpetual Trustees IMPACT Philanthropy program.  

Time invested in researching your major donors well, ensures that you are only presenting the best project to the right funder at the right time, which gives you the greatest chance of a positive result and raising more funds to continue your work.

Remember: Research, Research, Research!



KarleenQLD  Author: Karleen Gwinner

I worked with a client recently to help them develop a grant application for a lifesaving project. This organisation has a transformative purpose, a clearly articulated approach to its work, and a specialised niche. The grant application was made that much simpler because the organisation had brought together their targeted messaging in one document — a key messages document.

In this one document were simple and inspiring messages that were easy to relate to and understand. These were outlined in short and long form, prioritised and backed up with statements and evidence of their value. While there was still room for improvement, the document was useful as a foundation for refining the project description and thus, fostering greater understanding of the project and how it aligned with the organisations purpose.

The benefits of a key messages document

Here at Strategic Grants we know that the corner stone to successful grant seeking is communication. It is the foundation of achieving your mission and building your relationships with internal project leaders and funders alike. The benefit of a key messages document is that it focuses and simplifies your organisation’s values and successes so that they have impact. A key messages document details the key goals, outcomes and organisational information, to help staff anchor the core ideas, values and messaging in grant proposals.

The anatomy of a key messages documentFour Ps BlogImage

CLAIMS + FACTS + EXAMPLES are three essential elements for powerful messages.  With that in mind, here are four Ps and one A to ponder when putting together a key messages document:

Purpose – Outline your purpose. What is your organisation’s unique value proposition and benefits?

Pitch – Concisely describe the core idea that will help you gain traction with funders. What do you do? What makes it unique?

Persuasion – Identify what is actually likely to motivate and even excite funders. Be clear, concise, and honest.

Presentation - Key messages ensure consistency, continuity and accuracy about your organisation and help staff to link day-to-day efforts to the organisation’s mission and purpose. Package your content so that it is accessible for staff across your organisation and easy to use.

Adapt - Key messages are not static. Over time, routinely revisit the living document to ensure it still meets your needs and the messages reflect current trends, research and issues your organisation is addressing.

Share your key messages

Key messages need to be shared across your organisation so that everyone is singing from the same song sheet. Having clear, consistent messaging in your grant responses (and, in fact, right across your organisation) is fund-a-mental.

Ensure you get your point across by creating your key messages well before you start writing grant proposals.

Looking for more help in creating your own key messages document? Have a listen to A GEM of a Podcast episode 3, or get in contact with us and take advantage of our team’s expertise in creating clear, powerful messages that inspire people to take action.