Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

KarleenQLD  Author: Karleen Gwinner

Not for Profits’ (NfP) are increasingly finding themselves seeking funding from alternative sources for program activities and interventions. If you haven’t already considered private ancillary funds (PAF) as a source of revenue for your program activities, then you maybe should.

PAFs are growing in Australia at a rate of 8% per annum. Commonly, a PAF will give around $25,000 per annum over a three-year period. At last count, PAFs now distribute $457 million a year to Australian charities and that distribution has tripled in the space of six years. Basically, PAFs are now the most popular form of structured giving for affluent Australians.

On the downside they remain mysterious and elusive. Each PAF is distinctive and they are often hard to approach, specifying directives such as, “We don’t accept unsolicited applications ”.

The task of seeking financial support from these mysterious donors may well be daunting and leave you huffing rather than PAFing!! So, I hear you ask, what is THE SECRET? How do we empower the law of attraction which will have PAFs giving to us?Huffing or PAFing Karleen Blog image


#SECRET =101 grantsmanship

Well really, it’s no secret. Gaining support from PAFs is all about the basics, the 101, of a well-honed grantsmanship. Ten points to you if you know this. The 101 of all funder grantsmanship is the cultivation of relationships and this has extra significance in the law of attraction with PAFs.

Firstly, though, PAFs are not to be treated like traditional grant applications. Most PAFs don’t have staff running the foundation. While some PAFs have formal funding rounds, most don’t. Often decisions are made based on a concise summary of a NfP’s needs, directly by the PAF founder or immediate family members. Rapport is important. Foundational! PAFs are about people.


Prior to approaching a PAF do your prospect research. Make sure your organisation is eligible to apply for PAFs. Learn about the individual or family’s motivations for giving and their funding principles. People give through PAFs because they are looking for a good experience. People who give through PAFs are generally seeking a clear vision of what they want to achieve through the provision of funds, rather than being reactive to applications they receive. They want to enjoy their giving; they want to feel they are making a difference.


NfP’s are at the heart of making a difference.

Don’t underrate the value your organisation has to nurture and cultivate change in our communities. Equally, don’t underestimate the role that passion and personal experience play in PAF decision-making for giving. Make sure you know and sing the achievements of your NfP and the strength of your governance.


101 basics- be prepared with strong narrative about your organisation.

There are several documents and tools which are essential for all funder grantsmanship. Knowing your Key Messages and how they align to the PAFs motivation to make a difference is imperative. Also have your Wish-list at the ready. If you don’t already have a Key Messages document or a Wish-list prepared check out how we can help via one of our Podcasts.


The key to approaching PAFs for support

Support from PAFs, in most cases, involves long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships. Habitually this is built through respective connections and not unsolicited emails or phone calls. The key to approaching PAFs for support is to look for a link between your organisation and the fund. Use GEMS to identify good prospects. Find out what they have funded previously and who the key people and directors are.


Design a strategy for cultivating a relationship. Is there a connection between your NfP and the PAF? Appeal to the PAF’s motivation for giving. How does your organisations mission meet their passion for making a difference? PAFs are driven by and large, by personal passions and serendipitous alignments.

Talk to your board, your CEO, see if there’s some connect with the PAF founder or trustee through their business or community interests, a family member. At events seek out opportunities to introduce yourself. Ask another of your funder friends to introduce you! If you can’t find some connection, perhaps redirect your time and energy until an opportunity presents itself.

Don’t overlook the basics. Gaining support from PAFs is all about the basics -b e strategic and develop strong relationships.


Bianca BNE  Author: Bianca Williams

More Strategic has more in common with Strategic Grants than a shared title – both organisations help secure funding for not for profit organisations through establishing robust and sustainable fundraising practices to achieve their financial targets, and deliver on their organisations’ mission - strategically!

Martin Paul, a Director at More Strategic, has worked with nonprofits for more than 25 years providing consultancy in adapting best practice commercial and marketing practices to the sector. Specialising in a suite of fundraising and marketing skills, Martin features as our guest blogger to provide insight into how your organisation can effectively manage its Trusts and Foundations’ program by ‘Benchmarking your organisations grants performance’

Fundraising – how is your organisation performing?

Every year, we (the team at More Strategic) collect detailed management accounts from 25-30 charities and undertake deep analysis into the profitability, share of market and growth trends for every type of fundraising. It is not enough to just compare your performance to last year or to your budget – you need to know how you are doing compared to other organisations if you are to establish whether you are under or over performing.

Reliance and Ratio data - evaluating grants performance

One of our favourite charts that looks at the data set for 2018 is the reliance and ratio chart below. Our data set for 2018 includes 26 charities with a  combined income of $425m and the chart below shows the proportion of income from each type of fundraising (vertical) and the associated cost income ratio (horizontal). Trusts and Foundations make up 5% of all revenue and have an overall cost income ratio of just 8%.

More Strategic Graph1










There is of course a spread of reliance and return depending on the organisation but almost no one receives more than 20% of their revenue from Trusts and most have a cost ratio of under 20%.

More Strategic Graph2










Behavioural Economics – how much is too much to spend on fundraising?

At More Strategic we are on a mission to get rid of the cost income ratio from our language! In a randomised controlled trial using behavioural economics we discovered that 69% of donors think spending 33% on the costs of fundraising is bad / really bad but if a charity is given $1.00 it is then able to raise $3.00 - 62% of donors thought that was really good. 

Fundraising Multipliers – how do Trusts and Foundations perform?

So, let’s take a big picture, long term view of the typical fundraising multipliers for each of the main types of fundraising. This time we are looking at all our data over the past 5 years – 66 organisations and $4billion of income! (of which $145m is from Trusts). We can see that Trusts and Foundations are second only to bequests with a return of $10.76 on every $1.00 invested.

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We also know that there are great variations across fundraising programs on how expenditure is allocated between direct costs and salaries. For Trusts fundraising it’s not surprising that the ratio is 86% of expenditure on staff costs – we presume the other 14% must be invested in Strategic Grants!

This also gives us a return on every dollar spent on staff of $12.58 – so check your figures, are you getting a 12-1 return on staff costs? We can also look at the income per Full Time Equivalent (FTE) which works out at roughly $1.1 million, again, how are you doing?

Benchmarking Study results

The charities in our benchmarking study supply 5 years of income, direct costs and salaries so we can also track trends in growth of income and profit for each type of fundraising.

Over the 5 years to 2018, gross income in Trusts fundraising increased by 25% and net by 24%, making it the 5th fastest growing sources of revenue (behind major gifts, corporate and bequests).

Of course results vary by organisation and this is best illustrated by the “accelerator” chart below which shows the rate of growth of income (vertical) and the rate of growth of all costs (horizontal) for each organisation in the benchmarking study. An organisation that increased costs by 50% over the 5-year period and increased income by 50% would be on the line – those who had income grow faster than costs are accelerating. As we can see for Trusts there are more organisations below the line than above suggesting slower marginal growth.

More Strategic Graph4










Trusts and Foundations have one of the very best return rates…this could be a sign that we are actually underinvesting or over performing.

So in closing, if you have grant-ready projects…...invest more!