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15 Tips for Successful Grant Applications

Ash Cowper, Leafcutter Administrator

No two funders operate in exactly the same way, but there are several things that they have in common. Most obviously, they all want to make the biggest impact they can with the money they have available. It's your job to convince the decision makers that you're the right organisation to help them do it. Before you make your next grant application, check out these top tips for success.

1. Know What's Available

There are many well-known funders in New Zealand, but equally, there are many funding bodies that fly under the radar. Check out

2. Be Aware of Criteria

Every funder has a set of criteria that determines which organisations, projects, programmes and expenses they will fund. In most cases, they will have areas or sectors of the community which are given priority, and then some restrictions around the type of expenses that can be funded. Be aware that the funders criteria have been carefully considered and regardless of how good your cause is, you can't simply massage your organisation to fit.

3. Apply Early

Most funders have a funding advisor who reads the applications, makes recommendations and then passes them on to the decision-making committee. While you are allowed to submit applications right up to the last minute, it is in your best interest to apply as early as possible. This gives the funding advisor an opportunity to consider your application and come back to you with any questions or points that need clarifying before the deadline is reached.

4. Build a Relationship with the Advisor

The funding advisor is the person who can ‘go-into-bat' on your behalf. Get to know the advisor, keep them in the loop with your successes, and listen to their ideas and suggestions. They will be the one sharing your message with decision-makers, so give them every opportunity to share it in the best possible light.

5. Provide Up-to-Date Documents

Many organisations have a 'Funders File' where they keep documents most commonly requested by funders. While this is a great idea, it is essential that you regularly review the folder and ensure that the documents are accurate and up-to-date. Out-of-date information can hold up, and at times jeopardise, the whole process.

6. Submit Complete Applications

While it is not always obvious why specific Information is required, it is important that you answer every question. If a funder states that you are not to include additional information, then take their word for it and leave it out. However, if a funder invites additional information, by all means include it. Just be sure that you summarise your response on the form itself, then clearly index the additional Information so that they know what relates to what.

7. Ensure Mission Centred Projects

When you are really strapped for cash it's tempting to create a specific project, just because you know there is funding available. Don't! Not only is it an ineffective way to run your organisation, but it is also unlikely you will receive funding anyway. Funders are only interested in supporting projects that will help you further your mission, so stick to your plan.

8. Explain Finances

While most funders recognise the need for you to keep some money in reserve, large nest-eggs will undoubtedly be questioned. If you have more than 12 months of operating budget in your accounts, make sure you explain why it is not being used to support the project in question.

9. Be Concise

Say everything you need to get your point across and then STOP. Simple bullet points using everyday language are far more effective than long-winded explanations full of fluff and jargon.

10. Demonstrate Need

Funders are looking to finance needs, not nice to-haves, so it is important to explain why this item/project/programme is so essential for your organisation and why your organisation is so essential in the community. How will the funding of this application help you meet a genuine need in your community? If it is an urgent need, explain what has happened in your community to make it so.

11. Highlight the Depth of Impact

Working in the community is like dropping a pebble in a pond. There are some instantly recognisable benefits, but the impacts often reach further than what is seen on the surface. When describing your outcomes, make sure you highlight the true depth and breadth of the impact and back it up with success stories that prove your programmes work.

12. Give 'Bang for their Buck'

Like most people, funders want to get the most value they can for their investment. Let them know how funding your project or programme will be a good investment in the long term. Are you collaborating with another organisation, therefore reducing the cost of running two separate services? Will you make the equipment, resources or facilities available for use by other groups? If you can demonstrate that the benefits will be seen outside of your own organisation and clients, this will have a positive impact on your application.

13. Tell Your Story Often

A good track record is an important part of securing funding, so don't underestimate the importance of regularly telling your story. Make the most of the media to highlight your projects, programmes and successes throughout the year. That way, when a trustee is reading your application, they will have some background information already tucked away in their mind.

14. Be Accountable

Put simply, if you haven't returned your accountability reports from last time, you will not get funding this time around. Make sure you send in your accountability statements on time, in the right format and without being prompted. It really does make a difference to future applications.

15. Provide Letters of Support

If you are a new organisation or your project could be considered a little unusual, make sure you demonstrate that you have wide community support. This can be achieved by including letters of support from other organisations or agencies, particularly those who already have a good reputation in the community and a strong history with the funder from whom you are requesting funds.

Remember, just because a funder is required to distribute money to the community, it doesn't mean they must distribute it to you. Make sure you treat every application like a job application and put your best foot forward.

Written by and sourced from: EXULT, Tonic Magazine


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