Top Tips for Grantseekers
13 March 2014 at 10:13 am
With the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation’s Exploration Grants about to open for applicants, the foundation’s grants team has compiled their hot tips for grantseekers planning to write a funding application to a philanthropic trust or foundation.
In 2013 the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation received more than 900 grant applications for projects working across the six key Impact Areas of Ageing, Arts & Heritage, Community & Preventative Health, Environment, Homelessness and Youth.
The Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation has over 90 years’ experience in grantmaking, and has a commitment to growing the capacity and effectiveness of the Not for Profit sector.
The “Hot Tips for Grantseekers” below offer advice that may be of value to anyone writing a funding application to a philanthropic trust or foundation – including those seeking funds from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.
1 – Read the guidelines.
Then read them again. If unsure of anything in the guidelines, check the website or if possible contact the funder to discuss.
Some funders offer the opportunity to call and discuss a grantseeker’s project or proposal with a member of the team, while others will have a contact email address you can send queries to.
It is much better to call or email the funder to discuss a project than to put in an application which may not be eligible or suitable – time is too precious to spend it completing applications which have little chance of success!
2 – Ensure the project fits the grant type and focus area.
Many funders (including the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation) have multiple grant types and focus/impact areas.
Once a grantseeker understands the particular guidelines and grant areas, they need to take some time to consider whether the project they are planning to apply for fits.
If a grantseeker is uncertain about whether it fits, or where it might fit, consider contacting the funder to talk it through (if possible).
3 – Make sure the organisation is eligible.
Most philanthropic funders in Australia have restrictions as to which types of entity they are legally allowed to fund.
Grantseekers may need to have particular endorsements from the ATO to be eligible for a grant. The common endorsements include Deductible Gift Recipient and Charity Tax Concession status.
Make sure that the organisation has these endorsements (and the documentation to prove it) before you apply. For more information on charity endorsements, visit the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) website here.
4 – Answer the question.
Questions on grant application forms are seeking to gather specific information relating to your project.
As such, when writing a grant application, think carefully about whether the response to a given question provides the information that the funder is asking for.
When reviewing a response to a question, ask whether all of the different components of the question have been addressed and whether someone who is not familiar with the organisation would understand how the response relates to the project.
5 – Be consistent.
Make sure that throughout the application there is consistentency in the way the program or organisation is referred to, as well as other relevant information (such as start and finish dates, numbers of participants, expected outcomes, costs etc.)
Inconsistent information makes it harder for the assessor to consider the actual value of the proposal, as it becomes hard to know what is accurate.
6 – Use evidence.
Most grant assessment panels review tens – or hundreds – of funding applications for very worthy projects every year.
For an application to stand out and catch the attention of the assessors, grantseekers need to be able to explain very clearly why it deserves consideration, and outline the evidence to back this up.
It is important to draw a clear “line of sight” between the evidence and the proposal. Don’t simply insert long sections of text from research papers, but provide some analysis and explain how the key findings of the research support the proposal.
7 – Build a logical argument.
The best applications are those which present a clear need or issue, provide a logical argument as to how the proposed program or activity will address this need or issue, and are clear about the target group that the organisation will be working with.
Think about how each specific program objective works to address the identified need, and whether there is any evidence to support this claim.
Providing a clear and detailed project plan helps the funder see that the organisation has thought through how this project will be implemented and how it will meet the identified need.
Ensure that everything in the budget is mentioned in the application and that every activity is reflected in the budget – including any in-kind or pro-bono support that is relevant to the project.
8 – Write drafts and have a review process.
Every writer will tell you that the first draft often bears little resemblance to the final document. Applications that have been drafted, edited and re-drafted are easy to read, free of duplication or repetition and contain a clear and logical argument.
It can help to write a draft application, and then not look at it for a few days (for example, over a weekend).
Come back with “fresh eyes” and see if everything makes sense, or if steps of the argument were missed out. It is also very useful to have someone not familiar with the project or activity read the application.
Take their feedback on board – remember that the grant assessor may not be completely familiar with the subject matter.
9 – Use plain language.
Make your application as easy to read as possible. Using long words, complex language, jargon and acronyms will not necessarily make your application stronger.
Rather, it risks confusing the assessor, making it harder for them to see the value of the project.
It is also important to vary sentence lengths, ensuring that each sentence is a logical progression from the last – and above all avoid rambling!
10 – Explain what ‘success’ means, and how it will be measured.
Listing clear success measures for the project will make it much easier for the assessor to understand the impact that the organisation is trying to have.
It is also important to explain how the organisation measures its success. As a general rule, the more funding the organisation is asking for, the more complex the evaluation process will need to be.
Again, if there’s any questions about the evaluation expectations, ask the funder what their expectations are.
The Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation offers grants to charitable not-for-profit organisations for a range of activities and initiatives, spanning funding for core operational activities that will enable organisations already making a positive impact in their field to become more effective, through to support for new programs and initiatives that have the potential to drive innovation in a given field.
The Foundation’s Exploration Grants open for applications on March 31 and close on May 9. Check the Foundation’s website at www.lmcf.org.au for more information.