Does your organisation have everything it needs to contend for grants funding this year?

Jo Garner CFRE FFIA. Strategic Grants

If you’ve read Philanthropy New Zealand’s Giving New Zealand report you’ll know that overall philanthropic giving in 2014 was on par with the generosity seen after the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011. But while the pot continues to grow, so too does the number of charities seeking funding, with over 450 charities registered between the 2011/2012 and 2014/2015 years.

Many of the 27,322 charities registered in New Zealand will at some time seek grant funding to help fulfil their organisational mission. Does your organisation have in place the resources, planning and skilled employees to contend for and win grants funding? There are a few musts when creating a sustainable grants program for your nonprofit.

  1. It can’t be overstated how important planning ahead is for grants success, particularly when juggling application deadlines with other fundraising program deadlines and competing priorities. Forward planning is essential to ensure you are able to submit only the highest quality applications. Funders (with some exceptions) generally open applications for grants around the same time each year. Having a calendar that details application due dates for good grant prospects, allows you to prioritise enough staff time to ensure you have all the necessary project information to prepare the best application. It also means you can allocate available resources to other fundraising projects the rest of the time!
  2. Getting signed-off project ‘wish lists’ and budgets ought to be a priority early in the year, as it is essential to matching up organisational needs and costs with the best prospects on your calendar.
  3. New year, new website content? Make sure your website is updated with the latest relevant content and contains your organisation’s key messages. Funders will often look at your website when they receive your application, and they are judging on organisation competency amongst other things, so it’s essential they leave your website with a good impression.
  4. Clear lines of communication between your project delivery staff and those who are responsible for your grants program are essential in ensuring a lasting relationship with your funders. Make sure project delivery staff are educated in taking the right measurements needed to provide the evaluation funders require in reports, and that the right person is managing the relationship with funders.
  5. Do you need to provide any education to your board around grants? Are they knowledgeable about their role in relationship building with funders? Do they understand the importance of investing in measuring organisational (and project) performance?
  6. Don’t re-invent the wheel every time. Have a key messages statement on hand, signed off by the CEO to refer to during the application process.
  7. Develop a strong relationship with the funder. Always call the funder (unless they expressly say not to), particularly if you’re unsure if any part of your project doesn’t match the eligibility criteria. By doing so you can introduce your charity’s work, make a connection and you may even hear of other funding opportunities for your organisation through the funder’s network.
  8. Collaborate! It is frustrating for funders to receive multiple requests for the same thing, or for projects which replicate what’s already out there. If there are other nonprofits with a similar mission or who deliver to similar demographics, team up, create strong referral pathways for the sustainability of the project, and work together to get your grant. Collaborating may mean your ask can be for a larger amount!
  9. Construct your grants program around your mission, not what projects you think funders want to fund. Funders are looking for projects that make sense. They want to know that the project fits with your mission and is addressing an identified community need.

Finally, be prepared to stay the course. Securing grants funding is a matter of good planning, relationship building, perseverance and writing expertise. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your grants program be, but with dedication to instilling best practice, you can build a long-lasting and sustainable strategy.

For more information about Strategic Grants visit:

Being Grant Ready with Strategic Grants



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