Let’s paint a picture: You’re part of a vibrant school or community group. Your heart is brimming with hope, ambition, and dedication. But often, what you have in passion, you might lack in funding. Enter the world of grants – a potential lifeline for schools and community non-profits, especially those steered by tireless volunteers like you. But with so many vying for the same pot of money, how do you ensure your grant application stands out?
By integrating these three foundational strategies into your grant-writing process, you’re setting the stage for success:
1. Strategy: Define, Align, Shine!
- Understand Your Needs: Begin by dissecting what exactly you need funding for. A new library? A community event? A water station? This will become the heart of your application and help you with the grant research and finding the ‘right’ grant.
- Budgeting Brilliance: Know the costs. Whether it’s for materials, people-power, or infrastructure, having a clear budget is pivotal. And make sure you include in-kind support, like volunteer hours, to manage the activity. (Psst – head to The Centre for Volunteering to calculate the in-kind cost of your volunteer’s time).
- The Right Fit: Not every grant is your grant. Choose those that perfectly dovetail with your needs, ensuring your project aligns with what the funder wishes to support. The better you understand your needs (step 1), the easier this research and fit process will be.
Eligibility & Alignment: Once a potential grant is on your radar, ensure you tick all eligibility boxes. It’s like pairing the right key with its lock. Moving beyond the obvious eligibility criteria is the alignment piece. Is your proposed project really aligned with what the funder is looking to achieve?
This is where you need to read between the lines and get to know the funders objectives and strategies. For example, the NSW Sustainable Schools Fund would align to projects that are ‘hands-on’ and delivering sustainability projects for schools. It wouldn’t align so well with the project design or research piece to deliver the project. Same project but different ask based on the alignment with the funder (ie. ‘delivery of project’ V ‘development of project’
2. Data: The Backbone of Authenticity
- Why Data Matters: The proof is in numbers (or data). By presenting relevant data, you’re broadcasting reliability and adding a tangible dimension to your narrative.
- External Vs. Internal Data: Whether it’s statistics from recognised bodies or your collected data, combine both to present a holistic picture. Some examples include testimonials, case studies, location-specific statistics and letters of support.
- Budget Data: Remember, asking for funds you can’t expend is not a good idea. Always be driven by the funds you ‘need’ to spend, not ‘want’ to spend. Align your finances, ensuring you request precisely what’s necessary. Psst. Top tip: Don’t wait until you do your grant application to develop your budget. Once you have an idea of your organisation’s funding wishlist, start developing your project budget to inform the type of funding you need.
3. Story: Where Heart Meets Hard Facts – Our Three Golden Tips for Writing That Stellar Grant
- Readability: Prioritize clear, concise language. You’re not writing a complex thesis but a compelling invitation for partnership. Simplify jargon and be direct. The best advice is to write it to a 5th-grade level.
- Engaging Content: Yes, you’re addressing professionals, but they’re human first.
Craft your application so that it resonates with the person reading it. Make them see, feel, and believe in your vision.
- Get a Second Opinion: Before hitting that ‘submit’ button, have another set of eyes scan your application. They might catch errors or offer a fresh perspective, making your application more robust.
For the hardworking volunteers driving schools and community non-profits, grant applications might seem daunting, but they’re an avenue teeming with possibilities. By intertwining strategy, data, and storytelling, you’re not just asking for funds; you’re inviting funders into a shared dream, one where communities grow, flourish, and soar. Remember, it’s not just about securing funds, but building bridges and forging lasting partnerships.
By Janine Owen, Grant’d: Impact storytellers and experts in grants management and strategy