Dos and don’ts of seeking grants

27th October 2015

  The process of applying for grants has never been uniform or easy. Different foundations or funding bodies have different processes, rules, guidelines and eligibility requirements. That being said, hopefully the following considerations will help:

  1. Do your homework

This sounds simple, but in reality so many applicants don’t take the small amount of time required to look up the website of the funder to find out what they do and don’t support and the process they use in doing so. Rather than getting on the phone straight away, spend some time on website to find out more.

  1. Ask questions – don’t pitch projects

If after reading the website and supporting information you find that you still left with questions, by all means get in touch and ask away. Please don’t see this as an opportunity to pitch your project. Funders generally don’t have the time to sit there and listen to applicants pitching projects. In fact, many avoid this in order to keep it fair for all applicants.

  1. Be courteous

This one should be standard as it is simply good manners. Being rude to any staff member will not work in your favour. The ‘word’ always gets around.

  1. Manage your existing relationships

There is great value in nurturing relationships with your network of current grant funders, partners and supporters. Get in touch in between reporting times to advise of progress made on your project. Also, don’t be afraid to get in touch early when things aren’t going to plan. Funders want to see you succeed and will often do what they can and work with you to help get the project back in the right direction.

  1. Follow the process

When a funding body has a clear grant application process, applicants have a responsibility to obey the procedures in place and not look for ways to ‘cut corners’ just to try to make sure their project makes it across the line. Having an institution target and accost trustees, directors and review panel members of a funding body is simply bad form – both before and after decisions are made. Rest assured that a well-prepared application for a high quality, well thought out project that meets the objectives of the funding body will always stand on its own two feet.

  1. Focus your efforts on the right funding bodies

If a funding body stipulates that they don’t support something, please don’t try to twist an application so that it might be perceived to align with the guidelines. In most cases this will result in a waste of the applicant’s time and will also waste the resources of the funding body. It’s best to accept that this is simply not what they do and instead focus your efforts on working with the funding bodies that support your type of project.

  1. Stay in the good books

Some foundations keep track of all ‘dud’ applications and it may actually hinder an applicant’s (and institution’s) future efforts should they one day have a project that aligns with the foundation. Likewise, some also ‘black list’ institutions from which grant applicants have failed to acquit. Be the person everyone wants to work with.

  1. Request a relevant amount

There is no use applying for a $200,000 project from a funder that generally provides $50,000 grants. Most funders indicate the average and maximum amount of their grants on their website. If this information is unavailable on their website, it can often be found under grants funded in annual reports. Funders find it very frustrating when applicants stretch their budgets to fit within a few dollars of the maximum grant amount. In fact, some avoid advertising maximum amounts as they know applicants will apply for what they think they can receive rather than what is necessary. These are often the same applicants that ask ‘how much can I apply for?’. The correct question should be ‘how much do you really need to successfully delivery the project?’

  1. Get assistance from someone with a different background from yours

Once your application is prepared, ask someone with a different background from yours to review your proposal. They will often pick up on key points you may have forgotten or address questions from a different perspective. It’s also a good idea to contact your industry engagement office to get some help where appropriate.

  1. Always acquit

Grant makers understand that grantees are busy – everyone is – but it’s important for them to find out about the project’s achievements so they can in turn communicate this to their board, donors and key stakeholders. As mentioned before, regular and brief communication outside of reporting times also goes a long way. Acquitting on today’s grant may help secure tomorrow’s.

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