Grant funding is the lifeblood of most community Landcare and grower groups. The problem is that competition for funding is fierce and, as much as agencies want to give you their money, they need to be confident that your project will successfully meet their objectives. So how can you convince a funder that you have a winning project?
The answer is with a clear and achievable proposal that demonstrates good planning, rigorous assessment and community support. That’s according to Becci Clarke of Tuna Blue Facilitation who recently facilitated a Grant Writing workshop organised by Northern Agricultural Catchments Council.
The best funding applications are started well before the due date and are often already in the pipeline before the Grant is released. They start with community consultation and engagement that clearly identifies a relatively common need and leads to a well prepared and bounded project plan. Bounding or putting limits on the project was one of the first tips Ms Clarke had, because this provides funders with a clear understanding of what you want to achieve. Other aspirations that increase the sense of uncertainty or risk should probably be left out, but mentioned as a future step that your project will build towards.
The benefit of starting early means you can show community support for your project, and you have time to develop valuable partnerships with other stakeholders. You’re able to refine your idea and research which methods will best achieve your desired outcome. So when the Grant is released, you’re already looking like a well organised, credible and collaborative grantee.
A small hiccup at this point is, how do you find out what grants are available? A subscription to the Funding Centre’s EasyGrants newsletter is one way (currently $125 per year). There are generally a lot of grants available, but your idea will only match with a small minority of them. So it’s important to read the funding guidelines, understand the vision of the organisation offering funding and perhaps giving them a call will help you decide whether you are eligible and can match your idea to their priorities.
Once you’ve found the right Grant to apply for, the next step is to present your proposal clearly and concisely in a form that a layperson can understand. A good trick is to verbally explain the project to a third party to see if they understand what you will implement and achieve. If you can’t explain clearly, you might need to work more on bounding or scoping your plan and limiting you goals to those that are realistic and achievable.
Ms Clarke suggests avoiding jargon and explaining concepts clearly. She also suggested getting the reader emotionally involved. A case study might be more vivid than general descriptions.
Unfortunately, when you’ve finished writing, you still have work to do because now it will need to be edited. A famous saying goes along the lines of “sorry I wrote such a long application, I didn’t have time to write a short one!” When we write, we often use more words than we need to, and this can end in a loss of clarity and confidence that you really have a clear plan. So, the application needs to be carefully read, sentence by sentence to make sure each is clear and not long winded with words or sentences that don’t add value. Mistakes are also important to clean up because a poorly presented application gives an impression of incompetence or indifference.
Finally, when you have written your magnum opus, ask somebody else to read it and whether it sounds like value for money. That depends as much on your budget as it does on your words. So get quotes for large expenses and show your workings rather than just writing down rounded figures. And don’t think the assessors won’t double check your calculations!
So getting funding isn’t easy. It takes consultation, planning, bounding (scoping), writing, evidencing, clarifying, editing, budgeting and testing. Funders want to know they can trust you to use their money to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes, and the only way to build trust is with a convincing application.