The 10 Fundamentals of Applying for Grants Funding
The purpose of this guide is to give you the advice and information needed to begin accessing grants funding for your organisation and its projects.
There are many grants funding groups in New Zealand. Organisations such as gaming trusts, which distribute some of the pokie machine and lottery monies that are taken in each year, and philanthropic organisations that are funded by private individuals or groups.
The fact that there are a high number of funders out there is fantastic because it means there are lots of funding opportunities waiting for those who are willing to put some time into researching and applying for grants. At the same time, however, the huge number of funders can be a tad overwhelming and make it difficult to know who to go for and for what. But, with a bit of luck (and the helpful advice in this guide), you will learn how to match the right funding source to your projects and how to go about applying for grants.
We have worked with dozens of schools, play centres and community groups to help them secure funding for playground surfacing and equipment. In our experience, successful grants applications have the following things in common:
- Good communication – both in your team and between your team and the funding provider;
- Maintaining a positive, passionate, community centred mindset, and;
- Accepting that you can’t win them all and that sometimes, the best thing to do is to move on and try something else.
With that said, here are our top 10 tips for accessing grants funding for
- Go to the right society for the right project
- Check that your project is within the geographical area covered by the society and that it meets their funding criteria
- Be clear about the timing of your project and how it fits in with the grant cycle
- Make sure the application process is coordinated within your organisation
- Clearly state the purpose of your application highlighting how it will benefit the community
- Be prepared to spend some time and energy on completing the application properly
- Make sure you keep a complete copy of your application and supporting documents
- If you have a question, look at the FAQs on the society’s website first. Chances are someone has asked the same question before
- If in doubt, contact the society
- Putting together a successful bid and proving that you meet the funding criteria takes practice. Don’t take it personally if your first application is unsuccessful. If you are declined, reapply
- Bonus tip:
1. Go to the right society for the right project.
Here it is important to do your research. Check out the society’s website and see what they fund, and what they don’t.
We recommend creating a shared document for your team where you can save funding sources as you find them. This is an important step in matching the funding source to the need in your organization.
List the name of the society along with details about the types of things they will fund, funding limits, and their grant application deadlines. This will help you sort your sources into grants worth applying to for now and grants that may be useful in the future. Leave a space for your team to fill in with projects or needs that match the funding application criteria of each funder.
Check out our free downloadable Grants application planning template which comes pre-populated with all the major funding societies and what types of projects they will fund.
2. Check that your project is within the geographical area covered by the society and that it meets their funding criteria.
It’s important to go over the fine print with each individual application, they all have slight differences as to the correct documentation.
It can also be quite successful to breakdown your application into smaller projects. This enables you can apply for more than one grant through different trusts (this usually needs to be disclaimed in your application). This will help you get the full amount required for your projects as each trust may only be able to approve partial amounts of the application.
3. Be clear about the timing of your project and how it fits in with the grant cycle.
Societies can’t fund retrospective costs (i.e. invoices you’ve already paid).
It is also important to get the timing of your quotes right. Some funding groups have a limit as to how old a quote can be (e.g. 3 months prior to application) and it’s important to get all the paperwork correct as it creates a smooth process for the application.
4. Make sure the application process is coordinated within your organisation.
It’s a good idea to communicate to your team what you are applying for and where you are applying. It’s not a good look when your funding society receives one application from you and one from your headteacher – it makes your organisation look unprofessional and disorganized.
We recommend that you filter your applications through one person or a finance committee, especially when applying to more than one society for different projects. Make sure you include the right information for your contact person including their out of hours contact information in case of follow up questions.
Get your whole group on board with what you are doing. It is crucial to show a united front and that everyone is clear on the details of the initiative for which you are seeking funding.
5. Clearly state the purpose of your application highlighting how it will benefit the community.
Societies have hundreds of applications to go through and will appreciate a clear, simple statement about the project’s goals and aims.
If applicable, explain how the success of your project will be measured. If it’s a reading program and you are asking for funding for books, explain how the progress of students in the program will be measured. Even better, if there is evidence showing the success of similar programs run elsewhere, highlight this fact.
It might also be productive to look into the values and goals of each foundation or trust as this is something to keep in mind when filling out your application, this will help you to really nail what each decision board is looking for, so you can tailor your application to tick all their boxes.
6. Be prepared to spend some time and energy completing the application properly.
Make sure you start the process well before the application deadline. Answer all questions and provide any required information and supporting material, such as quotes, financial statements, resolutions and evidence of non-profit/charitable status. Applications are often declined because something simple was missing. A well-prepared and thought-out application gives the society considering the application confidence that the applicant organisation is well run and has a clear and worthy purpose for the grant.
7. Make sure you keep a complete copy of your application and supporting documents.
This is often a good code of practice as this is a great resource to re-visit if your application is denied or if you’re applying for funding in future.
8. If you have a question, look at the FAQs on the society’s website first. Chances are someone has asked the same question before.
Funding Society websites are also a great place to look for ideas that you haven’t considered for funding. Check out the list of successful applicants (most funders publish these on their website). Looking at previously approved applications will give you an idea of what types of organisations and projects get funding, and in what amounts.
9. If in doubt, contact the society.
Building a relationship with a grant manager can be useful in navigating your way through the application process. If you form a good relationship with the funding society, they may even reach out to you when they have funds available.
The key here, is to keep your funding applications focused on worthy projects. If the funder sees that your organization is effective at delivering great outcomes for your community, they are likely to fund other projects you are involved in.
10. Putting together a successful bid and proving that you meet the funding criteria takes practice. Don’t take it personally if your first application is unsuccessful. If you are declined, reapply.
You may have been declined because funds were allocated already, and it was just the timing of when your grant was received. It’s important to if denied ask for feedback to improve future applications.
It can also be good to give back to the trust by giving a simple thank you or being able to send photos of what the grant went towards. This is a great way for future applicants to see the success of the funding program.
11. Bonus tip:
New Zealand has many funding organisations that operate nationwide and distribute millions of dollars in grants all over the country. We certainly recommend that you apply to these sources for grants funding. But sometimes, it’s not the big national bodies that deliver the goods. Sometimes, it’s the local societies that are your best bet.
The key thing here is that local people like supporting local projects. Don’t be surprised to find someone on your local grants decision committee who has a connection with your organization and would love to help you out. It could be an ex-pupil, a parent, or a volunteer. Chances are, they will be just as excited about your project as you are. It’s their community too, after all.