Hot tips on successfully seeking funding: recapping the CIRCLE webinar
Rural, regional and remote community groups need funding to deliver local improvement projects. But how do you go about this and what preparation is involved?
This was the subject of the second Creating Inspiring Rural Community Leadership and Engagement (CIRCLE) program webinar on Tuesday 9 December 2014. CIRCLE, which is funded by DIRD, aims to create capacity and enhance community leadership, tapping into local resources to increase confidence and skills of individuals and community organisations to tackle local issues with fit-for-purpose solutions.
This webinar was hosted by FRRR CEO, Alexandra Gartmann, and featured Our Community’s Patrick Moriarty and local community leader Fleur Anderson who both shared their insights with the 190 participants.
The following is a recap of their key points. There were a number of questions asked during the session, answers to which are below.
Where do you start?
“If you can’t explain what, why, who, how, when, where and how much, then you’re not ready to apply for funding yet,” Patrick explained. “That’s ok though, it’s important to take the time to prepare all the information you need to make the strongest grant application possible.”
FRRR nominates three things you should be able to do before applying for funding:
- Demonstrate the need;
- Support it with evidence; and
- Articulate it clearly and tell a story.
“In demonstrating the need for funds, clearly state what the issue is and what caused it. Supporting evidence could include local council letters of support or even letters from your community group members, showing their commitment to the project. Just make sure it is in their own words and the authenticity will come through,” said Patrick.
Develop a project plan
Step through a plan on how you will tackle the project and document it. The devil is in the detail! Break it down into stages and include what things will cost and who will do what. Make sure you include volunteering and in-kind support, as well as tradespeople or technical specialists.
Be realistic about timeframes and work out what you can actually do in 12 months, which is the typical timeframe for grant acquittal. This will help with your budget. Your budget should demonstrate all sources of funding: volunteer time, discounts from suppliers and any other local fundraising involved. This helps you convey the real value of the project to your community, which is often much more than the funds you are seeking.
Also, think about how your particular project fits into the overall strategy for your local community. “Demonstrating that our Revive and Thrive project was consistent with and supported the big picture plan for the Theodore, Queensland, community really helped us,” explained Fleur Anderson, who secured $50,000 for the Revive and Thrive project.
Where do I go for funding?
Funding solutions come in all shapes and sizes. “Being a relatively remote community, we had to look at who we could partner with and when. A local mining company provided us with access to safety management experts locally and in their interstate offices to help us manage safety on a bike ride. Having their expertise made the ride safer for everyone involved and reduced our costs substantially,” Fleur explained.
As well as developing partnerships with corporate organisations for funding support, consider local fundraising and sponsorship, and online/crowd funding and grants. Longer, slow burn options for funds could come from donations and bequests.
There is $60 billion in grants available annually in New South Wales alone. Tap into online local, state and federal government resources and nominate a ‘scout’ within your organisation to focus on this.
Get to know your funders
Developing strong relationships with your finders is critical. Alexandra Gartmann described it as being a little like courting ... slowly getting to know one another, recognising that not all funders want the same kind of relationship. Some will be looking for long-term partnerships while others may have a particular interest in one project or a component of a project.
“Show funders how you can help them achieve their goals and demonstrate alignment of values. This indicates to the funder that you have taken the time to learn about their business,” said Patrick.
Writing a ‘wow’ application
“Read the grant guidelines carefully - and read them again,” Patrick emphasised. “To make the strongest possible application, you want to fulfil all the requirements you can, so make sure you haven't missed anything.”
Consider using a standardised template, like the Our Community organisational template. Make sure you have all the relevant documentation for your group on hand. Plus, your application will need to discuss how you will evaluate and measure the outcome and success of the project, so start thinking about that right from the beginning.
Include qualitative and quantitative data to help tell your story, even pictures, videos or news articles help set the scene. Remember, that you know your community best but a grant assessor won’t necessarily be familiar with your local area. Help them paint a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve. Even simple information like how many people live in your area, how many are in your community group and detail about your location are useful.
And….don‘t be late! Plan a head and meet the application deadlines.
Try and try again!
Finally, the strong advice was don’t give up! If your application is unsuccessful, ask for feedback and try again. “Some funders are unable to provide feedback due to the sheer number of applicants, but seek it from those who do. FRRR welcomes contact from applicants,” said Alexandrea. “To put this into perspective, we recently celebrated a successful applicant who had previously applied to us thirteen times! They never gave up, they took our feedback on board and understood that in particular rounds, others' needs were a little bit greater than their own.”
You can listen to the recording of the webinar (WMV file) - feel free to share it with your colleagues.
FRRR has also released a series of clips that step you through the grant application and preparation process, as well as a video of Ann Bichel, who shares her grant application tips having raised $1.5 million for her local community. They can all be viewed in the Advice for Grant Applicants playlist on our YouTube channel. You may also like to review the Writing Great Applications section on this site.
There were some great questions asked during the webinar and we have captured them below.
Next webinar – Maintaining momentum – late February/early March
Look out for more information in the new year about the third webinar in the CIRCLE program series. Kerry Anderson, Projects Manager – Community Leadership Loddon Murray, will share insights into what it takes to maintain the success within a community organisation. Together with a local community leader, she will discuss what leadership skills you need to have in place to ensure sustainability of your local group and the projects you undertake.
Simply click on the question to reveal the answer.
If applying for funding in stages, how can we demonstrate our sources of income / funds for the remaining stages?
Why do some funders ask for financial statements and / or bank statements with grant applications? What are the assessors looking for with these figures?
If successful with a funding application, does this affect future applications?
What are your views on employing a submission writer?
What tips do you have about applying for funding outside of official funding rounds or applying directly to Government?
In terms of accessing funding directly from Government, speak to your local members of parliament - both state and federal. They can actively champion a project. But again, make sure you have a compelling case. You'll probably only get one shot at an unsolicited application. So demonstrating the local support, the co-contribution your organisation and community can make to the project will help.
Why don't many sponsors provide grants for sporting groups anymore?
How often should you chase grants from the same funder? If you are successful one year, is it looked upon unfavourably if you apply the next?
Try and try again! Demonstrate that you’re taking feedback on board, amend your applications accordingly and try again. Look at the types of projects the particular funder tends to support and check that your project fits.
Do you let the funders know if you have underspent on their funds?
How do you gain approval for items like earthworks, where a company is prepared to donate machinery and operators, but council won't accept it due to insurance issues?
If you’ve got great resources and support, experts in the field – builders, trades, lawyers, architects etc that you could access free of charge or at substantial discounts but the Shire or council says you can’t because its their asset, then you only have limited options.The workaround for this is for council to go to through an RFQ process and you can submit a response with your suppliers – assuming they hold the appropriate licences, qualifications or requirements. We recognise that this is an issue and is one that Our Community and FRRR will explore further to see if anything further can be done.
Is it possible to get grants to undertake planning?
Could Fleur explain the Revive and Thrive project?
- A Landlord's Fund - to help landlords of local commercial properties to paint their shopfronts to improve the overall look of the main street.
- A Skilled Workers Fund - to attract skilled professionals and tradespeople to the town through a subsidised rent scheme.
- A New Business Fund - to increase the mix of businesses in town by offering one year's free shop rental to any new business.
How do you show evidence if you are a new organisations??
Funders are also looking for a sense that whatever you are asking for can be delivered. So your evidence can be what people involved in the group have done previously. If the need is a local one that hasn’t been “tried” before - where has it “worked” before? If its a really new approach what is it based on – research? Feasibility study? a pilot?
What is the best way to make initial contact with a corporate? A formal proposal? Face to face? A business case? Is one approach better than another?