Applying for a grant
Finding the right grant for you
Allocated or core funding is most often provided by the Australian Government via Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) to local governments. The grants are currently provided under the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995 (the Act). The two components of the grant allocation are 1. a general purpose component and 2. a local roads component. Most states have established Local Government Grants Commissions to recommend distribution of FAGs in accordance with the Act.
Core costs are the expenditure budgets that are not connected with the levels of 'activity' undertaken by a council. They are the recurring costs that are difficult to associate with any specific outputs, as they will exist before and after a project has been running.
Why are they important? These costs will always need to be funded, whether your council is running 30 projects or just three. They're fundamental to the organisation's survival, but can't be directly associated with any specific outcome.
Targeted funding (via a grants mechanism) is provided to support specific outcomes. Grants such as these usually include:
• an application process
• nomination of amount of funding being sought (within given parameters)
• reporting requirements associated with the use of the funds
• closed timeframes for the use of the funds
Targeted funding is most often a competitive application process and sometimes requires direct or in-kind contribution from either the applicant or external stakeholder.
Is your program aligned with your council's community plan? If so, where will the money come from after the grant runs out? How do you propose to sustain the program next year and the year after? Here are some suggestions to consider:
• Increase the integration of program support into your operations and clearly articulate this plan to your funders; and
• Diversify funding for projects so that they come from several sources over time, so that each source of support builds logically upon the next.
Some comments from funders might clarify these points:
"If we're going to fund [programs] for an organization, not only do we need to know that they know what they need and can make good use of it, we also need to see plans for how the continuous upgrade and continuous training pieces are integrated into the operating budget of the organization. Most funders that fund the start-up programs want to see the long-term plan for this program being integrated into the organization's core, because we can't fund core operations or programs in perpetuity.This is not an easy thing to do and I don't mean to suggest that it is something that can be automatic. But I think that this is an additional piece of thinking that [councils] have to do and a case they have to make with their own boards around resource allocation. If funders see [applicants] undertaking those tough decisions, then I think we have greater insurance that our investment is well spent." [www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/funding]
"Frankly, for my board, any indication that there are multiple supporters for an investment makes it more compelling. For example, fairly recently we got a proposal in which it was made clear that, for the proposal to be fully funded, there had to be five funding partners, and each partner was going to have to take a piece. There was the tech assessment, the acquisition of hardware, the acquisition of software, the training, and a two-year IT consultant built into the proposal as a whole, which was part of creating a bigger database, a bigger data management project for multiple organizations. The five funders all agreed to do it, because we knew that our piece was simply a part of a much bigger, well thought-out plan."[www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/funding]
Matching Your Goals
- You need to be able to demonstrate that your project will contribute to the funding organisation's aims. For example, the funder's aims may be to increase children's participation in playing music. Will your drumming workshops for teenagers contribute to this?
- It is also important that any grants align with your own organisation's strategic goals and objectives. You don't want to find yourself committed to developing mental health programs for the sake of the funding if such programs are not part of your long term strategy or direction. In other words, look for a funder that wants to fund the work you do.
Sustainability & Risk Management
- Ensure you have the capacity to implement the project and that you can meet all of the program's requirements.
- You need to ensure you have the resources and people necessary so that you can effectively manage the project.
- You also need to ensure that you are able to meet all obligations under the program. For example, a community writing group decides against applying for a particular grant to help them publish an anthology because one of the requirements was to run workshops for school students – something the group did not have the capacity, or desire, to do.
Victorian State Government Department of Planning and Community Development
NSW State Government 'communitybuilders'
Preparing your application
Be sure to present your proposal professionally. Follow the funding body's guidelines to the letter. Many proposals do not make the first cut because they don't adhere to the guidelines.
Look at your proposal carefully and critically before you send it out (and before the deadline, of course).
• Is it written in a positive tone, focusing on solutions rather than problems?
• Is it easy to read and organized in an eye-pleasing way?
• Is it logical in its structure and organization?
• Does it avoid jargon and excessive acronyms?
• Does it look professional?
• Does it meet all of the guidelines in terms of style, length, and sequence?
While it may sound picky to focus on formatting, remember that program officers are inundated with requests. If they ask you to lay out your proposal in an 1-2-3-4 format and you send 2-4-3-1, the first impression they'll get is that you didn't answer question 1.
Similarly, avoid the temptation to combine distinct sections into one. Grant review panels often use a scoring sheet so that all proposals are judged equally. If they have to hunt through your document to find where you answered the evaluation question, there's always the chance they could overlook your information.
Finally, be sure that your narrative, budget, and evaluation plan tell the same story. If you're requesting funds for computers for an after-school program and your goal is to increase test scores, you need to measure test scores, not just attendance or student satisfaction.[www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/funding]
heck whether you are eligible before applying
- Contact the funding body to discuss your application before spending valuable time writing an application that may not be suitable.
- Check with the funding body to clarify definitions of eligibility criteria. For example, what do they mean by ‘Youth'?
Respond to all the selection criteria/guidelines
- You must follow all the guidelines and meet all the criteria. Do not think the funding body will make an exception for your project if it falls outside the guidelines. Your application will not be successful if you apply for a grant aimed at organisations that support elderly Indigenous women for example, if your project/organisation is aimed at young Indigenous mothers.
Keep it short and concise but detailed
- Answer each section of the application as concisely as possible, but make sure you include all the necessary details about your organisation or project.
- Include a fully-costed budget showing all expected expenditure, including labour and administrative costs. You don't want to find that the project is under-funded because you forgot to add in some costs.
Show the community-benefit of your project
- How will your project contribute to your community? What outcomes do you expect from the project?
- Demonstrate community support for your project. Can you show evidence of community consultation? Do you have letters of support from other community groups? These can all help in putting together a winning application.
Additional resources to assist with funding application preparation...
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has a huge range of demographic statistics that can assist you in creating a community profile.
The Office of Economic and Statistical Research has some very useful tools for putting together community statistics and data.
Reporting and evaluation
Reports are required by most funding bodies as part of the conditions of the grant. These reports are a vital part of the grant process, as continued funding of the project and the eligibility to compete for future funding is often reliant upon their completion.
Each funding body will make you aware of your reporting requirements, and they will normally differ for each grant. Most often a combination of financial and outcomes based reporting milestones, progress and final reports will need to be submitted in accordance with the funding body's prescribed due dates, and required formats.
- Determine whether you, or one of your colleagues, have the skills needed to ensure that the required reporting can be managed inhouse.
- If not, is your council willing to provide training for you, or can the cost of an external agency be incorporated into the funding arrangement?
EVALUATION & SUCCESS MEASURES
Evaluating the success of your grant award is a critical component of your project. The better your methods of measuring success, the better you will be able to evaluate whether you are meeting/have met your goals. Likewise, a good planning process with outputs, outcomes, and a timeline will help you evaluate whether you are on target.
You need to identify a starting baseline against which you can measure your project's success.
For example: if you are putting up new web pages where people can download fact sheets about toxic waste dumps near playgrounds, how do you currently distribute those fact sheets? How many do you distribute per month or year? Do you know? If not, can you estimate? This number will be your baseline. A year after the web pages are up, you can take a look at the number of people who view the web pages or downloaded the fact sheet. You can ask those who downloaded the fact sheets if they distributed them to others. When you compare this number to your baseline, you can get a real sense of the success of this project.[www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/funding]
Clearly identifiy, to yourself and the funding body, what success will look like. Develop a baseline and measure success.
Looking for more info?
WEBSITES, FURTHER READING AND IDEAS
Australian Government and Australia Council for the Arts
Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning
Grants and subsidies programs
NSW Government 'communitybuilders'
Victorian State Government Department of Planning and Community Development
Fraser Coast Regional Council
Government Grant Guru
Good Practices and Pitfalls in Community-Based Capacity Building and Early Intervention Projects: a toolkit
The toolkit has been designed to assist community groups and organisations, and their members and staff. It provides a basic guide to effective project planning, application for funding, implementation, management and maintenance. The kit is based on 20 projects funded under the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy (2000-2004).
LGAQ TOTAL SOLUTIONS
LGAQ Total Solutions offer a tailored grant writing service to support councils in writing and developing grant applications. We have established an expert panel of consultants who can assist councils who may not have the available resources and experience to write well developed grant applications.
SEE the Total Solutions website for more information. To request a quote please contact the Member Services Centre 1300 542 700.