Top 20 Tips

Here’s our top 20 tips to ensure grant success. Click the + to expand the boxes.

Carefully read the grant program guidelines, eligibility criteria and/or FAQ.

Read them again – read them a few times, in fact – to ensure:

  • Your organisation is eligible for funding.
  • Your project is eligible for funding.
  • You can work within the key dates outlined.

Research the funding body. What is their mission? What is their vision? How will your project help them achieve their aims and objectives? Look at what organisations and projects they have funded previously.

Funding programs generally publish their contact details so you can phone or email them, introduce yourself and your project, and make sure you’re applying to the right program. Make a habit of making contact every time you intend to apply for a grant, and do it earlier, rather than later – this can save you a lot of time and energy, as well as giving you an opportunity to ask questions, shape your proposal, and establish a positive relationship with the funding body.

Writing a strong, successful grant application takes time (and usually more time than you think it will). The best way to save time is by contacting the funding body as soon as possible, to discuss your project proposal and make sure you’re on the right track. Leave enough time to:

  • Source relevant information from your colleagues or project partners.
  • Seek approval from your organisation’s chief executive and/or board
  • Ensure you have all necessary supporting documents in the appropriate file types and sizes.
  • Proofread, edit and spell check, being mindful of word limits and other constraints.
  • Proofread again (and again)
  • Resolve any tricky last-minute issues which may arise, like internet connectivity, computer malfunction, or problems with the funding body’s online form

If your organisation has never received grant funding before, it can be hard to demonstrate your capacity to manage a grant. You need to build a track record before asking for significant sums of money. Consider asking for smaller amounts to fund pilot programs, or partnering with other reputable organisations to deliver your project.

SMART applications are:

  • Specific – your answers are clear, well-defined, and unambiguous.
  • Measureable – you can demonstrate what you will do, and how you will be successful in concrete terms.
  • Attainable – your goals are realistic and achievable, and the budget is sound.
  • Relevant – your project helps the funding body meet their stated objectives.
  • Timebound – your project is planned out and ready to go, including defined timeframes for each activity or action.

Use simple language and no waffle. Don’t presume that the funding assessment panel will know anything about your organisation or the issues that matter to your particular community. Provide context for why the project is significant. The challenge here is to make sure your argument for the project addresses the funding assessment criteria. Of course you want to undertake the project (and you want the funding body to support it). However, you must demonstrate how your project meets the funding body’s stated aims and objectives. In other words: it’s not just about you – it’s about them too!

The world of grants has its own jargon, and applications can seem to repeat the same question several times. However, outputs, outcomes and impacts are all distinct from one another, and they give the assessment panel specific information about your project. See below for an example of what this can look like.

Outputs Outcomes Impacts
Two financial literacy programs were conducted with 52 people from low income backgrounds. After 2 months – 66% of participants have been able to make regular savings and had greater confidence and skills around financial literacy. At the end of the program, the 66% who made savings relied less on food relief agencies – reducing the burden on service providers.
2000 insecticidal bed nets were provided to villages in Angola. 1800 families protected from the spread of malaria. Village malaria rates reduced by 95%. Death rates from malaria reduced by X%. Village economic activity increased by x%. Health costs reduced by X%. Education attendance rates up Y%.
20,000 secondary Y10 school students across 150 schools participating in a special mentoring support program. School attendance rates increased from X to Y. % students progressing to VCE increased from X to Y. 5/10-year study demonstrated increased employment participation rates. Reduction in government and other costly public services e.g. employment benefits, prison and justice costs.
Provision of housing and support packages for 50 released young offenders. Level of recidivism decreased from X to Y. Reduced economic costs via avoidance of prison terms. Increased employment level and economic activity.

Source: philanthropy.org.au

Establish benchmarks, and set targets. When defining your outcomes, you should set realistic targets that you hope to achieve. Broadly speaking, your outcome should include:

  • A benchmark (e.g. area, percentage, distance, number etc.) established before the commencement of the project
  • A target you expect to achieve (e.g. area, percentage, distance, number etc.) that he defined benchmark can be compared against.
  • The activities you intend to implement to achieve that outcome

See below examples of well-crafted benchmarking and outcome statements:

Environmental Outcome Examples

  • To rehabilitate 600m2 of high priority Grey-headed Flying-fox habitat in line with the ‘GHFF Campsite Management Plan’, by a 50% annual reduction in weed cover compared to the previous year, over three years.
  • Increase the number of breeding pairs of Bush Stone Curlew (Burhinus grallarius) on the Fingal Peninsula from 10 to 25, by undertaking pest vertebrate management activities (e.g. foxes, feral cats) and the redirection of walking tracks away from nesting sites by the end of 2021.
  • Rehabilitate 25 hectares of habitat between Numinbah and Couchy Creek Nature Reserves, to ensure ongoing reduction in foliage cover of weed species to no more than 5% foliage by project completion.
  • Improve aquatic habitat in the Upper Molong Creek to facilitate a return of aquatic life through a 90% improvement in water quality by removing 200 Willows, revegetating 1000m of creekbank and installing 10 in-stream artificial habitat structures by 2022.

Social Outcome Examples

  • Engage the community to attract 200 participants over three years in a citizen science project monitoring tree hollows, through awareness raising and educational events on the importance of standing and fallen dead wood to the local fauna.
  • To protect the endangered yellow-bellied glider from predation and habitat loss, by conducting a community education program between 2019 and 2021 aimed and increasing awareness of 33,000 residents on the importance of managing cats and dogs and preserving old and dead trees in the forest.
  • Increase community awareness and knowledge of the significance of fauna corridors situated in the urban areas of the Tomaree Peninsula and help the koala maintain breeding and feeding links and patterns essential to their survival, leading to a 40% increase in participation Koala Preservation Programs by 2022.
  • To equip project planners with an understanding of provenance issues and sourcing of appropriate genetic material for restoration projects, we will deliver six workshops around NSW with a minimum of 10 participants each. We will invite participants to submit EOIs and select three candidates to work with as mentors on project plans for their sites.

Source: NSW Environmental Trust

Ensure you answer every question clearly and completely. Never answer a question with ‘see attached’ – spell it out for the reader. If the limit for an answer is 350 words, that’s a good indicator that a single sentence isn’t going to cut it. Don’t make the reader guess exactly how the funding will be spent, or what exactly you’ll do. Consider the what, why and how, and the where, when, and who.

Who’s who in the zoo: consider the volunteers and/or staff at your organisation. Who will manage the project? Do they have the right skills and experience? If they’ve been involved with similar projects in the past, let the assessment panel know they have a track record. Be clear about roles and responsibilities (i.e. who will do what, and when).

Can you strengthen your application by partnering with another organisation? Is anyone else doing something similar in your community? If your project replicates a service that’s already being offered in your community, most funding bodies will wonder why you aren’t working together. Is your organisation an incorporated body, or do you need to be sponsored by another body? Reach out to other organisations, and consider how you might join forces to further your reach and impact.

The B-word: a detailed, realistic and balanced budget tells the assessment panel that you are well-equipped to manage the accounting of grant money, you have researched the true cost of things, and you know what resourcing the project needs to deliver the best possible outcome within the prescribed timeframe. On the other hand, a dodgy budget can torpedo your relationship with a funding body. An example of a good budget gives as much detail as possible, and leaves nothing to the imagination:

Income description Status Amount Notes
NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Unconfirmed $3,750 This grant opportunity
Organisation’s own contribution Confirmed $3,500 Forecast in 2020/21 organisational budget
Fundraising Confirmed $500 Raffle ticket sales
Department of Environment and Energy Unconfirmed $1,250 Grant application submitted. Funding outcome to be announced April 2020
TOTAL INCOME: $9,000

Most grant applications will require you to identify your organisation’s ABN and tax status, provide your bank account details and evidence of incorporation (such as an incorporation number), and be familiar with the organisation’s financial governance. If someone else in your organisation is the keeper of this knowledge, ensure you leave enough time to gather up all the moving parts – don’t leave it until the day the application is due!

Expenditure description Source Amount Notes
Permaculture community garden design and concept plans Organisation’s own contribution $1,500 Provided by The Design Firm (quote attached)
Community engagement and volunteer recruitment event x 2 Fundraising $500 Production of 200 trifold informational leaflets, light refreshments for approx. 150pax (anticipating 75pax per event)
Project management Organisation’s own contribution $2,000 One staff member x 80 hours (10 hours per week / 8 weeks)
Solar energy battery pack Department of Environment and Energy $1,250 Supplied by Oz Renewables (quote attached)
Supply and installation of sustainable irrigation system NSW Office of Environment and Heritage $2,000 Supplied by AAA Garden Systems (quote attached)
Purchase of heirloom seedling varieties NSW Office of Environment and Heritage $250 Supplied by Eden Seeds (quote attached)
Installation of solar powered lighting NSW Office of Environment and Heritage $1,000 Supplied by Oz Renewables (quote attached)
Purchase of mulch, stakes and netting NSW Office of Environment and Heritage $500 Supplied by Northern Beaches Nursery (quote attached)
TOTAL EXPENDITURE: $9,000

Most grant applications will require you to identify your organisation’s ABN and tax status, provide your bank account details and evidence of incorporation (such as an incorporation number), and be familiar with the organisation’s financial governance. If someone else in your organisation is the keeper of this knowledge, ensure you leave enough time to gather up all the moving parts – don’t leave it until the day the application is due!

Keep in mind, you might be offered partial funding. Plan ahead, and be prepared to scale back your project to suit a smaller budget. Perhaps this means running half as many workshops, or reaching a smaller audience. Maybe it means growing your program at a slower rate. How can you still meet your objectives and aims?

Consider your supporting material. This might include: letters of support, plans, drawings, media clippings, visual material, quotes, certificate of currency and incorporation. Most applications either allow for support material or specifically request it. Don’t underestimate the importance of support material or how long it may take to acquire. Ask early, ask nicely and ensure people have the right information to supply what you require in time.

Be honest. Don’t fudge. Many application forms will ask you to consider the risks associated with your project. Funding bodies are not looking to hear that your project is risk-free – they simply want to know that you’ve considered potential risks, and are prepared to manage them should the situation arise.

Funding programs generally ask the applicant to nominate a primary contact person, and will almost always correspond with that person by email. It’s a good idea to use a ‘generic’ or ‘central’ email address (e.g. info@organisation.org) rather than an individual’s address (e.g. firstname.lastname@organisation.org). This means correspondence won’t slip through the cracks if someone leaves the organisation or is otherwise absent for any period.

Where possible, aim to submit your application at least a few days before the closing date. Most funding programs have at least one round per year, so it’s often better to wait for the next round and invest that time into putting together a strong application (rather than rush a lesser quality submission).

Most application processes will include the opportunity to seek feedback on the quality of your application once the funding outcome is announced. Whether you are successful or not, it’s a good idea to reach out and ask, ‘What can we do better next time?’. Be polite, professional, and take notes! Funding bodies want you to succeed, so take their advice on board and submit a stronger application in the next round.