How to write a great grant application
There’s a lot of money around for community groups that your club could use. Here are some tips on how to apply for grants, including being well prepared and telling your story.
Some people are born to fill out paperwork. Others have paperwork thrust upon them. If you’ve been given the job of applying for a grant and aren’t sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place.
Applying for grants involves a bit of work, so here’s some basic information to help you get your head around what’s needed.
An online process
These days, most grant applications are made online, and you’ll need to register or create an account through the funder’s website to get going.
You’ll need to log in every time you update your application. It’s ambitious to try and complete the application in one go, so save your details as you go, and keep track of your registration name and password.
The grant website will step you through the entire application process, but it can call for a lot of detail. It’s best to have one person in charge of the application who can assign tasks to other club members. They’ll need all the support they can get with collecting information.
Chickens and eggs – what comes first
Know what you want. Don’t go grant hunting without first deciding on your project. You can then tweak the project to suit the grant if necessary.
What do you want the grant for – specifically? Grants aren’t given for general club running costs like the electricity bill. They’re usually for programs or projects so it’s important to be specific. Perhaps you want to buy a bus to get members safely home after games. Or maybe you want to run an after-school street soccer tournament to engage at-risk youth. Get the club committee and the members to agree and commit.
Gather the facts
Applications demand two broad types of information – the facts and the sales pitch.
Before you log in, put together a folder or file with all the documents and basic facts about your club that any grant submission will ask for, such as:
- your club’s ABN
- insurance certificates
- incorporation or charity registration documents
- primary contact details – who is in charge at your end?
Without supplying all the right documents, your application will not pass ‘Go’. If you have it all in one place, future applications will be much easier.
Square pegs in round holes
Grants are not a blank cheque. You need to meet specific criteria to be eligible. In other words, there are some boxes you must tick at the start of the process and along the way. The online grant application form will list these.
You’ll also be asked to describe your organisation and include any previous successful projects or qualifications committee members have around organising and executing projects. This is where the funder wants to make sure you have what it takes to get your great idea off the ground and running smoothly.
Research how much your project will cost, how much the grant will cover, what funding you will need to make up from other sources, and where you will secure that funding from. Grant funders don’t want to hand out money for a project with holes in the budget.
Make sure you get accurate quotes for all parts of the project – don’t guesstimate. Include all the project’s costs in the budget, not just the parts the grant will cover.
Include in your submission a description of the project and give it a name. Describe how it will work, what outcomes it will deliver, the targets it will meet and a timeline for reaching those targets.
Set specific, timed and measurable goals. For example: ‘the street soccer tournament will engage up to 25 youth who are at risk of dropping out of high school, four times a month, to form a peer support network and involve them in a structured sporting program’.
Tell your story to a real person
This is where you convince the grant provider that you’re onto a winner – a bit like a sales pitch. Keep in mind it’s not just a computerised form filling process. After you hit the Submit button, a person decides which pile your paperwork will end up in.
Keep the language simple and clear and tell the real person who’ll be reading your application why your project matters:
- What you hope the project will achieve
- Who will benefit from the project
- How the project matches the aim of the grant program.
You need to look past the scoreboard and winning games. Think about the impact on individuals, on teams, on families and the wider community.
Why a bus isn’t just a bus
Tell your story in human terms.
For example, if members head home after a long day of competing and a round of happy socialising, climbing on the bus means they’re not going to be drink-driving and causing accidents. Every player, official and volunteer is a valued community member and a person someone loves.
Thanks to the new club bus, they’re going to get home safely to their family. It’s a big drawcard when a club is able to deliver that kind of responsible service, to role model positive behaviour and show they are leaders in their community.
The bus might only seat 25 people, but hundreds will benefit. Using examples and testimonials, demonstrate the kind of support your idea is getting from the club and the wider community.
Good Sports a big attraction
Being a member of Good Sports is an extra incentive for funders to look favourably at your club. It’s a highly respected health and wellbeing program backed by the Australian Government that has 10,000 member clubs around the nation.
Good Sports clubs model behaviours and leadership that grant funders are looking for. Mention your Good Sports membership and highlight some of your relevant policies to give your application added appeal and relevance to the selection criteria.
Contact your community partners and ask for short testimonials that will support your project’s application.
Angling with the right lure
Remember to also angle your funding story around the purpose of the grant. Let’s use the bus example again. If the grant is about improving road safety, your bus is an easy fit.
If the grant is looking at community volunteering, crunch some numbers around how many more volunteers from diverse backgrounds you’ll engage if you can pick them up and drop them home again in your own bus. Show how those volunteers will benefit from being part of your club.
Corporate donors like to see their name linked to good works in the community, so think about how their name will be connected to the project they’re funding. The Big Bank Bus sounds pretty good.
Time is not on your side
Grants’ websites feature two words you really need to take notice of: open and closed.
Grants come with application dates, and these dates are set in stone so keep a close eye on when grants close so you don’t miss out on your opportunity to apply.
Note: grants that are closed stay on websites for a week or so to let people know the deadline for submissions has passed. Don’t get caught beavering away at an application after the closing date.
How the process works
Here’s an example of how a grant might proceed and possible timeframes:
- A government department might have $2 million available for small grants of up to $10,000 that it can allocate in May.
- Applications for those grants will be listed on its website in February. Applications will open from mid-February and close at the end of March.
- Successful applicants will be notified by the end of April. Agreements will be signed, and the money will be available from late May.
- Progress milestones will often be built into the funding contract to release further payments.
- The grant recipient will need to spend the money by a set date and must deliver a final report on the project and the targets met.
More tips and shortcuts
There’s plenty of good advice available about how to write a strong grant application.
Your first attempt might be a bit of a steep learning curve but with good organisation, it does get easier.
The Funding Centre:
Museums and Galleries NSW (advice that applies to all sectors):
Think also about subscribing to a service that can regularly send you an up-to-date list of targeted grant opportunities and more detailed advice about how to apply.
There can be a cost to the club, but think of it as a small price to pay for the amount of work it’ll save and a better chance of success.