Grant funding tips and tricks

By Lawrence Ryan*
Monday, 05 September, 2016

Grant funding tips and tricks

It’s not rocket science: a well-researched, carefully prepared grant application will always be considered more favourably than one that is poorly planned and written, regardless of how deserving the project is. Lawrance Ryan, Grants and Executive Projects Officer from Cowra Shire Council, shares an insider’s tips and tricks for securing grant funding. Ryan has worked for the council for five years and has more than 30 years’ experience working with community groups. These tips work just as well for community groups as they do in local government.

The old adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” is a good mantra to adopt when applying for grant funding. To be successful, a grant application must be clear, concise and correct — and good planning is key to ensuring this result.

To maximise the chance of securing grant funding, it’s vital to understand the process and the many elements that comprise a successful grant application.

The grant application process: how it works

  1. Receive notification of grant.
  2. Determine if the grant suits your needs (if unsure, contact funding agency for more information).
  3. Gather the required information.
  4. Complete the grant application.
  5. Submit the application.
  6. Application is assessed by independent panel.
  7. Panel will follow up if additional information or clarification is required.
  8. Panel passes its recommendations to the funding agency/government minister.
  9. Funding agency/government minister makes a decision.
  10. Approvals announced.
  11. Applicants notified.

Three questions to ask before you start the application

Question 1: Is the project eligible for the grant?
No Search for more relevant funding
Maybe Think again before moving to Question 2
Yes Go to Question 2

Remember: 20% of grant applications submitted do not meet the basic criteria of the grant.

Question 2: Can the project be commenced and completed on time?
No Invest more time in planning. Note time frame for next funding round.
Maybe Think again before moving to Question 3
Yes Go to Question 3
Question 3: Do I/we have the time, skills and energy to carry this through?
No See if anyone else has the necessary expertise or get some help
Maybe As above
Yes Do it!

How to nail the grant writing process

  • Build a relationship with the funding body.
  • Remember that your words are your power — don’t waffle! Be short, succinct and to the point.
  • Only provide data that is useful to the grant giver.
  • Never assume that the grant assessor has prior knowledge.
  • Include outputs — show the number of people participating, number of people trained/employed and dollars spent per participant.
  • Concentrate on outcomes: the overall result of the project, financial benefit (to you, the organisation and the community), number of new participants.
Figures and statistics
  • Break it down — make it easy to understand. If something is unclear to you, how can you expect someone else to understand?
  • Provide specific costings.
  • Justify costs.
  • Obtain detailed written quotes.
  • Add value.
  • Include all in-kind support.
  • Value your own contributions realistically.
  • Read guidelines and ask questions.
  • Assess the eligibility of the project.
  • Delegate roles through group and partners.
  • Obtain detailed quotes and added value.
  • Write concisely and back up with evidence.
  • Allow time to gather quotes, letters of support and consult with Traditional Owners.
  • Leave time to get your application proofed and edited.
  • Ensure the title makes a positive statement and is not a neutral descriptor.
  • Check the language — is it specific, accurate, concise and clear?
  • Is the proposal written in active voice with positive language and is it in the first person?
  • Does the proposal avoid bureaucrat-style language, jargon and clichés or weasel words?
  • Is the proposal written mainly in short simple declarative subject-verb-object sentences?
  • Has it been checked for typos and bad grammar?
  • Are the pages numbered?
  • Does the proposal follow the grant giver’s guidelines — margins, spacing, type size, paper size, proposal length — to the letter? Does it look professional?
  • Has the layout got plenty of white space, and is it broken up by charts, tables, headings, bullet points, etc?
  • Are charts easy to understand and clear?
  • If there are forms to be filled out, have all the blanks been filled in?
  • Are statistics and statements documented and properly referenced?
  • Are any acronyms spelled out in full, at least at first use?
  • Do you address all items in the grant giver’s guidelines?
  • Does the proposal assume too much knowledge of the area or too little?
  • Does it have a clear one-page executive summary?
  • Is there a cover letter describing how your project would further the grant maker’s mission?
  • Does the submission have a project schedule, information on methodology, any project partners and their roles — as well as the roles of those in your group?
  • Is there a proper conclusion at the end?
  • Does the proposal contain a detailed budget that is accurate and adds up?
  • Does it explain the sustainability of the project?
  • Does the budget factor in administrative overheads, and are you prepared to defend any budget estimates for salaries, goods and services?

Remember: A budget that does not balance is the most common error in grant applications.

  • Does the budget contain a contribution from your own organisation, to demonstrate your belief and commitment?
  • Do you in your submission adequately demonstrate the existence (and significance) of the issue you wish to address through your project?
  • Does the proposal specify realistic and measurable project objectives? Does it contain a rundown of benefits to beneficiaries and the grant maker?
  • Do you explain project reporting procedures in your submission?
  • Do you show that your group can deliver the project, and why it is the best group to do so?
  • Does the proposal show why this project is unique, innovative and different from (and an improvement over) existing programs?

Submission checklist:

  • Is your grant submission up to the mark?
  • Does it cover everything it needs to?
  • Is it well written, clear and easy to understand?

Before you send your submission away, work through the points on this list. Ask an objective third party to review and proofread the submission. No matter how many times you check it over, you will always read what you think you’ve written, rather than what you actually have written. A fresh set of eyes will pick up anything that you miss.


Top 10 grant writing mistakes

  1. Too generic.
  2. Too showy.
  3. Slipshod — insufficient preparation.
  4. Too wordy.
  5. No budget.
  6. No ask — what are you asking for?
  7. No evaluation — why are you asking for it?
  8. No context — prove that you or your group has the capacity to complete the project.
  9. No vision.
  10. No business plan.


Potential grants for pool development

National Stronger Regions Fund
  • Grants must be between $20,000 and $10 million.
  • Local government and incorporated not-for-profit organisations are eligible to apply.
  • The project must deliver an economic benefit to the region. Projects should support disadvantaged regions or areas of disadvantage within a region.
ClubGRANTS Category 3 fund

Funding can be sought for major projects established to deliver funding to communities across NSW to support healthy lifestyles through increased participation in sport, recreation, arts and cultural activities.

Further information

Lawrence Ryan. *Lawrance Ryan is the Grants and Executive Projects Officer with Cowra Shire Council. He has worked for the council for five years and has more than 30 years’ experience working with community groups.

This article is based on Ryan’s presentation at the 2016 NSW Country Pool Managers Conference in Forbes.

Image credit: © Saivezzo

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