Ninjas were feared and revered for their ability to gather intelligence – from near and from afar. Before you start your grant application, there is a lot of information you can gather to give you the competitive edge.
Deciphering their Code
All funding bodies have a language, agenda and culture. It’s not about repeating words you see in the guidelines back to them, nor is telling them what you want without referring to the benefits to them, nor is it about wanting the money on your terms. Decipher their code every time and you will find success.
The code starts with any policy documents, identification of aims and objectives and outcomes. Always look for the outcomes no matter what. These will invariably be found in the guidelines. The guidelines are the campaign blueprint, but there are other resources that could give you the competitive edge.
Once you’ve read the guidelines, take a look at the application form. Sometimes you may need to register online, start a new application and navigate your way to the end to download a copy of the form. It’s worth the hassle (and a pain to the funding body if you find something in the application form that means you’re not eligible and the application is discarded).
A lot of people are put off by the questions. They just don’t understand what’s being asked of them.
Here are some rule-of-thumb principles:
However they are written, the questions will follow the format of WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY,
WHEN AND HOW:
There will always be a question about evidence of NEED. A good Ninja will investigate data sources,
will identify the target population within the larger population base (showing the niche). They will
have gathered policy documents, planning documents, feedback from internal and external
stakeholders and gaps in current provision. No stone will be left unturned.
Good project planning. Every campaign needs to be well-planned down to the finest detail and any
risks evaluated and mitigated. Who is going to trust their funds to somebody who only has a vague
idea of what they’re going to do? The questions will include project planning as a must. Sometimes
the questions may be vague such as – how are you going to ….? Don’t be fooled, they want the
detail of what and when.
Capacity to deliver. Again, why should anybody entrust money to a party that doesn’t have the skills
to do what they promise? You will be asked questions about the expertise of project staff but be
also aware that they will also want to know that there’s sound management at the top. They will
want to know that their funds are being treated with priority and care at the highest level – the
BOARD OF DIRECTORS. Be prepared. Get the CVs of Board members and key staff if known. Put
together a position description for new positions. Allay the fears of the funder that you’re going to
mishandle their money.
Make sure the budget matches the content of the questions. The figures must match the eligible
activities. The income and expenditure must balance. Details of other funders/contributors must bedisclosed. Include volunteer time as notional income and expenditure; the same with resources.
Evaluation. How will you know you’ve been successful? If the whole promise is to deliver the results
the funder is looking for, how will you know you’ve succeeded. How do you know things have
changed? Depending on the amount of funding you’re looking for, the funder will be looking for
Frequently Asked Questions
The FAQs have already been referred to. They first appear on the funding website. People read them
once and that’s it. A Ninja will read them 3-4 times before the closing date. FAQs are the way for the
funder to even the playing field. Whenever somebody asks a tricky question, the funder will make the
question and answer available to all. The FAQ document is updated on a regular basis. Not many people
know that and miss out on some important intelligence.
Previously funded projects
If this is not the first round of the grant, the funder will normally list the successfully funded applications
from previous rounds. This information is pure gold for the following reasons:
Using the list of previously funded projects as a monetary guide is useful, particularly if you have a
scarcity mindset and are not confident at applying for large (subjective) amounts.
Face-to-face briefings and online webinars
There’s no excuse not to get to a briefing somehow, even if it is a recording of an online webinar. The
advantage of getting to a face-to-face funding briefing is that you become known to the funding body,
particularly the gate keeper mentioned above. This opens the dialogue for further conversations. Be
warned though, the presentation itself will be premeditated and delivered stoically.
Get to briefing sessions, either face-to-face, webinars or recordings.
Surveying the Landscape
Whether you are looking for funding for business, a community,
environment, arts, tourism or world domination (jesting), your ability to
argue your case rests with your conviction of the REAL need.
When I was working for a funding body, people would come to me with ideas and I would say to them
“what’s the need?”. They would come back at me with an explanation and I would repeat “what’s the
need” as many times as it took for them to realise that a good idea alone is not evidence of need.
The need has to jump off the page!
Here are some good Australian data sources: