Gaining Grants for Your Partnership –
What Grant Makers Want You to Know

In many ways, successfully gaining a grant for your community business partnership or any projects it may be undertaking is a matter of knowing what a grant maker wants from an applicant.  

Often just being in a partnership can be a good start because a funding body will already see that that idea has the support of others in the community and has been taken up as a project deserving support by a business partner.

If your community business partnership is looking for a grant, there are plenty of steps you can take to increase your chances of successfully gaining a grant. Listed below are 21 steps we recommend partnership partners progress through when applying for a grant.

  • Make sure grants are on the agenda, and your partnership is aware of what is on offer.
It is no use pursuing grants for your partnership if you are not co-ordinated. Talk to your partnership partner on the issue and if you both decide to pursue grant money, put one or two people in charge of co-ordinating the grants search and keeping up-to-date with grants opportunities. You may wish to subscribe to Our Community's EasyGrants or BusiGrants newsletters - with subscriptions available through the Our Community website's marketplace section - to help you keep abreast of grants information.
  • Do your homework and research the grant and grant maker.
Before sending your application, make sure the organisation supports the kind of program or activity you want to fund. What is it that your partnership does that fits within the scope of what the grantmaker wants its funding to achieve?
In such a competitive environment for grants, grantmakers will put a line through any proposals that don’t fit their criteria or within the programs that operate. Some of those considerations could include location, target audience and type of program.
Make sure when you apply for a grant you have read the guidelines and fit inside them. If you don’t fit, don’t apply. If you aren’t sure, contact the grantmaker and request more information or refer to their website.
  • Discard your blinkers - don't limit your search to the big foundations or grantmakers.
Putting blinkers on and only looking at the big foundations or major grantmakers significantly limits your partnership’s chances of finding a grant.
There are many great grants available from smaller grantmakers and foundations, as well as many smaller grants offered by local, State and Federal Government departments that should not be discounted. Be open to all relevant grant programs.
  • Follow the application guidelines.
Following the guidelines is often the first and most basic test of an applicant’s eligibility. Simply put – if a grant applicant cannot follow the guidelines set out in the application, they may well find themselves unsuccessful in their attempts at funding.
You should read the grant guidelines a number of times, mentally checking whether you are eligible and "a good fit" for this grant program.
Your partnership should pay special attention to guidelines that deal with the length, content and specifications of your proposal, as well as any documentation or financial information requested for inclusion.
  • Have a summary of your partnership ready
A summary of your partnership, its history and current status, is important to have - not only for inclusion in an application like this, but for things like media releases and profiles. This sort of summary helps a partnership articulate its history, and well as where it is currently at.
  • Be concise.
Don’t babble or pad out your grant submission with flowery language and adjectives. Certainly talk up and boost your partnership, its work and why you need the grant, but do it in a way that produces a professional, streamlined application that gets to the point and is easy to read.
  • Be specific.
Make sure you specify the project you are pursuing a grant for.
Don’t provide a list of projects in the hope the grantmaker will pick one to put money towards – be specific and tailored in your request for support.
  • Define your goals, how you will reach them, and how you will measure your success.
Make sure you tell grantmakers what you hope to achieve, how you will achieve it and how you will measure the success of your project or program.
Talk about what sort of outcomes or outputs your partnership and its projects are aiming for, and what your goals are – this makes it easier for the grantmaker to see what they will get for their money. If there is a need to show the grantmaker how you will measure those outcomes, include that as well.
  • Make sure you show how the project is linked to your partnership's future.
Show the grantmaker that you have a medium to long-term strategic plan that shows where your partnership sees itself going in the future. Importantly, link your grant proposal to that strategic vision.
  • Show how you will fund the project once the grant money runs out.
Grant money is not going to last forever, so your partnership needs to be able to explain how your proposal is going to be funded once the grant money runs out. While this might not be applicable for a smaller project or short-term initiative, for a recurrent or longer term program you will need to spell out how the funding is going to be secured in the future, or how you are going to raise funds for the next such event you stage.
Remember though that putting together such a plan doesn’t necessarily mean your partnership can’t apply for further funding in the future.
  • Think beyond money.
If there is one thing that community business partnerships have in their favour, it is flexibility.
So your partnership should think beyond just asking for monetary assistance – investigate whether you can request support through the provision of equipment, skills or knowledge, volunteers or other in-kind donations. In many cases, this sort of support can be more valuable than a straight monetary donation.
  • Answer all questions on the grant application.
Even if this means you put "not applicable" next to a few questions, make sure there is some response to each and every question in the application. Not only does this encourage you to read and re-read each question before answering it, it also shows the grantmaker that you have considered each and every question.
  • Read, read, read.
Read over your application before you send it.  Make sure it makes sense, is well set out, contains no typos or errors, that any facts contained in it are correct, and that all the points you need to make to the grantmaker are contained in the document.
  • Make sure the application is legible.
If the grantmaker can’t read your partnership’s application, they aren’t going to support it. Type your application and make sure it is readable, without spelling errors and neat.
  • Provide clear contact information.
A grantmaker may need to get in touch with you to request more information or ask you a question or two – but if there is no contact information in your application, how are they going to do so?
Specifically, mention a person’s name, organisation, address, phone number and email details are in the letterhead of your application, or within the letter of application itself.
Because multiple organisations and people are involved in your partnership, determine and then specify to which person or which partner any replies or follow-up queries should be directed.
  • Avoid sending piles of fliers, videos, books, and other materials.
These have the potential to simply confuse grantmakers. Instead, just list what sort of further material is available upon the grantmakers’ request, except where these sorts of items are specifically requested.
  • Don't send copies of the same application to multiple contacts at an organisation.
This just creates confusion and can have the potential to increase costs for the grant seeker and grantmaker.
Send a single application to the correct contact for the grantmaker.
  • Send information electronically whenever possible (or where asked).
If a grantmaker requests information or applications via email or fax, adhere to that - although it may be a good idea to ring a day or two after you send the email or fax to ensure it has arrive (or request a reply when the recipient opens your emailed application).
The other thing to remember is to use links within your grant application if there is information on your website that a grantmaker may need. Not only does it save time for your partnership, it also displays a level of professionalism to the grantmaker.
However, you should avoid faxing or emailing an application and then following up with a hard copy in the mail – it just adds unnecessary cost and wastes time.
  • Start early.
If you start preparing and then writing your application early, your partnership will have plenty of time to check it and ensure the best possible application is being forwarded to the grantmaker.
  • Get it in on time.
Starting early will also help your partnership get its grant application in on time. While some grantmakers may stretch the deadlines to allow your late-arriving application in the door, others might not.
To make sure your partnership does not miss out, be ready a week  to 10 days before the deadline for applications - that gives you a chance to check over your application and still submit it early.
  • Be patient and don't give up.
It may take time – and some rejections - for your partnership to find the perfect grant partner.
Don’t be discouraged. Learn from each unsuccessful application and apply those lessons to your next one - and keep trying.
Also, be patient. Sometimes grant making priorities are set months or years in advance, with review processes not readily able to accommodate the quick turnaround time grantseekers sometimes demand.

For more information on the grants available in Australia, you can subscribe to Our Community’s Easy Grants or BusiGrants newsletters. More information on these newsletters can be found through the Marketplace Section of the Our Community website

And further information aimed at helping your partnership in applying for grants can be found in the following Help Sheets at the Community Business Partnership Brokerage Service section of the Our Community website: