What if you could work with your client or group to turn their ultimate dream into reality?
Grant writing isn’t just about putting together a funding submission for your business or community project. Grant writing can be a creative way to bring about sustainable change.
This is how I work with the clients I write grants for. I prefer not to write one off grants. Instead, I work with the client to develop a 2-3 year strategy, with a plan of projects and activities that we can map to funding opportunities. By using this approach, we are proposing a group of planned projects, attached to an overarching strategy for sustained change. In essence, we are agents of change. This can apply to business as well as community change.
Not all grant applications are successful, but other grant opportunities open up if you think bigger picture both in scope and in timeframe. It is also possible to apply for multiple grants to contribute to projects, a strategy that some funding bodies favour. In these instances, it takes time and synchronicity to get multisource-funded projects off the ground.
By being strategic about funding, we can also identify a mix of grants: project specific, organisational capacity building and long term programs. We can plan the resources that can be leveraged from one project to another. We can also plan to gather evidence of need, delivery and success that will help with the larger grants.
Here are five ways a grant writer can help clients to successfully use grants strategically to get what they want.
- Work on the Vision. The client could have an idea which may in truth be part of a bigger picture – they just haven’t thought about it or they don’t think they can achieve the dream. A clear vision builds on single ideas by reaching out into bigger projects. A grant writer works with the client to build the grants portfolio with the Vision in mind.
- Reset their mindset. This is particularly true when working with grass roots groups that don’t have the resources or the confidence to apply for larger grants. They typically apply for funding with budgets based on the smell of an oily rag. They apply for less than it costs to run the project because they want to ‘impress’ the funding body, not aware that others would get three times more funding for similar activities. Develop their trust so that they take a chance on you applying for more funding and taking them out of their comfort zone.
- Stimulate creative thinking. A grant submission that stands out has a unique proposition backed up by evidence and confidence. Getting clients to think creatively means getting them out of their comfort zones. They must have confidence in the project idea and that they can deliver. The role of the grant writer is to assist them in brainstorming what could be, how it might happen, who will be involved, how to reach the target audience, what risks might be and how to overcome them and what success feels like. It does not stop with the one project. Where will the project lead and what opportunities are out there to take it to the next stage? A well thought out project idea makes it easier for the grant writer to put things in writing with passion that become infectious to the reader. These are the ideas the funder wants to support.
- Foster strategic thinking. It may take two to three years to build up a client’s portfolio of grants to have enough experience and evidence to apply successfully for a large grant. Each successful grant will increase the organisation’s experience. The higher the grant, the greater the need for policies, procedures and systems for managing resources and staff. Without proper control, a large project could take over the resources and activities of the organisation. An experienced grant writer will be aware of the implications and be able to advise the client of the implications and strategies to grow safely.
- Mix it up. Whether the grant writer is working with businesses, clubs or community organisations, there is a diverse range of grant options. There are grants that focus on business planning and capacity building. Some pay for equipment and capital works. What about travel grants? Combine these with grants that focus on innovation or change to get a well balanced portfolio.
There are great opportunities for grant writers with a change agent mindset to get to know clients and work closely with them to achieve their long term goals. Clients are looking for reliable grant writers who they can trust to get to know them and get them success. A good grant writer will get to know the organisation, its strengths, gaps and opportunities and work with the client to be in a position to apply for and manage projects without risking the integrity of the client’s business.