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Grants 101: Top tips in applying for grants from Community Trusts.

Many of us work tirelessly applying for grants for charities, clubs and events. As a grant applicant it can seem at times to be a bit of a hit and miss process: put in your application and cross all your fingers and toes and hope for the best!

Trusts supply over $1,000 million to charities every year, so it’s certainly worthwhile to understand how you can go about improving your chances of a successful outcome, dipping into this incredible source of funding.

Ask those in the know, who sit at the other end of the process approving or, regrettably, having to decline grant applications, and they will tell you there are ways to approach your application that will give you a much higher chance of success. Some top tips:

  1. Know the Trust you are applying to. What are their priorities, what are they looking to achieve? Do they support national as well as local initiatives? Some Trusts are more strategic than others. Read up about your Trust, talk to those in the know, and really get to know the Trust before you apply.
  2. Know your organisation. What are you trying to achieve? Clear facts and figures are best, do not weigh your application down with unnecessarily lengthy documents.
  3. Make it succinct. Make it clear what you are applying for and who it will benefit in one very concise paragraph.
  4. Start the application process early so it’s not a last minute decision and urgent! Exhibiting good planning and a strategic vision gives the grants committee faith that the project or mission will succeed. No Trust can consider retrospective applications.
  5. Where you can apply for something tangible, something which is easy to justify as a key part of your project or mission. Be aware that, while some Trusts will be happy to support salaries, others are not; concerned about a future dependency on what is an uncertain income stream (note that salaries are a low priority at the Porirua Community Trust, for this very reason).
  6. Be clear about other sources of income, it’s important to demonstrate how much further effort has been put into fundraising. Outline any other funding that has already been invested in the organisation or project (e.g. an existing Government contract or demonstrable Council support can be helpful for your application, as it can give it that extra margin of credibility).
  7. Get your completed accountability reports in in good time. Trusts will not consider future grant applications if reports are missing or in any way incomplete from past applications.

If your community group gets all their key documents such as Trust Deed, Incorporation Certificate, Annual Accounts and Committee ‘Resolution to Apply for Funding’ organised you can efficiently send out grant applications to several providers all at once. We recommend that you do, and avoid putting ‘all your eggs in one basket’ or you may well be disappointed and left in an urgent panic (see point 4 above!)

But be aware that grant funding should only ever be just one part of your fundraising mix. You will never be truly sustainable if grant funding is your only source of income. It’s a good idea to treat grant funders as major givers who are contributors to your overall fundraising strategy.

On a final note, the Department of Internal Affairs is currently reviewing Class 4 Gambling, which may affect funding from gaming societies, and the landscape is likely to change again in the future. It pays to keep up with developments and not get stuck in the old ways of doing funding applications/approaching the same old providers, or you may well get left behind.

Eleanor Cater is a local Trustee at the Porirua Community Trust and also works for FINZ, the Fundraising Institute of NZ, nationally helping charities to fundraise. She is also long term volunteer fundraiser.