Garden peas and fundraising essentialism to guide your grant-seeking

Garden peas and fundraising essentialism to guide your grant-seeking

Grant-seeking is very much like cooking; you can take a pot luck approach that is driven by passion and idealism, or you can take a more methodical approach, and follow the ground-rules (read the guidelines), read the recipe carefully the (application form questions) and gather all your ingredients beforehand (your organisational and project information) and go step by step.

I recently read an amusing article about culinary trends during the Covid-19 lockdown that referenced Debora Robertson in Britain’s Daily Telegraph saying: ‘peas are the denim of the freezer drawer’. Don’t you love that analogy? Sales of the frozen pea, an essential staple in many kitchens, are reported to have increased almost 70% since last year. It made me wonder what the frozen peas of grant-seeking are, particularly in the current climate?

Reviewing an ILC application for a small organisation recently, I was reminded just how vital it is to demonstrate a strong evidence base. Facts and figures presented without the research source will stop a grant assessor in their tracks. It’s a bit like presenting someone with a can of peas without a tin opener; they can’t verify your claim that they taste good. Incidentally, at the start of lockdown, I didn’t hoard loo paper but I did throw both a packet of frozen peas, and a can of French petits pois into my grocery basket thinking that they might come in handy. I’m not sure I have ever purchased tinned peas before, but reckon they would make a good soup or base for a green risotto.

But back to grants. If I were reviewing the content of my pantry at the moment, grant-seeking staples I’d have to hand would include:

1. Well developed, mission-aligned projects – in the current crisis it’s doubly important to remain mission- aligned. In a recent webinar Bill Toliver, Chair of the Resource Alliance, advised charities to reflect: “What is it about our work that is truly sacred and must be honoured… What is mission critical?” Similarly, he urged organisations to reflect if they were starting from scratch, would they still be doing x, y z programme. “If not, undo it,’ he said. In similar vein a blog post from the US-based The Better Fundraising Co talks about increased not-for-profits practising fundraising essentialism: that is ‘abandoning the activities they’ve always done “because they were supposed to” and are doing the things that drive measurable results.’

2. Your USP – tell the story of your organisation clearly and concisely – show that you have the capacity to deliver the project, and why you are the best organisation to do it.

3. Up to date data – If, for example, you are applying for funding to enable you to adapt to, and survive, the challenges of Covid-19 and need support for IT development, digitising services or running online events, be clear about the need – present up to date data around the impact of Covid-19 on your staffing, donors, revenue and services. What are the short and long-term implications?

4. Evaluation – you’ll be familiar with the adage: ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’. Make sure, as always, that you can demonstrate measurable outputs and outcomes.

5. Evidence of partnerships and collaboration – now more than ever explore opportunities to collaborate, avoid duplication and share tools, resources and learnings.

6. Get the numbers right: make sure your budget is fully costed and that there is evidence of co-funding, whether confirmed or unconfirmed.

7. Contacts and Conversations – nurture your existing contacts, and remember to pick up the phone even outside granting and reporting periods and chat to funders. As well as securing commitment to ongoing projects – let funders know if an existing program is affected by the pandemic. Explain how the crisis has impacted your organisation and what you need.

8. A long-term plan detailing how will you continue the project/your services beyond the funding period – how have you adapted your strategy and business plan in response to the changing context of Covid-19?