12 Aug Walk a mile in a grant-maker’s shoes…
Do you ever get bogged in a rambling conversation with a friend, neighbour or family member? You know the ones; the ‘he said, she said’ routine, the friend of a friend’s second cousin six times removed. The stories that duck and weave and trail off at a tangent, leaving you mired in a muddled swamp of incomprehension. I meet a conversational rambler in the dog park sometimes, when I don’t sprint in the other direction that is. The challenge is that Suzie (not her real name, of course) picks up diverse threads from random chapters in her conversational book on the assumption that I have read chapter one. And I haven’t. And Suzie has a lot of books on the go…
It’s the same when applying for grants. Time and again, I see applications that plunge in helter-skelter without explaining the background and context, the need. Often, it’s because the applicant is so passionate about their organisation and what they do; they can’t help themselves, and veer off at a tangent. The trouble is that this approach fails to address the grant-maker’s criteria and answer the question. Or, the applicant assumes that the funder has an understanding of the sector they work in or the type of intervention needed. Some funders will have prior knowledge but many won’t.
I said to a client only today: the best advice I can give you is to put yourself in the funder’s shoes. Imagine having to read through a huge pile of applications. Maybe he or she gets to application 48 out of 200 and hits a road hump. You have failed to adequately explain some aspect of your project. Or maybe you have slipped up and put in an acronym that everyone in your organisation is familiar with, but few people outside. Or you have made a sweeping and generalised statement that is unsubstantiated by data-based evidence.
If you fail to step the funder through your project in a way that is relevant, concise, clear and logical, your application will probably end up in the bin. So, instead, imagine stepping outside your organisation and look at your draft application through the eyes of an external assessor. Imagine you know nothing about your organisation or project. Does it make sense? Have you given them all the information they need?
Especially during these pressured pandemic times when funders are receiving more applications than ever, take extra care to be clear in what you are seeking funding for, and why, and how, it aligns with your mission and current strategic plan. And the same rigour applies to the budget – apply the same scrutiny to your project costs, with breakdowns of each item and a clear explanation of your financial sustainability and future-proofing.
In short never assume prior knowledge, and walk a mile in a funder’s shoes!