Successful Grant Writing Toolkit
This guide has been developed* to assist individuals, organisations and communities in the Northern Rivers develop an understanding of how to apply for funding assistance. The process to complete an application for funding can be challenging. The information in this guide aims to demystify the procedures and provide clear steps to applying for funds.
RDA Sydney are host to two grant writing webinars that provide more insight into the grant writing process. You can access the recording of the small grants webinar here and use these links to download Webinar Slides and Webinar FAQs. The second webinar focused on large grants. Use these links to download the second Webinar slides and Webinar FAQs.
*Information included in this guide has been sourced, with permission, from guides and tip sheets prepared by RDA Central West and RDA Northern Inland.
Before you start ask these questions
- is the project for and who are the beneficiaries?
- will be the people on your project working group or steering committee?
- are the major stakeholders and what is their capacity to help (financial or other support)?
- will be responsible for the project?
- is the project, what will it do and what will it contribute to your community?
- is the problem you are trying to overcome?
- benefit will be achieved?
- is the project’s broad purpose (i.e community benefits, tourism development, business development, job creation, social or environmental benefit)?
- are the risks associated with the project?
- could happen to prevent the project’s completion?
- will be the results at the end?
- does the organisation need to do to make the outcomes last?
- will the project happen? (municipality and townsite, be specific)
- will the project reach? (impact local area, LGA, regional, state, national)
- will the project start and be completed?
- will the results of your project be known?
- do you need this project? Is it a want or need? Is there community support?
- is this project important in the context of the area/region?
- will you implement the project? What is the methodology? What skills do you need?
- much will it cost?
- much funding is needed, from where?
- much cash and in-kind resources are available? How will it be implemented and/or
operated (project management structure)? Are there any special skills or resources needed?
- will you measure success?
- will the project continue to benefit the community after the funding is completed?
Planning and preparation
The grants market is incredibly competitive. The best grant applications are those that are well planned, researched and written with great attention to detail.
Planning is the major component of any successful funding application. If your project idea is not well thought out and planned, you are probably not quite ready to start writing your funding application.
TIP: Ensure you have the approval of the Chair or the Executive Committee. Usually, they will be the signatories to the funding agreement.
Identify the need or problem
Your planning starts by having a clearly defined need or problem that your project will solve.
Identifying the need will involve talking to people who may benefit from or contribute to the solution. Community consultations, workshops, meetings, newsletters and surveys are some of the ways to engage with your stakeholders. This process will assist in both identifying the problem and defining the solution. The people you consult with are also your potential supporters.
How will you solve it?
Now you know what the need or problem is, the next step is to identify the solution. Be sure to go back to your research to test how your solution will solve the problem.
Research and plan your project
Your project plan will provide a clear rationale and steps to achieving the goals you have identified in your research. This documentation is valuable for writing your application as well as keeping track of your project if your funding application is successful.
Your project plan should include:
- The rationale for the project (need/problem and how your project will solve this).
- What needs to be done first, middle and last, these can be considered as milestones (e.g. project
manager hired, ground preparation completed, pool concreting completed, painting finished, shade umbrellas put in).
- A timeframe with finishing dates to all the milestones. Be realistic and factor in the time it may take for the application to be assessed and funding to be granted.
Sustainability of the project
It is important to look beyond the life of the funding and into the long term sustainability of the project. Funders will want to know how the project will continue to benefit the stakeholder community after the funding has ended.
What are the ongoing benefits of the project? Does this require an ongoing commitment for management and costs? How will costs be covered when the funded project is completed? Are there people managing the new project and do they have the necessary skills and knowledge to do so?
Government policy objectives
The Government may adopt several strategies to achieve its policy objectives. One strategy may be the use of grant programs. Being aware of what the policy objectives are behind a grant program is important at all stages of the grant application process.
Some questions to consider are
- Does your project align with Government policy objectives?
- Is the policy alignment clearly reflected in your application?
- Would your project be a good announceable for the Minister?
Where do grants come from?
Grants for regional or community development are usually provided by federal, state or local government. Increasingly, grants are also coming from philanthropic organisations such as trusts and foundations. In each case, the grant program will have been developed to address a particular issue, need or priority.
Generally, grant funding in Australia is competitive, which means you will be competing with others for available funds. The higher the quality of your application the greater your chance of success.
Many governments and private funding sources require a mix of funding in the project. This may be cash your organisation has already, funds provided through other grants and in-kind support. In-kind support may include property, equipment, services and volunteer labour.
Finding the best fit for your project
Your project plan will guide your research for the most suitable grant. For each possible funding program, download the guidelines and assess against your project plan. You will need to continue checking your application against the funding guidelines once you start writing. Reviewing at this stage will help you find the best fit for your project.
Value for Grant Money
For small grants, grant providers usually expect projects to help small groups of people, but for larger grants they usually want to see assistance go to larger communities or regions.
- Is the value of the project outcome proportionate to the funds being spent?
- Measure the value in social and economic terms (e.g. new pool will improve community health which will reduce the burden on medical infrastructure).
Is your project eligible?
Once you have identified some possible funding sources check the eligibility criteria. Ensure that your organisation has an eligible structure and the type of project is eligible. For example, legal entities that often aren’t eligible for business grants include co-ops, partnerships, sole traders and most trusts.
When you think you have found a suitable grant for your project you may want to talk to someone about the funding program. Find out who the contact person is and ring them to discuss the particulars of the program. This will save wasting time if it is not suitable or you are not eligible. It also starts a relationship with the funding body.
Before you call, read the guidelines and application process for the grant you wish to apply for. Make note of anything you need further clarification on.
Here are some more questions you might like to ask in the call.
- What has previously been funded – what are they looking for?
- Will your project fit and does it suit the guidelines? If not can they suggest other programs that may be better suited?
- What is the selection/assessment process?
- Will your organisation be eligible?
- Who is involved in the selection process?
- Does your organisation need accreditation? Can you apply under a sponsoring organisation if you do not have the required accreditation?
Writing your application
The following tips will help make the daunting task of grant writing a little easier and provide some points to consider along the way.
Keep in mind who is going to read your application. Grant providers receive hundreds of submissions. Assessors must read all the applications and provide a summary of the project, which may include recommendations, to the decision makers. Remember they have no idea of the project and will usually have no familiarity with your organisation or location. Keep it concise and, if possible include an executive summary.
Think of your application like a business proposal, you have to sell it to them. Make it sound like a project they’ll be happy to announce. For example, if the funding sought is to build a roundabout, your application should focus on what the roundabout will be improving and how this will benefit the community, business and/or industry.
Always have someone else read through your application. Not only will they pick up spelling or grammatical errors, someone from outside your organisation will be able to tell you if you’ve painted the picture clearly enough for the funding body, and let you know of any gaps you need to fill in.
Selling your project
Make sure you clearly explain the reason/rationale of your project, how it will be done, the outcomes and benefits and what will happen after the funded project is complete in your application. Grant providers want to know what the outcome of the project will be, that the money being provided will have an impact, and how it will be achieved. You must be able to not only demonstrate the need for your project, but clearly how your project will meet it.
Succinctly describe the project, and what you hope to achieve at each step of the way.
Make sure your application can clearly articulate:
- Why you need this project and how it is supported by the community. Your
project plan and research should have all this information.
- Why your project is important. Try to include things like surveys, statistical data, and feasibility studies.
- Why you need the grant funds for your project and any other funding or support you have already secured.
- Include the steps and outcomes that you identified in your project plan.
- You will need to provide a simple budget that outlines all costs associated with the project. Review your original budget and make sure it includes the total cost of the project, not just the parts that are covered by the funding.
TIP: If you have a business or strategic plan that has identified the project as something that needs to be done, include this as part of the reason for the project. Check to see if your local council’s strategic plan has anything relevant to your project.
Support for the Project
A grant provider wants to help as many people as they can so obtain letters of support from organisations and members of the community who will utilise the new project when it is completed.
Write/email and or contact your potential supporters with a request for support. You may want to provide a draft support letter to help guide the supporting organisations.
Support letters should include:
- How the supporting organisation will support the project (e.g. cash or in-kind and to what value or in principle support?)
- The benefit of the project to the supporting organisation and their community
Regional Development Australia – Northern Rivers can give advice and feedback on applications and provide support letters for eligible funding programs. Please contact our office for more information about the support we can offer.
Your organisation’s credibility
This is like a personal CV. The grant provider needs to know about your group’s previous accomplishments to ensure that you have the capabilities to complete this project.
- Has your organisation been involved in a similar sized project before? Did you receive a grant for this project also?
- Did you complete the project on time and within budget?
- You may need to provide a list of the committee members and what experience each has.
After all your hard work how will you know if the project does what it was designed to do? Your application will need to include how you expect to evaluate the project.
- How will you evaluate the success of your project?
- Get measurable results as they have more impact e.g. increased number of visitors or visitor satisfaction surveys.
- Does the funding program you are applying for have a standard acquittal process? If this is available check the record keeping and reporting you would be required to complete the acquittal and make sure these processes are included in your evaluation.
The following list is a quick reference guide to tips that will help make the daunting task of grant writing a little easier and provide some points to consider along the way.
- The people who will read your application have no idea of the project and will usually have no familiarity with your organisation or location.
- If appropriate, include an executive summary that clearly states what the project is, what need is being met and who will benefit.
- Your application is a business proposal that you have to sell to the funders. Make it sound like a project they’ll be happy to announce.
- Remind the funders of the benefits of your project, frequently. However, avoid implying you have a “right” to a grant.
- Use statistics, supporting documentation and other evidence to back up what you’re saying.
- While you may start by identifying the problem, make sure your application’s focus is how you are solving it.
- Most online forms will have a strict word/character limit, so you will need to be clear and concise with your writing.
- Stick to word limits and avoid waffling on to pad out your application.
- Use short sentences and short paragraphs.
- Avoid using emotive language, abbreviations, jargon, clichés or terminology that may confuse.
- Use subheadings to break up heavy text. This makes your application easier to scan and summarise.
- Always have someone else read through your application. Someone who is not invested in the project will be able to tell you if you are selling your project clear enough. RDA Northern Rivers provides this service to relevant funding rounds.
- Seek letters of support for your project from any organisations who are providing monetary or in-kind support or will benefit from the project. RDA Northern Rivers can provide support letters for some funding programs. Contact us for information about the programs we support.
- Make sure you have answered all the questions
- Hand it in on time!
You will need to create a budget that outlines all costs associated with the project, both labour, materials and utilities (rent, electricity). Once you have identified the funding you are going to apply for you may find a template has been supplied by the funder. Use this template so your budget will then easily transfer into your application.
- Any money your organisation has saved for the project and where it will be spent.
- The in-kind support from your organisation, like hours your staff will be working on the project that is not covered by the funding.
- Funds from other grants you have applied for and where these will be spent.
- In-kind assistance you have been offered (e.g. voluntary labour, use of venues or donated materials) and where these will be applied in the project.
- Recent quotes from tradesmen and/or contractors.
Other grant writing resources
Writing a business case for regional infrastructure funding—NSW Government
This web page includes the guidelines, template and an example for preparing a business cases for NSW Government regional infrastructure funding. https://www.nsw.gov.au/improving-nsw/regional-nsw/regional-growth-fund/writing-a-business-case/
RDA Northern Rivers support
This toolkit is one of the ways RDA Northern Rivers supports our region to access funding. Through our website and monthly eNews we provide access to information about upcoming grants. Individual grant application support is also available for some funding programs. This may include advice about edibility, review of your application and providing feedback.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02 6622 4011 if you would like further information about the support RDA Northern Rivers provides for grant applications.
THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS GRANTS TOOLKIT IS INTENDED AS A GUIDE ONLY. THE AUTHORS AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AUSTRALIA-NORTHERN RIVERS INC. ACCEPT NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION OR YOUR RELIANCE UPON IT.