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Great community grant writing

There are so many grants, funds and opportunities out there these days. In an age of social media and social marketing, businesses are investing in their customers through community funds in greater and greater numbers. The flip side is that there are many great causes out there, and everyone from small volunteer groups to big social enterprises may be competing for the money that is available. So how do you make your project stand out amongst the rest?

Here are a just few key tips that I have learned over the years.

1. Understand the funding body's values

You can do this by reading the funding guidelines carefully and making sure that your project fits well. It can also be helpful to do your own research on the funding body's values and vision and familiarise yourself with what they have funded in the past.

In general funding bodies will want exactly what you would want if you were giving away your own money to a cause - for the money to go to something that they believe in and fits with their values, that will create the greatest good for the most number of people, that achieves good value for money, and that will create important long-term change from a short-term or one-off investment.

2. Talk their language

As you read through the funding body's guidelines and website, take note of any values, objectives or key words that keep popping up. If your project is a perfect fit, it will also reflect these values. Simply by using the same words and language as you write the grant, you can improve how well you sell yourself and your project.

3. Create confidence in the concept

The grantmaker will want to fund applicants that they believe will deliver what they promise. You can build this confidence by ensuring that a depth of knowledge shines through in the application. A project concept that is supported by data, statistics, research, has already been tested on a small scale, or extends on successful work has a greater chance of success. Additionally, a project that has partners or other community stakeholders willing to contribute or invest in it, shares the risk of investment among the players and makes the project more likely to be successful, because there are more people invested in ensuring that success.

4. Low risk and high return

No matter who you are, a large potential return on investment coupled with a high probability of success is an attractive option. If your project fulfils these criteria, these are great qualities to emphaise throughout your application. Some project outcomes may seem hard to measure - for example, investing in preventative programs - but if you look hard enough there are many research studies world-wide that can help you to quantify the long-term return on investment. You can also think about the cost of doing nothing, compared to the cost of acting now. These are both great strategies to create an economic argument for the worth of your project.

5. Sustainability

Lastly, sustainability is important. Building sustainability into your project ensures that any funding will create a long-term benefit from a short-term investment. It is attractive to a grantmaker on a number of levels. A project that requires funding only during the establishment phase will free the grantmaker up to assist other projects after a set timeframe that they can plan for, therefore increasing the benefits that they can achieve through their available funding over time. It also reduces potential risks to their reputation. We all know of great community projects that have achieved valuable results but collapsed because funding was withdrawn or no longer available. Chances are that the grant maker doesn't want to risk their reputation by investing in a project that would clearly not continue to operate if they couldn't fund it again next year.

Great community grant writing relies on great project design. But if you are a first timer, don't be worried to have a go. Ring the funding body and discuss your idea with them. Use their ideas and expert partners in your local community to help you. And if you aren't successful, don't despair. Ask for feedback on your application and incorporate new ideas next time. Experience is our best teacher.

Happy grant writing!

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