Insight from funders

Ask The Experts: Amazing Insight From Funders At GrantsEdge Live

Have you ever been so excited you could barely sleep? That’s how I felt on Sunday night, in anticipation of GrantsEdge Live, our two-day grant writing training course. I couldn’t wait to meet the incredible people, from a wide spectrum of organizations, who had signed up to learn the step-by-step formula to write winning grants.

Participants told us that after two intensive days of learning and discovery, they now felt “confident”, “energized”, and “ready to write grants” to get their ideas funded! Now, our GrantsEdge team would love to take all of the credit for this, but we really can’t.

We were honoured to have four incredible funders accept our invitation to attend a portion of GrantsEdge Live. Each funder graciously provided valuable insight, answered thought-provoking questions, and offered feedback to help participants clarify their project ideas. There was also a lot of laughter along the way.

Who Was In The Room?

Joining us for this event were:

  • Jo-Ann Hutchinson – Regional Advisor for the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, & Sport.
  • Sara Middleton – Director, Community Partnerships and Investment with the United Way London-Middlesex.
  • Rebekah Morrison-Wize – Development Officer, Grants & Investments with the London Arts Council.
  • Janice Walter – Manager of Community Development for Neighbourhood Children and Fire Services for the City of London.

Insight From Funders

Below I’ve shared a few of the questions asked by GrantsEdge Live participants and a summary of the informative responses from funders.

Finding Funding For Program Expansion

Thought-Provoking Question: Seed funding for new programs appears to be more popular for funders today. What would you encourage me to do if the funding I’m seeking is related more specifically toward expanding and growing an existing program?

Awesome Answer: The packaging and writing of a grant can definitely be a challenge. As funders, we know that there are great programs in our communities that are experiencing strong outcomes and delivering exceptional results. We need to fund those programs. It is important in those cases to consider developing your ask and creating your expansion around a new demographic or in a new geographic region. Perhaps you want to consider expanding your program in a new neighbourhood or with a different age group. It just means making your pitch slightly more specialized. Don’t be afraid to tell us that you have a strong model and an effective approach that you want to try for a new segment of the population. Telling a funder that you need to hire two new staff positions is less appealing then saying that you are going to deliver 20% more impact.

Mistakes Grant Writers Make

Thought-Provoking Question: It’s difficult as a grant writer to not think about the fact that it might be my writing that is the reason our proposals haven’t been funded. Would you have some advice about some of the common mistakes grant writers make, or some ideas I should consider to impress a funder with my application?

Awesome Answer: We have a long list of common mistakes, that’s for sure! There are also some intentional concepts you can include to impress a funder. This is definitely not an exhaustive list.

  • The right fit – The biggest thing is to make sure you align your program and application to the funder’s priorities. Don’t go chasing the dollars and then attempt to make your program fit. You need to find the right funder and make sure your priorities align because we need to know that the programs we’re investing in line up with our outcomes.
  • The power of collaboration – Having effective collaborations and partnerships included in your application is also a key component that can impress funders. Partnerships bring efficiencies around areas like administration and space and it helps roll up outcomes and demonstrate even greater community impact when organizations are working together.
  • Don’t assume – Another common mistake that grant writers make in their overall writing is that they assume that reviewers already know everything about their organization. Funders often engage volunteers in the decision-making process, and those volunteers may bring assumptions or perceptions with them that are incorrect (maybe their child was in one of your programs in 1986), or they may know nothing about your organization at all. Make sure you are clear, concise, compelling, and provide enough information for everyone to make an informed decision.
  • Does it add up – The budget is typically the least effectively completed part of every application. Describing unit costs are very important so that as a reviewer we understand the reasoning behind your number and that it makes sense. Make sure you read our guidelines related to the budget and that you attach everything we have asked for as part of that process.

How Funders Want to Be Recognized

Thought-Provoking Question: What types of ways do you like to be or need to be recognized? What is the best way for my organization to recognize your support?

Awesome Answer: Our logo is the biggest and most important piece. Most funders will send you the logo and the guidelines for how to use it. Be sure to include it on reports, strategic plans, and any communication that is going out related to your project that has been funded.

Don’t send certificates (there was definitely laughter in the room at this point). We don’t expect any “bling”. Spend the money on your project. We don’t typically have room for hanging anything on our walls. A thank you card is fine, but nothing more than that is needed.

Thank You To The Funders Who Joined Us

A big thank you from the GrantsEdge team and GrantsEdge Live participants to the funders who made the time to join us and share their wisdom and experience. Participants said that this was definitely one of the highlights from GrantsEdge Live.