Seeking funding and the search for Atlantis

By: Chris Wootton   |   Philanthropic Services Manager, Philanthropy Australia

Seeking funding from philanthropists can be complex, time consuming and often fraught with failure. We think we know what funders want, only to find that their funding focus has moved and your organisation or program is no longer in their line of sight.

Like the search for Atlantis…. we have to decide first that we want to search for it in the first place! It is no use simply applying for funding because it is there! Be clear about what you want to achieve and the impact your work will have – and look for funders who match what you want to do? If possible, talk/email with them before wasting your time and theirs on an application/proposal.

Like the search for Atlantis…we do have some idea of where it is – and for funders there are some things we know that they like, namely:

  • New ideas and innovation – new solutions for entrenched issues
  • Demonstrated need or gap  – e.g. we are seeking funding in this area because the ‘data showed us’
  • Demonstrate sector collaboration and sharing of learnings
  • Utilising external and independent evaluation of what impact you are trying to achieve
  • Attracting other funders to support your work

Like the search for Atlantis…many funders really do not want to be found!

Many funders, particularly Private Ancillary Funds (PAFs) – as the name suggests are ‘PRIVATE’ and do not accept unsolicited approaches. As you cannot approach them directly – you need to take a more indirect relationship style –  so that they approach you, such as:

  • Personal referral from your Board member networks, supplier networks, friends, colleagues or other funders – directly or indirectly by hosting/attending functions/events
  • Marketing and promoting your organisation’s  impact, stories, challenges, case studies in the press and other media
  • Ensure you website is mobile phone enabled and clearly promotes your impact and stories – and make it easy for a philanthropist to talk to a person in your organisation directly – and do not rely on generic email forms etc.

Like the search for Atlantis….more applications/proposals end in failure!

For many funders it is more often a process of rejecting applications – this is due to the high volume of applications for the limited funds available – so they shortlist so that they only consider a few in more detail.

So how can you reduce the chance that your application does not get rejected early in the process, here are a few tips:

  • Tell a clear story – what gap or need will it fix – be short – only need an ‘elevator pitch’
  • Counter any potential negatives in your proposal/application
    If many organisations do similar work – you need to spell out what makes your organisation, program, region unique – otherwise the funder may be concerned if they approve yours – that they will be inundated with similar proposals next time eg a shade cloth for a Primary School
  • Are you the right organisation to deliver this proposal? e.g. size, scale, staff, organisation experience etc
  • Is the ask appropriate for philanthropy? Have you sought other funders e.g. corporate, government, own funds, donor funds etc
  • How similar is it to previous grants to you or to other fundees? If the funder has supported something similar in the recent past – they may not be looking at doing another similar one!

Unlike the search for Atlantis…..funders are out there – some can be found readily on websites and others will find you.

The key step when you have an opportunity to talk with a funder –  is to ask questions, rather than sell your organisation and/or proposal. By listening to a funder, you will quickly get a better idea of what they are looking for and you will know if it matches what you and your organisation is trying to achieve.

Chris will be exploring these ideas further and sharing insights on how to make your funding bids more successful, at the Outcomes Online Conference on 30th November.  This virtual event is just $50 for an entire day of drop-in presentations.

Nov. 24, 2016

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