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Spreading the Wealth: Getting Grants to Small Organisations

By Kate Caldecott

A version of this article was included in the August 2017 issue of Grants Management Intelligence published by AIGM.



Does it feel like you’re always funding the same people? Every round, the same crowd of not-for-profit organisations apply for funding and the same ones usually get it. It’s not just your imagination. One of the key findings from the AIGM 2017 Grants in Australia Report is that large organisations in most of the grants, including small grants.


If you always run grant rounds similar to the ones you have run in the past, you’re likely to get similar results. Before opening a new round, you should think about the impact you want to have. Often, smaller organisations may be more closely embedded in the community than larger ones. Including small not-for-profit organisations in the funding mix is an important strategy for increasing your impact.


Large, well-established not-for-profits tend to have the resources and experience needed to win grants. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, assuming that these same organisations also have the capacity to successfully execute the projects. However, if you’re wanting to spread your funding around and include smaller organisations, you may need to engage in specific strategies to cultivate their participation.



Source: Grants in Australia 2017



Alter Your Application & Selection Process


Smaller organisations are less likely to have professional grant writer, so look for ways to even the playing field. This could include:


Also, remember that large organisations, especially ones you have a history with, will know where and when you announce your rounds, while smaller organisations may not. If you want to broaden your pool of applicants, you have to make sure more people are aware of your grant opening details. Announce your rounds in grassroots publications such as peak association and community newsletters.


Interestingly, the AIGM study also revealed that large organisations are more likely to contact the grantmaker and ask for help. This may be simply because they know they can. Inexperienced organisation may feel intimidated or believe that they are supposed to come up with all of the answer for themselves. Let potential grantees know that you’re interested in getting to know them better. You’ll both benefit by building a relationship.


Grants to small organisations

Source: Grants in Australia 2017



Target Small Organisations


If you want to move beyond prioritising small organisations, you can create a grant round specifically for small them with eligibility criteria that specify that the applicant have an annual budget below a predetermined amount. This will encourage smaller organisations, who may not feel they can compete with larger not-for-profits, to participate. Even the small organisations who aren’t awarded funding can gain valuable experience from applying and getting to know your process. Since you will be greatly restricting who can apply, there is a risk that you won’t receive any applications you want to fund. Therefore, it’s best to use this model when you have the option of rolling unspent funds forward.


Another way to bring smaller organisations into the fold it to have them partner with a larger organisation, ideally a large organisation you already have a relationship with. The partnership model could vary. You may want to make big-small organisation collaboration (http://katecaldecott.com.au/2017/06/were-in-this-together-the-how-and-why-of-grantee-collaboration/) a requirement of your grant. Or you might ask a well-established non-profit if they would be willing to serve as an auspice for smaller organisations. If using this model, think through what you expect the budget to look like. The larger organisation will want some funds to cover their administrative costs. However, you want to avoid creating a situation where large not-for-profits get the grants then “outsource” the work to smaller organisation who can do it for less money.



Incubate Small Organisations


You can also design your grants to help small organisations grow their capacity. Work with the small organisation to find out what they need to further the development of their organisation. Using a multi-year funding model allows you to start small and increase the award annually as the organisation’s management capacity and service delivery improves.


As with any capacity building grant, the great advantage is that your funds not only help the organisation during the duration of the grant, but also increase the organisations ability to attract (from other funders) and manage future grants.


Or Start New Ones


It’s possible that a lack of applications from small organisations reflects a lack of small organisations. If there simply aren’t any small groups working in the area you want to fund and you want that mechanism to influence right at the coal face, you might consider offering grants for the very purpose of incubating new not-for-profits (or attracting an existing organisation to your geographic area).This type of grant needs to be well-planned, may need to be multi-year and calls for close collaboration between the grantmaker and the not-for-profit who will be incubating the new organisation(s). Begin with a thorough understanding of the need and the end result you are hoping to see. Though complex, when these projects succeed the result is a measurable and lasting increase in the community’s capacity.


If you would like more strategies or guidance getting more small organisations into your funding pool, please contact me at Kate@katecaldecott.com.au or 0447 227 598.


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  • Kate Caldecott worked with me on Australia Post’s Our Neighbourhood Community Grants program. She assisted with the grant process design and SmartyGrants grant management implementation.

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