Many not-for-profit organisations, especially new organisations operate with small budgets and very few, if any paid staff. Your organisation may receive income from membership fees, donations or other types of fundraising. However, to continue to provide their services and/or to expand their activities, most organisations will also want to apply for funding from other organisations.
Who offers funding?
Funding or grants are offered by:
- Federal government departments or agencies
- State government departments or agencies
- Local government
- Philanthropic organisations
To find grants that might be suitable you could ask the government bodies that you deal with, ask other agencies or organisations that do similar work, find out if your local government offers community grants, ask your state or federal MP about government grants and check the newspapers for advertisements.
There are many different types of funding available but your organisation will only be able to apply to those that share the same aims and interests as you. If you are applying to government or philanthropic organisations, there will usually be funding guidelines that describe the purpose of the funding as well as information about which organisation are eligible to apply and what the grant can be used to fund.
Funding guidelines also include important dates such as when the application must be received, when the project can start and/or finish and when you will be told if you are successful. Most funding guidelines require that you write a funding submission or application that describe what you'd like to do, how you intend to do it and any other information required in the guidelines such as a budget.
For most grants, submission writing involves a lot of time in addition to the day-to-day work of the organisation, and your application will not necessarily be successful. Before applying for funding, your organisation will need to decide if it is able to spend sufficient time on writing submissions and if it has the resources to meet the reporting and other requirements of the funding body if it is successful.
Most funding bodies ask for regular reports that includes details about how the money is being spent and these might have to be provided in a particular format. You may need to develop policies and procedures outlined by the funding body that are aimed at ensuring your organisation is providing services according to best practice standards. All of these requirements will take affect the way that you plan and run your organisation.
Writing a submission
If you do decide to apply for funding and have found one or more funding programs that might suit your organisation and its needs, you will need to write a submission. As well as funding guidelines, many funding bodies will also provide their own application form for you to complete. If you are applying for a small amount of money to buy a piece of equipment, for example, you may only need to complete a short application. For larger projects or a program of activities, you will probably need to include more details including some/all of the following information.
Describing the project and why your organisation should receive the funding
You might want to include research that your organisation or others have done already and provide statistics and other data that shows a community need. If your organisation has already done similar work, you can include information about how you can build on this. It is often a good idea to include letters of support from other organisations or the community that your project will benefit.
The funding body will also be interested in whether you have received other funding and if you met all the requirements. If you haven't received funding in the past, it may help your application if you can show that your organisation is well-managed and accountable to its clients, staff and the community. You may also be asked to provide an annual report, financial statements and the qualifications of your staff.
What the project will achieve and how your organisation will complete it
You will need to include details about what you want to achieve through the project and how you will know if you have been successful. This means thinking of ways that you can measure improvements during and after the project. If you are going to run activities, you will need to provide details about what they will involve, who might be interested and how your organisation will run them. Most funding bodies will also expect to see a detailed budget for your program or project.
You may want to talk to the contact person for the funding body before completing your submission to ensure that you include all the necessary information.
Most funding is competitive which means that there will be many other organisations applying at the same time. Sometimes you will need to wait for some weeks or even months to hear whether your application has been successful.
If your organisation does receive funding, you will usually be asked to sign an agreement that describes certain requirements which you will be expected to meet. This is a legal document so if your organisation cannot meet these requirements, they might have to repay the funding and may not be able to apply for further funding. Before signing the agreement, you might want to ask for advice from a solicitor.