It’s one of the fundamental strategic questions in our lives: how to get someone to do something for us? How to convince our mother to let us go to that wild party? How to get a potential employer to see the distinct advantages of hiring us? How to get the girl in blue to go on just one date with us?
Admittedly, these are not the sugar-coated aspects of life. These projects require careful planning, considerations of numerous variables, a strategic approach. We are up against our chances: the premise of these scenarios is that we are likely to fail.
Luckily, however, precisely because these situations arise so frequently and so early on, we have all developed strategies to deal with them: if we can get our mother to see that we are responsible and she can rely on us to text home every two hours, she need not feel so worried about us and will let us attend the party. If we accidentally drop in front of the girl in blue that we love serving up 4-course Michelin-standard meals on a lazy Thursday evening, maybe she’ll see a potential date-night in more favourable lights.
Common in these solutions is the fact that we’re all calculating what matters to the other person. If the afore-mentioned strategies are to succeed, it is essential that we do not miscalculate and fail to notice that our mother doesn’t want us to go because she needs us to babysit our younger brother that night so that she can go to a wild party, or that the girl in blue feels terribly uncomfortable eating in front of strangers.
The same is the case with trying to convince funders to fund your projects. We need to consider their motivation first and foremost in offering funding. Just as persuading our mother doesn’t start with explaining how lovely it would be for us to get nicely drunk at a pool party, it is no help to start by assuming that what we see as fantastic in our projects is necessarily just as fascinating to our potential funders.
This is not to say that presenting our project as effectively as possible is not of paramount importance. Quite the contrary: it is of paramount importance. There is absolutely no excuse for not telling your story in a concise (!), logically structured and captivating way. This is the stage where you can get the funders to care about your projects in the first place, to invest in it emotionally. Remember, that whilst you always have to present them with facts and nothing but the facts, you’re telling your story. Let your passion and excitement shine through your lines. However much your project fits the funders’ idea of what they want to fund, if they simply do not care enough about it, if their imagination is not caught by your proposal, then your chances of securing funding will remain pitifully low.
However, as I’ve mentioned before, all that is completely redundant if our perfectly presented project is of no interest to the funders. If the funding body we’re applying for wants to support the vacation of Labrador retrievers, we might think that it’s reasonable enough to request funding for our crocodile sanctuary; that it is reasonable to assume that, had the idea of crocodile sanctuaries occurred to the funders, they would obviously have included it in the application package.
Wishful thinking rarely has tangible effects.
What we have to keep in mind is that the benefactors of a given fund actively chose to assign money for a specific cause. These sorts of acts don’t happen accidentally. It is, unfortunately, extremely rare to end up with randomly distributed money (at least in the present context…). Therefore, we must assign some credibility to the assumption that when a grant pot offers to fund a specific cause, it intends to do just that: fund that specific cause. Bottom line: applying for funds the aims of which don’t align perfectly with our projects is simply a waste of time. It may appear to you that if you submit a big enough number of applications that are almost a match, one may as well succeed. This is not the case: submitting dozens of semi-relevant applications is, to say the least, not a good use of time. Sounds obvious? Anecdotally, more than 30% of applications for funds fail for reasons of irrelevance.
Another reason for failure is simply not meeting the administrative requirements of the application. Grants are already oversubscribed and securing them is getting increasingly hard. Funders have to go through hundreds of applications in a very limited amount of time. If you think they will contact you for any potentially missing documentation, think again. Make sure to include everything that is required by the application guidelines: proof of eligibility, precisely answered questions etc.
Finally, let’s assume that you found funders who want to fund projects exactly like yours: they’re life-long devotees of crocodile sanctuaries. You tell your story in a compelling way, the funders feel deeply moved by your fierce fight for the wellbeing of crocodiles and you appear trustworthy. Having read your applications over more than once, the trustees of the fund look at each other in quiet and mutual understanding: yours is a project worthy to be funded.
Only a couple of checks left. They can see, for example, that you’re applying for £50,000. A reasonable sum, the funders say – after all, crocodiles don’t feed themselves. Only, on closer inspection, they can see that your annual income hasn’t been more than a fragment of the sum. This is, as they say in the relevant circles, a red flag: there is absolutely no guarantee that your organization can manage that amount of money. Conclusion: be reasonable with the amount you’re asking for.
Don’t forget, either, that the funders are likely to conduct some external checks on your organization. It would be a shame if your application was declined over an unprofessional or out-of-date social media presence. Don’t let this happen.
There is no guarantee of securing funding. However, if you plan your application critically and carefully, there is a significantly increased chance of succeeding. Maybe not for a crocodile sanctuary, though.
Resource gotten from Non Profit Growth