As they begin their own process of grant applications for the 2016 year, one local organization is taking steps to help not-for-profits be more successful in applying for grants across the board.
Grants, whether they be from the city, other levels of government or independent agency are key for organizations to continue or expand the work they are doing in the community. A well-written grant application can make all the difference, said Aaron McRann, executive director of the Community Foundation South Okanagan Similkameen.
To help with the process, the CFSO is offering a series of grant-writing workshops throughout the region during the month of January, as they start the process of accepting applications. McRann said some of the information at the seminars will be relevant to the foundation’s own process, but the majority of the seminar applies to any grant writing.
“The most frustrating thing about the whole application process for us as an organization is when we see the good projects that are poorly written,” said McRann. “What ends up happening is they don’t get their message across in the right way or the right time to rise to the top.”
McRann said they receive about 70 applications annually, for a total of about $600,000 in requests. Taken together, he explained, it is an overwhelming amount of information for the volunteers that review the applications to sift through.
“That is just the start of the process. Then there is the discussion and decision-making process,” said McRann, adding that if the application is not well-written, it becomes hard to sort out the pertinent information.
“The part that people really struggle to understand when they are doing a grant application is to try to see it from the funder’s perspective,” said McRann. “They talk a lot about themselves and less about what they are trying to accomplish. Human nature is such that if I have to fight my way through their words and try to figure what they are trying to do, it just has a negative impact on the assessment of the application.”
McRann said that’s why he puts a lot of work into the seminars encouraging people to actively bring their message to the top of their proposal. They’ve also broken their application down into two parts in order to help with the process.
The first is the applicant organization’s online profile on their Community Knowledge Centre at ckc.cfso.net.
“It’s an ongoing public profile that anyone can use in their own research for deciding who they want to make a donation too, or whether they want to volunteer for whatever that might be,” said McRann.
It often happens, McRann said, that grant writers will spend three-quarters of the application discussing their charity, and not about the project.
“Having the CKC profile allows them to pour everything they need to into talking about their charity and then we can specifically focus on the project and the actual application,” said McRann. “We set it up in a way that it allows charities and nonprofits to tell their stories really effectively. For those that don’t have the money or the wherewithal to have high quality professional website, they could easily substitute their profile on CKC for that.”
The CFSO is hosting four grant writing seminars in 2016, starting on Jan. 7 from 1-3 p.m. in Oliver, then on Jan. 14 from 10 a.m. to noon in Princeton and 2 to 4 p.m. in Keremeos. The final session is on Jan. 15 from 10 a.m. to noon in Penticton.
To find out more about the CFSO’s grant process and deadlines, or to register for a grant writing workshop, visit cfso.net and follow the links under Grants & Bursaries.