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Education-focused grant seeking: a case of the hare and the tortoise

3 min read

Few education-focused not-for-profits would say that they don’t need to seek more funds. More common are such catch-cries as, ‘If we had more funds we could: do X; keep X; or expand X’.

Coming from a school education perspective, whatever ‘X’ is (e.g. a program, project; equipment) it will have some relationship to improving the situation and/or conditions for student wellbeing, learning and achievement. If that’s not the case, then the question really has to be asked, ‘Who are we proposing ‘X’ for?’

Asking such a question seems blindingly obvious. But sometimes the pressure and urgency of finding and securing funds can create a race mentality and impede your ability to really get to grips with what and for whom you are seeking funds for.

But if you are not clear on this, can you really expect a funder to be? You might be lucky and get away with a more hasty approach – you may already have developed some great networks and relationships with funding bodies; or perhaps serendipitously you hear about or see a potentially good fund fit and are confident that applying for this one fund will ‘win the day’.

For most of us, this sort of lurching from one funding ‘crisis’ to another, or an overly-confident ‘leave it to fate’ approach, is a major headache (literally!).

It’s really stressful, but it doesn’t have to be so. A ‘slow and steady’ approach is needed to ensure that your fund seeking is underpinned by clear idea formation.

Top three tips

A little book of great ideas

If an idea pops into your head for a project to address a key need in your community, you have to be ready to capture it. Even if the idea is only partially formed, write it down. It’s only when you let ideas ‘bump into one another’ that new ways of thinking about a ‘problem’ can take shape.

Great educational projects need time to ‘bake’. This is not to be mistaken for procrastination. When you are in the throws of ‘baking’ your idea you are doing something. Importantly, you will be working out whether your idea has value (e.g. if implemented, will the effort far outweigh the impact?).

So, get inspired by your own ideas, but don’t forget to explore what others have done – you may be surprised what additional ideas might be triggered.

Previous examples

As a service of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), the Tender Bridge’s comprehensive and dynamic database was set up to remove the subscribers’ pain of ‘accessing’ education-focused funds – a time-consuming and sometimes complex process.

An advantage of the database is that it provides links to funder websites, often exposing our subscribers to funders that they might never have heard about – creating a win/win for the grant maker and the grant seeker. Importantly, it also exposes a grant seeker to valuable sources of information (e.g. annual reports and case studies), providing a brilliant way to reach out and see what has gone before, what has attracted a funder, and how projects have been viewed as successful. All this may well help crystalise your own thoughts.

Grant calendar

Being confident is great, but don’t ‘rest on your laurels’ and assume that you are guaranteed to succeed in all funding applications. Consider all your funding options and plan ahead.

In a practical sense, the calendar allows you to plot the timing and priorities of your grant writing (e.g. a defined grant round as opposed to a grant match that is ongoing). A project grant calendar can also make your grant seeking more purposeful and focused, allowing you to map your project’s potential fund matches – a key message here is to match the project to a fund, not a fund to a project.

First-hand experience

We know (from first-hand experience) the mixed joy and despair that comes with seeking educational grants. But remember, like the proverbial hare, don’t rush from the starting gate and find yourself napping when opportunities could be passing you by.

Be clear about whom you are seeking funds for and why, and maintain a purposeful pace to your grant seeking.

Top 3 tips

1. Always carry a little book to capture your great ideas

2. Always look at examples of previously funded projects

3. Always plan ahead – create a grant calendar.

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