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Featured Grants Opinion

The impact of our first private grant – and how to land your own

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In less than a year, I’ve seen my organisation build a program I never thought we’d be able to offer because of a grant maker I hadn’t considered. The experience has taught me a couple things about looking for grants in not-so-obvious places.  

I manage strategic development at Big Fat Smile, a not-for-profit network of community preschools and out of school hours care services. We’re always looking to go the extra mile for children and families, which includes updating the range of activities we offer. Our vision is to enrich the lives and minds of our children and families in their communities. 

As a not-for-profit organisation, it can be challenging to expand curricula without passing costs to families. We mostly offer activities like crafts or drama workshops, and I never thought a photography addition would be feasible due to equipment costs.  

I knew grants would be integral for making even modest updates to our programs, and we were mostly focused on cultivating government grants. But our first grant from a private organisation was the product of social media – I applied to the 2018 Canon Oceania Grant after spotting it online 

Canon’s grant seemed like a fantastic fit for us – we didn’t think Canon would have had many applications like ours before and the application process was straightforward – making it easy for us to invest the time in applying. We submitted a photography program proposal, were shortlisted within weeks and won the public vote to receive Canon’s Community Grant of $4000 toward photography equipment, as well as $1000 cash. 

We are now able to offer a photography activity in our out of school hours care program for primary school children aged 5 to 12 years of age. The photography program allows children to shoot their own photos, learn from professional photographers, print their work and positively critique photography as a group. The hands-on experience exposes children to new technology, while the group sessions teach collaboration and communication. And, of course, the printed work gives them something tangible to take home to parents and family.  

It’s the kind of opportunity most children don’t get every day and the excited responses have been wonderful to see. 

The success of the program shows what’s possible when you’re able to find the right funding. Here are a few valuable lessons for other organisations looking to secure private grants: 

Keep your eyes peeled I discovered Canon’s grant program on social media and email roundups. You’re likely already staying on top of new opportunities but make sure to subscribe to a few email lists and check social media. 

Look for a match in values We had never offered photography activities at this level in our learning and care curriculum before, but Canon’s grant felt right because I saw similarities in our values and desire to make a difference. 

Build a social communitySince the grant depended on a public vote, we knew we could use our existing social media communities to boost visibility and support. Along with the other benefits of nurturing a social following, you never know when a grant award might come down to an online vote! 

About the contributor:  

Simon Stroud is the Manager of Strategic Development, Partnerships & Innovation at Big Fat Smile, a not-for-profit organisation and leading provider of education and care, including out-of-school hours care Fun Clubs. 

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