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Last updated August 20, 2014

There are over 700 contestable funding sources in New Zealand, and they vary dramatically in size and type. From large corporate based foundations through to small family trusts, with gaming trusts, community foundations, and local government funding lodged in between. There are funders which distribute just a few thousand dollars every year and those who distribute several million – but regardless of size, they are all looking for the same things.

Here’s a quick guide to what funders really want:

1. Criteria Met
Every funder has a set of criteria which determines what organisations, projects, programmes and expenses they will fund. The criteria have been carefully considered and the decision makers are bound by what has been set for them. Regardless of how good your cause is, a funder can not distribute funds to an organisation if they do not meet their criteria.

2. Applications That Make Sense
Literally! Avoid using long winded, politically correct jargon, and just get to the point. Assume that they know nothing about your organisation or project, and answer their questions as concisely as you can. If you are adding attachments, make sure you include a response on the form itself and clearly index your attachments so they know what item relates to what. Before submitting your application, it is useful to ask a friend (who has nothing to do with your organisation) to read through it first. If it makes sense to them, then it’s ready to submit.

3. Realistic Budgets
Believe it or not, funders have a pretty good idea about what things cost. (Remember, they deal with hundreds, if not thousands, of applications every year.) Inflating your budget with the reasoning that ‘you never get everything you ask for anyway’ – is a sure fire way to have your application rejected. An inflated budget tells a funder one of two things; a) This organisation hasn’t done their homework, or b) This organisation is not entirely trustworthy. Neither is something you want attached to your name.

4. Transparency
If you are applying for funds from another funder – say so. This will not hinder your chances of a successful application; in fact the opposite is more likely the case. By being upfront about where you are trying to source funding, funders are able to discuss with each other how they can best make it happen. By providing funders with the complete picture, they can make better decisions on how to support your cause.

5. Quality Projects
Funders want their money to make a real impact and for that to happen, you need to be offering well-designed services that meet genuine needs in your community. When applying for funds, explain the impact your project or service would have (or is having), and give examples of why it is a need, not just a ‘nice-to-have’ in your community. Show them how you have come to that conclusion, and if the funding is required for a new expense, explain why it is a need now when it may not have been in the past. What has changed in your community or organisation to make it so?

6. Value for Money
Even funders want ‘bang for their buck’. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are looking to fund the cheapest projects, or the ones that involve the most people. In assessing value for money, funders will consider the ‘trickle down effect’ and the depth of impact in your community. Who will benefit, how will they benefit, and in turn how will that benefit others?

7. Sustainability
While organisations would love to receive regular ongoing funding, funders are looking for projects or programmes that have potential to become self-sustaining over time. While they realise this is not practical for all programmes or services, it is important that organisations have a plan in place to develop other streams of income. A funder wants to know that in time, your project or programme would continue even if they could no longer provide the funds.

8. Good Governance
Your project or programme may tick all the boxes, but unless the funder trusts your organisation is capable of delivering, you won’t get the money. Good sound governance gives funders faith that your organisation can deliver on its promises. Choose your board carefully and evaluate its effectiveness on a regular basis.

9. Accountability
The funding process does not end when you receive the cheque. Your organisation must be accountable for the monies spent, and you shouldn’t have to be prompted! Make sure you return your accountability in a timely manner, and in the way that it has been requested. A poor history of accountability will most certainly result in future applications being rejected.

10. Appreciation
Receiving money from any funder is a privilege, not a right. For various reasons these funders make contributions to the community, but nowhere is it stated that they must make those contributions to YOUR organisation. If you are privileged enough to have received some funds, make sure you thank the funder accordingly. Funders are not simply cheque books; they are real people, making real decisions, with real feelings. They will continue to help people who are grateful for the support.

Extract from Issue 10 of Tonic Magazine

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