How To Answer Tricky Grant Application Questions

You can make anything sexy!

You can make anything sexy!

I was just having a coffee with a colleague to go over some hard-to-answer grant questions.

Here’s what we came up with!

  1. How do you describe funding needs when all you need are salaries?

Don’t overthink this one! If you have something UNsexy that needs funding, then be sure to focus on the outcome and list the boring specifics later.

Instead of this: We are applying for an assistant veterinarian’s salary to de-worm the guide dogs needed for our youth autism program.

Try this: Children with severe autism will experience increased comfort and safety from the guide dog that you fund. The costs include…all the boring things we don’t need to lead with…

  1. How do you use specific impact examples without ending up with a restricted donation?

Don’t overthink this either! You definitely want to give specific examples of what the requested amount would accomplish – it’s more powerful. But watch your language to keep the funding unrestricted.

Instead of this: $500 would fund 50 meals for homeless people.

Try this: A gift of $500 would help us in so many ways, for example, this amount would feed 50 homeless people.

  1. What do you say when they ask you about other funders?

This is a confusing one. They don’t want to be the only funder in the ring, but we’re often not able to share details of other funders until well after they’re confirmed. And if we had a million other funders for the same project, we wouldn’t be filling out this bloody grant application in the first place, would we??

Try this: Name ongoing funders you already have in place, but not necessarily for the project needing funding. If they need funders related to the project, then list others you have approached and mention that it is confidential information and that they aren’t confirmed yet. You may also want to note that the other funders are waiting to hear on the status of the current application (if that’s the case).

  1. What do you write when they only offer one-time funding and want to know how you will sustain the program afterwards?

Grrr. This is my least-favourite question. In my dream world I’d write this: “If we get one-time funding for this project, then we’ll just start from zero again next year like we have every bloody year since the charity started!”

But don’t say that.

Try this: We have a 10-year history (or whatever) of raising a minimum of $X/year. We will work to increase our other annual giving channels to meet the increased funding needs.

  1. How do you answer the question “If you receive less than you’re asking for, how will you fund the remainder”?

This is very close in content to question 4 and I’ll usually use the same wording, just tweaked a bit. Or I might mention that there are other prospective funders in play who we would ask to step up.

Above all, don’t forget to call or email the funder to discuss your ideas BEFORE applying (unless they specifically say not to). You’ll get a chance to find out exactly what to apply for, what donation range they want, and you’ll be relationship building right from the start.

Need more? Check my previous post “How to Increase Your Odds For a Successful Grant.



About Siobhan Aspinall

About Siobhan Aspinall: I am a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), passionate about the environment, social causes and surfing. I have been fundraising in Vancouver, Canada for over 20 years and love working with people who have a fear of fundraising. Call me for help developing a first-time fundraising plan, starting up a major gifts program, writing a case for support, or anything else that's keeping you awake at night! Please find me on linkedin and tell me what you'd like to see in future posts! : ) Photo Credit (sanddollar header): Minette Layne via Compfight cc
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