Have you ever submitted a grant application for a project or idea and then immediately thought to yourself “I have no idea if I’m going to get this funding…”? Successful applications are usually the product of great collaboration and clear communication of a concept. In the case of the Edmonton Heritage Council’s Heritage Community Investment Program, the key factor is the jury. Peer juries are made up of community members who help to review applications and make funding recommendations. Jury members read applications ahead of time and then meet in person to discuss and evaluate the merits of each application in relation to the others.
As a fly on the wall in grant jury meetings, I’ve learned a lot about what jurors are looking for. Here is some advice you may want to consider the next time a grant deadline approaches that will help your application make it into the YES pile.
In no particular order, five areas where you should focus your energies are:
Crunch the Numbers
As a rule, revenues and expenses must balance, the bottom of the left and right columns should match, as outlined in the mandatory EHC budget form associated with each grant. Other formats, like Excel and accounting spreadsheets are only acceptable for Operational Grants.
Having a hard time covering the required contribution? Make sure you are thinking about all the in-kind support you are giving to the project. This might include volunteer time, programming space, or office supplies along with cash and other financial contributions.
A general rule of thumb: if it would otherwise have been an expense, list it, and then account for it as revenue in-kind. Make sure you look at what counts for eligible and ineligible expenses.
Tell Your Story
Projects are often the culmination of long journeys. Your story should stand out, and by all means, if the project is personal, be sure to convey that in the narrative section. However, be mindful of page limits, so be sure to include the most important information.
Read through your application narrative out loud and ask yourself, “What Edmonton story am I telling? What is the benefit to the public? Why does this project merit funding?” If you’re having trouble staying objective, we suggest you have your most critical, nit-picky friend read your application for clarity.
Your project needs to fit within the mission and mandate of the grant you’re applying for. Truly consider: does your project’s themes and goals align with the themes and goals of the grant and granting organization? Don’t try to stretch your idea to fit an organization’s mandate and make it something it is not. Attempts to change the project outcomes in the name of alignment are quickly spotted around the jury table.
Most granting organizations have staff available to help you through this process and EHC is no exception! Many of the common mistakes mentioned above can be avoided if you start your application early and share it with Kyla Fisher, EHC’s Outreach Coordinator, with enough time to incorporate feedback. Just email your draft to firstname.lastname@example.org. She will gladly provide feedback and identify areas that need more work. Make sure to get in touch and share your draft at least one week before the deadline if you want her to review it and provide comments.
Nobody knows your project better than you do, but if it’s not clear to us, then it probably won’t make sense to the jury either. If the grant organization raises concerns or makes suggestions, remember that we want to increase your chances of success in front of the jury. So please take all feedback under advisement and try to incorporate our suggestions for the best possible outcome.
Whatever your project, always aim for clear, outcome-oriented projects that will have a community impact. And remember: if you did not receive funding this time around, you’re always encouraged to follow up, gather further feedback, and re-apply in the future!