Regional grantwriter is getting results for grantseekers and funders

Posted on 17 Nov 2021

By Matthew Schulz, journalist, Our Community

16:9 Bradley Kate 2community grants writer helping
Kate Bradley consulting a community representative on her rounds in Queensland's Western Downs region.

Kate Bradley’s work as a community grants writer is making a difference. The proof? In the past two years, she’s helped win nearly $3 million for scores of community organisations in Queensland’s Western Downs region.

Professional grantwriters have a mixed reputation among funders, some of whom turn their noses up at the industry, partly because many professionals work for success fees for winning grants.

Ms Bradley takes a different approach: Employed by Murilla Community Centre, her 30-hour-a-week position is funded by Shell’s QGC business, with the service provided free to community organisations.

She spoke to a recent “grants muster” in Dalby organised by the Western Downs Regional Council and attended by SmartyGrants users from as far afield as the Sunshine Coast.

While Ms Bradley does write grant applications for a handful of community centres, such as the Murilla Community Centre where she is based, she doesn’t generally pen applications for community groups.

Instead, her focus is on helping those groups to get on the tools to produce better applications themselves, or as she says, on setting people up “for success in the long term”.

In the past two years that has involved working with 114 groups, and Ms Bradley said she hoped to continue her mission to “talk to as many groups as I can, for as long as I can”.

In a survey, users said it was “possibly the best service delivered to NFP groups in recent times”, generating “confidence” and countering “volunteer exhaustion”.

Grantmakers will be familiar with the kinds of challenges which Ms Bradley highlighted as key barriers to grantseeking, and which many inexperienced community groups face, including:

  • limited skill
  • lack of experience with application processes
  • time-poor volunteers who struggle with deadlines and the work required
  • limited confidence in dealing with the intricacies of grant jargon, complex guidelines and other documentation.

She said grantseekers with a few runs on the board sometimes need help to direct their limited resources towards accessing highly competitive funding that is often siphoned off by larger, better-resourced organisations.

For grantmakers, the benefits of greater grantseeker savvy include:

  • reduced drain on the staff resources required to provide advice, chase missing information, guide applicants, and tackle other grant-related tasks
  • a higher quality of submitted application, and the confidence that comes with knowing applications have been through the right processes
  • greater confidence that successful applicants will spend the money as intended.

The theory of change that underpins Ms Bradley’s work sees her provide tailored free advice to local community groups to develop their skills and increase their capability to secure funds. That in turn brings better events, much-needed equipment and more infrastructure to the Western Downs region.

Ms Bradley’s role involves:

  • holding face-to-face meetings in townships in the district, including Miles, Tara, Chinchilla, Wandoan and Dalby
  • providing phone and email support
  • running training sessions, including a video series available online.

Those meetings often mean sitting down with organisations to discuss their desired projects and timelines and to link those to available grants programs. One tennis club, for instance, was able to meet its goals with three separate grants over 18 months.

Ms Bradley’s work has helped deliver an application success rate of 78%, generating $2.9 million across 133 successful applications. She told the grants muster she believed the success rate would have been higher if it hadn’t been for the impact of covid-19 on cancelled projects.

Another significant metric is the 88% of the community groups involved who have reported a boost in capability and confidence. Of those:

  • 78% said they were better at writing applications
  • 75% were better at collecting supporting evidence
  • 67% were better at finding suitable grants
  • 50% were improving their grasp of budgets and timelines.

Better applications a boost for funders

Ms Bradley said she believed the support provided to grantseekers meant that organisations better understood timelines, what’s essential in applications, the importance of data and measurement, and the value of using templates for issues such as risk and project plans.

As well as building a resource base for groups, she has been able to encourage collaboration between groups, suggesting they apply as one for selected grants. That has reduced the overall research and preparation burden and been an attractive proposition for funders.

She is adamant that “collaborating works”, saying funding for a wider region “makes it a much more attractive application”.

“From the grantmaker’s point of view, there are less funding contracts they have to write and it’s a much easier reporting process.”

She said the service also helped funders by “offering an impartial service” to applicants and by encouraging applications from diverse groups.

Ms Bradley said she had been able to alert groups to funding opportunities they were not aware of, such as sporting clubs who were eligible for new funds for lighting, for example.

“It’s very hard to be across all of the grants suitable for a project,” she said.

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