Winners sum up mood in biggest grants survey

Posted on 02 Aug 2018

This year's Grants in Australia study is set to generate the most detailed insights into the state of grants since 2006, when Our Community first started keeping tabs on grants trends.

More than 2000 grantseekers this year responded to our Innovation Lab survey, the only one of its kind in Australia.

KCLS chief Chuck Berger.

That's two-thirds more respondents than last year and we're grateful to all the not-for-profit groups who are helping create a better system with their views.

Significantly, the study has also been redesigned with the guidance of the Innovation Lab's data scientists, who have also revised assessment methods to better capture and distill lessons about:

  • Where grants money is coming from
  • Who is winning the money
  • What kinds of funding are available
  • Which grantseekers are more successful and why
  • Where grantseekers are wasting their time
  • The future trends for grant applications

This year is also the first that we asked the sector to nominate both compliments and criticisms about grantmakers, and our respondents didn't hold back, partly prompted by our promise to award the best comment with a 64GB Apple iPad Pro (RRP $979).

This year, the prize goes to Kimberley Community Legal Services CEO Chuck Berger, based in the remote north west of Western Australia.

It's no wonder, with this pithy salvo aimed at funders.

"Just as everybody wants to save the world but nobody wants to help do the washing up, grantmakers are too focused on innovation and pilot projects.
"Something doesn't have to be innovative to be worthy, and few pilots ever get scaled up.
"It would be nice if your $10,000 seed funding led to a cure for cancer through a TED-worthy, crowdsourced, citizen-science capacity-building pilot, but in the real world, money for a plain old mental health counsellor, teacher or community lawyer is a better bet."

Mr Berger's comes on top of his February "early bird" survey prize, comprising a $300 not-for-profit kit comprising a one-year Funding Centre subscription with access to our grants database, a year's membership to the Institute of Community Directors Australia and a $150 book bundle.

March's early bird winner was the volunteer grants coordinator at St Joachim's Catholic Primary School Parents and Friends' Association, Dani Newman, based in Brisbane's south east.

She summed up sentiment from many other not-for-profits with this compliment.

"Thank you for your hard work and dedication. You are supporting the people and places that make a difference.
"Philanthropy is literally 'the love of humanity' and we are proud to work alongside you to perpetuate this notion by bringing it to life in our communities."

Dani Newman
March competition winner Dani Newman.

But she also penned this stinging criticism.

"Periodically review your grant offerings from the perspective of a tired, over-worked community volunteer, writing and coordinating documentation late into the night, and ask: 'How can we make things easier'?"

Queensland pastor Greg Taylor from not-for-profit Twin Cities Life - which has strong links to the Townsville City Church - employed his obvious gift of the gab, to nab the April early bird prize. He offered this bouquet to grantmakers:

"Grantmakers are more than just dollars and cents, they are community builders.
Their tools are generosity, the foundation is charity.
What we see is the result of people willing to invest themselves into making communities great.
"Without the seen and unseen working together, our 'home' will not stand in tough times."

But he also lobbed this brickbat at those holding the purse strings.

Greg Taylor
April's winner Greg Taylor.

"The rejection process is always difficult when one has put their heart into a project (and its grant submission).
"Like a 'date' gone badly, the reasons are often not communicated. A little more feedback would be appreciated to help us do better the next time we put our heart out there.
"At the moment, our volunteers feel like we keep getting, 'It's not you ... it's me' - which just doesn't help."

Finally, we couldn't allow our best "last gasp" entries to go unrewarded (we've all been there, right?), and so we've given a consolation Funding Centre subscription (worth $85) to West Footscray Neighbourhood House CEO Sharee Grinter, who lodged her entry late on the final day.

She complimented grantmakers for helping create "positive social impact from the ground up".

But she also issued this burning comment against cynical funders, for:

"Using the grants process as a thinly-veiled opportunity to outsource the execution of the grantmaker's own strategic goals and priorities through the much cheaper means of utilising the skills, reach and capacities of committed, passionate but woefully under-resourced community organisations and their (often part-time/part-volunteer) workers."


We hope any grantmakers reading this are taking note of some of these excellent comments, but we know grantmakers will be reading the study results closely.

Meantime, the prize winners said the additional resources were a welcome help.

Mr Taylor said he hoped the kit would "strengthen the governance of our organisation to create sustainable social equity in our areas of influence, and the programs we are endeavouring to establish".

"I am really looking forward to do this without having to "re-invent the wheel" by utilising the wisdom invested into these resources."

We expect to release further findings as our analysis allows, with the full report expected to be available later this year.

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