It has been a busy year so far and, already, I have submitted funding applications totaling around £2 million. This seems a good time to reflect on whether these will be successful and to share this blog post which I wrote a few months ago…
When I talk to people about grant fundraising I am often asked what my ‘success rate’ is. I find this a very difficult question to answer. Thinking about my ‘success’ in fundraising, have come up with some statistics:
I am immensely proud of this. I cannot take all the credit of course but I still think this is something to shout about.
So, that doesn’t sound quite so impressive. But what about this,
Yes, that is definitely better.
We all know that you can use statistics to tell whatever story you like but I think there is a bigger issue here. Grant fundraising should not be just about the successes and the failures. Of course, this is important but if you focus too hard on this you will never take any risks. Charities must take risks now and again. Sometimes, they will have a really great idea but it might take a while to find a funder to support it. Or, maybe there will be an opportunity to go for a big prize where there is just one winner. The chance or getting this grant is low but does that mean you shouldn’t try?
The grants which were not successful in 2014/15 include some of these ‘long shot’ applications. They also include many smaller applications that really do not take a lot of time to write (so there is very little lost if they are not successful). They include one grant of £50,000 where the funder asked us to make changes and resubmit (I never know whether to count this as a ‘failure’ or not) and another request for £90,000 over 2 years where the funder awarded a grant of £45,000 with an invitation to reapply for a second grant this year (I count this as a ‘success’).
We must also remember that, often, developing a grant application can be a hugely useful exercise in itself. The preparation work needed to inform a grant application (particularly the larger funds) should involve some level of strategic or operational planning which will move the organisation forward with or without a grant award. One of my ‘failures’ last year (£46,500) has achieved exactly this; although the charity did not receive a grant trustees have been able to move forwards with new partnerships and are looking at a new future for their organisation.
So, if you take out the £50,000 application which has since been resubmitted (and was successful this time around), the £45,000 where only half the grant was awarded and the £46,500 where the organisation has moved forward strategically as a result of simply developing the application,
Measuring success is important but we mustn’t be too keen to judge people by their successes or their failures. Would it be right for fundraisers to only apply to the ‘obvious’ or ‘easy’ funders where they have a good track record and they have learnt the ‘formula’ for success? Of course it wouldn’t, we need to diversify our funding sources and seek new opportunities where we can.
I once saw a fundraiser’s website which stated they had a 100% success rate. This really intrigued me. I wonder how cautious you need to be to achieve this. I certainly cannot claim 100% success that but are my ‘failures’ really a failing? I don’t think so.