Grant writing for your park group
When your group wants to undertake a more substantial project like building a playground or garden, or hosting a major event, you’ll likely need to consider applying for grants. This guide looks at the various steps involved in applying for grants to increase your budget, and impact.
One of the great beauties of parks is that there is no cost to enjoying them. When you want to improve or animate your park, however, there is typically a cost. Whether it’s installing new flower beds, building a playground or putting on an event to support the work of your park group, even the most carefully planned budget can quickly add up to thousands of dollars.
This article deals with grant writing, which is the way that most organizations like yours raise a lot of money quickly. If you haven’t read it yet, our resource on fundraising covers other ways to raise funds: the different options, how to prepare, how to execute, and how to follow up.
Who gives out grants?
There are several kinds of organizations that give money to grassroots groups like yours.
- Private foundations have a pool of money set aside for (often specific) charitable purposes
- Government organization at the municipal, provincial and federal levels have grant programs available from specific departments or ministries. Grant guidelines are designed to help meet the goals of that ministry, i.e. immigration, culture or the environment
- Corporations run grant programs that are typically tied to their community relations or marketing goals
We have a resource highlighting organizations with a track record of giving to parks and community park groups.
How do you find out about grants?
There are grants available locally, at the provincial, national and even international level. There are several ways to find out what grants might be available in your area:
- Start with Park People: We have a resource focused on grant programs available in different cities.
- See what other organizations are doing: Check similar groups in your town or city and see who is funding their activities. Look at their annual reports or listings on their website and project materials, or simply give them a call.
- Check municipal and provincial government websites: Funding opportunities abound! Google is a wonderful tool for finding government grants.
Is your organization a fit?
It’s not difficult to see if your organization and your proposed project are good fits for specific grants. Funders have priorities, which are generally separated into three categories:
- Organizational requirements: do you need to be a charity? An association? Have a Board of Directors?
- Geographic focus: you need to be within their catchment area
- Other organizations supported: is your request similar to the groups and initiatives they have funded in the past?
How do I write a successful grant application?
A successful grant application depends on several things
- The size of grant is the first consideration. As a general rule, the bigger the grant, the more involved the application process and the most competition for that pot of money.
- The funding timeline is a major consideration. Do you have time to get a well-written, complete application in before the application cut-off date? And will funds become available in time for your proposed project?
- Time and ability to write a proposal is a stumbling block for many organizations. Applications take time, and a certain level of writing ability is needed in order to put together a successful one. However, grant writing can be a collaborative process. Can someone else in your organization help? Perhaps you have a friend who is a good writer and can lend a hand with editing. Or maybe the prize is big enough to enlist the help of a professional grant writer.
- The ability to follow funding requirements is an additional consideration. Can you allocate funding in accordance with the requirements set out by the donor? If the grantor is focused on environmental impacts, or reaching a specific population, what can you incorporate into your project to ensure you are you going to make that happen?
Budget: the key to any grant
Any granting organization wants to know that you have a realistic, detailed budget for your project. Your budget should:
- List everything you will need to spend money on, separated into categories. Be as accurate and realistic as possible
- Show the dollar value of things you already have, including donations, volunteer time, space to hold the event, services or goods
- Add up the categories to show the total amount required and the value of what you have already
- If you have a very detailed budget you can keep that for your own reference and provide a more summarized version to the funder which will enable you to make small changes within categories as the project unfolds.
How to write great grant applications
There are many worthy organizations vying for each and every grant available. How do get applications committees to choose you?
The first thing you need to have is a good, detailed budget. Then you need to be able to express yourself in a convincing fashion. You need to let your passion shine through, but without falling into flowery language. Here are our top tips for the writing portion of grant applications:
- Start from zero. Assume (usually correctly) that the person or people reading the grant have no familiarity with your organization or your project. Paint them a picture in as few words as possible.
- Keep it clear, simple and concise. Clarity and concision matter. You want to get your point across using the bare minimum number of words—and simple words, at that. When an application committee reads a grant submission that is unclear or complicated, there’s always another application waiting to be read. Maybe the next one will be clearer.
- Keep it evidence-based. Write about who you are and cite concrete examples of what you have done so as to build confidence in what you intend to do. Avoid talking about what you wish could happen or what you might do at some point in the future.
- Use examples. Real life stories make applications come alive. Think of examples in which projects of the kind you are undertaking succeeded and improved lives or neighbourhoods. Use those stories to illustrate your goals.
- Answer questions! Yes, you must answer the questions asked in the application. Don’t go off-topic!
- Show the benefit you will deliver. Try to provide concrete examples of the benefit your project will deliver. Refer to similar initiatives carried out by other groups.
Proofing and editing
It’s a funny thing: when you write something, you often become blind to the faults of the writing, and you may be assuming the reader has some knowledge needed to understand your proposal. Plus, your spelling and grammar may not be perfect. They need to be. So before submitting an application, get someone else to proof and/or edit your work. Ask them to check that:
- The terminology and expressions used are consistent
- You are following application instructions and answering questions directly
- All of the attachments and documents required are provided exactly as they have requested
If you can find someone who has no knowledge of your group or project to read it and and make sure that they understand why it’s an important thing to fund- you’re ready to submit.
Your proposal is approved!
Woot woot! Okay, is it time to buy some bubbly and spend some money?
Not quite. First, you will want to do a few things:
- Send a thank you note to the funder
- Confirm how and when you will receive the funds
- Ask if the funder requires any additional documents
- Clarify how they would like to be recognized by your group (displaying their logo, etc.)
- Review your reporting requirements and set up a system to track finances and other deliverables
Okay, now go celebrate!
If you are new to fundraising, grant applications are one of many ways to raise funds. Learn more about fundraising in our resource which covers the basics of raising funds: the different ways to do it, how to prepare, how to execute and how to follow up.