Writing winning applications

March 21, 2023

Lori Kravos, former CBF Philanthropy & Partnerships Manager, complied this list of tips to help you think about what donor organisations are looking for in winning grant applications. This may help support your CBF application, or those with other organisations.

1. Apply a different lens

Target with two darts in the middle of the target

View your application through the lens of the potential donor/organisation. Review their website to find out about their vision and mission, read about projects they have funded in the past, look at their strategic plan. Then think about how your station’s vision, mission and strategic plan align with theirs.

Donors generally fund the change they want to see in the world.

2. What are the goals of the donor organisation?

How does your need meet the organisation’s goals? For example, a Trust or Foundation’s goals may be to build social connection, increase employment opportunities and support resilience within regional communities. In your application, write about how your station currently meets each of their objectives and how funding your project will allow for you to serve your community even more effectively in these areas.

From a donor’s perspective, organisations don’t have needs, people do. While we may view our organisation and projects as needing funds to keep providing services, donors perceive an organisation as needing funds so that we can help more people or help them more effectively.”  – Bill Moritz, New Horizons Foundation

3. Build your community profile

Australian Bureau of Statistics logo features emu and kangaroo holding shield

Start by researching your community. There are many free online resources you can use to build a picture of your community including the Australian Bureau of Statistics Seifa Index.  Gather information on all areas that detail why your community may need support. Some categories to consider are; what is the population of your city/town and the greater area that you serve, does your region have high levels of unemployment, youth disengagement, high proportion of seniors, low median income, and high proportions of culturally/linguistically diverse people?

4. How does your station make a difference?

Think about what you discovered in your research and the challenges your community is facing.

In your application, outline how your station is addressing each of these challenges, in specific detail – are you meeting an important social need in your community and region? Emphasize the people or groups in your community that are aligned to the donor organisation’s funding objectives.

5. Make your application emotive and personal

Two hands making heart shape against sunny backgroundPaint a picture of why your station is important by focusing people in your local community. Explain the value of the station at an individual human level. Include testimonials, quotes and personal letters of support from your listeners, volunteers and members. For example, you might include a simple, one-page profile of a volunteer that describes what motivated them to get involved and how the station has made a difference in their life.

6. Summarise the overall benefits of community broadcasting

Focus especially on those elements that align with a donor organisation’s vision, mission and objectives. Some examples are:

  • Community radio supports an open society, strong democracy and vibrant cultures both locally and across Australia.
  • Broadcasters are passionate volunteers who provide a diverse representation of voices from our community, creating connection, a sense of belonging and social cohesion.
  • Investing in community media supports diversity, access, multiculturalism, inclusion and social justice.
  • Community radio offers opportunities where everyone can participate and build a better life, from being a listener, volunteer at the station or to those who get more involved in the activities of their community due to raised awareness of events and other community organisations that they can join. The effect overall is of increasing community participation.
  • Opportunities to learn new skills and gain confidence by participating in training.
  • With the reach of a station going far beyond its own town, extending to the wider area of broadcasting range, stations can positively benefit a large number of people from a diverse range of social groups including those from under-represented and marginalised groups.

7. Review your website and social media

Mobile phone home screen featuring various applications

Look at your website and social media through the eyes of a donor organisation. Donors are interested in who you are and what you do. They will request a station’s details in the application process, and will visit and consider your site and social pages in making a decision. Questions to ask yourself are:

  • Are your website and social media platforms easy to navigate and search?
  • Do you have key information about your station published on your website?
  • Are you showcasing the great work your station does to support your community? For example: Local news, emergency reporting (bushfire/floods) events listings, supporting local artists, musicians, charities, business, community and volunteer organisations, working with schools, seniors and on outdoor broadcasts are all elements to include online.

8. Why is your project needed?

Outline why your project is important and needed.  For example, if you are asking for support to install solar power, you might say:

  • To keep broadcasting 24/7 costs can be significant, and one of the biggest budget pressures is the soaring price of electricity. The majority of community radio stations are run on little more than a ‘shoestring’ budget, relying heavily on a team of passionate volunteers.
  • The up-front costs for solar power installation would be impossible to afford without the support of external funding.
  • The installation of a solar system has the potential to save up to $XXX per year in electricity costs (which we can then put towards our efforts to connect our community) and reduce our power consumption by up to XX% (an excellent environmental example).

9. What are the positive outcomes of your project?

Happy face chalked onto concrete with two feet standing near by

Clearly explain how your project will benefit your station and your community. For example, if your project was shifting to solar energy:

  • Improve the long-term financial viability of a community organisation that provides immediate and far-reaching benefits to the immediate community and also to the wider broadcast area.
  • To achieve immediate savings so more of our annual operating budget can be directed to connecting our community, tackling isolation, offering volunteer and training opportunities and overall building of social capital.
  • To be environmentally sustainable. As community radio stations, we are in a unique position to promote the environmental benefits of the installation and influence behavioural change, leading to wider adoption of environmentally friendly actions through-out our community.