How to connect with under-represented communities

Tailoring your communication style is critical if you want to connect with groups that are under-represented in your grants program, according to the Sunshine Coast Council’s community connections team leader, Maggie Cattanach.

Speaking at the 2018 Grantmaking in Australia Conference, Ms Cattanach offered advice from her team’s experience connecting with the First Nations community (defined as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) in their local government area.

The council’s March 2016 major grants and events rounds attracted no applications from First Nations groups and no applications for projects relating to First Nations people, even though this demographic represents 1.9% of the Sunshine Coast’s population.

“That was quite a shock,” Ms Cattanach said.

“Nothing was going to change until we were proactive and actually made them a priority.”

Between March 2016 and March 2018, grant submissions for projects from or relating to First Nations people rose from 0% to 8.1%.

From this experience, the community connections team learned the importance of strategic planning, relationship building, cultural capability, targeted program design and targeted promotion.

AIGM MEMBER EXCLUSIVE: Click here to read more of this report

If you’re not an AIGM member, join here to join for as little as $280-a-year, and receive Grants Management Intelligence, access powerful online grantmaking tools, a 10% discount to our annual conference and other offers, and connect with a great network.

Are you a SmartyGrants user? Your organisation is eligible for 10-free memberships. More info here


Transforming your intentions into outcomes

As the grantmaking world comes to grips with the rapid rise of outcomes measurement, there’s no shortage of experts, but who knows what really works?

We draw your attention to the keynote speaker at the “Prepare for Impact” Grantmaking in Australia conference, Rory Gallagher. He heads the Australian branch of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), a social-purpose company part-owned by the UK government.

BIT began as the world’s first government institution dedicated to the application of behavioural sciences, but its lessons have been increasingly applied here in Australia, including by the NSW government and more recently the Vincent Fairfax Foundation.

Mr Gallagher explains that BIT aims to improve outcomes by developing policy based on a realistic understanding of human behaviour. That approach stresses an outcomes focus, and requires a high standard of evidence.

Dr Gallagher spelt out an assessment practice he summarised as “test, learn and adapt”.

He said good empirical data generates insights into human behaviour that will better direct funding, based on evidence.

Millions of dollars in funding wasted

Dr Gallagher busted false assumptions that could lead to failure, such as the US-based “Scared Straight” program that sent ex-cons to speak with juvenile delinquents to put them on the right path, only to increase crime.

And he highlighted the vast number of government-funded programs – and the wasted millions, or even billions of dollars – that couldn’t be shown to work.

He cited a 2014 UK study of programs that showed a “weak or no positive effect” in the following proportions:

  • Education: 90%
  • Employment/training: 75%
  • Business: 80-90%
  • Medicine: 50-80%

Dr Gallagher said those serious about wanting to know whether a program was effective should apply randomised control trials (RCTs), where a test group could be compared with a control group unaffected by the proposed intervention.

Medical research has …


Cracking the code: Funders the key to unlocking evidence-based practice

Our Community’s Chaos Controller and executive director Kathy Richardson examines how we might create a sector where there are incentives for using evidence, and how we might also create a world where dollars follow evidence. Her thoughts range over some of the latest trends in Australia around evidence, measurement and social impact.

In October 2014 I thought I might just have cracked the code. I was about three-quarters of the way through a seven-week safari across the United States investigating tools and practices that Our Community could use to catapult the Australian social sector – en masse – all the way over the fence and far into the field of evidence-based practice.

I’d heard some good stories along the way, but there had also been some moments of deep despair. “It won’t work,” many people were telling me. “It’s too complex, there are too many variables.” “There’s no way you can do this systemically.” “You’ll never pull it off.”

Then I met a young woman who’d seemingly revolutionised the provision of homelessness services in her locality through the clever use of data. She’d come up with a system, based on analysis of past practice and results, to better categorise the people seeking help to determine how best to apply the city’s scarce emergency housing resources. Score a “one” and you’d be offered overnight accommodation but nothing more (that would most likely be enough to kickstart a recovery). Score a “two” and you’d get thorough, ongoing help (overnight accommodation alone wouldn’t help your plight). Score a “three” and you’d be turned away – the algorithm showed there wasn’t much that could be done for you. All the trials had shown it was really working. She’d done it!

While I was congratulating her, my mind jumped ahead to how I was going …


Become a member of the Australian Institute of Grants Management (AIGM)

  • Receive Grants Management Intelligence (GMI)  our quarterly publication designed to make you a more efficient and effective grantmakers and funders.
  • Get exclusive access to Tools and Resources on the AIGM website, including:
    • Policy-building and operational templates.
    • Detailed Grantmaking Labs reports on key grantmaking issues.
  • Find out what’s making grantmaking news.

Training and Events:

  • Receive a 10% discount to the annual AIGM Grantmaking in Australia conference – Australia’s only cross-sector grantmaking event.


  • Be a part of Australia’s only cross-sector community of grantmakers.
  • Special offers and networking events.

Free access for SmartyGrants users:

Are you a SmartyGrants user? Your organisation is eligible for 10-free memberships of the AIGM. Click here for details:

Before you sign up:

The AIGM  is an initiative of Our Community, and to process your membership, we need to add you to the Our Community database. At the next screen, you will be prompted to login with your existing membership, or join up for free. You’ll be able to pay for your AIGM membership after that.…


Ten things grantmakers must do now

EARLY analysis of the latest Grants in Australia 2017 research study, commissioned by the AIGM’s Innovation Lab shows there are plenty of things you can do right now to improve your grants process.

From slashing the number of applications that are left incomplete, to adding core grants to your arsenal, many of the actions listed below will be difficult, but we have the evidence to back up the need for this call to action.

The survey, the biggest of its type in Australia, is part of an ongoing research project that charts the development of the field of grantmaking in Australia from the grantseeking community’s perspective.

TOP TAKEAWAYS: Download your action list

READ IN FULL: Download the survey here

This year’s survey, the ninth since 2006 and drawing on the views of 1227 grantseekers across the country, has undergone a major overhaul to cement its status as the most comprehensive overview of the grantmaking sector available.

Those changes have been driven by data scientist Joost van der Linden, using improved methods and new programming tools to interrogate survey results gathered over four months to February this year.

“We’ve always had this data, but these techniques mean we’ve got much greater value from the information,” Mr van der Linden said.

For example, we’ve been able to examine the large number of grants applications left unfinished and to compare this information across different types of organisations.

The production of this list of top 10 takeaways reflects Our Community’s aim of ensuring that the data we collect is not just interesting but useful.

The full research study is posted at, but you’ll note that many of the same topics are covered in June 2017 edition of Grants Management Intelligence.

1. Reduce the rate of un-submitted forms

FINDING: Not-for-profit organisations are wasting a …


Don’t hate me, I’m just the grantwriter …

The founder and director of Grant Professionals, Robert Palmaricciotti, provides specialist grant writing services for sporting clubs seeking grants. He spoke to Grants Management Intelligence after his forthright presentation at the recent Grantmaking in Australia conference, where he argued that his organisation, and others like it, are helping to improve the grantmaking industry.

GMI: Many grantmakers don’t like idea of grantwriters making applications. What do you say to them?

We work really well with lots of grantmakers, but there are pockets that I think are a little bit suspicious. I think there’s a misunderstanding or misconception of what we do, that we’re forcing ourselves on them [grantseekers]. But the reality is that these grant applicants aren’t as familiar as the grant makers – the providers – with the guidelines, how to apply. They haven’t got the time, or inclination as well. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty boring!

GMI: Why use your services?

The analogy I’ve always got for grant applications is that it’s like doing a tax return. You can use an accountant, or you can do it yourself. And a lot of people won’t do their tax because it’s just difficult.

Also, grant providers often live in their own world … in their grants. But remember that there are a lot of grants out there. Our organisations [clients] apply for 10 to 15 grants a year, and every grant is very different.

The grant provider may say, “My grant is easy. I’m not sure what’s so difficult about it; why are they using a grant writer?” But once you finish with that grant, you’re onto another one. So it’s a bit like doing 15 tax returns a year, each from a different country.

I don’t think it’s easy. There are already some people within organisations who do grants themselves. …


Those with the purse strings must do data better

Dr Lucy Bernholz, a world-recognised thinker on digital and data trends, says funders must take more responsibility for improving how data is handled and managed for the organisations they’re helping, including how much information they’re demanding in the first place.

Australians have been among those affected by a global spate of big data and privacy breaches, exposed by new laws or scandals such as the leak of the data of 87 million Facebook users to political consultants Cambridge Analytica.

The Digital Civil Society Lab’s director, Bernholz is based at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society in California but travels the world examining digital trends, and her latest interest is the shape of the emerging “digital civil society”. She says one of the biggest changes she’s noticed in Australia in the past three years has been a spike in public concern about personal data and how it is managed.

The well-informed debate about the MyHealth database and the growing opposition to an automatic opt-in for the system is just one example, Dr Bernholz says, of a shift in those attitudes.

Her speciality is helping not-for-profits and those supporting them, to manage digital assets better.

She believes funders must become part of the solution, by being wary of asking too much of their grant recipients, and by thinking carefully about how well “digital ties” between funders and funding recipients are working.

“At the very least, we think that funders of all sorts, just as they are interested in building the governance and management capacities of the organisations they work with, that managing digital resources safely, ethically, and effectively is a key part of that good operating practice.”

“For example, if funders are putting certain kinds of data demands on not-for-profits – data demands about counting people or including identifiable demographic …


Whatever happened to evidence-based policy making?

Few in government deny that evidence-based policy-making is important to good outcomes, and Australia’s history shows that to be the case. But the past decade has shown a marked decline in those ideals, according to Professor Gary Banks.

This is an abridged version of his address for the Alf Rattigan Lecture for the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), in an engaging and entertaining presentation that points the way for what’s worked in the past, and what can be done at both political and bureaucratic levels to avoid policy on the run.

Professor Banks spent many years at the Productivity Commission before retiring in 2012 as its long-serving Chair. He was also past CEO and Dean of ANZSOG, alongside a series of other senior roles in government, education and business.

What are we talking about?

“When I use a word”, Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “It means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less”. “The question is” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things”. (Lewis Carroll)

One of the challenges in talking about EBPM (evidence-based policy making), which I had not fully appreciated last time, was that it means different things to different people, especially academics. As a result, disagreements, misunderstandings and controversies (or faux controversies) have abounded. And these may have contributed to the demise of the expression, if not the concept.

For example, some have interpreted the term EBPM so literally as to insist that the word “based” be replaced by “influenced”, arguing that policy decisions are rarely based on evidence alone. That of course is true, but few using the term (myself included) would have thought otherwise. And I am sure no-one in an audience such as this, especially in our nation’s …


Advising unsuccessful applicants

Managing unsuccessful applicants actively and well can reduce disappointment and anger, provide opportunities for improvement, and encourage ongoing involvement in your grants program. It can also promote transparency and encourage trust, relationship building and capacity building opportunities.

Communicating with, and making public announcements about, successful applicants is relatively easy (and pleasant) – it’s about delivering good news and building positive working relationships. Delivering bad news, on the other hand, can signal the end of an existing relationship. It’s common for unsuccessful applicants to ask “why?” and to express disappointment and anger.

The challenge for grant program managers is to explain clearly why an applicant has failed to win funding, and to encourage them to try again when the right opportunity arises.

The process is not without its risks:

  • When announcing grant winners, grantmakers can be seen to be grandstanding and making additional mileage out of the success of a few while others miss out
  • Assessment and decision-making processes can be challenged as unfair and lacking objectivity, or can be seen as open to political interference by decision-makers
  • Unsuccessful applicants may want to know their score and ranking in comparative assessments
  • Unsuccessful applicants may want to appeal to a higher decision-maker to have the decision altered.

For these reasons, it is important for you the grantmaker to decide before launching your program:

  • How unsuccessful applicants will be informed
  • When unsuccessful applicants will be informed relative to successful applicants
  • What information will be provided
  • What appeal mechanisms will be offered, if any
  • What feedback will be given, when, how, and by whom
  • What future capacity building support will be offered, if any.

To create a clear strategy for advising and supporting unsuccessful applicants, you’ll need to consider these questions:

  • What is the purpose of advising unsuccessful applicants? Is it only to let

About the Grants in Australia research study

The Grants in Australia research study is the nation’s largest survey of community organisations and not-for-profit, seeking their views about grants and grantmakers.

It is a resource for both grantmakers and grantseekers, and is aimed at improving the process of both obtaining grants, and delivering them.

Download Grants in Australia 2018 (PDF 7.8mb)

The latest edition – published in August 2018 – is the tenth report since the study began in 2006.

An output of Our Community Innovation Lab, the report is part of an ongoing research project charting the development of grantmaking from the grantseeking community’s perspective.

The survey informs the work of Our Community and its enterprises (most notably the Australian Institute of Grants Management (AIGM) and the Funding Centre), as well as providing important data and key reference points for Australian grantmakers and grantseekers, academics, social sector enablers, and others interested in the field.

A total of 2012 people completed the latest survey, conducted online in the three months to May 2018.

Only grantseekers who had applied for a grant in the past 12 months were eligible to complete the survey.…