1. How do I maximize our group’s chances of getting a small grant?
The key to getting a small grant is to know the criteria the FFNRC applies to its evaluation of applications. Small grants are supposed to respond to the community priorities set out in the FFNRC’s multi-year plan. When the FFNRC reviews applications, one of the first things it does is assess how the application addresses the priorities in its plan. So the more clearly your application does that the better.
A good first step is thus to review our multi-year operating plan (currently called our “five-year plan”), which is posted on the FFNRC website and assess how well your project fits in with it. If a fit is not obvious, you may want to call us.
Consult with the Executive Director of the FFNRC. He’s here to help you. It’s important to realize the small grants process is non-adversarial, the FFNRC wants community groups to get the money in its small grants fund, and it is not trying to hoard it.
In addition to looking at how well small grant application address community priorities, the FFNRC evaluates projects on the basis of how many local people will benefit from them, how lasting the benefit is, and what has been done to reduce barriers to participation.
Be sure to fill out the full application. Every year we get grant applications with key parts left blank. This can seriously delay the processing of the application. If there are parts of the application that don’t make sense to you or seem irrelevant, it is better to get this clarified at the outset of the process (by consulting with our executive director) rather than submit an incomplete application only to have it bounced at the committee stage.
Make sure your project budget is sound and that you can justify the numbers in it. Because taxpayers’ money is involved, we are under an obligation to the province (that funds the small grants program) to prove that the numbers behind each small grants application are sound. So the stronger the basis for the numbers used in the budget, the better. It is usually better to base numbers in the budget on actual quotes and prices or costs that can be documented rather than ball park estimates. Precision with numbers tends to impress the small grants committee. It gives them a sense that they are dealing with a well-prepared, well- thought out application from a group that is more likely to see its project through to completion.
Similarly, the costs included as part of application budget should be reasonable. Applications that contain wildly overpriced or frivolous budget elements are not going to be well-received by the small grants committee and it may undermine their confidence in other aspects of the project. It is expected that all small grant applicants will exercise their due diligence to ensure they’re paying a reasonable price for (if not getting the best possible deal on) what goes into their project.
Play to your strengths. Many small grant applications overlook or leave out information that could significantly increase their chances of acceptance. For example, evidence of community support is a factor considered in the application approval process. So if you can get letters of support or can show in other ways that the community supports your project (or at least your group) be sure to include this as part of your application.
Your application should make clear whether there are any barriers to participation (such as admission fees or restrictions on those who will be allowed to participate), how many people will be participating, and what lasting benefits , if any, the community will derive from the event.
2. How long does it take to process a small grant application?
Processing times can vary depending on how busy the small grants committee and board are at the time. The Committee tries to meet every month if the volume of applications warrants and if enough committee members are available.
Key to faster processing of your small grant application is that it be completely filled out and that it clearly show how your project addresses the priorities set out in our multi-year plan. The budget should be well thought out and the costing of the individual elements make sense. If the ED or committee discover on their own that your figures don’t add up or that the costs for certain project elements are way out of line with the actual market value of these items then there is the potential for serious delays. The applications that get the fastest processing are those that address any potential concerns of the committee in advance, on the application itself. It pays to proofread or at least review your application before submitting it, as something you might be able to correct at your desk or at home might require several email or phone call exchanges if it doesn’t come up until the committee review stage.
Applications for funding for time-sensitive projects (such as for an event to be held on a specific date or which needs to be completed by the end of construction season, the end of summer, as part of the school year, etc.) are well advised to submit their applications at least 60 days in advance.
3. What are the steps involved in the small grant approval process?
Once the application is submitted it is reviewed by the executive director. He tries to catch obvious errors and omissions that could interfere with the processing of the application (such as key pieces of information being left out of the application). Sometimes he may also notice ways in which the application could be strengthened (such as through the inclusion of letters of support). It is not uncommon for small grant applicants to be contacted by the executive director regarding ways their application can be improved or clarified. They are always free to ignore this advice from the executive director. Generally if the Executive Director has a concern, however, so will the committee, so it is normally advisable to address this concern before the application goes to the committee.
After the application has been reviewed by the Executive Director it goes before the committee. Normally a committee meeting is held to review the application. The committee may decide to recommend the application be approved, in which case it is passed on to be voted on at the next board meeting of the FFNRC. Alternatively, it may not recommend that the application be approved, in which case the application is normally returned to the applicant. Most of the time the committee will make suggestions as to how the application or project could be improved or changed so to make it more likely to be approved if resubmitted. Sometimes the committee is unable to agree on a recommendation in which case the application is submitted to the board for a final decision. Sometimes the committee requires further information before it can make a decision, in which case its questions will be forwarded to the applicant and the application put on hold until a satisfactory response has been received.
4. Who decides on whether a small grant application gets approved or not?
All small grant applications must be approved by a majority vote of the board of the FFNRC. Before the application gets to the board it must be reviewed by the executive director and then by the small grants committee. Most of the time the small grants committee plays a key role in the approval process, snice that’s the level at which the applications get the closest scrutiny. Almost always the board proceeds on the basis of the committee’s recommendation (if there is one).
5. Why do some small grant applications get rejected?
As noted above, a small grant project has to respond to at least one of the community priorities identified in our five-year plan. Applications which fail to show how their project do so risk being rejected.
Applicant not really an organization. Small grants are only available to organizations, not individuals. Although organizations do not have to be incorporated, they have to be real.
Too few people served. One of the factors evaluated in the consideration of the small grant applications is the “bang for the buck”. A project that benefits a large number of people or for which the cost per participant comes in at $50 or less will tend to be preferred over an application seeking a large grant for a project that will only benefit a dozen people or so. The only exception to this rule is if the project is directed at people with special needs or who are seriously disadvantaged in some other way.
Project really an attempt to get funding for ongoing maintenance or operating expenses. Small grants are supposed to be for new initiatives and special projects/events/programs, not ongoing maintenance or overhead costs.
Applicant not responsive to committee’s queries.
Barriers to participation.
Most of the money for the project leaves the community without anything lasting being created here.
Applicant doesn’t really need the money, funding for this project readily available from other sources.
The budget doesn’t make sense.
6. What if I decide to change my small grants project after it’s been approved for funding?
You should contact us about any significant change in the project, particularly if it relates to any part of the project being funded by the FFNRC small grant. It’s important to remember that funding is approved based on the description of the project set out in the small grant application. One of the first things we do when we receive the final report for a completed small grant project is review how the report matches up with the original application. If they don’t match, it can result in funding being delayed or even cancelled.
7. Can funding for a small grant project be denied after it has been approved?
Yes. Although not common, it does happen from time to time. Small grants can be cancelled at any time. Reasons for cancellation include (but are not limited to): project did not complete on time, project (or applicant) was not as described in the application, applicant did not respond to repeated queries from FFNRC, poor communication, applicant moved or changed its phone number or contact person without advising the FFNRC, applicant failed to provide documentation or further information requested by FFNRC, it became clear project would not complete on time, applicant failed to address safety concerns raised by FFNRC, applicant turned out not to be a real organization, final report not submitted on time, applicant failed to provide adequate receipts for/documentation of project expenditures.
8. What if the project runs past the project completion deadline?
It is best to get touch with us soon as possible if it looks like your project will not complete on time. The seriousness of missing a deadline can vary with the degree by which a deadline is missed. A few days or a week or two is normally not a problem if it happens early in our fiscal year. Delays that run into weeks or months can result in cancellation of your small grant, however, particularly if these conflict with the deadline by which we must report our annual small grants expenditures to the province.
9. What if there is a safety concern relating to the project?
Any safety concerns with the project should be brought to our attention immediately. Once a safety concern has arisen, the onus is on the applicant to prove (usually by providing written documentation acceptable to the FFNRC) that it has been resolved. It is absolutely essential that the applicant maintain regular communication with the FFNRC once a safety concern has arisen and that it respond promptly to all inquiries from the FFNRC. Failing to respond to our inquiries in a timely fashion and with written documentation will normally result in your small grant being cancelled.
10. What if we only half-finish our project, due to circumstances beyond our control?
Funding is normally only advanced upon completion of the project. We are not permitted to fund partially completed projects.
11. Can I make a pitch in person to the small grants committee/FFNRC?
Normally small grants applications are evaluated on the basis of the written application and its supporting documents. There really isn’t a place for oral submissions in this process, since the FFNRC is supposed to base its decisions on the written application and must be in a position to document those decisions.
12. Can our group get more than one small grant?
Theoretically there is no limit to the number of small grants a group can receive, except that the maximum is one grant per project per year. Since the program is supposed to support new initiatives, however, preference is theoretically given to first-time applicants and new projects. The FFNRC recognizes that due to the limited number of community organizations in Flin Flon that it is quite possible that the same groups may apply for small grant funding from year to year and it has no problem with this, provided newer, less established groups also have a fair chance of receiving small grant funding.
13. How important is the final small grants report?
It’s very important. The FFNRC is obligated under the terms of its funding agreement with the province to report on the completion of all small grant projects by a deadline set out in that agreement. If we haven’t received a report from the grant recipient by that deadline, we have to report that project as incomplete and it will then not be funded. So please always make sure you know what the deadline is for submitting your final report to us (it’s always spelled out in the letter you receive approving your grant) and please let us know as soon as possible if you anticipate any difficulties submitting your final report on time.
14. What if I spend my small grant on something else or am able to complete my project way under budget?
It should be noted that small grants are not some kind of block grant that can be spent any way the applicant chooses. If your project winds up coming in under budget you have to refund the difference to us. Similarly small grants often involve the purchase/installation of a specific item or the running of a specific program or event. Our approval of the grant is based on the assumption that you will purchase/install that specific item or run that specific program/event. If our assumption proves unfounded it could jeopardize the grant. So before deciding to do something different from what was set out in the application, please check with the FFNRC. We do respect groups’ efforts to come in under budget and if notified early enough we can consider a modification to the original grant proposal that allows for economies achieved in one area to justify greater expenditures in others. But we need to know about this in advance.