From the magazine: The art of funding bid success

How can you maximise your funding bid success? Independent procurement consultant Naomi Clews, of Naomi Clews Consultancy Ltd, provides insights into how to manage multiple funding bid streams, estimate project costs and communicate effectively to keep everyone focused and on board

Saving and securing money is of constant concern to school business managers. Multiple funding streams – including crowdfunding – can generate the additional income schools so desperately need. So, how can you make 2019 the year you secure funding for your school? It requires some planning;

1 Create a working group – many hands make light work. Use the existing resources at your disposal to plan for funding bids and school grants. Allocate roles and responsibilities to individuals based on their skills and experience; this could include an executive sponsor with the authority to make decisions, a finance manager to produce return-on-investment projections and an administrator to co-ordinate and minute meetings. Identify subject matter experts – for example, teachers, parents, governors, etc – and get them on board as soon as possible.

2 Establish your group’s purpose – terms of reference documents are a great way of motivating people and establishing their commitment to the group. Ask members for a pledge to delivering the group’s goals and objectives and circulate this information prior to the first meeting. This approach will, hopefully, avoid individuals turning up for one meeting, never to be seen again.

3 Determine your communication strategy – identify each person’s communication requirements. For example, an executive sponsor might expect to be kept informed of progress rather than attending every meeting, while your subject matter experts would be in attendance only when their expertise is required. Organising your communication strategy like this is an efficient way of motivating people to attend meetings and makes their involvement in your group less time-consuming and more manageable. Productive meetings are the goal – with a set agenda sent to all attendees in advance of the meeting. Resist the temptation to ‘cc’ everybody into every communication; instead, agree the frequency of a working party progress update for all.

4 Canvass ideas – undertake an all-encompassing analysis of your school’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). Record your ‘as is’ position and document your ‘to be’ vision, based on the outcome of your SWOT analysis. Discuss the results as a group to agree the perceived benefits which the ‘to be’ will bring to your school and community in the short, medium and long-term.

5 Financial planning – How much will the ‘to be’ cost? Enlist the help of a procurement expert who will help you identify reputable suppliers of goods and services and undertake market research on your behalf. They can draft and issue a ‘request for information’ document and send this to suppliers. Procurement professionals are highly skilled in managing suppliers and will prevent them from contacting school business managers directly. Use the indicative research to estimate the funding required to deliver your projects. Remember to include any of your own funds that you have allocated to deliver the project.

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6 Prioritisation of projects – transform your ‘to be’ document into a number of smaller, more manageable project initiation documents. Prioritise projects and assign individuals from your working group to manage and deliver each project.

7 Create a ‘road map’ – list all your project delivery dates along with all known funding streams. A simple Gantt chart can be created using Excel. Creating a visual planning aid like this, and placing it in a prominent position – for example, the staff room – will help your school focus and plan for funding applications and school grants throughout the year.

8 Track and communicate progress – create a simple red, amber green – also known as a RAG – rating report to allocate tasks and project milestones to individuals. Update this frequently, tracking the progress of the funding application to draw attention to bottlenecks and information gaps. Remember to attach a copy of the RAG to the regular working group communication to keep everybody up to speed on the progress of your projects.

9 Create a library – continuously improve efficiency by creating standard templates and a central repository for funding bid and school grant responses. Having 80% of your application in a standard format makes it much easier to pull together the remaining 20%. By categorising, and further sub-categorising, previous responses you can quickly find and tweak a response for maximum efficiency. Remember to update the resources in your library with feedback and suggestions you have received from funding committees and any new developments and projects.

10 Celebrate your success – create positive newsletters and press releases to update children, parents, governors and your local community when you are successful in securing funding bids and grants. Promoting the outcomes of your efforts may lead to further funding streams you never knew existed via local supporters of your cause. Funding committees favour funding bids from those who have canvassed their communities’ opinions and feedback on their proposed projects so remember to be active in your community and evidence this in your funding bid. By continually providing updates you can canvass testimonials from individuals you have helped and supported, prior to a funding bid submission. Store these in your library for easy access when required.

Final thoughts…
The success or failure of a funding bid or school grant application lies in the preparation work and your ability to clearly evidence your argument. The skill of persuading committees to choose your school over other, equally, deserving worthy causes, is a skill worth investing in. Planning will provide you with more clarity and time to make your funding applications stronger and improve your success rates.

This article featured in the January issue of Education Executive. Subscribe now to keep up-to-date with the latest in school business management and leadership.

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