Boost to infrastructure

The 2020-21 Federal budget was a bumper crop for regional Australia and for local government across the country. It outlined significant funding for infrastructure projects with a big boost for community infrastructure like shared pathways, tracks and trails.

Great news for regional areas like the Hunter.

Biodiversity Day image

Getting projects shovel ready

Pink piggy bank and budget signEven before the budget, we have seen a rush of local government tenders in the marketplace to get projects “shovel ready” to capitalise on government spending. This is likely to be exacerbated by the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's comments, stating that the funding would be on a “use it or lose it basis”. There is a potential for councils to rush projects, removing the community’s ability to have a say.

The value of community voices in decisions that impact them is crucial in preparing our public spaces for safe and COVID-friendly use.

Yes, consultation can be a complex process, but I am not convinced consultation and being shovel ready are mutually exclusive.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, we all changed the way we do business. While our projects included an online presence pre-pandemic, now they are completely focused on effective consultation in a digital space.  The lockdown forced everyone to operate online, meaning there was little pushback from our clients and the community in switching activities to a virtual space.

But is online engagement effective?

There are great benefits to online consultation and engagement. Online platforms are eye-catching and visually appealing to users. This generates greater interest, boosts participation and response rates.  Recently we conducted online consultation on the future of cemetery and after-death services. While a complex and sensitive topic, we received interest from over 800 stakeholders with about 500 people providing feedback. It was simple and quick to set up and provided great insight for strategic planning.

Furthermore, online consultation provides access 24/7 providing flexibility for stakeholders to have their say, wherever and whenever they like. From a research perspective, we can also use technology to accurately capture location-based data where targeted feedback is important.

 

Explore online tools

We regularly use online whiteboards like Miro, collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, and Asana, as well as Social PinpointSurveyMonkeyConsultation Manager, running webinars and online forums.

Some are free and others subscription-based. Get online to explore different tools and take advantage of the free introductory offers. It’s a great way to work out if they are right for your activity.

While we all want to see the economic stimulus to help our communities, I wonder if removing stakeholder input from those decisions will lead to good community outcomes.

Is a rush to spend more important than how people want it spent? I don’t know... what do you think?

Online engagement methods using a computer

If you’re not exactly sure how to mobilise your strategy for the digital world, Think Pink and contact Mara

About the writer

Kelly LofbergKelly Lofberg is a communication and engagement specialist. Kel loves all things strategy and even gets paid to play with LEGO! 

But seriously, Kel specialises in media and issues management, social impact assessments, advocacy campaigns and strategic communication.

Get in touch kelly@maraconsulting.com.au or 02 49654317.

Need help? Think Pink.

Contact us. 

Email: mara@marasulting.com.au

Phone: 02 49654317

Grant writing… it’s an art!

Need help sharpening the grant writing pencil? Here are our tips

Ever wondered how to get those government grants that are up for grabs? 

Generally, it is not just about meeting the criteria. Knowing how to write the grant application is critical to stand out above the other applications.  

Here are our tips to make you stand out from the rest. 

Grant writing tips

Write for your audience1. Write for your audience

Grant writing can be tricky. However, knowing what the priority policy areas of the government agency assessing the application is key.

Ask yourself, "What's in it for them" and write the grant application to meet their expectations. Showing how your project fits the priority areas is essential. Check their website, look for clues in media releases, policy documents, annual reports and of course the funding document.  The grant reviewer will likely have a checklist, looking for examples and key phases of how the application meets the criteria.

Including lots of information about why your project is important to you is great but demonstrating how it is important to them is much more powerful.

Don’t be fooled though, some grant applications require significant supporting documentation. I remember writing one government grant application that was in two volumes and each one was about 10-15 centimetres think! Lots of research, understanding the government priorities and tailoring the response to the person assessing the application took several months to complete.  The hard work paid off though, we secured the funding to complete the extremely popular Fernleigh Track shared pathway built along a disused railway. Total cost $11 million dollars.

2. Be ready to start

Shovel readyYou also need to make sure your project or program is shovel ready! All that means is, if someone turned up with a big fat cheque tomorrow you could get started straight away, not scramble to get the final plans and approvals done.

People want to see workers employed and getting on with construction. Very rarely do governments provide grant funding for feasibility studies, design development or early work on a project. They want to come back in six months’ time for a photo cutting the ribbon.

A recent grant application that I was asked to assist with was no doubt a great idea, but the applicants hadn’t thought through all the issues. Firstly, they would be impacting on another user group, and even though it was minor, it is difficult for any government including a council to support an idea at the detriment of someone else. In this instance, it is important to communicate to other stakeholders and find out if there is a way to work together and minimise the potential impact. Try and come up with a solution that everyone can work with, even a joint application or supporting each other's ideas and grants. Colaboration and partnerships are big hits with funding bodies!

Additionally, the plans  were only concepts and rather than shovel ready drawings they could give to a builder.  Concepts are great for getting buy-in but to secure the funding, detailed designs are likely to be mandatory.

 

3. A picture paints a thousand words

Tell stories through imagesPoliticians love to rock up for photo opps for ready to go projects. So you better have those renders or plans of your super cool community building/economic stimulus/ infrastructure project on hand when the media show up! Images help to explain complex ideas and projects in a way that people can understand and visualise.

For one project where I was seeking both government and corporate support to expand and complete the larges all-abilities playground in Australia, we put together a suite of materials to help tell the story, including a video of the kids and families that were using the first stage of the facility, glossy flyer for private donors and sponsors and organised media exclusives to showcase the amazing facility. It worked! It helped secure the $4.8 million dollars to complete the project ($6.1 million in total).

We use videos and drone footage in our projects where possible. Here is another great example, check out Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation's The Station landscaping project. It has it all, renders, videos, progress shots.

4. Commit to the project

Match fundingAlso make sure you are not asking for 100 per cent of the project funds. Rarely do businesses or governments hand over all the funds. They want to see that you are committed to the project and just need a boost to get it started and delivered.

Think about the administrative costs. Governments often will not pay for the operational costs of the project. For building projects, this could mean any designs, architectural services, specialist advice, surveys or similar. For programs, they want to know if you have funding beyond the grant applied for, that means would the program be sustainable without the funding.

The other key thing is do not ask for everything. If the funding body has $1 million to hand out do not expect to secure the lot OR event the majority. From the donor’s perspective, the more people, and organisations they can help the better! They are more likely to support 10 projects of $100,000 each than one project at $1 million.

5. Demonstrate support for the project

Secure support from othersIf you have a great idea, chances are people will want to know about it and be involved. Think about the funding organisation and identify people or groups that are likely to take notice of.

A letter of support from politician (State or Federal MP, Mayor or Councillors), relevant community groups or likely users. If the grant is related to education – talk to the local school/s or groups that cater to education, for health initiatives – doctors and health professions or sporting associations, even think about how kids can be involved – drawings, letters, photos.

And once you have received the funding, remember, reporting, progress photos, media opportunities and acquittals will be required for government grants. It just takes a little bit of planning and organisation, but it is worth it in the end.

For regular grant and funding updates, including grant writing tips, and opening grant rounds, subscribe to our newsletter.

If you would like assistance with your grant application, contact us for more information.

About the writer:

Kelly Lofberg is responsible for securing funding of more than $60 million from both private and government sectors for community, rail, and road infrastructure projects.

Need help with your next grant, Think pink! Get in touch.

 

Contact Kel

Kelly Lofberg

Kelly Lofberg

Communication & Engagement Specialist

0425 715 536

kelly@maraconsulting.com.au