Navigating Funding Forums: Empowering Grassroots Community Groups

“How can we unleash the potential of grassroots community groups to navigate the funding landscape effectively?”

— Katerina Kupenga, Pou Ārahi, Hui E!

Lately, I’ve been fortunate to engage in several funding forums that truly embody the collaborative spirit of our communities. These gatherings, known as Funders Forums or Funding Expos, offer invaluable opportunities for members of our community to connect with funders and gain insights into potential avenues for financial support.

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Getting to the heart of funders’ forums

Essentially, Funders Forums are open to all community groups and are strategically designed to foster connections between our community and funding organisations. Typically, funders run a panel discussion where they talk about common funding pātai / questions, followed by opportunity for one-on-one kōrero between funders and community members.

Words of funding wisdom

Here is a summary of the tips shared by funders for potential applicants:

  • Diversify your funding sources: Explore a range of funding avenues, including government agencies, philanthropic funders, councils, local community trusts etc.
  • Plan your funding strategy: Allow a preparation window of 6-12 months before expecting funds. Sometimes, approvals take time, and funds might not reach recipients until six months or longer.
  • Organise your finances: Keep your budget concise and understandable – a foundational aspect of successful funding proposals.
  • Study your community landscape: Understand your community and identify other groups providing similar services. Is there potential for collaboration? If not, what sets your organisation apart?
  • Be concise in your application: When approaching funders, keep it focussed and brief. Highlight the essentials such as your what, why, how, and the impact your organisation can make in the community. Consider how your community would be impacted if your organisation didn’t exist.

Challenges for grassroots community groups

While these insights are undeniably valuable, they still present challenges for grassroots community groups. At Hui E! Community Aotearoa, our comprehensive national research on the wellbeing of our community sector has uncovered significant barriers:

  • Application burden: Crafting funding applications consumes valuable time and resources, made more difficult by the complex criteria set by different funders. Adjusting values to align with funder requirements can pose difficulties.
  • Knowledge and capacity: Many community organisations are unaware of available funding opportunities. Often, they juggle their community mahi with full-time jobs and lack the luxury of hiring a full-time fundseeker.
  • Capability vs. delivery: Funds often favour organisations skilled at securing grants, even if they struggle to achieve their intended outcomes. Outsourcing fundraising services becomes a workaround.
  • Struggles with purpose: Community groups are driven by their purpose, dedicating their heart and soul to numerous funding applications, only to face discouraging rejections without feedback.

Empowering grassroots success: paving the way forward

The question arises: How can we unleash the potential of grassroots community groups to navigate the funding landscape effectively? How do we provide them with insights into available funds? What would a community-centric funding forum that embraces Te Ao Māori principles look like?

Hui E! is committed to these causes. Beginning with piloting Ethnic Community Funding Hui and now expanding to Māori communities, Hui E! is leading funding wānanga – community-led gatherings that empower isolated rural communities to fulfil their own funding needs. Future collaborations with supportive and enthusiastic funders promise a much more equitable and accessible funding landscape.

Extending the hand of expertise

Support is vital for these efforts to thrive. We are seeking individuals passionate about connecting local and national funding opportunities. Together, we can amplify community stories and ensure equal access to funding resources.

Closing thoughts: let your voices shine

Your insights are invaluable on this journey. If you have any thoughts to share, we warmly welcome your input. Reach out to us here. Let’s reshape the narrative around funding, fostering stronger communities, and guarantee that grassroots community groups flourish with the resources they rightfully deserve. Together, we can bridge the gap between aspiration and realisation.