The Four “P’s” to Successfully Applying for a Grant: One CEO’s Experience

by | May 8, 2019 | General, Social Ventures

World Hope International (WHI) Australia is a small but mighty non-governmental organisation (NGO) located in Brisbane, Australia and part of the WHI Alliance, which consists of three support countries—WHI Australia, WHI Canada, and WHI USA—working in 17 countries around the globe.

Like many other NGO’s, WHI Australia runs as a non-profit company and that comes with a never-ending search for funding opportunities.

On Friday the 30th of November, 2018, WHI Australia became one of 46 recipients of the Australian Aid Friendship Grants. This grant unlocked the opportunity to strategically expand a powerfully transformative project we operate in Cambodia, our Mushroom Cultivation project.

For us as a small NGO, receipt of the Friendship Grant was a monumental achievement in itself and certainly not a solo effort. Although I don’t want to make too much competition for myself and WHI Australia in future Friendship Grant rounds, I want to share a few points about what it took for us to get here


Applying for something like the Friendship Grant requires a massive amount of preparedness. Generally speaking, if you are applying for a grant like this, then you have likely been mindful of your book-keeping and have a robust monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system in place for your projects. You also need to be a registered organisation, and if you aren’t, then you may need to take a year to set yourself up internally before going after a major grant.

Make sure you have a good track record of programme delivery, which your M&E system should help you with. In our application process, we realised that while we have a strong M&E system operating, not everyone knew where the information was stored or understood all the terminology, so that took a little time to sort through that we had not anticipated. We took that lesson to heart and have improved upon our internal communication since, to ensure that we are even more prepared when it comes time to apply for another Friendship Grant round.


When applying for a major grant, you don’t want to just toss out there any old thing that could use funding. Strategically identify a programme that is unique in its delivery and has proven community development results. Then consider carefully how you will construct a narrative that includes the project as it currently operates and your desired outcomes from the additional funding as well as a vivid expression of the impact of those outcomes. 

For us, the new funding would expand our Mushroom Cultivation project, empowering 60 more women as a result—and their families. This means they would be adding over $2,000 to their incomes annually, enabling them to provide basic essentials; save for larger purchases; and pay off existing loans. It is an incredible, unique project that uses an enterprise solution to prevent human trafficking. It now also serves as a catalyst for family reunification, as children and spouses are moving back from urban areas to rejoin their families and work side-by-side to contribute to the success of their mushroom farms.  We could share not only the statistical results of the project because of our preparedness, but also had personal stories and testimonials from the women already in the project—which made it easy to say, imagine the impact of this when 60 more women and families join the project.


Having good partnerships at all levels of our operations was another key part of our success. The WHI Alliance has staff located all around the globe. While we didn’t have in-country IT, grant writers, or communications personnel, they were all available as a shared resource within the alliance through the use of strategically placed and developed technology. Many hours of Skype for Business or Zoom meetings and lots of time using emails and digital collaboration workspaces with the at-large staff scattered across time-zones made it possible for my small in-country team to complete a large and compelling grant application.


“Seeing the impact to communities as individuals and families benefit from access to funding for a Mushroom House is the best part of succeeding with the Australian Aid Friendship Grant. Some mushroom growers have built water wells to increase their production and to expand into other cash crops like mung beans, which enhance soil in addition to serving as a food source, as well as higher value cultivars such as black and yellow ginger, rosella, cacao, and avocado. Others have gone on to build even more mushroom houses and buy agricultural waste from neighboring farms to supply their mushroom operations. It’s incredible to see the hope; to see them seizing this opportunity and lifting themselves up.”

Ruth Thomas

CEO, WHI Australia

In-country partnerships are just as important to ensure programme delivery and effectiveness, which is a generally expected requirement in grants, of course. Thera Metrey, meaning “Compassionate Earth,”  is a local Cambodian cooperative enterprise for collective sorting, processing, and delivery of mushrooms and other cash crops produced by farmer households. Through Thera Metrey, WHI connects farmers to markets at competitive prices, ensuring production leads to income. Having this local partnership means that we can be certain of our desired outcome and the effectiveness of this programme. Local community partnerships are also essential to the sustainability of the programme, as experienced Mushroom Cultivation farmers share their knowledge with new Mushroom House farmers, ensuring their success as a community.


Applying for a grant is a lot of work—but it is worth it. Persist, persit, persit. Former Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, saw that many Australian organisations with unique on-the-ground experience in international aid were already working hard to help communities in our region. She launched the inaugural Friendship Grant as part of the 2018-2019 budget so that the best of these organisations could access funding to continue and expand their already great programmes. Persist in pursuit of the grant, because the grant will  enable your work—and the extraordinary impact of the programmes and resources that only you have to offer—to persist in turn.

After all the work leading up to submission, the waiting was interminable. They had advised us that all organisations would be “notified in November” whether or not we had been successful in our Friendship Grant application. I remember it was now the last day of November and I checked my email constantly, refreshing my browser every five or ten minutes. When I left my desk I would take my phone and check with each notification sound if it had come yet.  I thought surely it could only be good news but I didn’t dare to get my hopes up.

At 12:10 pm, after perhaps the longest stretching morning of my professional life, there was a ‘ping’ to notify me that I had received an email. It was from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Friendship Grant Team. Holding my breath, I opened it and read the words “We would like to congratulate you on your successful application.”

I yelled, “We did it!” to my coworkers, feeling a huge sense of relief and achievement. With over 200+ applicants, WHI Australia was one of 46 organisations that were successful. Not only did each organisation receive funding, but we also received compliance training, networking occasions, and opportunities for pooled resources.

We did it, and you can, too.

Using market-based, community-driven, enterprise solutions to empower, protect, and build resiliency, WHI Australia has been active since 2001 in achieving its mission and vision: providing those in need with opportunity, dignity, and hope so they can possess the tools for change in themselves, their family and their community.

In addition to the Mushroom Culitvation project in Cambodia, WHI Australia running health programmes in Papua New Guinea, supplying emergency relief in multiple countries of the Asia Pacific region and worldwide, and much more. For more information or questions, please contact us at 1800-967-534 or by email. For media inquiries, contact us here.