Top tips for a Grants Officer visit

Top tips for a grants officer visit

Top tips for a Grants Officer visit

Jeremy Noles, Grants and Relationships Manager at Benefact Trust, shares his advice on how to prepare for a visit by a Grants Officer. Not every grant application requires one, but if your project is large or complex, we may come and visit you as part of the application process.
Jeremy’s advice is aimed at giving our visit, and your grant application, the best chance of success:
  • What does a Grants Officer want from their visit?
  • Who should be there for the Grants Officer visit?
  • What should you prepare?
  • It’s a two-way street…
  • A great example of what a Grants Officer visit can achieve:
  • Top tips for getting the most out of your Grants Officer visit:
1. What does a Grants Officer want from their visit?
The purpose is to meet you and the people most involved in your project. We want to understand more about your church or organisation and about the community you are part of; to gain a greater understanding of particular aspects of the application; and, often, to see the building itself.
The purpose of a Grants Officer visit is NOT primarily to sit down with your treasurer and go over the figures you have already submitted with your application, although any changes to those figures since you applied – such as revised costs or progress with funding – are certainly helpful to hear about. The main focus of this visit, though, is on people, interaction, conversation!
A visit is your chance to really bring your project to life. We want you to flesh out the project beyond your written application: share your vision with us and focus on the people impact so we’re clear on the difference your project will make.
The visit usually lasts for around 90 minutes. During this time, we want to have a conversation with the project leaders (for around an hour) and then to ‘ground and earth’ our discussions by walking around the space, meeting some service users or stakeholders (if available), take some photographs, ask questions and get a feel for both the project and people. It also gives us time to think over the conversation and any final questions.
2. Who should be there for the Grants Officer visit?
The focus of all Grants Officer visits is on dialogue. We want to talk and listen so please don’t bring along more than three or four people, since that makes it hard to have a good conversation.
Long Powerpoint presentations are also rarely a help. We want to respond to your insight and enthusiasm, not slides!
  • We want to meet with people who have a clear understanding of the following areas:
  • Your community; and the needs and issues that exist (this may be a minister or project leader)
  • Your vision; and the nature of your project and the change and impact it will cause (this may be a project manager)
  • Financial aspects and practical implementation plans for the project
  • It’s also always great to meet service users, stakeholders or members of your congregation or community who could benefit from the grant funding and project you are proposing. (Note: It is even more helpful if you gain prior permission, from anyone that we may photograph during the visit, for us to use their photograph in your application and in any publicity about your grant if you are successful.)
3. What should you prepare?
We know you will want to share your project as fully as you can. BUT, please don’t give us piles of paperwork to read during our visit or to take away with us.
We will have read your application form thoroughly and any additional information and case studies, community surveys, budgets, etc. that you submitted online. If we do need any additional paperwork, we will ask you to forward it to us later.
We do love plans though, and artists’ impressions or scale models if you have them! Even if you have submitted a plan with your online application – it’s great to have one available for the Grants Officer visit so we can walk and talk with it in the actual space. It’s better if it’s not pinned on the noticeboard if at all possible.
Plans allow us to ask questions on the spot, see for ourselves and understand how your vision will work in real life. You know your building so well…this is the chance to ‘walk us through’ the physical changes you want to make. Show us your vision and the place where it will come to life!
In addition, do make sure the people we will meet have a thorough understanding of the project. It makes a difference to the flow of the Grants Officer visit when everybody involved understands why they are there and what we are likely to want to discuss with them.
4. It’s a two-way street …
Making a grant funding application to Benefact Trust, particularly with large or complex projects, is a dynamic process.
We are known for being an early-stage funder and often award grants before, or in the early days, of a project… We do this in part, and with hope, to encourage other funding bodies and grant-making trusts to come on board and fund your project too, reassured by the fact we have shown faith as a grant funder. We also supply resources that will help you to publicise your project for the same reason, and these are available on our how to apply page. A Grants Officer visit may have been arranged so that we can help you shape your grant application – and project - to give it the best chance of succeeding. We understand that not everyone has the same level of experience around applying for grants and we take people and projects as we find them.
Honesty and openness are critical at this stage. If there are any issues that could impact on the project, we want to discuss them with you and the Grants Officer visit is a great time for this. We know that when you submit a grant application to us, it is not set in stone. We accept that your plans will change and evolve as your project progresses. In fact, we want them to, as it’s testament to the fact you are implementing learnings based on your experience and being flexible in response to changing needs!
5. A great example of what a Grants Officer visit can achieve:
Benefact Trust received an application for a great project that already made sense and was likely to receive funding as it was. It was a project to combine four churches (three had dilapidated buildings, the fourth had a building that needed to be demolished, and all congregations were dwindling).
The proposal was to sell the three buildings that were not fit for purpose, demolish the fourth, and create a new church in a brand new building on the site of the demolished church. It was a great project and very collaborative.
During the visit, the Grants Officer was able to explore with the applicant, based on their experience of other projects Benefact Trust has funded, how this new building could be used to its maximum potential by extending the same innovative, transformative and collaborative thinking out to the community.
The visit really opened up the potential of this project to have even greater impact. The applicants requested that their submission to Benefact Trust be held back to give them time to undertake community consultation and gain a greater understanding of how their project could not only transform the physical buildings of their churches … but also the communities and people around them and their congregations’ relationship with them. The result will be a thriving community and worship space!
6. Top tips for getting the most out of your Grants Officer visit:
Understand why we’ve come to see you and what we’ve come to do!
Read this blog!
  • Re-read your own application (or visit our How to Apply page to make an application!)
  • Read through some of our news stories and grant examples to get a feel of who we are, what we are like and who our beneficiaries are!
  • Make the effort to plan and prepare for our visit – but in the right way!
  • No lengthy Powerpoint presentations.
  • Don’t ask us to read or take away reams of paper.
  • We want good conversation, deeper understanding and to meet the real you in context!
  • Bring your project to life for us… a building project us still always about people!
  • Give us clear, accurate, driving and parking or public transport directions!
Please, please, please! You would be amazed at how stressful this can be. If you give us a postcode, make sure it is correct for your actual building. Tell us where we can park (and if we need a few pound coins in our pocket to do so!)
Please tell us how to get into your building!
It is not an exaggeration to say that at least some Grants Officer visits begin late, because your Grants Officer is running around the outside of your building, faced with six locked doors and trying to find the unlocked one that you use every day of the week!
A warm, comfortable room to meet is perfect!
Please don’t think we have to meet in the darkest, dampest room in the building, particularly in winter, just to prove to us that you need the money (it really does happen!). Meeting in a nice, warm room won’t jeopardise your chances of success.
We’re human…it’s nice to be asked if we would like to use your loo!
 A really fundamental thing you can do to get the most out of your Grants Officer visit is help us to feel relaxed, comfortable and able to listen to you and be engaged when we are with you. We may have been driving for hours. We might not have been able to find a parking space. We may need to go to the toilet when we arrive…
A cup of tea or coffee goes a long way!
 During Grants Officer meetings, we do discuss the pros and cons of being offered biscuits, cakes and (even) lunch when we visit grant applicants.. Some of us always seem to have not had time to eat when we arrive, some of us are uncomfortable eating cake while trying to engage in discussions during the visit. The offering of a biscuit as a compromise may be the best advice here…but please don’t stress, the availability of biscuits will not affect your chances of funding success!
On the other hand, we don’t take ‘good’ coffee as an indication of excessive affluence … so please don’t hold back on that front. A good coffee or cup of tea is heavenly.
It’s nice to feel welcome!
 When we walk through your door, we need a minute to gather ourselves, feel the building around us … and just breathe.
And, then, we will be focused, ready to listen and engage with you and your vision, project and organisation … which is what we really want to do and is why we have come to see you.
P.S. Please be aware that we may have another visit after our meeting with you; so keeping roughly to the timeframe is important and ensures we can give the next project the same attention and respect we aim to give to you.
Jeremy Noles

Jeremy Noles

Head of Grants and Relationships, Benefact Trust

A visit is your chance to really bring your project to life. We want you to flesh out the project beyond your written application: share your vision with us and focus on the people impact so we’re clear on the difference your project will make.
Jeremy Noles

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