Grant Application Tips from AFC’s Executive Director
There have been a lot of changes to the Anglican Foundation of Canada (AFC) grants program since 2021 when we published an article on Grant Application Tips. Back then, I was still working as the Executive Administrator where, during six years in that role, I shepherded over 700 applications through to completion.
The advice I gave then, is still true today, however there have been significant changes to the grants process over the last two years, and I want to take a moment to review them now, as we enter a new granting year and as many applicants are readying for the April 1 grant cycle.
IMPACT ZONES—WHAT IS FUNDED
In 2023 the Board of Directors approved the most significant changes to AFC’s granting program in a decade. Applications now fall into one of five funding impact zones: Diverse Infrastructure, Community Ministries, Leadership & Education, Indigenous Ministries, and Sacred Music & Liturgical Arts. Each impact zone requires specific information in the project description.
GRANT CATEGORIES—HOW MUCH IS FUNDED
Each diocese, ecclesiastical province, General Synod, and Sacred Circle/ACIP may now submit a total of four Category A (up to $5,000) or Category B (up to $15,000) applications per calendar year, or alternatively a single Category C application (up to $50,000), with not more than two applications being submitted at one grant cycle. The proportion of the project budget that the AFC grant may cover varies according to the Category.
A maximum of three applications per year may be for Diverse Infrastructure projects: we want to encourage churches to think outside the bricks-and-mortar-box. To that end we announced a new Community Ministries Fund with initial capital of $2M to help provide grants for this vital area of Anglican ministry.
Please note that Category C grants are exceptional as it will be the one application a diocese is allowed to submit in a calendar year. Applicants who wish to submit a Category C must have the approval of their Diocesan Bishop and Council and are strongly encouraged to speak with me before submitting the application.
It is important to recognize that maximum grant amounts are exactly that: MAXIMUMS. It is not possible for AFC to fully fund all the projects that we wish to support—and the total demand currently outpaces the funds available. The award amount offered may be less than the amount requested. The Board of Directors, supported by AFC staff and other volunteers, engage in a careful process of reviewing each application and make decisions for funding based on a combination of factors, including need, merit, and potential impact.
STREAMLINING—THE NEW GRANTS PORTAL
For those applicants who used to submit applications to AFC’s various Trusts (e.g., A.E.J. Fulford Trust, Catholic Apostolic Universal Church Trust, etc.), all applications are now being processed through a single application form, either in fillable PDF or through the new Grant Application Portal. All Trust applications now flow through the diocesan approval process, with a maximum of four applications per calendar year, as above.
(Applications from individuals fall outside this quota. In the Grant Application Portal, individuals may select “Apply as an Individual” to view eligibility requirements for bursaries for theological education, as well as other training opportunities. Request-for-Proposal applications and special funding opportunities like the partnership fundraising program Say Yes! to Kids also fall outside the annual diocesan quota.)
THE APPLICATION PROCESS
It’s important to complete all the online application form fields carefully, and please don’t forget the postal code. The section most frequently overlooked on our application form is Section 2.1 where we ask you to describe the applicant organization and community served. This provides crucial background information for our Board and often helps us to align projects with available funding.
Hand-written files are strongly discouraged. Use the word-processing software of your choice and save the file as a PDF. For budgets, use a spreadsheet if possible and, again, save it as a PDF. Please submit attachments as PDFs.
Noteworthy, too, is the importance of choosing the right contact person. Ideally, the primary contact should be involved for the duration of the project and will be quick to respond to email, as there are often follow-up questions. The contact person should be able to see the project through to the final report stage. It’s not an onerous final report, by any means, but it is important to have someone who understands the project from start to finish. Unfortunately, we often receive applications with contact persons that are not responsive, creating a communication barrier between AFC and the applicant.
To tackle the task of describing a project head-on, I recommend you start with an inspiring project name, and then use the application form questions to structure a detailed description. More complete project descriptions help the review committee in their evaluation process. The project description questions in Section 3.3 and 3.4–3.8 are designed to help you articulate an effective project description. Simply answer the questions in order, and you’re well on your way to having a successful project description! For an excellent example of how to do this, please review our Model Grant Application.
Also important is the overall case, the why of the project. Make a compelling case for the impact your project will have on the target audience and how that impact will be evaluated. Be clear whether this is a new or ongoing project, and what the project timeframe is. If it’s an ongoing project, perhaps tailor the application to a specific program year or to a component piece of the bigger project. Managing the scope of the project is important both in the project description and the budget considerations.
Budgets are a must for grant applications. The more specific and detailed the budget, the better because it means that you have thought through all aspects of the project and know exactly what you will encounter. Submit a clean, non-narrative budget. Check your math, and make sure the portion requested from AFC is clearly indicated and matches the amount in your description and other supporting documentation. Make sure you have sufficient funds already on hand, based on the grant Category.
FACILITATION—WE’RE HERE TO HELP
To help make the application process more accessible, AFC has introduced two processes of facilitation: at the initial stage of application and also in preparing the final grant recipient report. AFC staff have always been available to answer questions regarding the application process—do not hesitate to call or email with your questions! However, for those who require a bit more guidance, we have developed a set of instructions for grant facilitators to assist applicants in their preparation. In the application portal, an application checklist is available, as well as a video grant program tutorial. Watch for a model grant application to be available soon as well. As for the Grant Recipient Report, grant recipients now have the option of submitting an oral report in the form of an interview.
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON!
If you have questions about the eligibility of your project for funding, or about the application process itself, please download our Grant Guidelines document or reach out to us. Our mission is to support ministries of the Anglican Church throughout Canada—and having an impactful, effective, accessible granting program is one of the best ways we can make that happen. And remember, at AFC we love to say Yes! Since 2010, AFC has approved over 90% of the applications submitted and 2023 will be our third consecutive year of exceeding $1 Million in disbursements!
I hope that the changes we have initiated over the last two years will enable Anglicans across the country to realize their potential for transformative ministry and that AFC will continue to be viewed as a collaborative partner in that mission.