Guide to grantmaking

This step-by-step guide can help you or your foundation focus your intentions and give you the tools to develop a program of environmental giving.

Step 7. What are the types of funding you might give?

Once you have a sense of what needs to be funded to make a difference, you can decide on the types of funding you prefer.

This is not an easy question and the answer is not always evident. Again, there is no one single ‘right’ answer or silver bullet.

You might like to specialise in a particular type of funding – for example small grants, project grants or scholarships. You may need to begin with a few small grants to help you understand the issue more or the capacity of a community organisation.

Type of fundingStrengthsChallenges
Small grants ($500
– $15,000)
  • Useful to small and grassroots organisations

  • Can help to gauge the capacity of an organisation
  • Great way to begin a relationship with an organisation
  • Can have impact that is beyond the size of the grant
  • Can take a lot of administration
  • Cannot always change the world!
Medium grants
($15,000 –
Large grants
  • Can make a significant difference
  • Too much investment in one organisation or strategy can lead to dependency
  • Can be a significant risk if not successful
Multi-year grants
  • Great way of building capacity of an organisation, building momentum on an issue and building a relationship
  • Is a preferred approach for strategic funders
  • Difficult to get out of or change if you are not happy with the funding or you want to change your priorities/direction
Pilot or seed
funding – grant to develop projects or to undertake a feasibility study
  • Great way of testing the viability of an idea or program
  • Large projects can take an enormous amount of time and effort to develop well and often the process or outcome is not clear. Giving a grant to develop a project helps an organisation focus on this important step
  • Does not always lead to success or bring further funding
  • Requires an organisation to have project development skills
  • Might mean that a project does not go ahead
Grants that scale up success (follows from seed funding, small grant or specific project)
  • Builds on success
  • Might cost a lot
  • Requires the group to have good organisational skills and capacity to scale up
Challenge grants (based on an organisation raising funds from other sources)
  • Great way of developing the fundraising potential of an organisation and leveraging other funds
  • Can place a significant fundraising burden on an organisation in the face of difficulty finding funds
  • Good way of growing skills and capacity
  • Need to be clear on the risk of replicating other scholarship programs
  • Can take a long time to have impact
  • Good way of raising the profile of an issue, developing capacity and profile in a sector
  • Administratively laborious
Project funding
  • Focus on a specific outcome
  • Requires good organisational capacity in project management and relies on existing core funding
  • Great way of leveraging off others and building small funds into larger one
  • Could include partnerships with government
  • Difficult to achieve because of different approaches, timelines and processes among the organisations involved
Capital grant (for building, land etc)
  • Given to a major capital expenditure like a building
  • Can require large amounts of funding
Endowment grant (usually to an academic or cultural institution and to be used over a long period of time)
  • Can be a permanent ongoing source of funding
  • Can be a great way of building capacity
  • Can require very large sums of money that might be better used for more immediate activities
Evaluation grant
  • Given for the completion of a grant. Is especially good for large projects or grants to help determine next steps and to understand strengths and weaknesses of a project/organisation
  • Initial project needs to be set up with clear objectives that can be evaluated and data collected along the way
Program-related investment
  • Loans made at low interest or no interest but which are paid back. Can be a great source of capital
  • Works only in circumstances where organisations are generating a profit: for example, a community micro-hydro scheme or a small business enterprise

Small grants for biodiversity conservation

We are firm believers that the small grants we give out to community groups are vitally important.

Someone once said that small grants take up too much time and aren’t worth bothering with. That might be true for some, but for many small community groups across Australia, we have been able to see some very positive results from receiving our grants.

Our small grants have enabled groups to produce guides, hold workshops, carry out research, create websites and train community members in various aspects of science and monitoring. We have been delighted to receive copies of flora guides, bird guides and moth books which have been professionally produced and used by groups to share knowledge, engage the local community and increase general interest in biodiversity. Other small grants enable groups to train volunteers in monitoring and recording data in a systematic way, to employ scientific research and to work on conservation activities with expertise.

To be good grantmakers, particularly for small grants, funders need to respect community groups and their knowledge of conservation on a local level. It’s about thinking outside the box and considering funding groups who may not have a high profile in the city, but have a solid track record in conservation management, the ability to collaborate effectively and evidence of tangible outcomes from past projects.

To find a good project and a solid group to support, you need to look at the communities who are living in the environment they want to save. They have the best idea about what’s important and whether they have the capacity to do the work. Scientific expertise can be brought in when necessary – the two go well together.

Beth Mellick – The Norman Wettenhall Foundation

Ask yourself

  1. What are your preferences for the type of funding to have impact on the issues you are interested in?

Record your answer in the worksheet (pdf)

Join a funder group

Connect with the issues, connect with members, and connect with members around the issues. Find a funder group that is right for you.