Good Practices and Pitfalls in Community-Based Capacity Building and Early Intervention Projects: a toolkit

Introduction 

This toolkit is designed as a basic guide to effective project planning, application for funding, implementation, management and maintenance for community groups and organisations, interested community members, community development workers and workers who are new to the human services field.

The toolkit has been designed to assist communities establish, design and deliver their projects.

Checklists of the main tools are provided at the end of each section. Space has been left at the end of each section for you to add any 'tools' you think might be helpful. Each organisation and project will be different, so only use the tools that you think are relevant to your situation. Links to community resources available on the World Wide Web are provided throughout this kit and a list of resources is provided at the end.

We thank the 20 projects funded under the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy (2000-2004) across Australia that provided the background information on which the kit is based. Information about these projects is provided in the Appendix.

Section 2 Coming together and working together

Why have you come together?

Yo u have a passion for change, imagination and vision about what could be different in your community, and first-hand knowledge of an issue or problem you are concerned about. You understand and have an affinity with the life of the neighbourhood or your community, and are motivated to work with others to make a difference. There is also an overriding concern to work towards process goals, such as confronting and challenging disadvantage. You have an eye for the interconnections between what happens in your local community and the bigger macro context (i.e. political, social and economic).

Community development and early intervention projects encompass the above ingredients. These projects aim to work towards a vision for change in ways that support and expand local efforts. The term 'community capacity building' is used increasingly to explain such processes. The Stronger Families and Communities Strategy has embraced this term, which brings together three sets of ideas:

Community: 'a group of people with one or more common characteristics or interests, and living within a larger society. It need not be geographically defined'. (SFCS glossary)

Capacity: 'power of containing, receiving, experiencing, or producing' (Oxford Dictionary, page 147)

Building: 'construct by putting parts or materials together' ...'gradually establish itself' (Oxford Dictionary, page 129)

Community capacity building as outlined above describes dynamic and forwardlooking activities within communities that build on what already takes place within them. In other words, it is using the combined influence of a community's commitment, resources and skills to build on community strengths and address community problems and opportunities.

Identifying an issue that the community wants to address can provide a practical focus for capacity building.

Community capacity building processes are central to the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy, and community approaches that seek to support early intervention and prevention, and local solutions through community organisations working together.

Is the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy the right funding for your group or organisation's project?

Coming together and seeking funding means that you may already have some ideas around your community and what you want to achieve. It is useful to find out about opportunities for applying for funding to support your work and to look at the available application processes.

The Stronger Families and Communities Strategy is a funding program that aims to support the empowerment of communities to develop local answers to locally identified issues. The Strategy has a strong focus on the early childhood years.

One of the four initiatives under The Stronger Families and Communities Strategy, Local Answers, provides short-term funding for community-based projects. Where projects are connected to developing and supporting ongoing services, there may be funding available to assist with developing the capacity of services, working towards better engaging families to link them to the services, or developing demonstration projects which other agencies intend to support once they are established.

You will need to access current information about the different available funding for community-based projects.

For information about the Strategy, the application form and processes refer to the website.

After accessing this information about funding processes, it is worthwhile to ask:

  • Will your ideas fit with the types of projects that the Program funding aims to support?
  • If so, how appropriate is the funding to your ideas and proposal?
  • What is the application process for project funding?
  • Does it have funding rounds? When is the next funding round?

The fit seems right for us

If you decide this source of project funding fits with your ideas and proposal, preplanning can assist you with the process of fleshing out your idea and how it might work.

A useful place to start is to retrace where you have come from with the idea:

  • What has been the trigger for your idea?
  • What is the issue or need that you are seeking to respond to?
  • Who are you trying to help?

You may find that the project you are seeking to develop and gain funding for 'has legs' already, that is, there is a history behind this idea's evolution. It may build on previous initiatives. Even so, it is important to canvass community groups and other relevant organisations about your idea. This will help you gain a broad range of perspectives on your intended idea up-front, which can open up imagination and possibilities. You will need to know whether there evidence to support the merits of your idea.

If your proposed project is a new initiative, talking with others gives you the opportunity to learn from past experiences so that you can build on previous efforts and lessons learnt. You should be confident that your idea has wide support and that other people also think that it is a good idea.

You might also find that there are potential partners you have not considered previously, so that rather than replicate unnecessarily something else that is happening, you might want to work more closely with others. Doing this sort of canvassing in your community presupposes that you have a sense of a 'community' with whom you are seeking to work.

Affinity with 'community'

The workers at the Centre know their 'community' as residents of the local public housing estate because they are part of the networks and life of the community. This knowledge is also about the complexity of the local area and the differences with in com m unity groups
(Collingwood Community Information and Drop-in Centre program).

An affinity with the 'community' that you seek to work with is an ingredient that can assist in the development and implementation of the project. Community can at times be a taken-for-granted idea and assumptions can be made that we all experience, understand or seek to build 'community' in the same way. There are many ways to describe 'community', but sometimes we can overlook the fact that community is also an experience that is shaped by values and beliefs. The Stronger Families and Communities Strategy operates from a definition of community that refers to groups of people who have some characteristics and interests in common, including where they live.

It may be helpful to ask:

  • Has your group had the opportunity to talk about what it is that you have in common?
  • What are your different perspectives and interests?
  • What is the basis of this difference?

Giving these differences and com mon factors a vo ice early on will assist you in com ing together and developing a range of ways that you might approach this project idea. Having done this, you need to ask:

  • Are there other groups and interests that you would like to involve at this stage in your project's development?

You might identify that you have a lot in common as a group but that you may not collectively have strong knowledge about the views and interests of the community with whom you want to work. You may like to ask:

  • Are there other people you might want to talk with?
  • Is there some further reading to be done?

Moving outside your own network can help test out your ideas. If your idea is to support low-income families with small children in your local area, for example, you need to ask:

  • How well do you know the group your idea plans to support?
  • Do you know enough about what the issues are from a range of perspectives?
  • Are you predominantly one cultural group?
  • If so, how does this reflect the wider community that you want to engage with?

Build a broad picture of 'community'

Gatheringthis info rmation req uires yo u to build a broader picture of your co m m un ity's dimensions. This will give yo ur pro jectto promote stronger fam ilies and co m m un ities an anchor, as 'community' can be a slippery and romantic notion. The aim is to ensure that you gather enough information to make the best decision about the strategies and actions that will produce your intended changes.

Who is the 'community' you want to work with?

At this stage of developing your proposal, useful strategies for mapping the dimensions of the community you seek to work with include:

  • community audits;
  • community profiles;
  • network and collaboration maps.

A community audit of a local suburb or geographic-based community involves the following steps:

Identify population numbers and a socio-economic profile

This includes descriptive material such as the numbers of people who live in the area, their ages, household structures, gender and ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds. You might want to know about the businesses in the area, where people work, where people attend school or other services, i.e. do they travel out of the local area? You might also want to know about comparisons over time. What are the anticipated future demographic or socio-economic changes in the area? Have there been shifts in population, such as new people moving in, or closures in businesses and a rise in unemployment? Is there a new housing development that will lead to more families with young children moving into the area?

You can get this information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the local library. Local councils also do community profiles.

Identify issues that the community are concerned about

There are many ways to obtain information about community issues and how these are perceived. Some of the best ways are:

  • Talk with people residing in your community. Start with your own networks, and then move out of them to canvass a wide range ofviews, not just those similar to yours.
  • Ask what people in the community see as the issues.
  • What do people in the community see as these issues' causes?
  • What do community leaders see as the issues? (i.e. the local councillors).
  • Read the local paper to keep abreast of local issues and who the power players are. Approach the local council for information about local issues. Many councils undertake needs assessments and have social planning documents that you can access.

Identify what services and groups already exist for the community.

There may be many community groups and services in the local area that aim to promote families and communities. Ask:

  • How well do you know this part of the 'community'?

Useful strategies to help you find this out include:

  • Access local government community services guides. These will provide you with information on residents' groups, community organisations and services.
  • Follow up particular groups or services by making personal contact.

See the Community Builders Website for help with this.

Working together

Another important pre-planning task is to ensure that yo u have the right composition within your group to undertake the planning and application development process:

  • Think about the skills you will need to do the project
  • Make a list of the balance of skills, knowledge and attributes of the people around the table.
  • Have you got people with the commitment in terms of both motivation and time to work towards realising this project idea?
  • Think about who else needs to come on board - approach them. It may be useful to involve representatives from early childhood services or other human services in the local community.
  • Think about the composition of your group in terms of the community you are seeking to target.
  • Think about what might happen to your project idea and your group if your project idea is not funded?

You will need to ensure that the group can work towards fulfiiling the specific requirements of applying for funds, as you will need to respond to those eligibility requirements in your funding application. It is imperative that you explore the following issues in the pre-planning process:

  • Is your organisation incorporated, so that you can fulfil the legal and financial responsibilities of receiving government grant money?
  • What organisation will support the application and project?
  • Are you affiliated with an organisation that can provide the organisational infrastructure to support this project idea?

Checklist

Ask yourself:

  • Why have you come together?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How does your idea of community capacity building and strengthening fit with the funding Program interpretation?
  • Is it the appropriate funding body for you?
  • Can you meet the specific eligibility requirements?
  • If so, what is your vision for the project?
  • What is the trigger for the project?
  • Does the project 'have legs already'?
  • What can you learn from past experiences?
  • Have you consulted with community members or groups about your idea?
  • Do you have an understanding of and affinity with the local community?
  • Do you have access to a community profile? (e.g. socio-economic, socio-cultural, age etc. demographics)
  • Are you aware of the issues that concern members of the local community?
  • Are you in contact with the local council?
  • Are you aware of services or groups that already exist in the local area?
  • Have you built a broad enough picture of the community?
  • Do you know the members of your working group?
  • Do you have the right balance of members in your working group? (take into consideration the community you are targeting)
  • Are you aware of your legal and financial responsibilities?
  • Do you have organisational backing?
  • Have you accessed relevant resources to gather background information?
  • Do you have alternative plans if the funding application is unsuccessful?
  • Are you ready for the next step?

Having what it takes 

Applying for, being approved for, and accepting funding sets your community organisation on an exciting path.

However, the co m petitive funding process can also be disappointing fo r yo ur group if your project is not funded. Your group needs to be prepared for this possibility and have realistic expectations and alternative plans to move the project idea forward.

Making the pro ject work successfully depends to a large extent on the organisation's readiness to take on a new project and to consider what needs to be in place. So how do you turn your ideas into reality?

Flesh out the ideas

Ideas for new projects have many different origins, including:

  • evidence of community need;
  • the trial of a prototype, pilot or earlier project;
  • experience with a similar project in another location;
  • information from other communities about successful projects;
  • information about the costs, savings and efficiencies with similar projects;
  • realising the opportunity provided by a particular funding body.

Whatever your concept, it will need to be turned into a feasible, workable project with clear goals, outcomes, processes and structures. You will need to go through the following stages to shape your idea in readiness to put together your project application.

Brainstorm

One strategy for fleshing out your idea is to brainstorm. This is a facilitated group process where interested peo pie gettogether and think through as many elaborations on the idea as possible. A facilitator is so meone who has skills in making sure that all people are heard, that different opinions are respected and that the focus remains on the task. The key to successful brainstorming is the exchange and elaboration of ideas. You will need to:

  • Nominate a facilitator for this process who
  • can design a format for the brainstorming session/s that will deliver an agreed set of outcomes.
  • Involve a diverse group of people from many different backgrounds. Everyone in the group is expected to share their knowledge.

When brainstorming ideas for a project, questions may include:

  • What do we want to do?
  • Why is this issue important?
  • How do we go about doing this?
  • What are the expected costs and are they reasonable?
  • Who wants to be involved and how can they be involved?
  • What sort of strategies might work?
  • What are our strengths and limitations?
  • What sort of outcomes do we want to achieve?
  • What steps do we need to take to achieve our goals?

At the end of this process, the facilitator will:

  • Try to bring these diverse ideas together into a tentative plan.
  • Ask for a volunteer to document areas of agreement and disagreement.
  • Distribute a manuscript of the brainstorming session/s promptly to people who attended to maintain their enthusiasm - show them that something is being done to act on the suggestions.

Tune in

Tuning in is an extension of brainstorming and is important for planning the program. It is a process for developing an effective strategy for understanding and reaching participants. It is important that you think about the sort of people who might participate in the program. Participants are people who will be directly involved in, or served by the work. Ideally, participants will contribute to the project's planning and development, but this may not always be possible.

Tuning in is an intellectual and emotional process in which you put yourself in the shoes of others to try and understand more about them. Tuning in enables you to raise your awareness of, and sensitivity to people and social issues. It involves asking a series of questions:

  • Who are these people?
  • What are their attitudes and values?
  • What are their feelings about their family and other close relationships?
  • What are their likes and dislikes?
  • Where do they live and where do they gather?
  • How are they connected to family, neighborhood and organisations?
  • What are their lifestyle issues?
  • How do they respond to service provision?
  • What are their links to the community?
  • Can you anticipate their reactions to specific people, events or life crises?

In tuning in, we are suggesting that you close your eyes and use your imagination to gain a better understanding of those people who will be involved most closely with the program. Thinking through reactions in this way helps you make your ideas relevant and targeted to those who can gain the most benefit.

If you want to plan a program for adolescents, for example, it is useful to think about your own and others' observations of young people, who may appear to: dislike teachers and other adult authority figures; have little sense of their own mortality; want to be socially acceptable; not have access to transport; have limited budgets; and be concerned with their physical appearance.

In developing a program for working with adolescents, based on this analysis, it may be necessary to employ young staff who can relate to young people as peers. Programs would need to be located on transpo rt routes 0 rin the centre of town fo reasy access. If adolescents have little sense of their own mortality, the health dimension might include preventive programs that are delivered without preaching.

Anticipate the future

Put yourself some months ahead and imagine that you have been funded to run a project for families or your community. Any new project has ramifications for, and in the community. Some of these can be anticipated and addressed in the planning process, therefore it is important to:

  • Think ahead about the project's impact on both the community and the organisation.
  • Plan for how you will complete the project.
  • Think about what will happen after the project is over.
  • Plan now with an end in mind.

Ask yourself:

What are some of the practical and institutional arrangements that we need to consider now as we refine our ideas and apply for funding?

Consideration of these ideas will assist you to write a superior application and will allow the funding body to realise the potential strengths of your ideas and the capacity to achieve outcomes. They may also see that you will be able to manage the project ifit does not go as planned.

Flow-on effect

All projects are likely to have a flow-on effect in their community. Community people and organisations may welcome new services if these address gaps in existing services, but acknowledge that new services increase demand and interagency coordination to ensure continuity:

  • Undertake consultation, negotiation and joint planning with the community at an early stage to encompass the impact on the community. This may mean the difference between success and failure later on.
  • Talk to local community leaders and agencies about your program and ask the fo llowing questions:
  • What are this idea's likely ramifications and flow-on effects for the community?
  • Will your project cause an increased demand for services?
  • Will this new project expose unmet needs in the community?
  • Does this program require more public transport or other public infrastructure in particular areas?
  • What is the public expectation of this project? Does the community have realistic expectations about what this new project can achieve?
  • Will the project create new demands for services and support that will remain after the project is over?
  • What will happen to the community after the project is over?

Think about the cultural context

Programs are introduced into a particular cultural context. Sometimes this context may be the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander com m unity, or people from culturally diverse backgrounds. The question for consideration at the planning phase is:

  • What might you need to put in place in the beginning of the project to navigate inter-group tensions, conflict or public criticism?

Think about legal obligations

New community initiatives may mean thinking ahead about new legal obligations and responsibilities:

  • What legal requirements might be anticipated?
  • Does funding depend on incorporation?
  • If the work involves children and families, does this mean that workers and volunteers associated with the project need police checks or training in mandatory reporting?
  • Does the program place workers or clients at risk? If so, what legal precautions might need to be considered in costing the establishment of the program? (e.g. occupational health and safety, and insurance)

Think about financial accountability

Securing funding for your project makes the effort worthwhile but it also means increased financial accountability and changes to budgeting and financial practices:

  • Do you have experience in managing government funding for projects?
  • What financial systems do you need to put in place to manage this project within the designated budget?
  • Have you got an auditor?

Think about performance reporting

Securing funding for your project also means increased performance accountability:

  • Do you have experience in developing performance indicators and measuring the performance of the project?
  • How will you know that your project is working well?
  • Will you need to develop performance indicators?
  • What performance management systems will you need to put in place?
  • Do you have someone who will be responsible for performance monitoring and reporting?

Think about human and ather resource issues

A new project often means new staff. Staff will need orientation, guidance, supervision and support. They may need office space, a desk, phone, computer and access to a car. It is necessary to consider managerial matters when undertaking the planning process:

  • What personnel, equipment, space and facilities are needed?
  • What procedures and strategies will need to be put in place to manage the process and the work?
  • What processes and structures are needed to support the project?
  • What are the intended project outcomes and how will these be measured qualitatively and quantitatively?
  • What systems are needed for data collection for both the organisation and the funding body/bodies?

Think about governance

Decide how the project will be governed:

  • Will you have working groups, a committee and/or a project officer?
  • Who will be responsible for what?
  • Who will be accountable to whom?
  • How will you govern finance, human resources, other resources, time lines etc?

Before going any further it is wise to undertake some research:

  • Is there a funding round pending? When does it close? What forms need to be completed?
  • Who can help you? Who should you talk to? (Identify local resources, websites and established partnerships or new ones in their infant stages)
  • Do you need to undertake a community consultation?
  • Is there any history of similar applications for similar projects, or any prototypes you should use?
  • Are you sufficiently aware of the kind of infrastructure you need in place to manage people and money?
  • Do you have enough funds to get the project off the ground?

Return to the here and now

Once you have considered all of the above issues and feel that you have shaped your ideas as far as you can, you are ready to research the information needed to prepare your funding application.

Resources:

Wadsworth, Y. (1984) Do it yourself social research. Victorian Council of Social Service Melbourne Family Care Organisation/Allen & Unwin, Vic.

Donovan, F. & Jackson, A. (1991) Managing Human Service Organisations. Prentice Hall, New Jersey.

Community Wise WA

Checklist

Have you:

  • Clarified the origin of your ideas?
  • Fleshed out the ideas?
  • Brainstormed?
  • Tuned in?
  • Anticipated the future?
  • Considered flow-on effects?
  • Considered cultural contexts?
  • Considered legal obligations?
  • Considered financial accountability?
  • Considered performance accountability?
  • Considered human and other resource issues?
  • Considered governance?
  • Distributed copies of brainstorming sessions to participants and other interested parties?

If you have done all of these things:

  • Are you ready to write your funding application?

Making your case 

By now you will have:

  • Determined that your project fits within the funding requirements.
  • A clear idea of what your project entails.
  • A clear statement of the project aims.
  • A clear statement of the project activities and/or resources to be developed.
  • A clear statement of the project outcomes.
  • A clear statement of how the project activities and/or resources to be developed will lead to the project outcomes.
  • A clear idea of the target group that your project is for.
  • A sense of the significance of this work to your community.
  • Community backing, support and collaborating agencies.
  • Decided on the methods and processes to put in place to achieve goals and outcomes.
  • Estimated the length of time for the various stages of the work (allowing for risk management).
  • An estimation of how much the project will cost.
  • Identified and harnessed the skills and competencies of the personnel who would undertake the work.
  • A clear idea of the facilities needed to do the work.
  • A plan to put the arrangements in place if your application is approved for funding.
  • A plan for an alternative course of action if your application is not approved for funding.

Once you are confident you are ready to write your submission, keep in mind that this is a legal document rather than 'just an application'. As such, you will need to be aware of the legal obligations specified within it.

The evidence base of your project - strengthening your case

Application processes for funding can be highly competitive. Your application will be considered in relation to those from hundreds of other groups, organisations and communities. All will have the same commitment and passion about their particular projects as you do about yours. Therefore, it is important that your application presents your 'case' as clearly and strongly as possible.

One key way to strengthen your application's quality and co m petitiveness is to clearly outline the 'evidence' that supports your project's proposed goals and activities.

The Stronger Families and Communities Strategy consistently outlines its interest in evidence-based projects and funding applications will be assessed to 'identify those that can deliver the best value' through 'an optimum combination of quality and cosf. The Strategy places 'strong emphasis an the role of evidence in early childhood interventions', with projects seen as having 'a unique opportunity to use the established evidence and contribute to the growing Evidence Base in both early childhood and community development'.

The Strategy glossary describes Evidence Base as follows:

Quantitative and qualitative data indicating that a proposed intervention will effectively address significant issues related to child or community development. The Evidence Base identifying significant issues in a community could include prevalence, trend data, long-term effects on children and families and impacts on other developmental areas. The Evidence Base indicating likely success of a proposed intervention could include results of Australian/international formal program evaluations, statistics (including baseline/post-intervention information), case studies, or structured client/ provider feedback (as in surveys or interviews). (Communities for Children, Stronger Families and Communities Strategy website.

The concept of an Evidence Base may sound very scientific and intimidating, but there are many ways in which your project can demonstrate its use of evidence in its planning and implementation. Think of'evidence' as anything that will demonstrate and support such elements as the:

  • Strength of the need for your project.
  • Rationale for your project goals.
  • Legitimacy of the approach you are planning to take.
  • Degree to which goals have been achieved.
  • Nature of changes and outcomes that have resulted from the project.
  • Impact that your project has had.

It is important to begin thinking in terms of 'evidence' from the early stages of your project development. This style of thinking should become central to your approach to your project. Keep in mind that finding and demonstrating evidence can be done in many ways, from the highly empirical (e.g. statistics) to the highly creative, descriptive or participative forms of evidence, including action research and stories.

Evidence of need

You must demonstrate that the proposed project will address a clearly identified need in your community. Strategies to strengthen your argument for the importance of meeting this need include:

  • Thoroughly document the nature of this need.
  • Thoroughly document its impact in the community.
  • Thoroughly document the degree to which the perception of this need is shared within the community, including by the people expected to benefit from the project.

Needs can be determined in three different categories (Bradshaw 1972):

  1. Felt needs - what individuals or groups in the community say they need. Methods for determining felt needs include:
    • Surveys
    • Questionnaires
    • Interviews
    • Informal discussions, gatherings
    • Public meetings
    • Discussion/focus groups
    • Letters of support
    • Case studies
    • Testimonials.
  2. Demonstrated needs - what is shown to be needed through observable actions. Demonstrated needs can be argued for through the documentation of:
    • Numbers of people involved in need-related activities
    • Inquiries about services
    • Unsolicited requests for services
    • Experiences of past programs
    • Pilot program results
    • Input from information displays
    • Numbers of people notturning up or participating in community activities
    • Gaps in services.
  3. Comparative needs - what experts and comparisons show might be needed. This type of need is determined by looking at what could/should be expected in relation to comparable groups, organisations or communities. Comparative needs can be argued for through such activities as:
    • Comparing with other communities
    • Comparing with other programs
    • Comparing with past records of a service or program
    • Using statistics, such as those published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics
    • Consulting 'experts' - councils, human service workers, teachers, etc.
    • Referring to needs studies done by others
    • Citing relevant government policies.

Including information from a combination of the above methods and sources, rather than relying on only one 0 r two will strengthen the argument that a need exists. It is worth taking the time to plan ahead and accumulate information from such diverse sources for inclusion in your submission.

Previously funded Strategy projects determined the nature and extent of need through some of the following methods:

  • Findings from research reports, scoping studies, local government planning documents, community surveys, and pilot projects.
  • Reviews of professional literature, needs assessments, statistics regarding problems in the community (e.g. police stats re youth offences, school stats re school dropout rates) and socio-demographic data.
  • Community-based processes such as community consultations, community round-tables, reference groups and 'active listening' to what the community is saying. Service-based indicators such as increased referrals, clinical experience that identifies gaps and changes in service needs and demands, and awareness of risk factors in specific communities or populations.

Evidence of community support/involvement

Further to demonstrating need, it will be important to show how the community that is affected by, or involved in the project supports the proposal. Community support will be demonstrated through the information discussed under 'felt needs' above. Another measure of community support might be the degree to which others are prepared to become involved in, or contribute to the project. Expressions of interest in the project, commitments to contribute to the project (e.g. in-kind donations, volunteer time, potential advisory group members), and projected or actual partnership relationships that will develop through the project all are indicators of community support. Enormity is an example of a Stronger Families and Communities Strategy project that demonstrates significant amounts of community support. A community-based teenage committee is supported by, and works in partnership with the local council, local youth workers, schools, local businesses (through monetary sponsorship/in-kind donations), organisations such as Lions Clubs and the local fire fighting groups. Enormity's work is based largely on volunteer person-power and time.

Evidence of intended benefits ond outcomes

Another factor that will be considered is whether the proposed project will provide 'value for money' in addressing the identified need. It is important, therefore, that you identify clearly the specific benefits and results that your project plans to achieve and reasonable costs for this. The benefits should be expressed in terms of concrete, observable changes that provide a clear picture of how the problem situation will improve as a result of the work done by your project. In addition to the broader goals or objectives of the proposed project (e.g. 'to strengthen parenting practices among young single mothers in our community through a mentoring program'), the application should include as much detail as possible about the intended specific outcomes or desired changes. The more specific, concrete, observable and measurable these outcomes are, the clearer will be the 'picture' of what can be achieved by funding your project. Intended changes and outcomes for a parenting project, as above, might be:

  • At least X people will be successfully trained, using the Y model, as parenting mentors and matched with an equal number of single mothers below the age of 16 who have been identified as at risk of neglecting their children.
  • In at least 80% of the matches, the relationship will continue for at least one year and involve, at a minimum, one face-to-face contact per week between the parent and mentor.
  • Young mothers in the program will attend, with their mentors, monthly education sessions based on the Z program for strengthening parenting practices.
  • The incidence of neglect situations, based on reports from Band C services, will reduce by at least 50% over a period of 18 months.
  • Young mothers in the program will increase their involvement in education or employment activities to improve their financial situation and to increase their range of life skills.

In addition to presenting a stronger scenario of your project's intended ben efits and worth, setting out outcomes in such terms should assist the project in setting its direction and identifying the activities and tasks that will be necessary to achieve such outcomes.

Thinking about whether your costs are reasonable and if there are other less expensive options to this project will also help you demonstrate value for money.

Evidence supporting on intervention opprooch

How does this project demonstrate that the proposed intervention approach is an effective one, i.e. that it is likely to achieve the intended results?

This is a question that funders may consider. This focus on the evidence base of interventions is very much in keeping with the trend in social services. So, your project should give due consideration to how it can argue for the effectiveness of the approach it is proposing.

It is wise to strengthen your case by drawing upon the evidence-based literature and reso urces that are increasingly available. Fo r exam pie, the Cochrane Review website (www.cochrane.org) provides summaries of evidence-based findings in the area of health issues and health care. Perhaps even more relevant to SFCS projects is the Campbell Collaboration website (www.campbellcollaboration.org), which provides comparable summaries of evidence-based findings in the area of social welfare, education and corrections. The Campbell Collaboration includes evidence-based information about childhood interventions, parent-child interactions and similar themes relevant to the goals of the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy.

Specific professional journals that are strongly oriented toward evidence-based findings and reports are also available:

  • Archives of General Psychiatry.
  • Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention.
  • Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
  • Research on Social Work Practice.
  • Evidence-based Mental Health.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies Clearninghouse holds a collection of international and Australian research on family wellbeing in Australia.

Some previously funded Stronger Families and Communities Strategy projects have used other methods to demonstrate their programs' evidence base. One used successful results from a pilot project to show that the proposed larger program was based on sound practice, and another adapted the intervention approach of a highly successful program model that had established a strong body of evidence regarding its effectiveness. Another project used the following methods to establish the evidence base of its approach:

  • Regular reference to the professional literature to inform their work.
  • Consistent focus on monitoring best practices in their field of intervention.
  • Use of an established and recognised program model, including purchase of the program manual to direct their practice.
  • Consultation with a research institute to choose recognised family assessment measures.
  • Attendance at a national conference related to their area of service.
  • Attendance at workshops with experts in their field.

Evidence of obility to complete the project

Your 'case' for being considered for funding can be strengthened if your previous successes and achievements are 0 utlined in your application. The funder will wantto get a clear sense of the likelihood that applicants are able to carry through on projects put forward. Your 'track record' of successes can be presented by documenting and providing evidence of:

  • Previous projects successfully funded.
  • Specific results and outcomes from other activities/projects.
  • Any recognition/awards received.

An important related aspect of your project is how it will build on existing community capacity, or how it will contribute 'added value' to your community. The application should demonstrate how the project draws upon existing resources and strengths in the community through such elements as advisory group members, volunteers, partnership relationships and consultants/experts. Other methods identified for documenting community strengths that can contribute to the project's potential for successful completion are skills audits/inventories and asset mapping.

Community Builders Website

Evidence of activity ond impact

If your project is funded, you should expect to be asked to provide evidence of the activities undertaken (outputs), the impact and changes that have occurred (outcomes). More information about these areas is included in Module 2. However, atthis point in the preparation of your application, it is importantto anticipate these two elements of the project. Your application sho uld demonstrate yo ur awareness of these and include information about how the project plans to document its activities and impact.

Preparing the funding application

You have done a lot of thinking, planning, consulting and preparation in developing your project idea. You no doubt believe strongly in the value of your project but it is the project proposal application alone that will communicate your commitment and passion to those assessing the submission. In many ways, the future of the project rests upon the quality of the written application. The larger and more complex your project is, the more detailed information you will need to provide to support your application. The following suggestions will assist you to maximise the quality of your written application and reduce the chances of not being considered due to oversights:

  • Follow application guidelines to the letter. Use the correct application form provided for the funding round and carefully consider the structure, sequence as you write your application. Read the questions and your answers and re-read them carefully so that nothing is overlooked.
  • Assume that your audience (the funding body) knows nothing about your organisation, your community, the program or the issues that have led to your submission. Write clearly so that the audience understands the context and details of your ideas.
  • Provide a context for the application. This may include information about the history of the idea, how it came alive in the community and how you consulted with the community to develop it. Show the reader how you moved from this point to the refined project concept.
  • Draft and redraft written material. In the first draft, take account of such things as accuracy, clarity, consistency, emphasis and style. Redrafting should not be seen as an inadequacy or personal failure but an important step in enabling successful outcomes. Write the first draft, and then revise it before giving it to colleagues for comment.
  • Seek colleagues' opinions. Be grateful for criticism. Colleagues can provide a great deal of help when you revise. Your choice of readers is very important. Some can assist with editorial matters, such as style, sentence construction and grammar. Others might be asked to read for clarity and the logical flow of ideas. Choose readers from a variety of backgrounds, including those who are familiar with your program and community, and those who are successful grant writers. It will be necessary to redraft the material after readers have provided comments.
  • Ensure you present a watertight budget. This is one of the most important parts of the application. Justify every budget item. Remember that what is obvious to you may not be obvious to your audience. Reviewers should not have to wonder why certain items have been included. You may need to justify why you need to pay personnel at a particular salary level, why travel costs are important, why particular equipment is needed and so on. If the program is being funded for a longer period, consider whether repairs, new equipment or new appointments will be needed. In particular, large projects with large budgets will need to show how all the money will be used and it is important that this information is clearly presented. When this has been completed, check and recheck the budget's accuracy.
  • Make sure that all requirements of the application guidelines have been met and that all sections of the application have been com pleted. Check on deadlines and ensure yo ur application meets these deadlines. Include all necessary signatures, as outlined in the application guidelines, and allow enough time for all necessary parties to receive, review and sign the application document.
  • Ensure that you have completed ALL pages of the application and included ALL the attachments.
  • Send the application to the correct address.

Checklist

Have you:

  • Gathered evidence for the need that is driving your project?
  • Demonstrated the evidence base for your project?
  • Demonstrated the strength of community support for your project?
  • Documented the specific benefits and/or outcomes for families and communities that you anticipate from your project, and how these will be measured?
  • Presented evidence-based information that supports the effectiveness of your proposed intervention?
  • Presented evidence that shows your project team is capable of successfully completing/ implementing the project within the given budget and time-frame?
  • Documented your plan for gathering data about your project's activities and outcomes?
  • Reviewed thoroughly the funding guidelines for your written application?
  • Received feedback about your written application from appropriate others and redrafted it accordingly?
  • Ensured that all sections of the application have been fully addressed?
  • Obtained all the necessary signatures required on the application?
  • Enclosed all pages?
  • Correctly addressed the envelope?

Reviewing opportunities 

After your funding application leaves your organisation, it is assessed using criteria outlined in the policy. The assessment process may involve Ministerial approval of the project receiving funding.

The final stage of the application process will be when you are notified about whether your application has been successful. Your group should have already considered alternative plans to move the project idea forward if the funding application is not successful or if the funding offer is a variation of your funding application.

Your group may find it useful to consider whether there is ongoing work that can be done during this assessment period.

A well-designed and implemented community-based project builds in factors that can contribute to the ongoing success of your community-building endeavour over time, maintaining engagement with 'community' and building connections amongst and between community members.

During this period you may review how existing capacity within the community can be build on and address any gaps in capacity to enable the project be effectively delivered. This may include:

  • Developing opportunities to bring together different sources of expertise. This may include lining up the right people with the required skills and background to work in the project and having a critical mass of staff orvolunteers to call upon if that is needed.
  • Activities to develop peoples capacity such as mentoring and training.
  • Nurturing and supporting community leaders and champions.
  • Building on existing relationships: participate in information sharing collaborative networks with other community organisations and link to relevant activities within the local area or broader region.
  • Introducing project management processes or preparing to set up financial system.
  • Reviewing the governance structures.
  • Reviewing the evidence about good practice informing your project.
  • Reviewing the availability of an appropriate place or space for the project to operate from. This may involve setting the project in an accessible and comfortable venue.
  • Reviewing how you will complete the project and what will happen next.

The processes outlined in Section 2 of engaging with, deepening an understanding of your 'community' and supporting meaningful participation do not stop with your initial planning and needs assessments. Rather, they are ongoing aspects of the work of co m m unity capacity building. ltis therefo re as necessary to plan fo rthese elements of community capacity building as it is to plan for the project implementation and evaluation. In formulating the project/, you will have undertaken an assessment of needs and fleshed out yo ur project idea. An assessment of the ongo ing engagement and involvement of community in the program is necessary. Be clear about how participation is supported currently within your group and where you would like it to go. Some questions to consider are:

  • How does your organisation engage your community?
  • How does participation happen within your group?
  • What are the structures and organisational commitments and culture in terms of supporting participation and community engagement?
  • Who are the current participants?
  • Who does not have a voice in your organisation or group?
  • How well are the diverse voices heard?
  • What are the current limiting factors to participation? (i.e. do community participants have power in decision making within your organisation or will it be token, given the current power structure?)
  • What is needed to build the community's trust in the project and its staff?
  • What is needed to maintain community engagement, participation and hearing the voices of participants?

This assessment process will give you an indication of where you may put your efforts in developing further opportunities for participation.

In terms of your pro ject idea, there will be structures and processes to support ongoing participation and engagement. Ideally these will reflect your local circumstances and further the realisation of the project/program idea. Think about what will be right for your situation and context. Some questions to think about are:

  • What structures will assist you to develop and maintain connections with your local community over the long run?
  • How will you support community participation as an integral component of the project?
  • How will your project achieve early success to garner support while also tackling the more complex issues that the project seeks to address?

There are many options for how these structures can operate, such as establishing community advisory committees, community-controlled management committees, reference gro ups or consultative co m m ittees. The im portance of building supportive physical spaces where people can join together also needs to be considered:

  • Will community people be welcome in your organisation?
  • Do you have spaces where they can come and be at ease?

There are Stronger Families and Communities Strategy projects that have been constructed largely around the role and contribution of volunteers, who contribute significantly as members of the reference group, as well as acting as mentors. Others have welcomed community input into the project's physical space, making it welcoming and connected to what local people want. In some cases, the local community members have named the space.

Other mechanisms include encouraging community input into ongoing project development through:

  • Feedback systems.
  • Having community representatives in your organisation's management structures.
  • Communication via newsletters.
  • Holding regular open forums or meetings.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. A useful resource to assist you to develop the community participation strategies appropriate for your context is the Guide to Consumer Participation in Health Toolkit. This comprehensive toolkit lists 43 strategies to facilitate community participation. These are linked to a planning and assessment process: http://ctb.lsi.ukans.edu/tools/CW5/coalitionbuilding/creating_coalitions...

Checklist

  • Plan for capacity building.
  • Plan for project implementation.
  • Undertake assessment in respect to participation.
  • Clearly identify participants.
  • Describe how participation is currently supported.
  • Describe factors limiting participation.
  • Plan how you will support participation in the future.
  • Plan how you will develop and maintain connections with the local community.
  • Constantly evaluate - clarify strategies you will use to do this.
  • Remember to stop -look back - notice what you have achieved.
  • Re-evaluate -learn from what has happened so far.
  • Re-plan for continued success.

Sustaining the work 

Being approved for and accepting funding allows your organisation to turn their ideas into reality. If you are ready to deliver a new project you will be thinking about everything that needs to be put in place to make the project a success.

Following notification that your application has been successful, your organisation will begin the project management relationship with the funding organisation.

Funding Agreement.

In the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy, funding agreements are used as mechanism for managing newly established and existing projects. Use the contents of this agreement to sustain the work in accordance with your obligations - follow your stated intentions and infrastructure, work within budget, and adhere to timeframes and legal agreements:

  • Ensure that you are familiar with the agreement and stick to its terms.

What is in the funding agreement?

A funding agreement between FaCS and yo urorganisation 0 utlines the responsibilities of both parties with respect to the project, and processes to be followed should the agreement need to be terminated or changed. The agreement will specify such things as:

  • The conduct of the project.
  • Funding.
  • Records, reports and auditing.
  • Intellectual property rights.
  • Indemnity.
  • Protection of personal information.
  • Termination procedures.

The specific details are extremely important. These include:

  • Contact details of both parties.
  • Commencement date.
  • Funding, and when and how funds will be paid.
  • A budget that includes how money will be spent on salary, office equipment or promotional material.
  • Agreed program principles.
  • Reports, including progress reports, financial reports, audited reports and monitoring activities.
  • Specification of project.
  • Plan for the project.
  • Outputs for the project, including dates on which these should occur.
  • Milestones, including dates when these are due.

Establish good relationships

Get to know your FaCS project manager

The successful management of contracts depends on good working relationships between staffin the funding body and the community agency. FaCS staff will expect to work cooperatively with you as the project develops.

One of the most important steps at the beginning of your project is getting to know your project manager's role and to build a good working relationship with them. Soon after hearing about your application's success, a FaCS staff member will contact you. This person is responsible for overseeing and managing the project, so it is important to build an effective working relationship with them on behalf of your organisation. Take time to do this. Good relationships do not happen overnight but evolve over time as you work together to achieve common goals.

Effective relationships are developed through trust, open communication and taking time to sort out mutually acceptable solutions. Good relationships flourish when both parties take time and make a commitment to manage the work.

Understand the FaCS project managers' responsibilities

The FaCS project manager is responsible for ensuring that the contract is delivered on time and in accordance with the specified standards. The FaCS project manager may have a range of delegated powers to vary contracts or provide additional resources. Soon after the first contact, it might be useful to ask about their responsibilities in relation to the funding agreement. They will expect you to:

  • Understand that you need to stick to the terms of the agreement.
  • Renegotiate the agreement if it is not possible to stick to the terms.
  • Discuss the reporting requirements, including agreement on what outputs will be reported.
  • Specify how outputs will be measured.
  • Establish a data collection system.
Practise clear and regular communication

Good relationships with government are developed through clear and regular communication. Here are some ways to ensure clear communication:

  • Be familiar with the requirements specified in the funding agreement.
  • Share information about your organisation.
  • Arrange an early face-to-face meeting with the project manager, project team and your committee and keep in regular contact.
  • Talk about your expectations and listen to FaCS expectations.
  • Ask questions and seek information if you are uncertain.
  • Maintain open communication - provide full and frank answers to questions.
  • Be clear about the purpose of any contact.
  • Provide timely identification of issues.
  • If appropriate, explore and discuss alternatives.
  • Generate and evaluate solutions.
  • State agreements clearly.
  • Take notes of your conversations, date and record.
Conform to reporting requirements

Early in the project, your FaCS project manager will want to discuss performance reporting and project evaluation requirements. This process is not as complicated as it sounds.

Your FaCS project manager is interested in both outputs and outcomes. Outputs are the products or services that are produced and delivered by a project. Outcomes are the consequences, benefits or changes that result from a person's participation in the program. Outcomes can be delayed or long term and they may be intended or unanticipated. Funding agreements require that that outputs and outcomes be demonstrated. Some of the performance indicators may be set because they apply across all the projects being funded.

Steps in performance reporting include:

  1. Think about the project's aims that you identified in the funding application, then translate these into the achievements or outcomes for families and communities that you are expecting, and the activities or outputs that your project will do or develop to achieve them. The following example taken from a Strategy project illustrates the connection between program objectives (aims), outputs and outcomes. Two objectives of the Gilles Plain Garden project were:

    To create a practical reconciliation project where local Indigenous and nonIndigenous people can work together.

    To create a beautiful and productive community garden that acts as a focus for cultural and educational activities - a place for people to meet, rest, reflect and play.

    If these are the project objectives, the outputs might include:

    • The number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people working together.
    • The number of people visiting the garden.
    • The number of different activities in the garden.

    Two outcomes that correspond to these objectives are:

    The community participates in local cultural, Indigenous, educational, artistic, environmental and recreational activities in the community garden.

    Through working together in the co m m unity garden, there are greater levels of trust, awareness and understanding between community members.

  2. Demonstrate that outputs have been achieved

    Your FaCS project manager needs to know whether the designated outputs have been achieved. They will want to discuss reporting requirements with you and how you will be able to demonstrate that you have achieved what you intended. As you are the expert in the project, it is importantto give some consideration to the way this is done.

    Use the above example to think about reporting requirements. You might demonstrate achievement of outputs through:

    • Use of before and after photographs.
    • Listening to participants' views of how they have used the services.
    • A count of people using the garden on a particular day.
    • Overall attendance audits.
    • Documentation of observations over time.
    • Documentation of attendance at meetings.
    • Schedule of the range of activities occurring in the garden.
    • Documentation of the different groups involved in the garden including planning, working bees and events.

    Work with your FaCS project manager to identify your performance indicators and develop your own ways to measure these to help you know how well your project is going. Your project may be required to participate in a broader Program evaluation. Large projects may also be req uired to undertake com prehensive project evaluations and these may contribute to developing the evidence base around what we know about improving family and community outcomes.

    Rather than evaluation happening at the end of the project, weaving it into the ongoing life of the project allows you to learn as you go along and use these lessons to inform your action. Evaluation can often be viewed as complicated because of the assumption that a credible evaluation has to be a certain way and look a certain way. It is not necessarily so, but to be credible you do need to have been thoughtful about how you will undertake the evaluation.

    Getting the mechanisms in place to evaluate your project in ways that fit your situation means that you need to be clear about the following:

    • How can community members, participants and workers be involved in setting up the evaluation?
    • On what basis will you know what has worked or been effective?
    • Who makes sense of what has happened?
    • How do you reconcile different perspectives about what has happened and why it has happened?
    • How can you capture what has happened and what it has meant?
    • How will you ensure that the evaluation is respectful of cultural processes and meanings?

    There are many formal evaluation techniques that you can employ (surveys, focus groups, interviews). Methods that are ideal for evaluating community development activities include story telling, and keeping photo journals and pictorial records of what has happened. Plan the best ways to evaluate your project around ingraining within the project a culture of learning from what you do to 'improve' as well as 'prove'.

    There is an abundance of material about evaluation that can assist you in these processes, for example:

    The Stronger Families Learning Exchange website

    The SA Community Health Research Unit Planning and Evaluation Wizard on the web is an interactive planning tool from which you can develop an evaluation plan. It is linked to evaluation and planning material.

  3. Demonstrate outcomes

    There are many tools you can use to gather data to demonstrate outcomes (e.g. community participation in community activities, and greater levels of trust, awareness and understanding between community members. These tools include:

    • Surveys.
    • Individual and group interviews.
    • Client perceptions of services.
    • Community perceptions.
    • Focus groups.
    • Telephone interviews.
    • Questionnaires with open and closed questions.
    • Case studies.
    • Feedback sheets at the end of sessions.
    • Exit interviews.
    • Collection of documented external feedback (e.g. local media).
    • Social indicators (e.g. school attendance, employment, number of job vacancies reported, visits to health services).

    All of these methods can be used to gather information about, and describe the perceived benefits of the project. It is important that you set up a reliable data collection system to enable you to report effectively.

Set up a reliable data collection system

Data collection involves gathering information from a variety of sources, sorting the data into various categories and storing the information in a secure location so that it can be retrieved at a later date. After the data is collected it will need interpretation and analysis.

In letting your FaCS project manager know about how your project is going, you will have collected information from a wide variety of sources (as listed above). It is important to retain all original data so that you can go back to these sources at any time and retrieve the relevant information. Make sure that you clearly identify the date on which the information was collected, as this may be needed to demonstrate achievement of outputs and describe outcomes.

Data will come from a variety of sources. Some will be numeric. Some will be based on verbal and written reports, as well as observations and photographs. Whatever the source, it will require analysis, in other words, making sense of the collected information. This may include asking questions like:

  • What are the stories or themes emerging from the data?
  • What are the main comments made by participants?
  • Did participants' actions or words change under different conditions, and did different people act differently?
  • What did you hear and notice?

On completion, compare what you have found with what you expected when you established the project and report this to your project manager.

Weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of data collection tools

The use of computers for data collection and analysis can bring some administrative efficiencies. Com puters and associated software programs are useful too Is fo r storing and analysing numeric and qualitative information. It is important to remember, however, that many people do not have the skills or confidence to undertake these tasks. Whatever tools are used for data analysis have strengths and weaknesses. It is im portant that the people undertaking the collection and analysis feel co mfo rtable with the tools they are using.

Understand what sort of information should be kept

Deciding what sort of information should be kept is very difficult, but the following approach is suggested:

  • It is necessary to retain all original data collected. This includes raw material from interviews, questionnaires, feedback sheets, case studies, attendance records and so on.
  • Store the analysis and interpretation of this information, and keep a record on file of the way you went about analyzing the data.
  • Retain any memos or reflections on the data collected, as these may be interesting to the community or to your project manager. Make sure that you have an index so that the data is easily accessible.

All information collected should be kept secure to protect people's privacy. This is a mandatory requirement of the Privacy Act 1988.

Understand negotiation

Negotiation is an important skill for project managers and your project group. Some aspects of projects may need to be renegotiated. This process can be cooperative or adversarial, although cooperation is an important starting point. In negotiating successfully, it is essential to:

  • Prepare for the meeting by reading and collecting relevant information and understanding your position on the issue.
  • Consider the best time and place for such a meeting.
  • Be clear about who will be attending and why.
  • Check to see if there are any conventions about the negotiating process.
  • Collaboratively decide on the agenda and the order of issues.
  • Keep the agenda as concrete as possible.

In the actual negotiation process:

  • State your position on the issue clearly and the reasons for this position.
  • State this position before you propose a solution.
  • If disagreements arise, focus on the issues rather than the individuals involved.
  • Be flexible and consider all offers.
  • Focus on maintaining effective working relationships, as you will need to continue working together after the negotiations are complete.
  • Recognise a satisfactory result.

Make sure that the organisation can sustain the work

Sustaining a funded project depends on good management, complemented by good governance. Donovan and Jackson (1991) regard management as a process that involves planning, organising, staffing, leading and controlling. Tasks associated with these processes include:

  • Budgeting.
  • Program planning.
  • Managing staff and volunteers.
  • Communication within your organisation and across your community.
Know how to budget

The budget needs to be realistic, accurate and contro lled. Everyone in the 0 rganisation needs to understand the budget. You need to allow for:

  • Staff - salary for project orficer, clerical staff, research staff, publicity/PR/media liaison and any other paid staff required. Rememberto cost these salaries against the different pay rates and also the time frame for the project. Remember to allow fo r the writing up phase atthe end - this is often forgotten!
  • On costs - such as superannuation, sick leave, and recreation leave which may need to be built into staff costs.
  • Volunteers - recruitment and training expenses. Also rewards for volunteers to show appreciation (e.g. volunteers' dinner, movie night etc.).
  • Office - rental, furniture, fittings, computers (desktop and lap top if needed), phones (mobile and fixed), faxes and any necessary alterations to the space, postage, phone bills, other accounts (e.g. electricity, gas, water ifnot included in rent), printing, stationery, etc.
  • Fieldwork - travel, accommodation, hospitality, research (e.g. journals, newspapers etc.).
  • Insurance.
  • Publicity and promotion materials (media packs, videos, posters, fliers, newsletters, tapes, CDs).
  • Report production - layout, design, proofing, printing, binding, advertising, marketing, distribution.
  • Sundries -small petty cash allowance for minor necessities (include in this small amount for celebration when project is completed).
  • Unexpected events budget - ensure you allow for unexpected occurrences, e.g. computer repairs, car repairs/accidents, illnesses etc - anything that costs money or has the possibility of putting the project behind time, resulting in the necessity to employ more staff or purchase more/new equipment.
Understand planning

Planning the details of the delivery of the project becomes an important activity once funding is secured. Once the project has developed, different strategies are needed to keep it on track.

Some of the activities suggested here may have been completed already as part of your application for funding but they are worth reconsidering at the formal planning stages. A project will have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • A clear rationale.
  • Understanding and identification of what the community needs.
  • A statement of the projects overall aims and goals.
  • Statement of objectives.
  • Statement of outcomes to be achieved and how these will be measured.
  • A clearly stated design and a process by which the objectives will be achieved.
  • A target population.
  • Resources needed to meet goals, objectives and activities.
  • How the project will be implemented.
  • Specification of the way the project's aims and outcomes will be measured.
  • Means by which the project will be evaluated.
  • Congruence between these factors and governance.

Involve the board, and potential clients and project participants in the planning process. You might develop some fantastic ideas, but if they are not acceptable to the project participants, community or clients, your planning has been wasted.

The organisation board is important. Board members are experts in governance and have close community connections. The Board not only sets the organisation's strategic direction, it is also important in authorising and guiding the strategic direction of new programs.

Involve project participants, clients and com m unity at all stages of program plann ing, especially when the ideas are considered initially. It is imperative to involve project participants, clients and community by:

  • Discussing their ideas about unmet needs.
  • Asking them to participate in the planning process.
  • Getting their views on the draft document.

The key thing to remember is that you may not develop the perfect project at the planning stage. A successful project plan means invo Iving the right peo pie and using their experiences to develop a plan that reflects the goals of both the organisation and the funding body.

Once you have developed the project, it will need to be kept on track. The following tips have been identified from the experiences of Strategy-funded projects:

  1. Focus on the target group and outcomes

    It is important to always keep in mind the individuals, families or community groups who are the focus of the project and the changes or outcomes that you are helping them achieve. Identifying the issue that the community wishes to address or an opportunity that the community can grasp can provide a practical focus for the project.

  2. Be flexible

    Although you might have developed a 'perfect' project at the planning stage, workers later become aware of unanticipated interests and requests that need to be included in the planning process. As an example, the 'Carlton Youth Project' made a number of project adjustments in response to community feedback as the project developed. The project generally saw itself as wanting to be flexible in response to identified needs and maintaining a flexible structure. Part of its philosophy was to celebrate what is good and let go of what is painful. During the course of the project, various types of feedback were received and given a response. Some parents were concerned about their daughters attending the project meetings, either for cultural reasons or because of worries about safety. The project adapted its approach to the meetings and worked along with members of the Muslim community to address these concerns. The project increased its interaction with com m unity leaders to assist in respondingto com m unity feed back. Practical adjustments were made to the project as it progressed, with changes to times, length, how participants were recruited and safety considerations'.

  3. Use feedback from consumers and clients to continuously improve the quality of the service

    Client and service provider feedback about the work and the project is useful for evaluating a project's progress. Feedback from clients can be obtained in many ways. Information can be sought about an agency, part of a service, or a worker or team. This information may be highly structured, using rating scales, or more qualitative, using open-ended questionnaires. All of this information can be used to finely tune the service delivery. Redland Community Centre is an example of a SFCS project that used feedback effectively to constantly refine the project's quality. Ongoing feedback was sought from participants through a range of mediums, including: feedback sheets at the completion of each Toddler Tactics session; exit questionnaires at the end of this course and invitations to be part of the listening circles; phone contacts; and email contacts.

    This feedback was used to alter both the content and format of the project activities, and make changes to the project's management and systems', for example 'feedback gained about the evaluation/feedback formats resulted in them being streamlined and additional methods developed such as a phone questionnaire for parents who did not complete the course, and email contacts.'

  4. Coordinate with other programs in your community

    The success of community programs depends on the extent to which the project is linked to, and coordinated with other projects. The Connecting Families Project in Wagga Wagga provides an excellent example of this. 'Wagga Wagga staff hold regular meetings with another FaCS funded project at Ashmont to share project learnings. Working parties have been established with the Families First initiative to ensure the implementation and sustainability of the Connecting Families Project and the Families First development'. 'This overarching partnership framework provides the template for the development of Summer in the Parks, which uses popular culture and free neighbourhood-based activities to bring neighbourhoods together in a shared cultural and recreational experience'.

  5. Manage staff and volunteers

    Receiving new funding often means recruiting, selecting, training and supervising new staff. One of the firsttasks will be thinking about h iring new staff and making sure that you get the right people. Start by drafting a job description. Consider:

    • Title of job.
    • Salary range.
    • Purpose of job.
    • Organisational context, including reporting requirements.
    • Key responsibilities in the position.
    • Working relationships with other people in the organisation.
    • Criteria used for selection, especially the essential and non-essential criteria
    • Closing date.

    It may be necessary to give your Board of Management a copy of the jo b description and seek their authorisation before proceeding.

    Advertising the position can be done in a variety of ways:

    • Local and state newspapers are an obvious place to start.
    • Consider placing the notification of vacancy on your web site.
    • Specialist recruiting agencies can also be used.
    • Post information to professional associations and/or community organisations.

    Once the closing date has been reached, you will need to:

    • Screen all applications.
    • Draw up a short list.
    • Check with referees, and begin the process of interviewing and offering the job.
    • A police check may be necessary, depending on the service or program provided by your agency. Funded projects must not engage any person to work with children/ young people without first conducting a police check of that person's criminal record. A police check is a formal inquiry or inquiries made to all relevant authorities which is or are designed to obtain details of a persons criminal convictions in each State and Territory of Australia and in all know non-Australian jurisdictions where the person is known to have resided. Funded projects must not engage any person to work on or in relation to any part of the Project who has a serious criminal record without the prior written perm ission of the Departmental Officer.

    Just before your new staff member commences work, plan fortheir orientation to the project. Consider the following matters:

    • Meet with them on their first day.
    • Introduce them to other staff and perhaps take them to lunch.
    • Show them around the organisation and facilities.
    • Review internal policies and procedures, including occupational health and safety procedures.Ensure that other staff are available to answer any questions.
    • Establish any training requirements to enable them to do the job effectively.
    • Provide them with a list of key people to contact in the community.
  6. Volunteers

    Sometimes the level of project funding means it is necessary to recruit and train volunteers. This process is very similar to the process for paid staff, although it is less formal. It is often done by word of mouth by identifying the source of volunteers, then making individual approaches. A formal application, screening and interview are also appropriate. Volunteers, like paid staff, will need:

    • A clear description of the work, reporting requirements and any specific tasks they are required to undertake.
    • Orientation to the agency and provision of additional training.

    Organisations go to a great deal of effort to recruit volunteers, but retaining and rewarding them are also important management tasks. Consider:

    • Implementing a program for management, training and supervision of volunteers.
    • Supporting volunteers through supervision.
    • Involving volunteers in decision-making.
    • Ways to evaluate their performance.
    • Ways to reward and recognise their contributions.
  7. Ongoing Financial Viability

    When you are applying for short-term funding you will need to be thinking early on and prepare for what will happen when the funding is over. Ongoing financial viability is about whether the actual operation of the project or the next stage might continue with either similar or different activities, target groups and locations, and also whether the project outcomes can have a longer-term impact beyond the funded period.

    Ongoing pro ject funding can be an im po rtant part of sustainability. No matter how worthy the cause, and how successful the project is, funds don't automatically come to the organisation. While fundraising and seeking assistance from various corporations are major activities for ongoing financial sustainability, it demands a strategic approach.

    Consider the following strategies identified by some Strategy projects:

    • Always ask for enough money when seeking funding - remember to include running costs in your budget.
    • Maintain the engagement and support for the project across a range of community stakeholder.
    • Start planning for evaluation of the project at the very beginning, as there is difficulty accessing appropriate evaluation means for community development projects that allow for the capture of the changes that are occurring over time.
    • Plan for management of legal responsibilities from the outset - be aware of the expense involved, finding the right people, and all of the legal responsibilities that may affect the project, e.g. public liability, event risk management issues, etc.
    • Take into account where your project is located geographically. This will affect the amount of funding required, e.g. projects in remote locations may need to rely heavily on vehicles to carry out their work effectively. Lack of funds for vehicle replacement/upkeep can be a pitfall.

    Consider the following tips for effective fundraising:

    • Develop a fundraising strategy or revisit the existing strategy for your organisation.
    • Appoint a specialist staff member who can take responsibility for fund raising (this could be a part-time or voluntary position) or consider hiring a consultant to advise on these issues.
    • Update your mission statements so that all staff and board have a clear idea of what you do. In this way every person in the organisation is turned into a fundraiser.
    • Assess the world outside your organisation. Determine what stakeholders think of your organisation and why it is worth supporting. This information can be passed on to potential funders.
    • Assess the world inside your agency, including the strengths and weaknesses. Give consideration to how weaknesses can be transformed into strengths. Most Board members are connected to their community. How can you use these connections to raise funds?
    • Review your programs so that you know which ones are working well and are clearly identifiable with the organisation. Make sure that you have evidence of how these programs have changed the lives of individuals and the community (use the outcomes measures, before and after stories, photographs, feedback and communityviews)
    • Make your organisation more visible in the community. Ensure that you have some early achievements that can provide a platform for communicating about the project. This visibility is a key ingredient in raising funds (use the media, have human interest stories, be available for comment).
    • Develop material about the organisation and project - videos, brochures, annual reports, an interesting website, press releases, newsletter
    • Start raising funds. Begin by estimating the percentage of your budget that comes from a variety of sources and evaluating the pros and cons of different types of fund raising.

The full Society for Nonprofit Organisations' fundraising guide can be viewed at: Society for Non Profits.

You should speak to your FaCS project manager about how to make yo ur project mo re visible, promotional opportunities and the specific requirements that are included in your funding agreement, including how you should acknowledge the funding source and use the logo.

Strategy funded project Broken Hill Community Inc. (BHCI) is a good example of how to seekto achieve financial sustainability.lts continuation depends on diversification of funding. It has obtained grant funding from several different sources such as FaCS, other Commonwealth and State departments, and local government. Other funding sources include:

  • service groups (e.g. Rotary);
  • local businesses;
  • income from leasing space to other organisations (e.g. DECS);
  • fund raising events;
  • income generation (e.g. sale of produce from community garden);
  • in-kind donations, which have been considerable (including substantial volunteer hours).

BHCI has also worked to achieve 'structural/organisational sustainability' by establishing Sustainability Reference Group. This is a separate incorporated body, which provides it with the independence and freedom to determine its own future. Incorporation includes a membership structure - all members of groups who use the BHCI facility are required to become members of BHCI (fee is only $2.20). This strengthens the organisation's membership base, as well as assisting with issues such as insurance coverage for those using the building.

'Strategic sustainability' is also an aim of BHCI, which has been strengthening its position in the community, thus helping to ensure the community's investment in its continuation. It has developed a rich network of links with other community organisations, from grass roots groups through to local businesses, all levels of government and local media. The Centre has developed an increasing visibility and presence in the community, and is now sought as a venue and a resource. Strategically, BHCI also has developed a long-term plan that helps map out a way for the Centre to continue.

Raising a public profile: working with the media

Speak to your FaCS Project Officer whenever you plan to raise a public profile or work with the media.

Raising a public profile means letting everyone know that you exist and that you are the best thing to happen to the community in a long time! Make sure that your project has 'runs on the board' including early successes that will provide a practical focus to foster a sense of confidence and community pride in the project. Selling the achievements and benefits of your project for the community will be much easier if you have the media onside.

Planned events and activities to raise the project profile will be built into the project budget. The budget you have needs to be realistic, especially if you are funded for a short-term project. You should speak to your FaCS project manager about your plans, how you should acknowledge the funding source and whether it would be a good idea to involve officials from the funding source in special events and activities.

While cultivating the media's ability to advance your cause, always respect their right to perform their function. By the sheer weight of argument and factual information, the media can often be persuaded to air or support a cause. The possibility of a project or event that can provide substantial community benefit or the need to counter an activity that harms the community is often sufficient to ensure the local media comes 'on side'. (http://www.communities.wa.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx)

It pays to have a pre-launch local public profiie before contacting the media so that they may be aware of you when you approach them. This profile can be created by making the project visible via simple steps such as putting posters announcing the project's launch date and place in shopping centres, schools, hotels, cafes, sports clubs, libraries, banks, local council chambers, community centres, churches, bus and train stations, on cars and any other places where they are visible to large numbers of people. It is also a good idea to have professional looking 'business' cards printed and distributed as widely as possible. Having begun to create a profile, you are now ready to work with the media to enhance this and get the message out to the public in general, not just the local community.

Working with the media is very time consuming and can be expensive, therefore it is a good idea to think about cost-effective options or whether you need to appoint someone as a media/publicity officer (may be a voluntary or part-time position) to work in consultation with the organising committee to:

  • Post information on the organisation's website and keep this up-to-date.
  • Research which media outlets would be the best place to begin publicising the project - target audiences who are most likely to take an interest in, and support the project.
  • Seek out the most appropriate media contacts for different media types (print, radio, television, www).
  • Start with local media (e.g. local papers, newsletters, community radio stations, local television programs, community information websites) and gradually broaden the scope (e.g. state and national papers, magazines, radio, television and associations whose focus is specific to the project). Local media publicity is cost effective (often free, e.g. via community noticeboard segments and radio interviews, or photos and stories in local papers) and targets the population in the project's immediate vicinity. Wider media outlets often pick up on stories fromlocal media - this means they might come to you, or will know who you are and what you are talking about when you contact them
  • Create 'media packs'. These could consist of a calico shopping bag with the project's logo, motto and contact details, containing novelty items also with the project's logo and contact details (e.g. key rings, pens, mouse mats), posters and information leaflets detailing the project's major aims and why the project is important etc.
  • Invite all media, in particular television, to the project launch and all other events - show them around, make sure they have plenty to eat and drink - in general treat them like VIPs!
  • Ensure all media receive a media pack.
  • Speak with the media contacts to find out the format in which they prefer to receive information (e.g. photos, newsletters, fliers, media releases via face-toface delivery, fax, email, web pages etc.) and how much information they require (i.e. how much space or time they are willing to give to promoting your project). Ensure you inform them of your website if you have one-they may go there for more information
  • Prepare and send media releases in acco rdance with media-specific req uirements: keep information short, sharp and simple - who, what, where, when, why and how.
  • Ring all media outlets to inform them well ahead of time of fundraising events etc., and then send the information.
  • Always attend interviews arranged with media contacts, and be available at all times for phone interviews (budget for the media officer's mobile phone, use of a car and printing costs in your funding application or organise these as in-kind project sponsorship with a phone supplier and printer)
  • After faxing or emailing information, always ring the person to make sure they have received it.
  • Always deal personally with the contact, never just send information to 'education', or 'sport', or 'community news' or 'info@ .. .'etc.
  • Focus on the 'unusual' - what is different about your project? What has happened that is a bit odd? Media love the 'different' (e.g. unusual fund raising events).
  • Invite media personalities to MC or participate in fund raising events with other high profile guests (e.g. politicians) - you may be surprised how willing they are if the event fits in with their schedule - and make sure you take photos or video footage.
  • Constantly send short media updates about project news or events, and keep in touch personally with your media contacts - never give up if much of the publicity generated never goes to press or is never aired on radio or television.
  • Link with other organisations in the community to gain more media clout.

One Strategy projectthat has used the media to enhance its profile is the Collingwood Community Information and Drop-in Centre Project. This project worked from the beginning to develop a profile in its target community - the housing estate. Notices describing the initiation of the Project and soliciting participants were distributed around the estate to generate interest and awareness. They have sustained their profile development by:

  • having information booths and stalls at community festivals;
  • encouraging word of mouth;
  • using community radio to cover events;
  • getting media coverage in the local paper, the estate newsletter, the local government newsletter;
  • having high-profiie graduations for volunteers who complete their certificate training, with up to 60 service providers coming as guests at a well-known venue (the Collingwood Football Club), with a high-profiie person (e.g. the Mayor) presenting the certificates;
  • celebrating the first anniversary of the Centre by having a play written and performed about a 'day in the life' of the Centre;
  • maintaining a high level of accessibility for the community, e.g. keeping open during holiday periods.

The effort that has been put into pro file development has reaped noticeable benefits in:

  • greater recognition in the community;
  • increased attendance at functions and use of programs;
  • growing credibility;
  • expansion of partnership networks;
  • more possibilities of attracting funding and support;
  • greater investment by others to keep the project going;
  • a multiplier effect whereby one level of public interest can lead to a higher level.

Checklist

  • Make sure you understand the contents and terms of the funding agreement.
  • Establish good relationships with the funding body:
    • Get to know your key FaCS project manager.
    • Understand the FaCS project manager's responsibilities.
    • Understand your responsibilities.
  • Practise clear and regular communication.
  • Conform with reporting requirements.
  • Use reliable data collection and analysis tools.
  • Weigh up strengths and weaknesses.
  • Understand what sort of information should be kept.
  • Understand negotiation processes.
  • Make sure the organisation can sustain the work.
  • Know how to budget.
  • Understand program planning.
  • Focus on the target group and outcomes.
  • Be flexible.
  • Use feedback to continuously improve quality.
  • Coordinate with other programs in your community.
  • Know how to manage paid staff and volunteers.
  • Understand how to make the project financially sustainable.
  • Raise a public profile -learn how to work with the media.

Resources 

Section 2 Coming together and working together

Section 3 Having what it takes

  • Wadsworth, Y. (1984) Do it yourself social research. Victorian Council of Social Service Melbourne Family Care Organisation/Allen & Unwin, Vic.
  • Donovan, F. & Jackson, A. (1991) Managing Human Service Organisations. Prentice Hall, New Jersey.
  • Community-wise WA

Section 4 Making your case

  • SFCS website
  • SFSC resourcesExternal Site
  • Categories of need
    Bradshaw, S. (1972) The concept of social need, New Society, 20: 641-643.
  • Evidence-based literature resources
  • Journals
    • Archives of General Psychiatry
    • Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention
    • Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
    • Research on Social Work Practice
    • Evidence-based Mental Health
  • Audits/inventories/asset mapping

Section 5 Doing the work

Section 6 Sustaining the work

  • Draft contract
  • Fundraising
  • Working with the media
  • Wadsworth, Y. (1984) Do it yourself social research. Victorian Council of Social Service Melbourne Family Care Organisation/Allen & Unwin, Vic.

Appendix

Stronger Families and Communities Strategy community-based projects referred to in this toolkit

South Australia

  • Children and Families Everywhere - Enfield (CAFE'), Enfield Primary School
  • National Arts and Museums Regional Volunteer Skills Project, Regional Arts Australia, Port Adelaide
  • Family Worker in Hacham West Community Centre, Hackham West Community Centre

Victoria

  • African Community Youth Partnership Program, Carlton Parkville, Inner City Neighbourhood Youth Services
  • Community Information Centre, Collingwood, Jesuit Social Services
  • SportConnect - A Leadership Program for Young Australians, Sport Connect Australia Pty, Ltd
  • Development and Implementation of Parenting Supports for Parents with a Disability, Carlton South, Victorian Parenting Centre

Queensland

  • The Strengthening Families Project, Capalaba, Redland Community Centre Inc.
  • Youth Information, Referral and Outreach Services, Mackay, Youth Information, Referral and Outreach Services Inc
  • No Dole Project at Rockhampton State High School 2001-2002, Rockhampton State High School Parents' and Citizens' Association

New South Wales

  • Broken Hill Community Mentoring, Broken Hill Community Incorporated
  • Broken Hill Community Centre Renovations Project, Broken Hill Community Incorporated
  • Connecting Families Wagga Wagga Project, Wagga Wagga City Council
  • NEWPIN Fathers' Program - Blacktown, Uniting Care Burnside

Tasmania

  • Enormity Inc, Ulverstone, Enormity Inc
  • Footprints to the Future, Launceston, Family Resource Centre
  • Parents and Kids Together, North Hobart, Colony 47

Western Australia

  • Supporting Children and families where a parent has a mental illness, Daughters of Charity Services WA Ltd- Ruah Inreach
  • Parenting Support Service for teenage mums who use Balga Senior High School Childcare Service, Balga Senior High School Child Care Centre

Northern Territory

  • Bush Mob, Alice Springs, Drug and Alcohol Services Association Alice Springs Inc

ACT

  • Caring Across Communities, Canberra, Carers ACT Inc
Content Updated: 17 June 2013