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Funding multicultural groups

Applying for grants can be a challenging and frustrating process for any community group, but for Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, the degree of difficulty is compounded. Overseas research has shown that CALD community groups are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to accessing grants funding. With a bit of consideration, though, you can make your grants program more open and equitable for everyone.

What are the issues?

Culture

Aside from the very obvious and isolating language barrier, newer arrivals to Australia don't know yet where they can access funding and support. Established communities that have been here for a long time know where to access information and understand how the system works. New arrivals don't have the contacts to introduce them to the people who might provide funding. Experiences of racism and social exclusion can also make it harder to access grants.

In some instances, asking for money goes against cultural customs. It's very difficult for someone to explain why they deserve the money when it has been difficult for them to ask for it in the first place.

It can also be difficult to explain in English - when it is not your first language - the benefits of a project.

Assumptions

Various (often incorrect) assumptions can make it harder for people from CALD communities to access grants funding:

  • That funding a community group from a larger, well-established cultural group is less risky than supporting new and emerging communities.
  • That multiculturalism is about arts and festivals. It is also about social justice, equality, inclusiveness and cohesiveness.
  • That a project is more valuable if it provides wider social benefits. For a small, culturally specific group, the funding is often needed just for the individual group.
  • That new or small groups don't know what they are doing and won't be able to administer funds. In fact these groups can provide very good outcomes for their local community and have the potential to develop further in future.
  • That groups from CALD communities can only apply for grants earmarked for multicultural initiatives (this assumption is made by the groups themselves, rather than grantmakers).

What can we do to make it easier?

  • Regularly review which groups receive funding and how their access, funding and approval rates compare to those of the mainstream sector.
  • Publish information about who gets what funding.
  • Take a flexible approach to those experiencing "organisational difficulties".
  • Recognise that faith-based organisations provide important community services, aside from promoting religion, and don't rule them out for funding.
  • Strive to have people from CALD communities represented on your boards and committees.
  • Provide assistance for writing grant applications.
  • If you expect a number of your grant applications to come from CALD groups, consider running "how to write a grant application" workshops.
  • For the groups to which you award grants, consider running workshops on project identification and planning; budgeting and financial management; what makes an effective management committee; and sustainability and fundraising.
  • Provide grants to support fundraising and sponsorship capacity building.
  • Run workshops or information sessions to help groups identify areas of need and assist them with funding applications.
  • Provide applicants with a telephone number to call with questions during the application period.
  • Note in all grant advertising that CALD community groups have an equal chance of securing funds.
  • Don't rely on culturally specific media outlets to get the message about your grants out there; few outlets serve the newest arrivals.
  • Establish relationships with multicultural peak groups.
  • Keep application forms concise and jargon-free.
  • Enlist some help to design a plain-English form if necessary.
  • Provide constructive suggestions in rejection letters.
  • Use interpreters to help deliver funding advice.
  • Consider accepting applications in languages other than English.
  • Right-size your grants: don't request an audit, for example, when you are only giving a small grant - you will cost the community group more than you save them.
  • Have flexible criteria.
  • Try to recruit staff members who have an understanding of different cultures and different cultural needs.
  • Encourage groups to develop and maintain partnerships.

For more advice, see the helpsheet Capacity Building.

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