Funding opportunities for organisations
Help and support in completing applications
- Always read the notes and application form first to see if your project is eligible. It is disappointing to waste your energy on something that will be rejected.
- Look at the closing date (if there is one) and estimated time the funder will take to assess your application. Does this fit within your time scale?
- Ask yourself if you are the best organisation to deliver this project? Is there a local rival organisation doing anything similar, or about to apply to the same funder for a similar project? Try to find out what is being proposed locally.
- Are you part of a larger organisation? Sometimes other people within your own organisation are planning their own projects that can impact on or compete with yours.
- Sometimes you can find out how competitive certain funds are. Government funding, for instance from the Home Office, is very competitive and is often heavily oversubscribed. Think whether it is worth the effort if the chances of success will be very slim.
- Do you need to find a proportion of your costs – match funding – as part of the funder’s conditions of grant? If so how much do you need? Can some or all of this be ‘in kind’? Do you have it available?
- Some funders will only consider applications from a certain type of organisation such as a registered charity. If you are not an eligible organisation (sometimes worth checking directly with the funder) then it is not worth putting pen to paper.
- If you are in the fortunate position to have a number of funders you can apply
to, it is worth prioritising in terms of:
- Ease of application
- Time scale
- Your chances of getting the funding
- If you have any doubts about whether to apply, it is worth contacting the funder to briefly discuss your project. Some very small trusts and charities do not welcome such enquiries as being far too time-consuming, but most do as it saves their time as much as yours if your application would not be suitable.
- Increasingly, funders expect you to have evidence of need or interest in your project. If you do not have this information to hand, work out how you will produce it and how long it will take. You may also need to work with one or more partner organisations. Make sure they are signed up (sometimes literally) to what you want to do. Both issues may affect your decision whether to apply or not.
- You may need a referee or an independent person to sign your application form and be willing to take questions or write a report on your project. Make sure you have an appropriate person who is willing to be involved. Tell them what might be expected of them.
Once you have checked for eligibility, then make a start on the application form. Check whether there are any basic items of information that need to be gathered or developed. Sometimes you will need to send additional information about your organisation or project.
Funders might have a checklist to the rear of the application form. If so make sure that all items on the checklist are available or can be got together or developed in time.
Scoping your project
Many funders are looking for something a bit different from the usual applications. They are used to seeing many applications and the familiar will not stand out to them or be as attractive as a cutting-edge project that will enable them to share in the glory and higher profile should it succeed. Of course, on the other hand, they will often reject applications that are too different or risky.
Your project may not have the potential to be completely cutting-edge, but do consider how you can make it slightly different so it will stand out against the other applications the funder is reading through.
If you are going to work with partner organisations, discuss with them what you propose to do. They may have additional ideas about how the project would work.
Describing your project
Make sure you describe the project clearly and succinctly. Go through the application form and find out what the funder requires in detail. Some like short and sharp responses (to the point of limiting the number of words you can write in the dialogue boxes), others are happy for you to provide longer answers. The short and sharp response is often more difficult to compose than the other extreme.
Some application forms are electronic. Of these many are very user-friendly, however beware of the ones that are not, as you can be writing the application, then realise you cannot save your work as a draft. If in doubt, do a test question first and see if it saves your text.
Make sure that the funder can understand why and what you want the money for. Try to be concise and clear.
An annoying aspect of many application forms is the ‘duplicate question’ where it seems you are asked the same thing more than once. Make sure you know which bit of text should go where within the application form by reading all the questions before you answer and drafting your responses.
Most projects delivering services to people and/or local communities will require you to prove a need for them. You may need to do some additional research in this respect. This may involve quoting census information and other demographic information often held by your local Council.
An increasing number of funders require you to be specific about the outcomes of your project. Outcomes are changes and results, hopefully long term, created by the project. They can need a bit of thought as you may be monitored on your project's outcomes.
If you are asked to give monitoring targets make sure they relate to your outcomes where possible. Don't be too ambitious on what you feel you can achieve. On the other hand make sure you do have some reasonable outcomes as your application may be marked down otherwise.
What will happen when the funding ends? Do you pack up and have a well-earned rest, or do you need to consider what you will need to do to raise additional funds if the project is to continue?
Most funders will not give a long-term commitment, some will only give a one-off payment for a number of years – sometimes for one year or even less. However, some funders will still require you to be specific about what you will do to make the project sustainable after their funding ends. Projects that have a defined end are actually quite rare, as any project often raises expectations and often creates an ongoing demand or need for the work you have undertaken.
Make sure that your budget is realistic. Sometimes applicants try to cut down costs as they think it makes a project appear more attractive to funders. However this can result in a project not achieving what it sets out to do. The other extreme is the application with overly generous salaries and large budgets, which results in being poor value for money.
Items you may need to consider for your budget include:
- Staff: unless they are working on a contract or consultant basis you need to include Employers National Insurance and whether to pay a pension contribution. Be careful as the Customs and Revenue will normally expect you to employ the relevant members of staff and pay employer's contributions.
- Premises cost: this can include a contribution to rent and running costs like postage, stationery, photocopying, IT support, insurance, heating/lighting etc.
- Equipment for the project (for more expensive items you may be required to give two or more quotes): this might need to appear as a capital item rather than revenue.
- Publicity: including leaflets and web design if necessary.
- Activities: hall hire, refreshments, transport.
- Core costs: this is a rather complex subject, but the project may have to make a contribution to the core costs of the organisation. This might include some of the above costs of running an office, but also might also include a contribution to management costs, including line management.
It is difficult to be comprehensive and to be able to predict all relevant costs, but do try to think of the essential items. Apart from capital projects, most funders will not accept a contingency element, so you need to cover all elements of your project.
If your project is over more than one year, add inflation costs where appropriate – normally at 3% per annum.
Finally keep a note of your calculations. Most application forms do not allow for a detailed budget. It is useful to produce a detailed spreadsheet on Excel or otherwise, especially if you need to keep amending your budget.
Make sure that you have answered all the relevant questions and have all your additional information – it is amazing how many forms are sent in incomplete either within the form or missing additional information. Sometimes applications are rejected simply because the copy of the accounts has not been signed by the Treasurer.
Get someone within your organisation or, better still, from outside who has experience of writing application forms to read the application through to see whether it both makes sense and if they can spot any unanswered questions etc. Do they want more than one copy of your application? Can it be sent electronically? Remember to always keep a copy and to send to your referees if appropriate.
More than one application?
Some organisations are wary of applying for more than one grant at a time. Apart from the extra effort, it may be necessary to apply to a number of funders for the same project at the same time. You need to keep your options open. Applying for funding is a highly competitive activity and most funders recognise this. They will not be too upset if you ring them to say you have been successful elsewhere, as demands on their funding will be high and they can easily allocate the money elsewhere.