5 essentials for an effective grant application

Number five
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Grant funding is still a common way in which many charities seek to fund their activities, but not all charities are successful in securing the grant awards they hope for.

There are around 8,000 trusts and foundations that offer grants to charitable organisations in the UK. In theory, this makes finding a grant provider that aligns with your mission simpler, but it may also make choosing the best option difficult.

Whilst grants can seem like an appealing solution to your fundraising activities, applications can be time consuming, offer funding that is less than you might have wanted, and can often be unsuccessful. It is a common complaint of grant funders that applicants’ charities are often unsuitable, as they they have not conducted the proper preliminary research or given sufficient thought to their appeal. Don’t let this be you.

Read our 5 essentials for an effective grant application below…

1.  Who?

Identify funders that match your charity’s purposes and goals.

To do this you may use:

  • Directory of Social Change’s Directory of Grant Making Trusts: Alphabetically lists trusts and categorises them by subject
  • Directory of Social Change’s Funds Online website: A subscription service that has information on 3,500 trusts
  • The Charity Commission’s Register of Charities: A free resource listing charities registered in England and Wales, where you can search using relevant filters

Beyond the online methods, ask people with similar interests, such as trustees, if they know of any potential funders. This will also give you a more subjective perspective on whether the funders are easy to work with.

You can also join networks with other charitable organisations (if you’re not already part of them) and ask for their recommendations.

2. Research

Once you’ve identified possible funders, visit their websites, so you have a better understanding of their areas of interest and ensure you meet their criteria.

You may find examples of other grants they have awarded, so you can gauge whether you might be suitable for their support.

Discover whether the following traits of your organisation match their criteria:

  • annual income
  • location (of organisation or project)
  • structure (legal status)
  • total cost of project
  • size of grant
  • time since establishment

If it’s clear you definitely do not match one of these criteria, we recommend you find another trust or foundation. Applying for ineligible grants will only waste your time and effort.

3. Contact

Get in touch with a formal letter of enquiry or email to register your interest.

It’s important you communicate concisely and include all the relevant information. Make it as easy for them as possible. Avoid jargon or acronyms that might confuse. Remember, you are so close to the subject that what seems obvious to you may not be obvious to them.

Follow up if necessary. If you don’t receive a response, there’s no harm in sending a further enquiry. Your communication may have slipped through the net, so don’t let the opportunity get away.

4.  Money

Clearly demonstrate how the funds you are applying for would be used and managed.

Showing you have a sound financial plan in place could involve:

– Predicting (capital and revenue) expenses

– Readying precise reporting and management accounts

– Describing your internal financial policies

– Ensuring you are clear what bank account the grant needs to go into

As well as the immediate impact you wish to see from the funding, it would be productive to consider how this money and the actions it produces will benefit the situation longer-term. They won’t necessarily expect you to spread the money out over the years, but justifying how its influence can last sustainably will enhance your chance of receiving the investment.

5. Impact

Paint a picture of the world you want to create.

Be clear on how you will meet the needs of your beneficiaries. The impact the grant can have on your cause should be front and centre of your application. This purpose defines your charity, as well as being the fundamental reason the foundation/trust will choose to offer you funding or not.

Connect the impact you want to make as closely with the interests of the funder as possible to maximise the chance they approve your grant.

Whilst using specific evidence such as surveys, consultation and a timeline of targets will be effective in showing what difference the grant could make, this is also your opportunity to demonstrate your passion.

Tell your story, so they can relate to it. What makes your aims and approach different from the rest?

Need some guidance?

Burton Sweet has a longstanding commitment to charities and civil society organisations, offering practical, professional and passionate support. We want to assist you, so you can deliver effectively for the communities you serve and show the good you do.

If you would like guidance on applying for grants and managing the money if you receive them, please contact us and a member of our team will be happy to help you.

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