AWN: Beginner’s Guide to Finding Funding

All charities require funding but where do you start? 

Before you apply for a grant, a fair few steps need to be considered regarding your organisation.

Does your charity have a legal structure/framework? 

A Constitution is your rule book. It is necessary to demonstrate your charitable purposes, otherwise your organisation will not be recognised as a legal not-for-profit structure. This should include rules about Trustees, operations, risk management etc.

(website)

Is your charity registered or a voluntary group?

To gain more chances of funding, most grant makers will only consider registered charities and in some cases, Community Interest Company (CIC).

(charity commission website)

Do you have a website or social media account?

Online presence is the golden star! This is the perfect chance for you to share who you are and to show off the great work you do.

If you're on a tight budget, there's no excuse, social media is free and it's the best way to communicate with all stakeholders.

 

Grant makers cannot visit every charity, so this is an opportunity to be visible and relevant.

Do you have a charity's bank account? Are your accounts filed on time?

It is important the charity has it's own bank account that is registered under the charity's legal name. Grant makers will not consider individually named bank accounts and this is not good practice either!

Make sure your accounts are filed on time! So many charities fail to do this and they receive a red flag against their name!

We've given you a brief snapshot and a starting point for you

to research further into how to operate a well-run charity.

Now if you're ready to apply for funding, here's some pointers from a

Grants Manager at a leading UK Funder 

Working with national and international grantmakers over the past few years means that I have read, summarised and assessed loads (and loads, and LOADS) of applications.

 

Sometimes, they can be the real highlight of my day. I mean sitting down to read about the wonderful things that amazing people like you are doing – I mean what’s not to like?!

So from someone who reads your applications on the other side, I thought I’d share what I feel can make your application shine.

First Things First

Before you go any further, it is probably wise to know where you are going!

 

Now I know this may sound really obvious but being entirely clear about what you want to achieve is an excellent starting point. How will you know what to ask the funders for if you are unclear about this?

 

Think through some of the following questions:

  • What do you want funding for?

  • What is your aim?

  • Why does your work need to exist?

  • What is your USP (unique selling point)?

  • What is the need for your work? And who does it benefit?

Once you know your reason for existing and are clear as day about what you want to do, it’s time to start thinking about the how. How will you achieve what you want to and how much will it cost?

 

Again, some handy questions that think through could include:

  • What do you need to make your work start/continue?

  • Who will be responsible for the work?

  • What will the work cost?

  • How many people will we benefit with this money?

  • Do we have the systems and processes needed to deal with this much money?

Finding the Funders

You’ve come this far, you know your stuff, you know what you want to do and where you want to go – great! The next step is to identify the right funders for the work you want to do.

 

Funders can be as different as chalk and cheese, so it’s really important to take some time to really get to know who is the right fit for you.

 

Do your research and think through what geographical areas they fund, what topics they fund, how to apply, when to apply, when you can expect to hear back and whether they have funding limits.

 

Make sure you look through their funding criteria and judge your work against their priorities.

Finding the Funders

You’ve come this far, you know your stuff, you know what you want to do and where you want to go – great! The next step is to identify the right funders for the work you want to do.

 

Funders can be as different as chalk and cheese, so it’s really important to take some time to really get to know who is the right fit for you. Do your research and think through what geographical areas they fund, what topics they fund, how to apply, when to apply, when you can expect to hear back and whether they have funding limits. Make sure you look through their funding criteria and judge your work against their priorities.

 

One tip worth thinking about because it could save you a whole lot of time is that when in doubt – pick up the phone and just ask! Most funders will have a shed load of information available online, but if you’re unsure and they have the option to call – do! There will usually be a cheery person at the other end who would love to answer your questions so don’t shied away from this.

 

There are so many different funding sources available these days including: social investment, government funding, local companies etc. But for the purposes of this guide and because it’s what I know best, I will be focusing on accessing funding from Trusts & Foundations.

 

Where to Start (write a small blurb about each of the below and link to the site)

NCVO Know How

Small Charities Coalition

Funding Central

360 Giving

Charity Commission’s Search Tool can be another handy way to look for charities that provide funding to other charities (use the advanced tool for more search options). This is probably the most long winded of all these places to start but can be handy to helping you make sure that you have even the most obscure of funders in your list.

 

Writing Your Bid

Now that you have your list of funders, we can move on to talking about how to start writing your bid.

 

Funders generally all have their own unique application processes. Some will be more laborious than others so it’s important to take the time to think carefully about who it makes most sense to apply to. I hear over and over again from charities that their applying to a smaller number of funders with a greater amount of effort pays off far better than the scattergun ‘apply to everyone generally’ approach. Do the research and narrow you’re your funder options. Whereas, I won’t be going into specific funder related details here, this list could be looked at as some things to consider more generally.

 

Basics

Have your charity number, a copy of your constitution, terms of reference and policies ready to prove that you exist.

 

Financials

Details of income/expenditure and reserves information is usually requested by funders to ensure that you are financially sound. A copy of your bank statement may also be requested here and be ready to provide a budget if asked for.

 

Team

Some detail may be requested about the Trustees and staff team who are running the work. This is usually for the funders to see what the skills and experiences of those managing and running the charity are and for them to identify any obvious skills gap. Some funders might also be interested in seeing if there is any lived experience leadership in team. You may also be asked about volunteers and this information may generally be used to gauge the level of support that you garner in the community.

 

Describe

Explain the challenges that your work is trying to solve but keep the application short, answer the funder’s questions, avoid jargon and be positive.

 

This will be influenced by who the funder is so take note of whether the funder seems to be using deficit-based language (most probably characterised by talk of ‘problems, disadvantage and what is missing’ etc.) or asset-based language (probably characterised by talk of ‘positives, benefits, community resources’ etc.). Think about your use of language deeply and try to match your language to that which the funder uses. Most importantly though - always stay true to yourself, your values and principles. Perhaps you could show the funders a better way of doing things!

 

Monitoring & Evaluation

Some funders are more heavily focused on results than others. If you sense the funder wants to see the effect of their funding, it would be wise to show some thought around how you will go about the monitoring & evaluating and impact measurement of your work.

 

NCVO Know How offer some Do’s and Don’ts (https://knowhow.ncvo.org.uk/funding/grants/trusts-and-foundations)

  1. If there is an application form, read the guidelines and complete it in draft form first. Keep a copy of what you send.

  2. If you are presenting a proposal, ensure you include a clear justification for the project – what evidence do you have that it is needed or wanted by your target beneficiaries? How do you know it is the most appropriate solution?

  3. Do include the supporting information requested.

  4. Don’t include lots of superfluous background material that hasn’t been asked for.

  5. Do attach a covering letter that summarises your case for funding in an objective rather than an emotive way.

  6. Do ensure you have included all the correct contact details and that the appropriate person has signed the letter or form.

  7. Do ensure you include any references requested. Don’t say that these will follow.

  8. Do ask a ‘critical friend’ to read through and review your proposal.

 

STORYTELLING!

I had to use capitals just to emphasise how important this one is! Humans are hard wired to both tell and consume stories so spend time tapping into that. https://hbr.org/2014/10/why-your-brain-loves-good-storytelling

 

Put yourselves in the funders shoes – imagine walking into your office (or across to your kitchen table in this new Covid world!) Cup of coffee in hand, you sit down to start your day and notice the pile of applications waiting for you already, you have more applications streaming in as the day goes on. And at the very end of the day you realise that you are leaving with more than you started with.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I love reading applications and I feel so lucky that I get to learn loads from everything that comes in (also, there’s no way I could do my job if I didn’t!) But amongst a sea of disjointed words, facts and figures, a good story can put heart and meaning into your words. Help us to understand your work better. Use case studies wisely. Tell us a great story.

 

Phew! You’ve reached the end of our guide (hurrah!) We hope you found it useful and would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for future topics as well as hearing if any of these tips worked for you (or if you have even better ones to share with us!) Good luck with your bids!

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