How to find grant funding

In retirement many of us may become trustees of charities, school governors or take an active role in our church. Sooner or later an issue will arise where there is a need to raise a sum of money, either to repair a building or fund new services.

There are no shortage of potential funders out there – central government, local authority, charitable trusts, the various lottery distributors, etc. However all funding is a scarce resource in that there are always more worthy causes that there is money available to fund them.

Before I retired I worked in a number of roles that involved funding – administering major funding schemes, managing voluntary sector projects and advising local groups on funding.

Many so called “experts” will maintain that funding is so specialised that it should only be carried out by highly paid consultants.

I have been studying funding for many years and feel that it is not really that complex and just needs to be de-mystified. Basically to be successful in winning funds for your organisation you must be able to demonstrate in your bid that you have addressed four key areas. These are:

1)    NEED –  You must prove that your project is really needed and that there will be a positive benefit to the community by carrying out this work.  If the work is not really needed then why bother?  You must prove that need by presenting clear evidence to the funder.  Statistics, user surveys, previous reports, etc. will all provide ammunition to support your cause.

2)    CAPABILITY – Unfortunately, anyone can have a good idea.  What is difficult is putting ideas into action.  You must be able to prove that your organisation is competent to deliver the project.  You may have a strong track record that should be cited or you may want to stress the calibre of your trustees.  The funder must be left in no doubt that you will be able to deliver.

3)    VALUE FOR MONEY – You must demonstrate that your project will be a good investment. If you have already fundraised locally and have £50,000 then a bid for another £10,000 will represent good leverage (ratio of funds requested to funds already obtained) Funders are unlikely to give you anything if you have not raised any funds yourself. You also need to ensure that your costs are competitive e.g. get 3 quotes for any building work.  If you intend to employ staff on your project then wage rates must be realistic.

4)    OBJECTIVES OF FUNDERS – This is why most bids fail.  It is not because they do not articulate good projects that meet real need – it is because they have not read the guidance notes and addressed the needs of the funder.  Most funders will make their objectives clear on their website, application form, guidance notes, etc. If a funder wants to support projects that help young people at risk of offending then you need to demonstrate that a good proportion of young people accessing your services fall into this category. If a funder wants to work with people from certain backgrounds then you must have systems in place to ensure that this data is collected.

I don’t want to understate the difficulty in obtaining grant funding for voluntary organisations but do feel that careful adherence to the above rules will help pave the way to a successful grant application.

Finally, do get someone else to read your bid before submitting it to the funder. Often an impartial reader can provide valuable feedback.

by David Harris