Grant Application Tips
Making your application stand out so that it is successful is a big challenge - most funders receive far more applications than they can ever fund, and the success of your application will be based on a wide range of criteria and circumstance including:
how much you are asking for
whether you are a new group or have a track record of managing projects
where you are based (and how far away you are from the funder)
who the funder is (are they a national or local funder? have they supported you before?)
who will benefit – what the benefits might be - and how many people will benefit
what you want the money for
To help make any grant application successful it is a good idea to step back and think about what a funder will be looking for.
Establishing the basics
A funder will need to be able to quickly establish who is applying, how much they want and what they want it for. Make sure that these crucial basic facts are obvious on the application form or letter.
Can this group manage the project?
They will also want to know if you are able to manage the project and whether or not you have a track record of good financial management. If they are going to give you money, can they be confident that your group has a strong committee/board and staff or volunteer structure? Can you evidence support from your community or other agencies?
Show you are well organised and capable of carrying out the planned project.
Details of your management committee and their skills and experience, the procedures for elections and conducting meetings, as well as handling finances and accounting, will all help to show you have the capacity as a group to deliver the project. Funders will usually ask for a copy of your constitution (governing document) and a statement of your accounts.
What are the benefits?
A funder will also want to be convinced that there is a need for what you are asking. Rather than getting bogged down in the equipment or staff or whatever you need to deliver your project, focus on what are going to be the benefits and who will benefit. This is far more interesting to the funder, and much more likely to get your application noticed.
For example, a funder is not necessarily going to be interested in the fact that you need money to buy a computer. They may be more interested if you say what that computer will be used for. They will be even more interested if you can show who will use the computer and the benefits it will bring such as gaining new skills and confidence or feeling less socially isolated. It is also important for you to be able to give a funder an idea on the number of people who will benefit from whatever it is you are asking them to support.
Evidence for the need and support for your ideas
A funder will want to see that you can evidence the need for your project/activities/services. Can you include the results of any surveys or community consultations that you may have conducted?
Is this project offering value for money?
A funder will want to be convinced that their money is being put to good use, but they are also more likely to consider awarding funds to projects which make their money go as far as possible and offer value for money. They want to see the maximum amount of benefit from their award.
Perhaps you can show that a small grant from one funder as ‘match funding’ will enable you to be successful in securing a larger sum from another funder? Or maybe your project is something which can be seen as a pilot which will help other areas or agencies (thus spreading the benefits even further).
Set out a realistic budget with accurate costs, based on quotes (if applicable). Some funders will come back to you as part of the assessment stage so be prepared to be able to answer questions about your budget and the breakdown of costs.
How will this group evidence the project’s success?
A funder will want to be reassured that you will achieve your objectives and they will want evidence to show this. How are you going to evaluate the project? Will you collect statistical data for example? Your application will be stronger if you can show not only how you will evalutate the project but also what you intend to do with the findings. How will your group use the information gained to adapt and improve your services?
What will this group do when the grant money runs out?
A funder is going to want to be reassured that you are not going to have to keep coming back to them for more funds.
Grant funding is time limited – it is not going to keep you going for very long. A few funding streams offer three to five year programmes but most are much shorter. Has your group considered what will happen after the grant funding runs out?
If your project is small and specific this may not be a financial problem but it is still a good idea to indicate how your group will use the experience or findings from the project to inform other services and activities. If you are asking a funder for help with running costs can you show that their support will give you time to adapt to changes or implement a more self-financing approach to income generation?