Identifying Suitable Funders

Depending on the scale or nature of your group’s activities and the complexity of what you need funding for, choosing the most suitable funders to approach can be time consuming. Having a clear plan will save time, but you still need to be prepared to do a fair amount of research.

To help inform any type of application start by compiling some background information about:

  • your group - its history and the work you do, plans for the future

  • an area profile – where is your group based, the community, any relevant demographic information relating to the type/age of people you work with

  • copies of reports, newsletters, minutes, newspaper cuttings

  • photos about your activities

  • the findings of any consultations or appraisals carried out

All grants are awarded at the discretion of the funder and each will have their own criteria and conditions for eligibility as well as areas of interest or particular people who they want their funds to benefit. Some may have deadlines and others will have committees which may only meet at certain times throughout the year. Do not be tempted to send a template letter to a large number of funders that you have not properly researched. 

Doing your homework before you apply will save you a lot of time and effort on applications which will end up in the bin because your group or project does not meet the funders criteria.

Do you meet the funders’ criteria?

Eligibility Criteria

All funders will have eligibility criteria relating to the type of groups and projects that they will fund. For example, some will only consider applications from registered charities. 

Others might only fund one-off or capital costs for building works. Look at all the eligibility criteria and remember to check if the funder has listed any types of group or projects which they definitely will not fund (these will sometimes be under a separate exclusions list).

Focus your attention on funders where you can meet their eligibility criteria and conditions and whose priorities and interests may make them more sympathetic to your aims and plans. Different funders will have their own interests and areas of priority.  Some will only fund particular types of people.

You should be looking for funding streams or programmes which indicate that the funder will be sympathetic to what your group is trying to achieve. Always check to see if there are any exclusions listed.

Geographic Criteria

Where is your group based? Where will your activities be carried out? Are you looking for funding assistance for a project that will take place overseas for example? Some funding streams will have geographical restrictions – for example, some funders will only accept applications from specific local authority area(s). Some funders will only be able to fund registered charities – does your group have charitable status?


Some funding programmes have deadlines – others may be open to applications at any time. Sometimes the decision makers of grant making trusts (the committee or board) will only meet a few times a year. Be aware of any deadline dates and also look at how quickly applications are likely to be turned round. Are you allowing enough time for this?

Also remember that if your group is looking for grant assistance for a particular time-bound project you must apply for the funding before the project can begin. No funders are going to consider an application for a project that has already happened and few will fund something where the activities have already started. If you are applying for assistance with running costs for your service or activity (and not a specific project) this makes it even harder to convince funders to support you.

Potential Award Amounts

Most funding programmes will have award amounts – minimum and maximum figures that you can apply for. Compare these with what you need. Also look at how much a funder has given to similar groups or projects in previous years.

Sources of information on funders

  • make use of the Find Funders Directory on the Community Toolkit

  • ask your local Third Sector Interface organisation for their invaluable knowledge of funding options including those more specific to your local area. They may also be able to give you access to online funding databases (many of which are subscription based)

  • use any free online funding databases

Planning your application approach

Discuss the funders you want to approach and the methods they require with your committee or board members. The committee or board should decide who is best suited to make the application. Nominate someone to put the application together. A nominated person (perhaps from the committee or board) should also be prepared to be the telephone contact for the group during the assessment stage of the application. 

Sometimes funders will want to speak to you in more depth about the details of your application so make sure that the nominated person is well informed about the application and has a copy to hand. If your application is successful you will also need someone from the group who is prepared for the possibility of meeting with a representative from the funding body and compiling and submitting any required reports.