How to write a successful grant application

Published by Sam Rouse on 13 November 2023

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In the UK, there are approximately 8,000 foundations and trusts that offer grants and funding sources to charitable organisations. 

This is useful as there is increased potential to be able to find a funder who will be supportive of your charity’s cause.  But it is very competitive to obtain funding and the vast number of different grant giving bodies can make it challenging for charities seeking funding to know which funder is the right funder for them. 

Step one for organisations seeking funding is to ascertain which grant givers most closely align their goals and values with those of your charity, to ensure that you are likely to be suitable.  The Directory of Social Change’s (DCS) Directory of Grant Making Trusts is a starting point.  This helpfully categorises and lists trusts and foundations by their primary subject, to instantly narrow down your search for you.  The Charity Commission’s own website can also offer a similar ability to search and filter for what you are seeking. 

Other ways to find potential grantors are online searches, forums, and social media groups, as these can give invaluable first-hand experience that other charities have had from specific grant givers.  See what networking events are going on in your sector and local area, and look to attend some of them, getting your charity’s name ‘out there’. 

Rather than just identifying an individual potential funder, it would be advisable to forge together a shortlist of targets whom you can reach out to.  You can refine your search and visit their website to gauge the scope of the grants they’ve paid out historically. This will hopefully enable you to form a better understanding of the areas of interest their trustee board have and support.  If at this stage you feel some of the funders aren’t compatible then there’s no reason why you reduce your shortlist before the applications process begins which can be quite time consuming. 

Give due consideration to whether any conflict of interest may exist between your charity and potential funders and ensure that you don’t risk the reputation of either body. 

Before beginning the process of applying for a grant, it’s important to have a clear breakdown of the Charity’s expected project costs.  Constructing a detailed budget forecast will determine the level of grant funding that you need to apply for.  Also consider if the Charity will be self-funding any of the costs from its existing reserve pool, or whether you are fundraising from other sources, or just relying on grant funding. 

Each foundation and trust has their own preferred process for how applications should be made, so be sure to do the necessary research especially on the timing of when applications should be made, as if you fall short of their requirements they won’t take your application any further. 

Your application must be honest, specific, and clear, setting out not only the reason you are looking to raise the money, but also the expected impact this will have on your beneficiaries. Always ensure follow up on your application as sometimes persistence can pay off. 

Navigating the grants and funding process is not easy but with the right approach and with a thorough understanding of what you need, and what funders are looking for, your charity should be able to find the financial support it needs.

If you need further support on this topic, please get in touch.

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