If you find a funding agency but not ready to apply for funding the best advice is to always sign up to their email newsletter. That way you can stay informed when funding programmes are launched.
Most grants have some criteria so be sure to check that you are eligible to apply, and if you are looking for ideas always visit the ‘who we have funded’ sections of the website. This also gives you a flavour of what the funders will be looking for in your application.
You’ll also find few grants for individuals so it’s always good to have partners in mind as they could lead on a funding application, but you are still one of the recipients.
It’s hard sometimes to get funding when:
- You are not a constituted organisation
- No history of doing what you propose to do
- Have no partners for the project you propose
- Not having some kind of match funding (some funders will only fund a percentage of your proposal)
- Not having some form of in-kind contribution (services offered for free but have a financial value e.g. a web designer makes a website for you which normally costs £3000 but they are doing it for you for £2000, which means they are providing £1000 in-kind contribution).
Criteria, guidelines and timing are important:
- Always check theme or objective of the funding
- Review guidelines and Frequently Asked Questions’ (FAQ) where possible
- Make a note of deadlines for the grant application to be in
- Prepare for timelines the funders use in making decisions
Letters of Support
Getting business or community partners involved in your proposal or obtaining in-kind or cash contributions is great but sometimes you may need to evidence this. Often provided in a ‘letter of support’.
Letters of support are used by assessing officers to back up information that you’ve included in your application and demonstrate that you have had a conversation with that group/organisation.
So for example, if you tell a funder that you plan to deliver a workshop with a school, it would strengthen your application if you include a letter of support from that school. These letters should try and work for you as much as possible: instead of the supporter saying ‘I support this project’ it is important that they give details about how they plan to support you. In the case of school support, this could include details of the class year the workshop will engage with and key stage/subject(s) that your project focus will tie into, as well as any pre-arranged dates that have been discussed for the activity to take place.
We would also advise that any letters include cash costs that the organisation will incur, or in-kind contributions they might make. Some funders may then cross-reference that information with details included in your budget.
Tips on Writing Funding Application
Writing an application can take a while and competition is always high so getting plenty of practice is key to successful grant applications.
You’ll also notice that some applications ask for the same information so once you have written one application you’ll probably use parts of it for another.
- Write in clear simple English – avoid jargon.
- Make sure the application is fact based (i.e. rather than ‘many people will benefit’ say that ’30 children between 8 and 10 years of age will learn an instrument over 6 weeks’).
- Do it in stages and phases. It makes sense in the long term to build relationships with a number of funding streams (trusts and foundations, business sponsors, Local Authorities etc.) to ensure long term stability and this makes your application more attractive. You will probably not get, for example, £300,000 over 24 months if you are a start up with no track record or you have no other funders.
- Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole – if you genuinely don’t fit with one of the funder’s priorities there is no point trying to pretend that you do.
- Ensure that you’ve explained the who (you are seeking to assist), what (specifically you are proposing to do), why (you think it will work), when and where – keep it simple and keep it factual and back everything up with figures and names. Write in specific terms rather than generalities – especially regarding track record and outcomes.
- Ask someone who doesn’t know the project or your organisation to read the application before you submit it – if they can understand what you are proposing, it should be easy for the grant assessor to understand the proposal.
- Always show partnerships.
- Take a look at the grants made previously.
- Tell them why you are unique and remember if the services/project are commonplace throughout the country you will need to show how what you do is distinctive.
- Track record is fundamentally important, so do tell about yours.
Lastly – get experience in working with others on creative projects. Invent, create and apply.
Now that you have prepared your funding and grants mindset it’s time to search for funding.