Writing a funding bid is a specialist role as you will probably know and even if you have had a bash at it before, the following tips, will remind you of best practice.
1.Deciding what you want some money for.
It is tough to pay the bills, the staff and for delivering charitable projects. You need to know what you want to spend money on and this will determine which type of funder will offer the money you are looking for. There are some funders who will only pay for Capital Costs – paying for renovation to buildings work, redecoration, purchasing items that they will keep and have a value to them (I.T equipment, mini-bus, mobile phones etc.). Some funders will only pay for costs that are involved with a project that you are delivering to do good in your community (this may be materials, cost of sessional workers or the hire of a venue to hold a session). Other funders will only pay for salaries for people to be employed and the associated costs of employing that person – National Insurance, Pension, Holiday Pay, induction, training and supervision and expenses. There are funders who will only pay for Core Costs – these are the running costs of your organisation – rent, rates, bills etc.
2. Decide how much you really want for your project/costs or bills.
Many funders will want you to be as honest as possible regarding how much everything is going to cost and some may ask you to obtain estimates, quotes or online research into the type of items that you want to purchase. There is no point in asking for less than you need, because then you will not be able to complete the project or exercise and that defeats the object. Funders want to see a positive change from the money that you are going to have from them and they will want to know the long term impact on the community from the money being spent also. Many funders want to see how the money has been spent by the end or during the project and will want to know that you are spending the money how you said you were going to and that it is making the positive changes that you spoke about in your application. Funders really want to know that you are going to spend this money wisely though too and want to make sure that you are going to purchase things that will be value for money – don’t go asking for the latest MacBook when an ASUS at half the price would do!
3. Making sure you are eligible for the funding.
There are lots of websites, newsletters and portals where you can gain access to finding bid details. It isn’t easy to see from the first viewing of the details if the bid is right for you, your organisation and the reason you want the money. Grant funding has lots of different criteria and eligibility clauses that you must satisfy and your application will be rejected if you don’t satisfy these. You will need to be the right type of organisation – there are many more funds available to charitable organisations (CIOs) than any other legal structure. Some funders will allow CICs (Community Interest Companies) to apply as well as social enterprises and organisations that are Limited by Guarantee and not Limited by shares (a normal Limited company for profit). Sometimes the funder will stipulate that they will only fund an organisation if they have a turnover of so much or will only fund a charity with a turnover up to a certain amount. Funders can also say that they don’t want to fund certain types of organisations like animal welfare or organisations who are part of a bigger charity or organisation.
4. Read through all the funding guidelines, what they will fund, what they won’t fund, funding process, everything, before you even start.
With some applications it is handy to print out all of the relevant documents about the funding bid before you start completing the application. Funding information isn’t standard, some funders will write page after page about their expectation of you and what they want to see, others will just give you a short paragraph on their website to read. Most applications these days are done on an integrated application form on the funders website. There are others where they wish you to fill in an application form and email it back to them. Other funders want you to send them a letter of interest in the first interest and then there will be further information that they want from you later. There are some that want you to complete an eligibility quiz to see if you do qualify for everything that they want before you complete a full application form. Some application forms are straight forward, some aren’t. If you can see the whole application before you start completing it, that can sometimes make the job easier, so you know what is coming and you can plan your answers to the questions.
5. Answer the questions you are asked and not what you think they want to hear from you.
The questions will vary on each application that you complete, there will be standard questions like your name, organisation name, address, contact details, but there will be other questions that may be completely different or you may feel that you have already answered before on the form. Do make sure that you answer each question as fully as you can, but don’t waffle or keep repeating yourself. Many of the on-line applications have maximum word counts for answers, so if it says 250 words don’t go over. You can be under, but if they have given you 300 words and you only write 50 words, you may want to look at the question again to make sure that you are telling them enough of what they want to hear. Ensure that your spelling is correct and you are using business English to write the application – be professional, no jargon and certainly no swearing. You are asking for money here and for a board of trustees to trust that you are going to spend this money on amazing things – if you were asking a Bank Manager for a personal loan or a mortgage, you would be on your best behaviour – the same applies here! Please do get someone else to read over your finished application – you will spend quite some time putting this together and in the end you won’t be able to proof it yourself as you won’t see the errors. A trick I use is to copy and paste all the long hand answers into a Word document and spell check this, Word will grammar check it for you too, but also get another pair of eyes on it before you press submit. You can then cut and paste back the checked Word document information to ensure that there are no errors.
6. Uploading of documents that are requested.
Many funders will want to see your Constitution – the document that describes the legal status of your organisation. You should have this in a Word or Pdf format. Many funders will want to see the latest set of accounts that you have had signed off by the trustees. This should be readily available and again in a format which is easy to upload or to attach to the email that you are sending to them. Some funders like to see your latest bank account statement and they will want to ensure that you have two unrelated bank signatories on the account to ensure the funds will be safe. You may need to scan this or take a photograph of this to upload or attach to the application email you send. Funders may also ask for estimates or quotes for work being done, again these need to be scanned in as a word or pdf document. Make sure that before you press submit, you have checked the application AGAIN for any errors and to make sure that it reads correctly. Make sure too that you have attached all the documents required and many applications have a check list at the end for you to make sure that this has been done.
7. If in doubt, pick up the phone and speak to the funder to ask any questions that you are not sure about.
Funders really won’t mind if you call them to ask questions, good funders will know the application inside and out and will be able to guide you without hesitation. Sometimes the technology of the website can fail and there is an issue that they know about. It is always worth having a conversation to ensure that you are doing things correctly, before you submit an application. Once submitted, something wrong on the application could mean that your application is rejected, which could have been changed to be correct before it was sent in. I was once not sure about how much I could apply for, the details said a maximum of £5k, but what the client needed was more like £8200. I had a conversation and was encouraged to put in as much as the charity actually needed and ignore the limit. We asked for just less than £17k and it was awarded within 3 weeks, just because we asked permission!
Writing funding bids to secure funds for a not for profit is going to have to be one of your skills or you will need to get someone to do them that you trust. 2020 and Covid-19 has massively changed the way that we all raise funds going forward. There is going to be a huge gap in fundraising income for most charities and not for profits due to the social distancing rules that we have had to apply and the lock-down situation, causing many fundraising events to be cancelled. It is estimated that UK charities will lose £4 Billion this year. This needs to be replaced, the government have made a contribution of £750 Million, which won’t go far, but it is a start. We need to get better at a variety of fundraising activity to be able to deliver what we want to deliver and support the projects and people that need our help.
If you need fundraising advice, strategy or planning or help with a funding bid, don’t hesitate to call. 0772 9481010. or email me on email@example.com.Keep in touch