Advice on Writing Your Funding Application
Starting the Application Process
Firstly check that your organisation, the activity you want money for and the amount of fundingyou need is eligible. This will ensure that you do not waste time developing an application that will fail at the first hurdle.
Points to consider:
- How long will it take to write the bid? There is no straightforward answer to this, but it is fair to say that the more money you are asking for, the more detail will be required and therefore more time.
- Research the application process. Some grant schemes may have more than one stage. As your application will have to be evaluated and a decision made on it, this will add time into the process.
- How long will it take to get a decision? Even if it is a one stage application there may only be decisions made every three months so you need to ensure that your project timeframe fits in with the funding body’s timeframe.
- Funding bodies will not pay for any work carried out prior to a grant being awarded so make sure that the funding timeframe fits your requirements.
Skills you might need
Depending on the size of the project you may need to bring in some expertise to develop your bid, especially if your project involves capital works. Do you need to pull a team together? Skills you might want to consider may include architects, quantity surveyors and accountants.
If it is a big project you might want to consider implementing a project management technique such as PRINCE.
The Application Form
It can be daunting when you click the “Download Application Pack” only to be faced with reams of forms, factsheets and guidance notes!
Don’t fear though. Always try to remember that the funder is basically trying to find out
- who you are,
- what you want to do
- why you want to do it
- how it fits in with their funding priorities
- how much will it cost.
Your role is to paint the picture to someone that may not have heard of your organisation and will know nothing of your project, or sometimes the area, as your application may be assessed by someone at the other end of the country.
It is often said but do read the guidance notes. They are usually comprehensive and will guide you step by step through the process. They will give examples to make you think about your project.
The Funder’s priorities
Take time to look at the funder’s priorities. They will use these priorities to score your application so you should spend time thinking how your project will help the funder meet their objectives.
Any funder will want to know that their money is truly needed and well spent. They need to know that there is more support for a project than just a good idea. This means spending time showing how your project meets the need it is aiming to fill. This might include:
- references to local, regional and national strategies
- consultation with local organisations
- consultation with potential recipients. This may include surveys, research, focus groups.
What are outcomes?
Outcomes should explain what needs to change for the aim of the project to be achieved. Although it can seem time consuming the more time developing project outcomes the more targeted and easier to manage the project should be. It is just a logical way of explaining your project. In order to develop your outcomes it may be easier to go through the following activity.
- Think about the aim of your project, what is the overarching ambition of the project.
- The next step down should be your outcomes. They need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time based)
- Now you need to think about what activities need to take place to achieve those outcomes and ultimately the aim of your project.
Budgeting and Financial monitoring
Be realistic when putting together your budget. Try to think logically. Remember that you will be tied to the figures that you put in the bid and you will not be able to go back to the funder and ask for more money if it runs out.
You will most likely be expected to break down the costs into capital and revenue elements. You will also be expected to know when you will be spending each element.
Total project costs and grant requested
This is an area which can be confusing as these are, on the whole, two separate things. The only time when they wouldn’t be is if you are applying for a 100% grant.
Funders will have maximum grant that you can apply for and will usually will have a maximum amount that the total project can cost. The total project cost is the grant plus any match funding that is required. Funders do this so that they know that, whatever the amount they provide, it will be guaranteed to make a difference. For example, most funders may not want to contribute £1,000 to a £3million project as they won’t get the profile they require. The only exception to this may be smaller Trusts and Foundations.
This includes money spent on improvements to land and buildings, including new build and renovations. It also includes fitting out costs and equipment.
This includes salaries, marketing, travel, rates, rent. If the project is not due to start for a year or more you may like to factor in inflation to cover costs such as salaries. If you are unsure whether one element of your project is capital or revenue, contact the funder and get an answer in writing.
Most funders will not fund 100% of your project. This means you will need to find some matchfunding. This is broken into two types, cash and in-kind. Some funders will be very specific about how much cash and in kind match funding they expect, e.g. you will need to find 10% of the total project cost, of which 5% must be cash and 5% can be in kind.
In kind is non-monetary contributions and can include people’s time, providing equipment, use of facilities or materials. You will need to have a logical process to assess the value of these contributions. Some funders will give you standard costs for people’s time, i.e. hourly rate for professional trades.
Check this out right at the outset at the project to avoid any embarrassing mistakes further on in the project, just think of London 2012! Check that your organisation can recover VAT on the costs of the project prior to submitting the application. You can only apply for the amount of money that the project costs you, i.e. if you can recover VAT you should not include that cost. You should only include irrecoverable VAT costs.
It is imperative that you confirm this as early as possible as once an application has been approved the grant will not be increased to cover any subsequent increase in cost due to VAT. Conversely if you find out at a later date that you can recover VAT you will be expected to repay this amount.
Dos and Don'ts of external funding
Read the guidance
Study the funders priorities
Be realistic in terms of time frame and budget
Answer the questions
Send in all the accompanying documents
Get all the appropriate signatures
Explore match funding options as soon as possible.
Make sure all your sums add up and cross reference the figures across all the sections of the form.
Check you have the right % of match funding.
Get someone to proof read.
If you get advice from the funder, try to get it in writing.
Develop a good relationship with your case officer (if the fund you are applying to has them).
Keep to the word count.
Make sure you understand all your obligations should you receive funding.
Post it in time!
Wait until the last minute
Assume knowledge of your project – spell everything out clearly and concisely
Leave boxes empty unless directed to do so.
Spend any money before you have had official approval and permission to spend.
Don’t expect that you’ll be able to go back to the funder for more money if you spend more than you originally thought.
Send in a generic begging letter.
Handwrite the application, try to type it if you can. It looks more professional and can be more easily read.