The five top tips for winning at grants.

grant blogGrant funding is the bread and butter of many of the groups that we work with here at CCVS. It will make up the bulk of income and it is one of the things we get asked about most by groups.

CCVS and our partners are able to offer a number of services that may help groups develop their skills in finding and obtaining grants. These include help with identifying funds, acting as a critical friend and providing training courses. Check out the CCVS website to find out more about what we offer.

So here are my top five tips

  1. Develop the project first.

Do not simply look for pots of money and invent projects that meet these. This way leads to mission drift and misery. Before you start to think about finding funds make sure you have a project plan.

Your project plan should include

  • what the problem is. Define what the issue you want to address is and why this is a problem
  • what the need is. Why is this there a need for this, what statistics are there that show this, why are you running the project in this area.
  • Who the project will work with. Here think about who and where and how many will be helped.
  • What the project will do. This is the detail of how the project will work. This is the bit that explains how you are moving people from having a problem to not having it.
  • What will you achieve. This should include what you will do (the outputs) as well as what the outcomes are (what is the change) and what the big impact will be.
  • How you will measure things to show you have done what you said you would do and made the change you claimed would happen. This must be a process that is ongoing throughout the project.
  • What resources are needed. This is not just money but also staff and volunteers. This should include a clear budget.

Once you have done this then you will have the information you need to fill in application forms. We have developed a very basic project planning template that may be useful, it is on our website.

  1. Make contact with the funder.

    If it is possible, speak to the funder on the phone or email them to make contact before you complete the application. This will allow you to clarify any questions but it will also prepare them to receive an application and they will link the anonymous form or letter with a person. This works much better for smaller trusts but take the opportunity to do whenever possible, if nothing else they may tell you something that means you realise you can’t apply and it saves you all the work just to get a rejection letter.

  2. Read all the FAQs and rules.

This may sound a bit basic but it is essential that you do it and that you abide by them however odd they may feel to you. If the word count says 200, however hard it is, do not assume 205 will be OK; similarly if you can give the information in 100 words do not pad it out to reach 200, if the extra words do not give extra relevant information keep it shorter.

If the funders rules say all applications need to be on paper and there needs to be 10 copies, then that is what you need to do. Make sure that you are eligible, make sure that you read all the guidance and abide by it, and make sure you include any supplementary information that they ask for. Having you otherwise perfect application rejected simply because you failed to include your environmental policy is going to be gutting.

CCVS can offer help and advice on policies and procedures to member, find out more about membership here.

  1. Keep it simple.

As a rule, the person reading and assessing your application will know very little about you and your organisations work (but hopefully you will have made contact, even if only briefly – see tip 2). At the same time they are not experts in your work in the way that you are, there is also no reason that all assessors will have a masters level qualification. Many experts advise that you aim to write applications for someone with a reading age equivalent to year 9 (aged 13-14). For reference The Sun has a reading age of 8 and the Guardian is aged 14. Not surprisingly there are internet sites (mainly US based) that will measure your text and give you a result. Two I found were and the Writer. Perhaps a better way to get feedback is to give your application to a friend who does not know what you do in depth and ask them if it makes sense to them, if it doesn’t then it will probably not make sense to an assessor.

A free service that we at CCVS offer to members is to act as a critical friend. We will read applications and feedback to you, but an extra third party is always worth asking as well.

  1. Check and check again.

Do the figures add up? Are the outputs consistent throughout the application? Have you checked the spelling and grammar? If you have been working on a document for a long time then you begin to miss the obvious mistakes. This is where the outside proof reader can help again. The number of applications we have looked at that have basic mistakes in is depressing, it is easy to transpose a figure wrong, not change the total when you change a budget item but all these things will count against you when your application is up against many others. Oh yes and as it is my bugbear make sure the budget adds up!

By following these tips we can not guarantee funding applications will succeed, but you will hopefully see your success rate increase. Remember that you are telling a story in your funding bids. By making them stories that people understand and want to read you are far more likely to get the money you need to run your projects.

And for information this article has a reading age of between 12 and 14 depending on the site you use.


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