Skills for the Job: Writing funding applications

What steps should you take to ensure that your funding application stands out from the crowd? Andy Hillier finds out.

Where do I start?

A vast of array of organisations offer funding to youth projects so it is vital to target applications at the right ones. Read the entry criteria carefully and make sure that your project or programme fits the bill. If you're unsure about whether your project meets the criteria, pick up the phone and give the funder a call. It is far better to check rather than fill out an application that immediately gets rejected.

If your programme or organisation doesn't fit the application criteria, it might be worth partnering with another organisation and putting together a joint bid. For example, many charitable trusts don't accept applications directly from local authorities but do accept bids from youth charities that work in conjunction with local authorities.

Most funders will have priority issues that they want to fund. Look to see if you can tailor your application around these and adapt the programme to accommodate them.

But don't just target the usual suspects. Also try businesses in your area as they might be willing to help fund local projects in return for some positive publicity. Don't just ask for financial support either. Volunteering time or goods and services can be equally as useful as money.

What should I include on the application?

Margaret Cooney, deputy director for England regions and external relations at the Big Lottery Fund, says applications should answer five key questions: what are you doing; who will benefit; why are you doing it; what difference will your project make; and is your project likely to work?

She says if the funder is unable to answer these questions after reading an application it is unlikely to provide a grant. She adds: "Importantly, we want to answer 'yes' to the last question. We want to fund projects that are likely to achieve the outcomes that we have set out for the funding programme."

Funders have lots of applications to look through and need to know instantly what the project is about. So be clear about the aims of the project and be realistic about the impact it can have.

Cooney adds that a good application will include most of these examples: consultation with beneficiaries; relevant research and statistics; details about the experience and knowledge of people in your group; references to relevant local, regional or national strategies; how your project adds to existing services or fills a gap; and a well-planned budget.

Funders of youth programmes will also expect applicants to show how they will include young people in the management of the project, says Cooney. "We want to see young people involved in the shaping, development, running and evaluation of the project."

Projects should also be clear if they will be relying on more than one funder. Some organisations prefer to be the sole funders, while others like to only partly fund schemes to minimise their risk. They will also want to know what will happen when the funding runs out.

How can I prove the money will be well spent?

Projects should think from the outset about ways of evaluating their effectiveness. There are a variety of ways to show the difference a project has made, including testimonies from the young people and detailed statistical analysis. Most funders will like to see a combination of both approaches and not just receive some warm words of thanks from young people.

Is it worth recruiting a fundraising expert?

The answer depends on the size of the funding application and your organisation's level of expertise. Charitable trusts and other major funders appreciate that smaller projects do not have the money to employ a fundraising expert, especially if they are applying for relatively small sums of money. But it is worth asking someone to check through the application to ensure it meets the entry requirements and to spot any omissions or mistakes.



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