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Writing applications

First grants | Getting the first grant can be the most difficult because the organisation has no track record. Do not be too ambitious. Start with small applications, increase the size of applications as you gain experience and can prove your organisation’s competence.

Think about what you are trying to create and the key tasks that must be completed to establish the project. These should be written down as an action plan with dates for starting and completing each task.

Phone | It is often worth discussing a proposal with a funder before you start to write the application. Find out whether it fits their criteria or specific priorities for the year. The funder might also give an indication of what the maximum is that they would be likely to contribute to the project. If you can meet potential funders at this stage that is even better.

Outputs & outcomes | Outputs are measurable achievements like number of home visits made or the number of young people attending a youth club. Outcomes are more long term and reflect the impact on the community as a whole or the life prospects of the individuals assisted. A youth club could claim a reduction in local crime because the energies of young people have been diverted from crime and applied to positive activities. This might attract funding from an SRB Community Safety budget. It might also be possible to claim improved quality of life, reduced use of illegal drugs, better social skills and enhanced life opportunities for its members. This could appeal to funders ranging from health authorities to careers and education services.

The application should |

  • Be realistic.
  • State clearly what the problem or need is.
  • Show how you intend to reduce or remove the need.
  • State what the outputs will be.
  • State the outcomes.
  • Show that you have a competent management structure.
  • For most projects show that you operate within an equal opportunities framework.
  • Include a clear budget. See CASHFACTS: Writing a budget.
  • State the date when your organisation formed and details of previous funders.
  • Explain how you will monitor and evaluate the scheme.

Letters ought to be short, one and a half pages for trusts and one side for industry.

Supporting information | If the organisation has existed for over fifteen months include the last annual report and accounts.

It is often possible to include additional information in a separate fundraising paper – about three sides of A4 – attached to the letter. It is useful to use bullet points – as above – as this makes the application easier to read.

Internal and independent statistics should illustrate the selling points.

Show that your trustees, volunteers and employees have the required skills, or access to training. Provide fuller details about the skills of trustees and key personnel. If recruiting, give details of how you expect to recruit or train competent people. Explain briefly how your supervision system works.

Relevant papers, photographs, brochures, annual reports and copies of newspaper articles can be included. Credibility is strengthened by letters of support from users, and experts who have visited the project. Copies of relevant newspaper reports should also be included.

Budgets | Very simply, a budget is a shopping list of the items of expenditure related to the project – rent, materials, transport, etc. with estimated prices and details of where you expect the funding to come from.

Some funders will want a budget for the whole organisation covering all its activities. Other funders will want a budget covering just the activity you are applying for. An application to a local authority seeking funding for core costs or a key worker’s salary will probably require a full budget. However, an application to run a summer play scheme is likely to only require an application for that scheme.

Unforeseen expenditure normally outweighs unforeseen savings, so add a contingency (extra bit) to some of the figures for the unexpected. See See CASHFACTS: Writing a budget.

Leverage | Some funders like you to match their funding with monies from other sources. So you will have to apply to several funders and put together a package with different funders contributing to different aspects of the project.

Flexibility | If possible allow for flexibility in your application so that the funder can provide at a level that suits them.

Capital | Many funders like capital projects (computers, building renovation etc.) because they are one off. You will need to show that the project can raise associated revenue costs – salaries, heat, and light etc.

Unpopular projects | Some trusts specifically aim to support unpopular areas of work. You can also be clever in how you allocate overheads so that weakly funded projects contribute less to overheads like rent.

Creativity | Be creative in matching income to expenditure. This can involve linking unit costs to output. “Every £800 of grant will enable us to provide six months of counselling”. Remember that unit costs include overheads.

Persistence pays | Keep funders well informed by writing to them regularly. Keep writing even when they have stopped funding. They might fund you in the future. Trusts receive thousands of applications but can only fund a small proportion. If you are turned down, find out why. Keep a file on each funder and keep applying. Working with the fundraiser from another charity or Social Council can bring an external perspective and constructive criticism of your application.

Success | Funders like value for money, but success is their real goal so make sure you include all the costs!

Monitoring and evaluation | It is very important that your organisation shows that it has achieved some positive results with the funding it receives. This involves monitoring what you are doing (the outputs). For instance, recording how many home visits your volunteers have undertaken, or how many enquiries have been received over the helpline, shows the quantity of service provision. Funders also expect that the service they have funded will be of reasonable quality and that users are getting what they need! Questionnaires can be used to measure what users think of the quality. User group discussions are sometimes run to discover if users think the service is appropriate to their needs.

Outcomes | They can also be monitored but this normally involves some form of tracking (tracing) of users over a period of several months or years and possibly a comparison with a sample of non-users. People in work six months after using a training scheme would be a useful outcome measure – particularly if it can be shown that similar people not attending the training maintained higher levels of unemployment. General outcomes like reduced levels of crime are often very difficult to relate to specific projects because a large number of factors influence them. Your application must include details of how you intend to monitor the service.

Evaluation | This is simply assessing the information that the monitoring process has provided. Sometimes you will be asked to write a report assessing the monitoring of information. These reports can be very useful when applying for new funding because they normally prove that you can provide the service competently.

Grants | A grant is a gift. It is given in the expectation that your organisation will carry out certain activities ie. run a supplementary school for three evenings a week during term-time. If the organisation fails to provide what it has said it would, there is very little that the funder can do. They may stop funding your organisation and then you will have established a bad track record. It may be difficult to get funding from other trusts and public authorities. However, they cannot ask for the money back. The “claw back” of grants is illegal.

Contracts | A contract is a written agreement by the funder to purchase a specific service from your charity. If the charity fails to provide the service the purchaser – often a local authority – could demand that their funding be repaid. They could also buy the service from another organisation and demand that your organisation pays any increase in the price and any costs the authority has experienced in finding a new supplier. Often a public sector purchaser would not enforce all its powers if you failed to fulfil a contract – particularly if your charity has very limited funds. But you should be aware that a contract is a specific legal relationship. If in your private life you purchased something which failed to work then you’d feel justified in taking action against the supplier. If your charity takes on a contract then the charity (frequently the trustees) is the supplier. It is possible to reduce the risk associated with contracts by incorporating the charity as a limited company.

Service agreements | These agreements have become popular in recent years. They include details of what the organisation will provide for the funding it receives. This might include the hours that a telephone helpline would be staffed and the number of enquiries received in a year. There may also be requirements concerning the training of staff, minimum insurance cover, equal opportunities and employment practice. In law there is no such thing as a service agreement, so the agreement is either a grant or a contract. This will depend on the specific wording of the agreement.

Recommended reading: See CASHFACTS: Writing a budget and Writing Better Fundraising Applications by Michael Norton (Price £9.95 +£1.50 p&p). Available from The Directory of Social Change, Radius Works, London NW3 2HL.

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Last updated: Mon, Mar 31 2008 - 03:07:29 PM

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