Winning Grants

I’m often asked by charities why they haven’t been successful in winning a grant and I know how disappointed they are when this happens.

Sometimes there may be factors behind the scenes we aren’t aware of. For example, the funder might have already funded several charities in the same locality or delivering similar projects. Sometimes it’s simply that there were several excellent applications and the panel had to make a hard choice.

In  ‘normal’ times grant funders receive far more applications than they can fund, and during the pandemic the number of applications they have received has hugely increased. So even with the best written applications you won’t always be successful.

But you can increase your chances of winning and here’s how.

Choose your funder carefully

They understand that writing applications take time and effort so most give you plenty of information to help you decide whether you are a good fit for them. If you don’t match their criteria (e.g. location) and priorities (e.g. beneficiary group), then your application is unlikely to be successful. 

If they offer you the opportunity to talk to them before submitting an application or to attend a webinar, you should always do this. If you’re not a good fit it’s best to know this before you spend time writing an application, and if you are, then you can pick up tips on what they are particularly looking for.

Make every word count

When you don’t have many words to convince the funder it’s important that every single one counts. Focus carefully on answering the question asked and include as much ‘evidence’ as possible. For example, the impact you have delivered before through similar projects, facts and figures from reports and community consultations that evidence local need, etc.

A rough rule of thumb is that you can gauge the detail they are looking for by the number of words they permit you for each answer. If they give you 750 words and you have only written 400 then you probably haven’t provided enough detail. But please don’t waffle – remember that every word should count.

It’s always a good idea to ask a trusted person to read through your application. A fresh pair of eyes helps make sure it’s clear and convincing. What’s ‘obvious’ to you may not be to somebody who isn’t familiar with your work. They can also help you take out anything that isn’t relevant to free space for more meaningful content.

Evidence the need and how your community will be involved

You can evidence need through beneficiary and community consultations, relevant statistics and reports. 

You can involve your beneficiaries and community in lots of ways including as volunteers, providing feedback, and co-designing services and approaches.

Be clear about what you are going to do and the impact this will have

  • What are you going to do?
  • How long will this take?
  • Who will benefit?
  • How many people will benefit?
  • What difference will this make? (your outcomes)
  • How will you measure this difference?

Be clear about how much you need and what for

Remember that the amount you ask for needs to be appropriate for your circumstances. For example, if you are a new or small charity it’s unlikely that a funder would consider you for a large grant.

Make sure that your budget is realistic and properly costed. Get estimates for things you need to buy (such as venue hire, equipment or materials) and remember to include employer’s national insurance and pension contributions in staff costs.

If you aren’t asking the funder for the full costs then remember to tell them where the rest of the money is coming from. For example from another grant, private donation, or your own reserves.

Review your public profile

If you’re a registered charity, community interest company or limited company make sure that the records you have supplied to the Charity Commission and/or Companies House are up to date. The funder will check!

They will also usually check out your website and social media so do make sure these are up to date and appropriate.

If you google your organisation and your key people what comes up?

Make sure you comply with everything

Whether it’s uploading the documents they ask you for or sticking to a word count, not complying at worst means you won’t be successful, and at best means your funding decision will be delayed.

A good bid writer is your secret weapon

They bring invaluable experience, persuasive writing skills and a constructively critical approach.

A good bid writer will save you time and money and importantly will vastly improve your success rate!

Melanie Bryan OBE DL

Melanie Bryan OBE DL

Honoured with an OBE for her services to Social Enterprise and Women’s Enterprise, Melanie is a multi-award winning entrepreneur, whose accolades include UK Top 50 Business Advisor, National Enterprise Support Champion and being named as one of the Maserati 100 for mentoring and advice.

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