Grant Applications - Top Tips and Common Pitfalls

Created on 25/02/2015

One of the most common methods for securing project funding, and potentially the most rewarding, is grant applications. The Association of Charitable Foundations states that there are around 8,800 charitable trusts and foundations around the UK awarding  £2.1 billion in grants every year. This amounts to 10% of all annual income for voluntary organisations.

Despite the amount of money given away each year there is intense competition for every grant, so a high quality application that stands out from the rest is crucial to securing funding. The application process for each trust can be very different. For some you may have to fill out an application form, for others you could be required to write several sides of A4 on your project. No matter what the process is there are a few key steps you can follow, and common pitfalls you should avoid, that will increase your chances of success.

Top Tips

  1. Research: Always research the trust or organisation you are applying to. Call them to explain your project and to find out more information about its history, motivations, what it’s likely to fund and what it has funded in the past.  A tailor-made application will stand a far better chance of success than a generic format that could have been copied and sent to numerous other funders.  

  2. Balance: Striking a balance in the application is important. You don’t want to adopt a pleading tone but at the same time being too formal can harm your chances. You need to get the key information across clearly and concisely but retain a personal touch. Some trusts receive hundreds of applications, so make sure yours conveys why you deserve the money.

  3. Checking: Once you’ve filled in the application find someone not involved with your project or organisation to read it through. Ask them one question: Would they give money to this project? The funder’s decisions are completely at their discretion so it is good to get an idea of how your application is received by other people before submitting it.

Common Pitfalls

  1. Ineligible applications: Read the criteria carefully to ensure you are eligible for the grant. If there are no guidelines available online then call the trust to describe your project. Many funders are very specific about what they will and will not fund, and if you do not meet their criteria your application is likely to be discarded straight away.

  2. Supporting Documents: Don't forget them! Alongside the application you will often have to send supporting documents such as a set of your organisation’s financial accounts, quotes for work on your project or evidence of other funding received.  It is very important to read the guidelines carefully and make sure you include all documents they ask for or your application may be rejected straight away.

  3. Time: Leaving the application to the last minute - the deadline for applying is usually clearly stated but if it isn’t, then call the trust to find out. You will want plenty of time to check over the application and may need to allow for it to be sent via post. Sometimes applications are assessed only once or twice a year so work out how much time you have before you need the money for your project and plan accordingly.

Helpful Resources

There are several invaluable websites and resources you should use when it comes to finding funding for your project:

IWA’s website contains a list of grants that is updated with new funding opportunities every month. 
Funding Central is an invaluable free search engine that lists thousands of grant-making organisations. It should be one of the first places to begin your search for eligible grant funding.
The Heritage Alliance has a heritage funding directory that is also a useful search engine for finding heritage related grants.

For more information please contact Toby Gomm

Photo: Frankton Locks at the start of the Montgomery Canal. The Montgomery Canal Partership received a grant for £160,000 in 2013 from The Heritage Lottery Fund to further restore the canal. (photo by Graham and Marilyn Speechley)