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Getting ready to apply

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Before you can apply for grants, you need to make sure that your organisation is ready. Do you have all the things that funders will be looking for? Is everyone you work with keen to play their part?

Financial management

Start by making sure you have the basics in place. Often you’ll need to send evidence of these things with your grant application. Lots of people worry about this part of applying for grants. It’s normal to feel daunted. Once you practice going step by step through budgets and cash flow it gets easier.

  • You need a bank account with at least two signatories.
  • You usually need at least a year of accounts for your organisation (two or three years for some funders). Some funders let new organisations apply without a year of accounts.
  • You need to describe how you manage your accounts, budgets and cash flow. You need to know: who will do it, how they’ll share it with others and what will happen when problems occur.
  • You need to know what you want money for and how much it will cost in total. You need to turn this into a budget with amounts for different activities or items.
  • You need to know some of the phrases used in budget planning. This will help you describe your budget in a way they understand.
  • You need to show that you have money or other support that is separate to the grant.
  • You need to show that you have the right level of financial reserves. If your reserves seem high the grant funder may ask you to explain why.

Organisational management

Funders need to know a bit about how you run your organisation. They need to decide whether they trust you to manage their money well. Different funders ask for different things, but you should plan to be able to cover all the things on this list as the minimum.

  • Know your organisational structure and constitution. Do you follow the rules in it for running your organisation well? This is the beginning of good governance.
  • Be able to talk about how you manage your volunteers or staff. Do you look after them and engage them well?
  • Have some basic policies in place. You always need risk assessments for activities. Most organisations need safeguarding policies for children and adults at risk.

Learn more about good governance. Try our governance pages, and tools and resources for boards.

Proving need

All funders will need some evidence that what you do or want to do is useful and needed. As a general rule, the more money you're applying for, the stronger that evidence will need to be. The items in this list start with those that are easiest to get. You’ll only need the later items for larger grants.

  • Feedback, stories or testimonials from people you have helped or want to help.
  • Press or expert articles or letters about what you do.
  • Statistics about the numbers of people taking part in your activities.
  • Proof you have money coming in from other sources (match funding).
  • Short CV’s of your board and committee members showing their experience.
  • Evaluation reports of previous projects.
  • Case studies from previous projects.
  • Community consultations about your plans.
  • Evidence from other reports showing a gap that your project wants to meet.
  • Feasibility studies (for building projects).
  • Impact assessments.

What your organisation does

Funders need to understand what your organisation wants to do and how it wants to do it. Different funders ask for this in different ways. You'll usually need to explain what your organisation does and what the project does.

A great way to prepare for that is to see if you can answer questions that they’ll often ask. These questions also form the start of strategic planning for your organisation.

What is your vision?

This is what you want to achieve, the change you want to see in the world because of what you do.

What is your mission statement?

This is what you're going to do to make that change happen in the broadest sense. It should share themes with your charitable objects or other similar statements in your constitution. It doesn’t need to use exactly the same language. It should be quite short.

What are your aims and objectives?

This breaks the vision and mission statement down into smaller parts. A project might be working across all those parts or one of them.

What are the outcomes you want to see?

These are the differences that you want your project to make. As you work on your project and grant bid you’ll have to decide how you can measure whether they are happening or not.

What are the outputs that will get you there?

These are the things that you'll do to make the project happen. The number of sessions you want to run, the number of people you want to engage.

You can get started with grant funding before you can nail down all these answers. All it takes to be grant ready is to be willing to think about those questions and ready to work out how to answer them. When you write each grant application you will need to choose the answers that are most relevant to each grant.

How you will use the grant

Grant funders often complain that people apply without really explaining how they will use the money. You can stand out from other applicants by planning well. It takes time but it is worth the effort.

Most grant funding is for projects. That means activity that:

  • is taking place over a set period of time
  • includes a set of actions or activities that you have planned out
  • aims to make a difference in a specific way
  • starts at a future date after the grant is given.

Often the funder will ask you to show that the project is at least one of these things:

  • new and different to other things you have done
  • reaching new and different people, especially those most in need
  • not offered by anyone else in the area.

To prepare for finding grants you need to be very clear about what you need the money for. Most grants involve working with people in some way and you'll need to be able to talk about:

  • what you will do
  • who it is for
  • where it is going to happen
  • how many people you expect to reach
  • who those people will be - age, ethnicity, disability, where they live and other characteristics
  • the challenges those people face
  • how you aim to make a difference
  • how you'll review or evaluate whether you made a difference.

You won’t need to be certain about all these things, especially not the numbers. You do need to have thought it through well enough to put it on paper. You'll need to explain changes later if you find things turn out differently. If you have planned well, those conversations should go smoothly.

Some grants are not for projects that fit this model. Some funds are specifically for building projects or equipment (capital grants) that will have a different set of questions. A very small number of funders accept applications for your core (running) costs and don’t need projects. For these you will often need to answer the same type of questions across everything you do.

Grant applications are a team sport

Grant applications need a lot of planning and information. Delivering the projects that grants fund often also needs a lot of extra work. It can be very easy for someone writing grant bids to try and do it all on their own. But that is not the best way.

Here are some ways to get more people from your organisation involved. Pick the ones that work best for you.

  • Discuss finances with your treasurer or finance officer. Talk to the person who will manage the project about the budget as well.
  • Plan objectives and write policies with other people. Work with the people who will help run the activities and the people who will benefit.
  • Hold workshops where everyone works together to answer the questions on this page.
  • Talk about monitoring, reporting and evaluation before you apply and during the project. Don’t wait til the end. Involve everyone in these conversations.
  • Keep a record of work you do using the questions on this page. Store it somewhere that is easy for anyone connected with your organisation to use.

Need help sharing information? Find out about Cloud storage.

Next steps

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 18 November 2020

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