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Writing funding applications

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A practical guide to writing funding applications, designed for charities and voluntary sector organisations.

Funding applications are an essential part of helping your charity to raise money. You can apply for funding for small and large-scale projects from a wide range of organisations. Here’s how to write a funding application that will work.

Keep the application short

For many trusts and foundations, you’ll be asked to write a letter of application. An application letter should be no longer than two sides of A4. Keep the sentences short and use active language, eg ‘our scheme helped 200 users in six months’ not, ‘in six months, 200 users were helped by our scheme’.

If you have to complete an application form, stick to the word limit – include only the really useful information and the data that supports it.

Give the funder what they want

If the funder has a set process for applications, follow it. Make sure you provide every piece of information they ask for. Check that you’ve completed the form correctly before you send it, otherwise it may be returned or rejected.

Tell the funder who you are

Briefly explain a bit about your organisation’s background, activities and aims early on in the application. If you are new to the funder, show them that they can trust you to deliver the proposed project. Provide press clippings and endorsements.Tell them about notable members or supporters. Refer to the support you have received so far. Use hard evidence (where possible) rather than anecdotes or opinion.

Describe the problem, and your solution

Offer enough information for someone completely new to the issue.

Make sure you address the key questions:

  • what is the issue?
  • why is it a problem and how do you know this (evidence of need)?
  • what will you do to address it (activities and outcomes)?
  • what will you not be able to do (scope)?
  • why are you best placed to address the problem (track record)?
  • what difference will their funding make (how you’re meeting their objectives)?
  • how will you measure success (monitoring and evaluation)?

Ask for project funding

Funders like to give money to something tangible and new. They are reluctant to fund vague ‘administration costs’. Even if you are continuing existing work, try to present it as a specific project. Put it in a timeframe. This helps you set a deadline for results. You can include administration costs in your budget, as long as they relate to the project. See the Big Lottery Fund’s guidance on full cost recovery to help you work these out.

Be positive in your application

Use positive language. Talk about what will happen when you get the money. This will help the funder feel confident that you can make a difference. It also helps you show that your project does not begin and end with this application.

Offer a human story

Try to include case studies of people you have helped or plan to help. This lets you show the impact of your work.

Avoid jargon

Keep the language simple so an outsider can understand the issues. Only use jargon if the funder has used the terms themselves.

Offer evidence for your cause

Support any claims you make with evidence, for example: government statistics, data you’ve collected from surveys or market research, monitoring information or extracts from reports by relevant agencies. Provide enough to back up specific statements. You can send extra evidence, relevant promotional materials, annual reports etc. along with the application, although a grants officer may have no obligation to read anything that is not included in the actual form.

Ask for money

This is very important. When asking for money you could:

  • ask for a specific lump sum or an amount over a period of time
  • use previous project budgets as an example
  • if the grant will not cover your full project budget, explain where the remaining funds will come from; funders sometimes prefer not to fund a whole project, and encourage to secure a mix of income. For more information on funding see our funding and income overview.
  • include a basic budget (unless asked for more detail) explaining the cost of individual parts of the project.

Provide a budget

The budget should explain how the money will be spent on the project. Include all the relevant costs. If possible show how you determined the costs. Remember to include things like insurance, utilities and legal fees. Your budget should be realistic and clearly relevant to your activity.

Check your application again, and again

Get someone outside the project team to read your application before you send it. They can look for errors or inconsistencies and ask for explanations.

Get more help

NCVO training on writing successful fundraising bids

NCVO's Studyzone video Write a Winning Funding Bid

Directory of Social Change (DSC) training

Funding Central’s ‘Making better applications’ tool


Page last edited Sep 24, 2018

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