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How to provide relevant information when outlining a Lottery bid

The National Lottery Community Fund is one of the UK's largest donors, supporting everything from expensive building renovations to local community projects. This HowTo has been written to help you to outline relevant information when making your bid.

Things you'll need

  • Appropriate application form and guidance notes
  • Pens, paper and post-its

Which Lottery fund?

The Big Lottery Fund is the umbrella term for several funding pots. As they say on their website: "We give grants from £300 to over £500,000 to organisations ranging from small local groups to major national charities."

They also have area-specific pots for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

You can find details of all of their funding schemes on their website. Before you decide which grant to apply for, be sure to click the 'Questions & Answers' tab. This is the section that tells you who can apply, what the purpose of the grant is, how much you can apply for and who to contact for further information. Read these carefully. Competition is always high for funding. Save yourself time and disappointment by making sure that your project is suitable.

In this HowTo, we'll focus on one of their most popular scheme: Awards for All as an example. The theory behind the information you need to provide should remain fairly similar across each of their application processes, though.


Tick lists and margin notes

The majority of a Lottery Fund application is not rocket science.

It usually begins with a set of self-explanatory tick boxes and contact details for your organisation:

  • Do you have a secure bank account?
  • What's your address?
  • Who is the contact person?
  • What's your project called?

If you get stuck, you will see guidance notes down the margin, explaining in more detail what is required.

Each funding pot will also have a PDF of Guidance Notes that you can download from the website.


Describing your project

Lottery Funding is all about re-investing Lottery money into communities. For an application to be attractive, it has to clearly outline how it will benefit the community or group that the project is working with.

When describing your project, think:


Bottom-up and participatory approaches

The top-down approach is when an organisation sees a problem and decides to create a project to fix it.

A better, and more inclusive, approach is to start bottom-up. If you think there might be a problem, be it homelessness, lack of youth activities, gang culture or unemployment - go and talk to the people you want to help. Ask them:

  • Is there a problem?
  • Do I understand the problem?
  • What do you think would help?

You can do this in a number of participatory ways from informal chats, to surveys and public consultations.

Taking the extra time to do this will provide you with strong qualitative evidence of the need for your project. If your beneficiaries have helped to design your project then they are invested in it, and the project is likely to have a higher chance of success.

Being able to quote a young person as saying 'we have nowhere to hang out in the evenings, so we drink in the park,' is a much more persuasive argument for a Youth Centre than simply saying 'we think young people need a social space.' It also shows that you have taken time to connect with your stakeholders.


Hard facts

Point one was about showing the human angle.

A strong application needs both the human angle, and some hard data.

Why should anyone fund you? Because you are the expert in your field.

You can't explain the difference your project will make unless you can already show how things stand. Throwing in some facts and figures lets donors know that you truly understand the situation.

Which of these sounds more convincing:

  1. Outline One: We'd like to run a mentoring programme for young people in the area because there is a high level of unemplyment and gang culture. We think that by getting young poeple involved with strong role models, we can keep them out of crime.
  2. Outline Two: There is a clear need for a mentoring programme in this area. Examplehampton currently ranks in the lowest family income bracket on the Small Area Income Indicese, with high unemployment and social deprivation. In the past two years there has been a 22% increase in gang related crimes commited by people aged 15-21. A similar scheme in Somewhereville has shown that young people with strong role models are half as likely to get involved in gang culture as those without.

Who would you be more likely to give your money to?

A little bit of reseaerch goes a long way. Keep a folder of news articles, useful statistics and quantitative data with your funding files.



So, you can prove a need for your project and why it's important.

When you come to explaining precisely what you're going to do, keep things SMART.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound

Remember: anything you say you're going to do now, you will actually have to do at some point in the future. Don't wait to work out the logistics then - make it part of your project planning process from the very beginning. This instils confidence in donors.


The budget

Finally: the budget.

Avoid the two fatal flaws:

  1. Wild Guesses: "I think it will cost this much money..." If you guess instead of getting a quote you may find your project money is not enough to complete the project - or it is so high that no one wants to fund you.
  2. Under-selling: "If we don't ask for very much we are more likely to get it..." This attitude is almost guaranteed to get you too little money to complete the project. If a project costs too much to do it well, don't do it, otherwise you will lose money making up the deficit.

Think through your costs carefully. Top tips:

  • Your core costs should not be disproportionately larger than your project costs - around 30% or less.
  • Don't guess, get a quote - preferably three - and choose the best value for money (not always the same as the cheapest).
  • What is the volunteer worth to your project?
  • Do you have any match or in-kind funding to add?

A final tip: try to be relatively accurate with your pounds and pence. Round numbers are a bit of a giveaway of guesstimates. For instance: £7,580 sounds far more like you've sat down and worked out the real costs of the project than £8,000. Rounding up isn't always a bad thing, but just be aware of the impression it might give.

Further information


Page last edited Oct 09, 2019 History

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