Trusts and foundations give around £8bn in grants across the UK each year and so are invaluable sources of income for most charities. They vary hugely in terms of scale, priorities, origins and application process – and you need to tailor your application to each, bearing these things in mind.
Chloe has already given us a great ‘Introduction to Application-Writing’ blog from our Cause4 training back in October. At the National Arts Fundraising School last month, we had a further fantastic session on writing effective applications to trusts and foundations and I want to share with you some of the advice we were given:
- Write in simple language, aim for 15-17 words in a sentence, avoid using jargon or buzzwords, and explain acronyms and technical terms.
- Use an easy-to-read and generic font that will display well on any computer and in print; likewise, use a simple and easy to follow format – no flashy colour inks or packaging.
- Listen to them! If they provide guidelines and an application form, USE THEM. If they have priorities, make sure you explicitly refer to the ones that your organisation fits. And if they say that they don’t fund projects or organisations like yours, don’t waste your time and theirs by applying.
- But also do your own research and thinking, check their accounts on the Charity Commission website to see whether their actually do fund what they say they do, or if they say there’s no maximum grant but they mostly give out £1,000.
- Proofread.Typos and grammar mistakes reflect badly on your ability to do the job properly, and also make it harder for the funder to read.
We were also provided with a guideline structure, which I’ve found invaluable already. This is particularly helpful if there’s no structured application form. Even when answering specific questions it’s worth thinking about the balance of information that funders want to see:
- 10% Summary– a clear and concise summary of the rest of the document. It is worth putting the amount you’re asking for in at the very start, so that the funder can read your proposal with the scale in mind.
- 20% Introduction– background of your organisation: your aims and track record. Here is where you show you are credible and worth funding.
- 30% Problem Statement– outline the specific and unique ‘need’ that your project will address. A good problem involves people, is concrete, relevant and in demand, can be solved, and is urgent. Use statistics if you have them.
- 25% Your Activity– detail what you’re going to do, and what you’re going to achieve by doing it. Make sure to include both outputs and outcomes (see below).
- 5% Evaluation– how are you going to measure the impact of your project? And what will success look like?
- 5% Budget– make sure that this is accurate and that the figures add up! Money is why we’re all here, after all.
- 5% Future Funding– this was a new idea to most people but makes a lot of sense. How are you going to ensure the long term sustainability of your project?
It takes a concerted effort to shift your emphasis away from your project – it’s fun and you’re passionate about it! – and towards the ‘need’ that your project will tackle. But this is what funders want to see – after all, they are giving money charitably in order to support charitable organisations to thrive.
Similarly, for me it was an attitude change to start to clearly discern between outputs (activities) and outcomes. Most funders, particularly those whose priorities aren’t solely arts for arts’ sake, want to see outcomes e.g. how many young people are now in work, or how many dementia patients have improved wellbeing. Even if your ambition and outputs are purely artistic, the outcomes will reflect the belief that the arts are intrinsically good for the viewer, the artist or society.
This month we have more training on grant applications, so no doubt there will be even more advice to share in the future!