General guidelines for writing funding applications
Always keep your project plan in mind. Don’t get carried away and commit yourself to a project you won’t be able to run even if it sounds better in the application.
Write in plain English. Use short sentences and avoid acronyms and jargon. There is no need to use formal or flowery language. Remember that you are describing your work to someone who has never met you or seen what you do.
Be specific about what you plan to do.For example, rather than saying “we will run sports activities for children”, say “we will run weekly football sessions and weekly hockey sessions for 8-11 year olds over a six month period. Each session will be 2 hours long and will be attended by 15 children.”
Focus your application on the funder’s priorities.For example, imagine your group runs a dance project for local people: if you are applying to a funder that prioritises projects which help people keep fit and healthy, focus on the fact that dance is good exercise. If you are applying to a funder that prioritises projects which promote arts and music activities, focus on the art and music element of the dancing.
Provide evidence that your work is needed. See our information section on Useful research for fundraising for some links to sources of evidence and people who can help with research.
Include all the information the funder has asked for and any additional information or documents they require.Missing things out might mean your application gets rejected automatically.
Take extra care to meet the deadline.Late applications will not be considered, even if they are fantastic!
Make your budget as specific as possible.Get quotes for everything you will need to pay for, so that it is accurate.
Do not include any non-specific items in your budget, such as “contingency costs” or “miscellaneous”.
Do not apply to more than one funder for the same costs at the same time.If you are successful in both applications you will end up having to turn down one of the funders. This could damage your chances of getting funding from them in future. The only exception to this is applications to very small trusts. It sometimes makes sense to write to several trusts for funding for the same costs, as each one may only be able to make a small contribution towards these costs.
An application letter should be no longer than two sides of A4. Keep the sentences short. Use active language, e.g. ‘our scheme helped 200 users in six months’ not ‘in six months, 200 users were helped by our scheme’
Give the funder what they want
If the funder has a set format for applications, follow it. Make sure you provide every piece of information they ask for.
Tell the funder who you are
Briefly explain a bit about your organisation’s background, aims and activities early on in the application. If you are new to the funder, show them they can trust you. Provide press clippings and endorsements. Tell them about notable members or supporters. Refer to the support you have received so far.
Describe the problem…and your solution
Offer enough information for someone completely new to the issue.
what is the issue?
why is it a problem?
what will you do to address it?
what will you not be able to do?
what difference will the donation make?
how will you measure success?
Ask for funding for a project
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.
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.
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. Provide enough to back up specific statements. You can send extra evidence, relevant promotional materials, annual reports etc. along with the application.
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 the value of previous donations as an example
state your overall target and how you are hoping to reach it
offer a shopping list 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.
Check, check and check your application again!
Get someone outside the project to read your application before sending it. They can look for errors and inconsistencies and ask for explanations.