Tips for being successful with your funding applications

Organisations in the voluntary, community and faith sector have, over many years, carried out essential and important work helping people who are vulnerable, disadvantaged, lonely and unable to access services for a variety of reasons. As a consequence of what they do they are able to apply for grants from a variety of funding bodies such as trusts/foundations (e.g. Lloyds Bank Foundation, Henry Smith Charity and Garfield Weston Foundation) as well as national funders such as BBC Children in Need and the Big Lottery.

In these times of austerity and poverty the role of charitable organisations in society and communities has increased massively however many of them have experienced funding cuts and, as a result, there has been a massive strain on their resources affecting their ability to support vulnerable people to the extent that they used to.

So what are the options facing these organisations? Some have fallen by the wayside and no longer exist. Others continue providing services, activities and projects however at a much reduced rate with many reporting growing waiting lists. At Dudley CVS we provide funding support through identifying potential funders that may be able to help as well as working with organisations when they make applications to funders.

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Grant funding is more important than ever. And it’s not always just about submitting an application. There are many things to consider before starting to work on a funding application. The most important thing is to plan what you want to do and then consider the aim or aims of funders you are considering approaching. Ensure your aims and what you want to do closely match the funder’s requirements. Beware “MISSION DRIFT” – don’t let what you do or want to do be influenced by what funders want.

There are plenty of funding opportunities so do the research. At DCVS we can identify which funders to apply to so long as we have the information on which to base our research. Once we have details of the intended project, what you want the money for (such as revenue costs including salaries, project costs, capital for equipment/buildings etc.), how much you want and for how long we can provide details of potential funders.

Having obtained these details then carry out more investigation by looking at the websites (if applicable) and/or speak to the funders explaining what you want the grant for. By speaking to a funder can save a lot of time if they tell you straight away not to bother applying. Conversely they may be very interested which gives you the confidence to make an application to them.

Always start either a discussion with a funder or an application request by providing background information about the organisation/project alongside a summary of your funding requirements. This should be brief and to the point with sufficient information to attract their interest. If they are “turned off” early on by too much detail/information they may not read the rest of the application which might be for some excellent work that would justify support. The secret is to “hook the funder” early on.

There are a variety of things a funder will want to know when you submit an application and if there is a form that needs completing then the questions will be supplied on the form. Always answer the questions accurately – don’t provide information you want to say or you think they want to know. Follow their guidelines very carefully and if they provide “prompts” on the application form make sure you cover each one as suggested. If any of these prompts are not applicable then explain why. However if you find that too many are not applicable then you may need to consider whether they are an appropriate funder to approach.

The key areas of a funding application are:

  • Need identified for the project or piece of work you want funded. Outline the issues/problems and evidence. Clearly explain what these issues are and how you know. Evidence is critical and can be results and/or successes of existing/previous work, consultation with beneficiaries/stakeholders/interested parties and research (local or national). Many applications fail because the need hasn’t been identified and evidenced sufficiently.
  • Beneficiary details stating who they are (people/individuals, communities, organisations), how many and where they are from.
  • Aims and Outcomes – the differences or changes you want to make for your beneficiaries using words of change (such as improve, more, better, increase, reduce, less etc.). Ensure the outcomes address the problems or issues identified and the aim shows what impact you want to make.
  • Activities – describe what you will do to meet the needs of your beneficiaries and achieve the outcomes you have planned.

Think of all of this as a journey where you have people (your beneficiaries) with problems or issues in their lives (need for your work or project) and you provide support for them (your activities) so that you can make their lives better (outcomes).

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You must have clear, efficient and good monitoring/evaluation procedures in place ensuring the measurement systems capture not only the inputs/outputs data reporting what you do/the activities you provide but also the subsequent results that show how well the beneficiary’s needs have been met through the achievement of successful outcomes. Then, by analysing this information, you can evaluate the impact of your work/project (meeting your aims) and showing the funder their money was well spent. In this way you may be able to approach them again for repeat funding or, if you have an ongoing grant (initially agreed for say 3/5 years), then they may continue supporting you as you are doing what you said you would do in your initial application.

An accurate and detailed budget must be supplied covering either the organisation’s full costs or just the costs of the project depending on what you are requesting. Include within the funding request the amount you want and for how long. Also provide details of other funding towards the cost of your work i.e. from your own resources and/or from other funders if applicable (if you are not asking for 100% funding).

Always consider value for money and the engagement of volunteers in your project or work. Funders like to know that their grant goes a long way to not only help lots of vulnerable people but also trigger other aspects of support via volunteers etc. so even more people are helped. They see this as key in proposals and often work out the value attributed to each person that you engage with by dividing the number of beneficiaries you plan to work with into the anticipated grant. This can, where there are many good applications to consider, swing the decision your way by you showing the funder how far their grant will go.

Enclosures/further information. Provide details of any other information you are sending such as evaluation reports (from previous projects/work), job descriptions (for any salaried posts you are asking to be funded in whole or part), accounts, annual report, publicity leaflets etc. This additional information provides funders with more in depth knowledge of your organisation and good background.

Don’t forget to thank the funder first of all for taking the time to consider your request and (most importantly) afterwards if you are successful. Write a short letter thanking them for agreeing to fund your organisation/project and, if they don’t ask for a formal evaluation of how their money was spent, provide feedback voluntarily sending photos if you feel this would add value.

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These “tips” are to help organisations get started. Once you have sorted out your plans and what you want to do then contact DCVS and we will arrange to meet with you to discuss your organisation/project and how to proceed in making strong funding applications getting in money to help you continue your valuable work in supporting disadvantaged/vulnerable people.

2014/15 a year of change and challenge

Following four very successful years (funding wise) 2014/15 proved to be a year where funding successes were much reduced however other opportunities came to the fore.

In the 4 years previous over 100 successful funding applications generated above £5M in new money into Dudley to support the great work of the voluntary, community and faith sector. However in 2014/15 there were just 13 successful applications resulting in new funding for organisations in Dudley totalling just over £700,000.

2 Big Lottery successes for Dudley Advocacy (£296,892) and Summit House Support (£288,287) were the grant funding highlights of the year. Lynda Nock from Dudley Advocacy said:

Martin was always ready to answer questions as soon as he could and his response whether by phone or email was prompt and efficient. I knew straight away that I could rely on him and his knowledge

A friendly, approachable method of working and always professional, in meetings and over the phone and email

Nothing changed in my usual approach to supporting the sector; I worked with 30 organisations, having over 60 meetings during which funding opportunities were identified and applications discussed.

What did change though was being involved in different approaches to securing support for organisations in our sector and to help them in becoming safer financially and more sustainable. During the year I attended various workshops/training courses around Social Finance and European funding.

As a result a series of articles on Social Finance have appeared in the Echo newsletter during 2015. The Building Better Opportunities funding initiative financed through the Big Lottery and EU funding has been launched in the Black Country and we are very much involved in Dudley.

Alongside all this activity I am continually discussing with organisations other ways of being more effective and efficient in these days of funding cuts and austerity. Suggestions include expanding services and bringing in a charging structure where appropriate (trading) as well as working more collaboratively and sometimes in partnership to achieve economies of scale, reducing costs etc.

Whilst the aim of this short blog is to show our involvement and successes at the front line of funding it is also here to reassure the sector that we are very much at the forefront of change and always keen and willing to support organisations as we move forward in these often challenging and exciting times that we currently live in. Lynda sums this up well by saying:

With the impact of statutory funding cuts within the voluntary sector, I believe that the funding information/advice/support that DCVS offers is vital for voluntary organisation to obtain funding in the future

 

Building Better Opportunities – EU Funding

I am pleased to share some information with you on a series of events we are co-hosting with Simon Hall from the Black Country Consortium. These events will help you to learn more about the funding opportunities that will become available through European funding in the future.

The Big Lottery Fund is making available £220M against a similar figure from the European Social Fund (ESF). These funds are available to support communities and people most in need with the following priority areas:

  1. Targeted community support
  2. Digital and financial inclusion
  3. Troubled families/families in focus
  4. Employment support for the over 25s

Funding will be delivered through Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) paying particular attention to the above local priorities. Examples of work that could qualify for support are:

  • Improving employability for the most disadvantaged
  • Helping those with multiple and complex needs
  • Improving financial literacy

The briefing will outline both the ESF/Big Lottery priorities and the expectations of the Black Country LEP around each of these themes and how you could potentially get involved.

The same briefing will be run on three different occasions as follows:

To book please click on the appropriate link above.

Notes from our latest funding workshop: Developing your community facility

Dudley CVS has always worked to broker relationships between funders and the groups we support, through working with big and small funders on their programmes and helping to promote them, searching for funders for our groups and supporting them with applications and bringing funders together with groups at regular ‘meet the funder’ events.  But last week, we ran a ‘meet the funder’ event with a difference, focussing on a theme which is becoming ever more popular in Dudley – developing community facilities and asset transfer.

In this post, you’ll find details of the event and the presentations that funders and others gave.

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