Beginner's guide to grant fundraising
If you need to fund a large project, then applying to a
grant making trust is probably the solution for you. Ben Wittenberg
explains just how simple the process can be.
Grant making trusts are charities which exist to give away money
through grants to other organisations that actually carry out the
work. Collectively they give approximately £4 billion in the UK
The first step
Know what you want to do, in terms that will help you identify a
like-minded funder willing to support you so you can find the right
trust. Most funders will have criteria based on one or more of the
- who will benefit
- the problem or cause you are trying to address.
Prospective funders can be found by:
- Checking with your local authority - their website may
have a grant-finding search engine.
- Get some direction from your local Council for Voluntary
Service either online or in person (navca.org.uk).
- Using a search engine to find information about who is funding
similar work in your area.
- The Directory of Social Change publishes a number of print
directories of grant makers, most of which will be available at
your local library, or can be bought from dsc.org.uk.
Create your shortlist
This is the only really tricky part of the process - narrowing
your list down to the handful of funders that are right for you.
The best thing about grant making trusts is that there are
thousands of them, all funding different things in different ways,
which means you are highly likely to find a potential funder, no
matter what it is you want to do. The worst part is exactly the
same! Find out absolutely everything you can about the trusts you
have identified and to make sure you are eligible. The resources
above will help with this, some trusts may have their own website,
and you can find more information about them via the Charity
Commission website (charitycommission.gov.uk).
Improve your chances
Each grant making trust will have slightly different criteria
for funding - look out for:
- specific exclusions
- areas of interest
- limits to the size of grant they will give
- the types of organisation they support
- who they have funded before.
This should get you to a point where you are ready to start
applying to a targeted list of funders with whom you have a very
good chance of success. As a rule, if you don't meet a
trust's stated criteria, don't apply to it.
The numbers game
Decide how many applications to make, and for how
- If your project is within the parameters of a number of trusts,
then apply to all of them.
If your shortlist has a handful of trusts that give a maximum
grant of £25,000 and you are looking for £75,000, consider making
multiple applications for part-funding. Be aware of the application
timescales they all work to, and be prepared for what you'll do if
you only get part of the money you are asking for.
Form filling time!
The easy bit - writing the application! You know what you want
to do, you know who will benefit from it, and the trust you are
applying to exists to achieve the same things. All you have to do
is communicate that to them really well. If they have an
application form, that will give you the structure and the
information they need to assess your application. If you are asked
to apply 'in writing to the correspondent', don't panic! Keep your
application clear and focus on the following:
- what you are going to do
- who will benefit and the outcomes you expect to see
- how much it will cost
- how long it will take.
Ultimately, all funders only ever want to know two things from
their applicants: will supporting this project help us to achieve
our own objectives? And can the applicant deliver what they're
Top tips for applying to grant making trusts
- Read the guidelines!
- Read the guidelines again!
- Do you meet the funder's eligibility criteria? If not, move on
and find one where you do.
- If the funder does not have specific guidelines, then try to
ensure you are at least familiar with any geographical preference
the trust may have and note organisations that have been funded in
the past - is their project similar to your own?
- If the trust or foundation states that they are willing to
offer help and advice before an application is made, then contact
them to discuss your proposal beforehand - an initial telephone
call could save both of you a lot of time and effort in the long
- If the funder uses an application form, make sure that you
complete it as fully as you can - incomplete application forms are
likely to be the first ones to be filtered out.
- Where no application form is used, be concise in your written
letter of application and include your latest annual report and
accounts. Don't enclose any unnecessary materials at this stage -
most trusts don't have time to read them, and if they are
interested in your proposal they will request this material at a
- Application letters should be no more than four sides of A4 -
brevity is the key to getting your application read!
- The proposal should be written by someone who has a thorough
understanding of your organisation and the project that you are
requesting funds for - this person should be the named contact,
should a potential funder require further information.
- You must be able to demonstrate a need for the funding and be
able to directly relate this to how it will help you serve your
- Be realistic about how much you are asking for.
- Don't rely on a positive response from a single trust or
foundation - apply to as many relevant funders as you can to
maximise your chances.
- Be patient, and be prepared to never receive a reply! Some
funders acknowledge receipt of every application they receive, but
most only contact successful applicants or those that they are
Do you have experience of applying for grants that you'd like to
share? Email the
Let's Get Fundraising team.
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