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 every year.

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 following:

  • location
  • 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 (
  • 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
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 (

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 much. 

  • 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 proposing?

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 run.
  • 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 later stage.
  • 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 beneficiaries.
  • 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 interested in.

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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