A grant is a great way to get a project off the ground and is possibly the best source of funding available. There is no interest to be paid and funds are generally non-returnable (except in exceptional circumstances, where grant terms and conditions are not met).
Grants are often referred to as ‘free money’, but there are usually a number of strings attached. Anyone who has ever tried to secure a grant will be familiar with the fact that grants can be notoriously difficult to get. It is hard work convincing the awarding body that you deserve support, and a considerable amount of effort and time is involved in making an application.
Grants are provided by a variety of different of sources for a variety of different purposes including facilities, equipment, events, training etc
It is important to find the right grant before starting work on your application, as you may be wasting your time and that of the awarding body. As such, it is essential to keep informed about the grants that are available to you.Back
To reach your specified funding target, it may be necessary to match fund costs by applying to more than one funding source, or to supplement grants by utilising your own budget or income.
Whilst some funds offer financial aid of up to 100% of the costs, you may need to demonstrate written confirmation, even if just in principle, of assistance from additional sources. This can be quite common when searching for support, so do not make the assumption that you will need only one source to meet your total funding requirements.
Match funding can cause significant problems when attempting to synchronise the funding to fit the timescale of your project. Some funders may not operate within the April to March financial year, and your project may end up working to two or more timescales.
This issue can, however, be solved quite easily by planning your project in stages (eg September-March and April-July).
Furthermore, funding bodies may accept in-kind contributions as part of match funding. This provision is particularly useful for small-scale community-based projects that may not attract the necessary matching investment in cash, but will receive assistance in non-financial support. In-kind contributions may take the form of equipment or materials, research or professional support, an interest in land or buildings, or unpaid voluntary work. Where an in-kind contribution takes the form of unpaid voluntary work, you may need to assess the nature and scale of the work (this could include valuations, timesheets etc) provided by the volunteer, in order to calculate an appropriate value of their work and convince the funding body that such assistance can be accepted as match funding.
Before you make an application, look at the set-up of your organisation. Is it well run? Some organisations are more successful at securing grants due to their commitment, hard work and, above all, the reputation they have built for delivering results.
It is essential that you demonstrate that your organisation:
- is reputable and efficiently run;
- has a clear and specific vision of what it wishes to do, how it aims to achieve its goals, and the benefits/differences that will be derived from the project for its target group;
- has a strong management committee that is dedicated and democratic;
- has finances that are regulated and in order;
- has a long-term business plan;
- has a good, clear and precise understanding of the project and its purpose;
- is aware of, and complies with, any legislation in relation to the project, such as and Health and Safety, Child Protection Act, Equal Opportunities, and even necessary planning consents (planning in principle is often required for facility funding before an application can be made and full permission before money will be released).
When completing an application form, make sure that you give a few details and background information about your organisation.
As discussed above, funders often decide on whether to award
grant aid not just on the proposed project, but also on how credible an organisation is. A project may be approved, but funders often decline applications if there appears to be a risk where the organisation is concerned.
To prevent this from happening, try to give a brief account of how and why your group/organisation was started, how it is run, what area it covers, what ethos it is based on, what additional support it has in place etc. Basically, give the funder an insight into the type and breadth of work that you are currently capable of.
It is essential to emphasise the fact that your organisation is well run. Do you have a management committee/Board with the skills to govern your project responsibly, and do they share the same interests? Do you have a constitution setting out your aims and objectives? If you are applying for public or charitable money, funders will require evidence that there are sufficient systems in place to prevent grants from being used for private gain.Back
In a lot of cases, applications are rejected because funders do not believe that there is a need for the project, or because they are not persuaded that your idea will solve a particular problem or is what people want.
Ask yourself the following questions:
* What needs do your target group have?
* can you demonstrate demand for your proposal/project
* How do you know that they have such needs?
* Why is it important that these needs are met?
* How will your proposed project fulfil those needs?
To demonstrate the extent of your target group’s ‘need’, you must have facts and figures to support your case. You could use statistics from a recognised source or conduct your own survey/ questionnaire asking people about their views - this can be particularly useful if you are seeking funding for a smaller project. If you are looking for finance for a large project, you may need to carry out a fully costed appraisal/feasibility study and show that you have researched the various ways you can meet the need, indicating which option you have chosen and why.
It is important, however, not to rely solely on statistics to paint a picture of your project. Bring in the human aspect wherever possible to communicate to the awarding body what the situation is like for your target group, such as including quotes from mountain bikers. Demonstration of community support is often an important part of applying for funding.
Important to fully understand what awarding bodies are looking for. You should fully understand their funding criteria and make sure you demonstrate how you will contribute to the objectives of the award scheme. If for example an awarding body’s purpose is to develop sport make sure you demonstrate how your project develops sport.
Overall, make sure it is clear to the funder that you have done your homework and researched your project!Back
Funders will always want to see evidence that your project is well planned. To do this, you must specify the main aspects that will help to achieve your aims and make your project possible.
You must tell the awarding body:
- what it is you are going to do;
- what difference your project will make in terms of benefits to your target group;
- when and where your project is going to happen;
- how you are going to carry out your project and what you need to do it (ie equipment, premises, staff);
- who will be responsible for conducting the project; and
- how you are going to measure whether your project has achieved its aims and made a difference.
From the funder’s point of view, it is essential that applicants show that they are serious and will be able to successfully deliver projects, no matter how good a proposal it appears to be on paper.
Most sponsoring bodies will not give out grants simply for a good cause. They will want evidence of relevant research and forward planning in accordance with the amount of money being requested and the type of work.
For example, a group looking for money to buy a few pieces of equipment may only need to supply a couple of quotes, while an organisation wanting new premises or additional staff may need to provide cash-flow projections, a business plan, job descriptions, planning consents etc. Essentially, the more money you want and the more risky your activity, the more work, planning and evidence you will need!Back
Once you have devised your project plan you will need to calculate how much money you require to enable you to carry it out, justifying the amount you have requested.
It may be that you draw up a budget for your organisation’s work as a whole, a separate budget for a particular activity, or a single figure for a one-off item of equipment.
Whatever you require funding for, when drawing up a budget you should include all aspects of your project - even the hidden costs like salaries/cost of the staff involved in the administration of your project, premises and related expenditure (rates/rent/fuel), communications (telephone/postage), and any travel or training.
Make sure that you do not guess what the costs may be, but get estimates or quotes to illustrate how you have worked the costs out. You could even review what you have spent in previous years or look at the accounts of other organisations that have carried out similar activities in the past to give you an idea of the value.
Always remember - don’t over or under-estimate your project costs. Be as realistic as possible! And be fully aware of the extent of the funding stream. Fully understand what is and is not eligible within a fund and don’t make assumptions on what will or will not be funded.
And, at the same time as telling the funder how much you need and what the funding will be used for, make sure that you tell them over what period of time the project is likely to run.
Bear in mind that some funding bodies will increase their contribution if for example your project is based in a remote rural area or if it serves or is located in an area of multiple deprivation.Back
Funding bodies will always want to see evidence of good management and that your organisation is capable of delivering the project. It is extremely important that you have efficient procedures for the handling of finances within your organisation (ie a good bookkeeping system and properly prepared accounts) and that you can provide evidence that you will be able to account for the money that is given to you.
In addition, funders will also look at the policies that an organisation has in place, including Health and Safety, employment, child protection and equal opportunities.
A guide has been produced by the Carnegie Trust called ‘Steps to Successful Community-Led Provision’ which breaks down the key elements of creating successful community led organisations.Back
With any grant application, funders will always want to know that the grant they have provided is making a long-term difference to the lives of the people benefiting from the funding.
They need to be sure that the money they are giving is being spent wisely.
As such, the awarding body is interested in the positive outcomes derived from the assistance they are offering, and its significance to the beneficiaries rather than to the applying organisation.
The grant schemes prevalent in today’s funding world strongly highlight this point. For example, funding for a new sports centre will not be offered simply to provide better facilities for its members; it must lead to further benefits for the community as a whole, such as opening up facilities to the general public and integrating the disadvantaged into the community.
It is essential that you emphasise you are working ‘with’ the community and that their views and needs are taken into account
within your project plans. When approaching the subject of how your project will make a difference within your application, think laterally. Take a step back from what your project is actually doing and look at what impact it might have on the community, environment and/or local economy as a whole.
This way you are more likely to meet the aims and objectives of the funder, and thus increase your chances of securing the funding you desire.
If/once you have been awarded a grant, a large number of funding bodies will wish to see information illustrating how you are achieving your aims and how your project is progressing and meeting the objectives of the funding body.
Most funders will expect to see project monitoring and a number of measurable outputs to enable them to assess how successful their investment has been, and to judge whether a group/project is really making a difference.
Again, monitoring can be time-consuming but very important. It may require a worker to keep a record of what has been achieved against what was planned, such as a record of how many people attended an event, how many phone calls were received, how many jobs were created etc. Monitoring can even include methods such as interviews, questionnaires or surveys to determine how people or their views have changed since the implementation of your project.
You must think about monitoring at the planning stages of your project and try not to leave it until you get your grant. Set specific targets that you want to measure or milestones that you want to reach, and make a decision about how you are going to measure whether you have achieved them. This will also show funders that you really do care about your project and the difference it will make.Back
One of the main reasons proposals are unsuccessful is because they have been submitted to the wrong funding scheme in the first place.
It is common for people to spend too much time on writing the proposal and not enough time on analysing the key features of a programme. Rather than attempting to make your proposal fit into the format and eligibility criteria required, identify the most appropriate funder and spend time producing a well structured proposal with key aims that are aligned with the programme’s funding objectives.
As discussed earlier, it is often the case that many funding providers do not have sufficient budgets to meet all requests for funding due to the increasing number of applicants who approach them for support. It is, therefore, a good idea to be familiar with the common reasons why funding bodies reject applications, in order to prevent such issues from arising.
The most prevailing factors include the following:
* Applicants fail to illustrate why their project is needed, and do not make their plans explicit and concise on their application form.
* The project is poorly planned and there is no indication of what the money will be spent on.
* The funder’s guidelines have not been examined accurately and applications fail to demonstrate that they fulfil the criteria.
* Applicants budget inaccurately and do not display good financial management.
* It is not shown that the organisation is well managed and is capable of successfully running the project, including effective monitoring and evaluation of the activity.
Please bear in mind that within the context of diminishing funding resources and increasing competition for funds, even good projects may get turned down. It may be useful to familiarise yourself with any priorities highlighted within a particular funding source.Back
Overall, there is no right or wrong way to complete an application form, but bearing in mind the issues discussed in this article may increase your chances of success.
o Get in touch! Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland is here to help your organisation – send us a mail and let us know your plans.
o Don’t start your project before applying.
o Apply as soon as possible.
o Needs - does your project proposal match the sponsor’s objectives?
o Talk to the awarding body to get their advice before you apply for assistance.
o Develop a project/business plan. Most grant applications will require one.
o Imagination! Consider all angles of your project. Think laterally!
o Need match funding? If so, make sure you have the funds available.
o Demonstrate that your project cannot proceed without assistance.
o Ensure your application is in respect of your project.
To conclude, treat applications for grant assistance as you would a job application and include the same level of detail/thought/care. Ensure that you are addressing the criteria fully and make your application memorable.
If you can, refrain from sending your application out straightaway. Ask someone else to read over it to see if it makes sense, or give yourself plenty of time to complete it and then leave it to ‘blossom’.
When you look at it with fresh eyes, ideas might spring to mind which you had not previously thought of or you might pick things up that could be re-worded to get your point across better.
It might even help to put yourself in the shoes of the funder and imagine it is your money.
Would you be convinced by your application!
Good luck and remember to get in touch as we may be able to help you achieve your aims.Back