Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Funding for your Charity or Community Enterprise - What you'll need if you're applying for a grant

I've come across many wonderful groups of people in the last year of weirdness and lockdowns, doing essential volunteer and charity work in their neighbourhoods. Many of them could use a bit of extra cash, but aren't sure how to go about applying. You can hire a bidwriter (rather expensive) or ask someone to do your bidwriting for free, but they will need some information from you first, and you may well find you can do the applications yourself with a bit of preparation and research. Here's a checklist to get you started: 

First Steps: 

Think about why YOU are best placed to do the necessary work. Is there another charity or enterprise in your area already doing a good job? Could they use your help? Sometimes groups merge, and can work together really effectively. Don't try to re-invent the wheel, if you can offer your epic skills to an organisation that's working. 

Is there no-one doing the work you can do? Excellent, that's the first thing you should tell your funders! Meet with your team, and decide exactly where you're going. What are your core values? You'll need to look at how you're helping. How many people have you served? Is it a diverse section of society, or specialised group? How does your service help them? Can you link your work with current events, such as political or health or climate events? Collect as much data as you can, and tell the story of your data. Depending on the funding organisation, this bit of storytelling could be 250 or 400 words, up to 500 at most. Have a document ready with different versions in different word counts, and practice being succinct! You will definitely want to apply for more than one lot, so you could cut and paste from your master document if you're well organised. 

To help you tell your story, look at resources such as British Indices of Deprivation maps (and if you're a spreadsheet person you can download useful spreadsheets here) or  Young Persons Education Stats, which can give you data on income, employment, health and disabilities, educational attainment, crime and more. If you are working towards environmental recovery, see here. Outside of the UK, you should be able to find similar resources, reports and news articles which will give you useful data to back up your application. 

If you are wondering where to find funding, you might try approaching your local council or a larger local charity who could have someone in the know about what's currently available. New funds pop up all the time, so it's helpful if someone's got their finger on the pulse. Network! You could also do searches on the web. Try to be fairly specific, for example 'charity funding gardening mental health', or 'charity funding art teenagers'. There are countless funds available - but be on the lookout for scammers, please, and don't give your bank details to anyone unless you're sure they are legitimate. 

What you'll Need in your Application: 

Every funder is different, but apart from your story or description above, they will also ask you for certain pieces of evidence. Here are a few horrible ones that are likely to come up: 

Your income over the last accounting year. This will need to be audited, if you’re a larger charity. For new charities, some funders are happy to chat and may accept applications without accounts. If your charity or enterprise accounts show a significant surplus or deficit, you may be asked to explain this. If your application is successful, you will probably need to prove that the funds have gone where you say they will, so be prepared to keep careful records and to answer detailed questions. 

Your budget for the project. Argh! Hopefully you know a friendly quantity surveyor, accountant or savvy person with numbers. You'll need to convince your funders that the money you receive is going to specific items, such as petrol for the van, or gardening tools, or art supplies... be as detailed as possible here, keep your receipts, make a spreadsheet to track everything. Often, salaries are not covered by funding, but sometimes you can ask for this. 

For small, new charities, the name and contact details of a reference, a member of some local charity, council, church group, who can receive or manage the money on your behalf, may be needed. If you have such a person in your network it would be good to have a chat with them anyway, as they could be a good ally.  

It might be a good idea to apply for a charity registration number. This is not always required but the larger funding bodies such as National Lotteries, Comic Relief and so on will definitely need you to be registered. 

Finally: 

Of course, there are many ways to raise funds: platforms such as Crowdfunder or JustGiving, passing the hat around and good old-fashioned lemonade* stands on hot days, so be creative and get out there. As your organisation grows, there will be important things to think about. You will certainly need a bank account, as most funding bodies prefer to pay into an official charity account. You may need a safeguarding policy, data protection policy, a website... at some point you may wish to hire someone to help you steer your charity and ensure you are developing in a way that's in line with your values. Volunteers may become salaried workers. There will be legal obligations, differences in opinion, and challenges. 

*not actually lemonade

From time to time, think back to your first steps. What are your core values, have they changed? Has another excellent charity appeared, that you could partner with? Are you serving the purpose you set out to? Look at your people as well. Are you all using your skills in ways that bring you happiness? Could you outsource the chores you struggle with? No matter how small your organisation is, these are good things to think about. Being able to help others by using our unique skills, and working with and creating social connections with people who have similar values, can be so rewarding. 


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