Fundraising: Applying for Grants


As a charity in order to survive, you need to secure funding. The obvious place for non-profits to start seem to be applying for grants.

However, the sources need to be diversified. Perhaps include a mix of private donations, trusts and foundations. Some fundraising events and, if possible, generating income via social enterprise. However, for a start-up charity it is not that simple. The first few years may involve redefining your mission, modifying your programmes maybe even some conceptual changes. It can’t be argued that a large part of this time will be spent earnestly writing grants and locating funds.

The first and foremost step is, where to apply? It would be a great if you could pull-out names from a hat or better yet, choose organisations as DFiD, Comic Relief and USAID. But the reality is, that they are the big boys! Even though DFiD has the Global Poverty Action Fund (GPAF), it is competitive and, as a start-up, you are better off focusing your resources on smaller trusts and foundations.

If you are registered in the UK, the Charity Commissions website is a good source as is NIDOS and BOND UK–  they have released reports on the most active Trusts & Foundations (T&F) in the UK. Other places include Funds for NGOs and, more specifically for USA, Charity Navigator. At this point it is also a good idea to start tabulating these trusts and foundations in an excel document, making note of the application process and also the deadline. This will give you a chance to not only prioritise T&F according to when the applications are due but also the ones which are most relevant to your organisation. Other ways of prioritising are by size of funding available and  duration of support ( one-time funding or three years etc)

“Some fundraising events and, if possible, generating income via social enterprise.”

Simultaneously you should work on what I commonly refer to as a Go-To Document. This is a lengthy document (under 10 pages) housing information on your organisation, its program(s) and local partners.  It can be a version of your business plan, if you have one, but its not the business plan. The language used here is to “sell” what you do and it needs to touch on all the bases, namely: your mission, aims and objectives, who the beneficiaries, the budget and even a spiel on why you started. Other technicalities such as sustainability, monitoring and evaluation and gender mainstreaming should also be included. Some T&F might be interested in “The Need” others may ask you to focus on why your organistaion is best suited for this task. Lastly, it is always best to have up to date statistics on your area of impact and match it back to how you operate.

Next up is revisiting the database and picking out three/ four T&F and, based on their application process, either filling out the form provided or presenting a two pager on your organisation. A few points to keep in consideration when applying are:

“The language used here is to “sell” what you do and it needs to touch on all the bases, namely: your mission, aims and objectives, who the beneficiaries, the budget and even a spiel on why you started.”
  • Keep jargon to a minimum
  • Know what details are important. Some T&F might be more interested in your organistaion, other might be interested in just the project specifics.
  • Focus on beneficiaries and include information on direct and indirect impact.
  • Demonstrate you are familiar with the risks associated and have taken precautions to minimise them.
  • Familiarise yourself with the T&F funding policy, if they have one, or information available on their website and make reference to this in your application (but don’t copy / paste from it).
  • Don’t leave the budget to the last minute!

Most charities I have worked with find “where to apply” as the most difficult part. Yes, it can be difficult as online databases are usually accessible after a paid membership. However, there are other ways to go about it. One approach can be to find project similar to yours and see who funded them. The Charity Commission website and Charity Navigator (for the US) has a wealth of information from T&F accounts to how regularly they file documents- a good indicator of how active they are.

The search is a time consuming task, but one that can be given to volunteers and interns.  It may feel strenuous at first, but keep sending out the applications and updating your database. There will be rejections but occasionally and eventually, there will be some positive feedback.

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