Sourcing funds and grants for small charities was never easy and it certainly isn’t at all easy in the present coronavirus environment. In the last three years, I’ve learnt a lot as a trustee of a charity and succeeded in raising significant funds for redeveloping a building. When your charity is seventy five years old like ours and has never needed outside support so has no connection with any grant funder to call upon, you will be starting from scratch. Even so success is possible as we have proved.
Like all marketing activity, fund raising needs to be targeted. It is easy to do a scattergun approach with bids by applying to every funder you can find on the internet but don’t go there. A lot of people do this but why apply to funders who will probably reject you before you even get to the first stage because you have not understood what they are looking to support. If you are structured and analytical in your approach you won’t be wasting the most valuable asset that you have – time.
Before even thinking about funders, you will need to fully understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. Doing some basic market research and involving the community will work wonders and possibly tell you things that you didn’t even know. Knowledge is key. Compare your objectives to those of the funders you are considering approaching and go for the best possible fit. Not only will you find completing the application forms easier, you will make them more compelling and will stand a much better chance of success.
So careful consideration of which funders to approach will make all the difference. We looked at a mix of possible local, regional and national funders to approach. Many national funders will not consider applications without local involvement so getting local organisations and individuals involved is essential. Local donations may not be large but they really make a difference and can demonstrate clear local support for your project.
Without doubt, bidding for funding from the National Lottery has been the most valuable lesson for me and it’s a good one! I thought we knew what we wanted and where we were going but completing a bid document to the Lottery took this to a whole new level. The trustees had to ask themselves questions that they had not even considered before. All of this clarified our thinking and made all of our bids so very much more professional in their approach.
Look at what funders are asking for and consider the tone of their documents so that you can create a match with your own documentation – are they chatty or serious – you need to talk their language. Don’t forget that presenting your documents in a professional way goes a long way towards making a positive impression – make yourself stand out from the crowd. Making three bids? Don’t write one bid and then copy and paste it unchanged into the second and third. That’s a guaranteed fail just like lifting copy from the internet can be. Take your time, write for the funder and make each bid as unique as you are. Success will follow.
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