Grant fundraising: finding funding
There are over 8,800 grant-giving bodies in the UK, but
if you've never applied for external funding before, the whole
thing can seem quite daunting. We asked fundraising consultant John
Ellery and experts from Funding Central to explain the
When attempting to obtain grant funds for a school, a number of
factors will influence success: the suitability of your project for
the grant, identification of an appropriate fund, the quality of
the application, the level of detail in the project delivery plan,
the set outcomes achieved by your project, and the sustainability
or legacy of your project. As Toby Lovatt, Funding Central's Senior
Project Officer says, 'If you fail to prepare, then prepare to
fail!'. By doing your homework, you improve your chances of
success. Your application should communicate what makes your school
and your project special - infect others with your enthusiasm!
What information will we need in place before starting the
Most applications consist of the same questions posed and worded
in different ways. Consider these before completing any
- Why is your project needed?
- How will it be delivered?
- What impact will it have?
- What is your budget?
To answer these questions, you should consult the children at
your school and potentially the wider community. Back up your
application by collecting relevant statistics to prove that people
are interested in your proposal. Consider who will be responsible
for delivering the project and explore the full costs. It is
important to make sure your project costs are accurate to ensure
that if funding is granted, your project is deliverable. It also
shows the funder that you really are serious to go ahead with your
plans. Detailed quotes for large projects are usually
Do we need to be a registered charity?
Whilst having registered charity status will increase the number
of grant sources for which your PTA is eligible, this certainly
isn't essential. Non-registered groups and schools also have a good
number of sources to choose from, for both small and large-sized
How do we find a grant, how long should we allow for this part
of the process, and are there any costs involved?
Increase your success rate by identifying a grant source that
has aims strongly aligned with your project. Finding the right
grant source is an essential stage in the application process. You
can keep up to date with available grants by signing up to a range
of newsletters - the most subscribed list is the
government-commissioned Funding Central (fundingcentral.org.uk).
Some newsletters offer information about grants that are solely
suitable for schools or PTAs, however the majority of these have a
subscription fee of around £200. Most schools should be able to
access this public information without incurring a fee.
How many trusts should we apply to - one for the full amount or
several for parts of the whole project?
You can either apply for your whole project costs or split it
into smaller amounts. The benefit of the latter approach is that if
some applications are unsuccessful, then you should still be able
to progress with elements of your project. Whilst completing a
number of applications will take longer than a single, larger one,
the likelihood of a smaller application being successful is much
bigger. But check the criteria carefully. As Toby Lovatt says, 'A
scattergun approach may feel reassuring, but by being more
discerning you can make better use of your time. The criteria are a
bit like the minimum qualifications for a job. Don't bother
applying if you don't meet them.'. Check deadlines and make sure
you prepare your application well ahead, including all the relevant
supplementary information required.
Who should lead the application process?
For many schools, a member of staff will take on the role of
grant fundraiser. This enables an individual to develop their
skills, learn from any rejections and ensure projects complement
one another. An approach often used by small charities is to have a
team of people working together on grant applications, utilising a
range of skills and experience to maximise success. Having finance
officers, delivery staff (teachers), subject leads and site
supervisors jointly involved in the application process can help
produce high-quality application forms and ensure the projects are
ultimately deliverable and impactful.
For some schools, grant fundraising is taken on by the PTA - with
a specific individual assigned to take the lead. Ideally, this
would be an individual with project development, tendering or
financial management experience gained outside the education
sector. However, it's important to work with the school to state
the educational impact that a project will have.
Bear in mind that the more people you involve, the more
important coordination becomes if you're going to meet your
application deadline(s). Many schools struggle to identify someone
with experience and knowledge of grant fundraising and with the
added issue of finding the time to commit to grant fundraising
efforts, schools are turning to external consultant fundraisers.
With experience in the charity sector, consultant fundraisers use
this knowledge to succeed with school grant applications, however
check the credentials of any consultant before you use their
services. By using this approach schools usually find their success
rate increases, with good consultants taking up very little of
staff time to complete applications. It is important to ensure that
the success will more than cover the costs of the consultant,
however many offer a commission-based arrangement to mitigate
For more information
- Ellery Consulting works with a wide range of
schools and PTAs offering grant fundraising services and bid
writing training courses.
- Funding Central is a free resource managed by
NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations). As well as
listing thousands of funding opportunities, they also offer a
wealth of online tools and guidance.
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