An introduction to grants
If you can't ask parents to support another event, or
you need to cover the cost of a more substantial project, then
applying to a grant-making trust could be the solution for you. Ben
Wittenberg, director of policy, publishing and research at The
Directory of Social Change, explains how simple the process can
Grant-making trusts are charities which exist to give money
through grants to other organisations who then do the work.
Collectively they provide approximately £4 billion in the UK every
The first step
Know what you want to achieve, in terms that will help you
identify a like-minded funder willing to support you so you can
find the right trust. Most funders will have criteria based on one
or more of the following:
- who will benefit
- the problem or cause you are trying to address.
How to find prospective funders
- Check your local authority - their website may have a grant
finding search engine
- Get some direction from your local Council
for Voluntary Service either online or in person
- Using a search engine to find information about who is funding
similar work in your area
- The Directory
of Social Change publishes a number of print directories of
grant makers, most of which will be available at your local
library, or can be bought from their website
- Access the school grants database at FundEd
Create your shortlist
This is the only really tricky part of the process - narrowing
your list down to a handful of funders that are right for you. The
best thing about grant-making trusts is that there are thousands of
them, all funding different things in different ways, which means
you are highly likely to find a potential funder, no matter what it
is you want to do. The worst part is exactly the same. Find out
absolutely everything you can about the trusts you have identified
and make sure you are eligible; the resources above will help. Some
trusts have their own website, and you can find more information
about them at the Charity Commission.
Improving your chances
Each grant-making trust will have slightly different criteria
for funding - look out for:
- specific exclusions
- areas of interest
- limits to the size of grant they will give
- the types of organisation they support
- who they have funded before
This should get you to a point where you are ready to start
applying to a targeted list of funders with whom you have an
excellent chance of success. As a rule, if you don't meet a trust's
stated criteria, don't apply to it.
The numbers game
Decide how many applications to make, and for how much. If your
project is within the parameters of a number of trusts, then apply
to all of them. If your shortlist has a handful of trusts that give
a maximum grant of £25,000 and you are looking for £75,000,
consider making multiple applications for part-funding. Be aware of
the application timescales they all work to, and be prepared for
what you'll do if you only get part of the money you are
Fill in the form
The easy bit - writing the application - you know what you want
to do, you know who will benefit from it, and the trust you are
applying to exists to achieve the same outcomes. All you have to do
is communicate that to them well. If they have an application form,
that will give you the structure and the information they need to
assess your application. If you are asked to apply 'in writing to
the correspondent', don't panic! Keep your application clear and
focus on the following:
- what you are going to do
- who will benefit and the outcomes you expect to see
- how much it will cost
- how long it will take
Ultimately, all funders want to know two things from their
applicants: will supporting this project help us to achieve our
objectives? And can the applicant deliver what they are
Top tips for applying to grant-making trusts
- Read the guidelines!
- Read the guidelines again!
- Do you meet the funder's eligibility criteria? If not, move on
and find one where you do.
- If the funder does not have specific guidelines, then try to
ensure you are at least familiar with any geographical preference
the trust may have and note organisations that have been successful
in the past - is their project similar to your own?
- If the trust or foundation states that they are willing to
offer help and advice before you apply, contact them to discuss
your proposal - an initial telephone call could save both of you a
lot of time and effort in the long run.
- If the funder uses an application form, make sure that you
complete it as thoroughly as you can - incomplete application forms
are likely to be the first ones to be filtered out.
- Where there is no application form, be concise in your written
letter of application and include your latest annual report and
accounts. Don't enclose any unnecessary materials at this stage -
most trusts don't have time to read them, and if they are
interested in your proposal, they will request this material at a
- Application letters should be no more than four sides of A4 -
brevity is the key to getting your application read.
- The proposal should be written by someone who has a thorough
understanding of your organisation, and the project for which you
are requesting funds; this person should be the named contact
should a potential funder require further information.
- You must be able to demonstrate a need for the funding and be
able to directly relate this need to the ways it will help serve
your beneficiaries - the children at your school.
- Be realistic about how much you are asking for.
- Don't rely on a positive response from a single trust or
foundation - apply to as many relevant funders as you can to
maximise your chances.
- Be patient, and be prepared never to receive a reply.
- Some funders acknowledge receipt of every application, but most
only contact successful applicants or those in whom they are
The above is intended as guidance only. We
recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific
reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child
protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held
responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on
the guidance provided.
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