Lewisham Local became a local funder in 2020! In that time we have had the pleasure of launching some exciting funds attracting new individuals and organisations that have not previously accessed grant funding. This article provides some of our reflections on Do’s and Don’ts from reading a variety of applications as well as our own experience applying for funding.

Lewisham Local became a local funder in 2020! In that time we have had the pleasure of launching some exciting funds attracting new individuals and organisations that have not previously accessed grant funding. This article provides some of our reflections on Do’s and Don’ts from reading a variety of applications as well as our own experience applying for funding.

Do’s!

  • Take Time To Read The Funding Guidance Carefully – Applications generally aren’t designed to trip you up. The funder has often gone to great lengths to tell you exactly what they are looking for in each question.
  • Make Sure Your Organisation Is Eligible 
    • Does your organisation have the correct legal structure to apply for this fund? If not, can you be hosted by another organisation you know?
    • Check maximum Income threshold –   Check that your group or organisation operates below the maximum annual income stipulated in the criteria
    • Check you have all the required documents in place before the deadline – e.g. constitution, policies, bank statement, Accounts, Insurance certificate
    • Does it require you to provide the details of a referee? – If so get that organised before the deadline
  • Make Sure Your Project Idea Fits The Fund Criteria – Funds will have set criteria to make sure their funding will achieve impacts where they want it to. This could include set themes (e.g. Children, Food Poverty etc.), set locations (e.g. Projects must have more than 75% beneficiaries that live in Lewisham) and often time limits (e.g. project must be completed within 12 months of achieving the grant).
  • Check the deadline straightaway, prepare and get the application in before the deadline
  • Copy Application Form and Edit in Word First – Funders often have grant portals where you fill the application on an online form. Sometimes this works well and you can save and revisit but often the boxes are tiny and not always easy to edit your answer. Highly recommended to download into Word first, reformat to suit you and then copy and paste your response into the form when you’re happy with them.
  • Get someone else to proof-read it – Often after working on an application over and over, it’s difficult to spot mistakes, repetition or generic phrases. It can be helpful to get a trusted colleague or a friend to check it all makes sense and answers the questions directly. Make sure you leave plenty of time for them to read it!
  • First impressions count – Make the first few lines of your application count! Try to sum up what you’re going to do and achieve in just a few lines.
  • Be specific about what your project will do and achieve – Don’t just say ‘our project will boost employment in Lewisham’. Instead be specific and say ‘we will deliver 10 employment sessions, involving at least 50 beneficiaries and we hope to get at least 75% into a paid role within 6 months’
  • Do your research – How do you know there is a need for your project? What data can you draw on to back up your statements or bid? What gaps have you identified? Have you done any research or spoken to the people you want to engage? Are you aware of other organisations doing similar work in a similar area? This background research and any testing or pilots will demonstrate this is a well planned project which will answer a need
  • What’s your Unique Selling Point (USP)? – While we talk about this in marketing it’s useful to be clear why you are the best person/organisation/project to undertake this work. Who are you? Who do you represent? How well do you know your community? What’s your track record or what successes can you point to? How are you different to organisations/projects doing similar work in a similar location?
  • Co-production? How have you involved the people your project is looking to support in the design of this project? How will they be involved in the delivery?

Don’ts!

  • Don’t say the same thing multiple times – This is an easy thing to do but is annoying for funders when reading an application. Try and get to the point as quickly as you can.
  • Don’t make claims you can’t back up! Don’t just say that you are the best or very good at something  – give examples of outcomes you have achieved. Don’t say you are the only project doing this work unless you’re confident this is true!
  • Don’t just say that you know people, are connected, part of networks and do partnership work – name them and give examples of outcomes you have achieved or are working on together with those entities
  • Avoid using jargon and generic spiel that doesn’t really say anything – e.g. ‘This project will maximise potential and deliver huge infrastructure improvements, generating capacity building blah blah…’
  • Don’t write your application all in one go – It’s best to stagger it over several days or even weeks depending on the size of the bid and length of the application. Often you will write something and with later reading realise you can articulate something clearer and in a more impactful way.
  • Don’t leave the budget until last! While the budget is often last on the application form, do take time to calculate realistic costs and what resources you will need to make your project a success. While some funders may give you flexibility to change budgets, others won’t so make a list of all the things you might need and don’t forget the little things: printing, transport costs, postage, cleaning equipment and management time. Often management costs on projects can be around 10%. Careful not to go much higher than this (unless it’s a core grant application) as funders want to be sure most of their cash is going towards the project delivery.
  • Don’t go over the word limit! – It’s easy to think you have so much more to say about your project so the funder won’t mind. Not true. Unfortunately it will be interpreted as you can’t stick to the rules, you don’t pay attention to detail and perhaps therefore can’t be trusted with their funding!
  • Don’t submit your application late – If you can’t demonstrate you can stick to a deadline, a funder will be a lot less likely to fund you and usually will dismiss even considering your application. It’s about applying the same rule and equal opportunity for everybody.
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