JAN 2018: Top Tips for Bid Writing

With a new year and new beginnings, let’s get on track and start as we mean to go on…

The majority of our core work is mentoring organisations in bid writing. The groups we support vary from having no previous experience to some. So, this month, we go back to basics and explore how to write funding applications that don’t head straight to a funder’s wastepaper bin.

Before we begin, we will say that some of the below may sound obvious, but our Funding Mentors often see silly mistakes which cost organisations vital funds. So, take note!

Don’t dive straight in…
READ THE GUIDELINES: Make a cuppa and find a quiet corner to have a good read through the whole document before you start writing any answers. Highlight their priorities and eligibility criteria. You must ensure your organisation is 100% eligible to apply because if not, you waste yours and the funders time and risk losing creditability. It’s also worth considering that many trusts and foundations do not allow organisations to apply twice within a specified timeframe (typically one to two years) so if you have another, more eligible project that requires funding during that period, you may have wasted your chance.

ANNUAL REPORTS AND ACCOUNTS: These can be found on the Charity Commission’swebsite. The reports are full of useful information such as Trustees’ future priorities, who they’ve previously funded and average grant size. Use this knowledge to check your eligibility and to ensure your expectations are realistic. For example, if their grants never exceed £5,000, don’t ask for £10,000.

TIMEFRAMES & APPLICATION PROCESS: Each funder will have their own system so ensure you can provide everything they ask for before the deadline in the format they specify.

CALL THE FUNDER: Unless they explicitly state they do not (usually on the Contact Us page of their website), funders welcome pre-submission phone calls. Give them a ring and talk through your project – they won’t indicate your chances of success, but they will confirm your eligibility and if your work is of interest to the Trustees.

Time to get writing…
WORD PROCESSOR: If you have access to a computer, use a word processor (e.g. Microsoft Word or Pages) to write your answers. By doing this your spelling, grammar and word count are automatically checked and you’ll then be able to transfer your answers into the funder’s required application format.

ANSWER THE QUESTION: Read all the questions and plot out your answers. Make sure you cover every aspect of your project and try not to duplicate answers. The key is to focus on the project you want funding for and to be clear and succinct – do not waffle! Using bullet points is a great way to achieve this, and can keep your word count down.

You’re likely to be asked about your aims and objectives and outputs and outcomes… make sure you know the difference!

DON’T USE JARGON: Technical words may sound impressive, but are meaningless to those not in the know. With limited word counts, applications don’t allow for long explanations, so try and avoid jargon where possible. If you must, make sure you explain.  

EMOTIONS: Be emotive, but don’t be overly dramatic and keep adjectives to a minimum. Rather than using empty statements such as ‘passionate’ or ‘dedicated’, show funders through facts and figures that you are these things. For example, state how many volunteers you have, how many hours staff work, how much you’ve raised through fundraising activities etc.

SECTOR KNOWLEDGE & AWARENESS: Do your homework! Find out what is going on in the sector locally and nationally. If you have the same idea as another organisation get in touch and share knowledge. If the organisation is local, you may need to alter your idea or it could be an opportunity to work collaboratively. Funders love joint up ways of working!

EVIDENCE OF NEED: Funders want to see ‘evidence of need’. You may have a great idea, but if there is no need or demand for it then why should they fund it? Local and national statistics can be obtained online for free, but conducting your own research and case studies will illustrate to funders how your project will really benefit local residents.

It is said a funder makes their decision within 20 seconds of reading an application, so state your case straight away and a create a big impact.

SUSTAINABILITY: Demonstrate how you propose to ensure the legacy of the project, in terms of social, economic and environmental sustainability, once the grant has come to an end.

REPORTING: Many funders require monitoring and evaluation reports so think ahead to how you will fulfil this criteria. For example, do you have the right resources and how will you be measuring the impact of your project.

BUDGET: Before writing your budget refer back to the funder’s guidelines and check what costs are eligible for funding. Some funders only fund a specific piece of equipment or won’t cover staff costs, and some require match funding (cash or in-kind). Give the funder a full breakdown of the costs you are asking them to contribute to.

Round numbers often raise suspicions with funders as it shows vagueness and lack of research so try to avoid. Do your research and find out the true costs.

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS: These can be a great visual tool to state your case even further, but check they are welcomed before you include them. It’s also worth remembering, you are not required to have beautifully printed materials, a simple flyer or info sheet about a previous project printed at home will suffice. Videos about your work/projects simply captured on your phone and uploaded to YouTube can also work well.

Don’t submit just yet…
REVIEW: When you think you’ve finished a draft, leave it for a few days and come back to it. There’s a good chance you’ll make amends or realise you’ve missed details.

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