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Ready, Steady, Go. Tips for small to medium-sized charities

Ready, Steady, Go – making sure you have all the right information to hit the ‘submit’ application button.

Ready Steady Go was the title of a pop music television programme which ran on Friday nights from 1963 until 1966. On the other hand, it is a phrase that is used more widely as a quick online search reveals: ‘Ready Steady Go’ is the name of a nursery and an athletic club.

But how does this phrase relate to fundraising for small and medium-sized charities?

Well in today’s competitive environment, it is very relevant. The amount of supporting information and data that charities need to have in place before applying for grant funding is growing, therefore it’s essential to be prepared. Where should a charity start and what do charities need to identify before developing applications? Are there any pitfalls that can derail applications at the first hurdle?

We asked experienced fundraisers, and they have come up with the following. It’s not a complete list but it’s a good start.

Charity Commission compliance – this includes ensuring that the information on the charity commission website is up to date, including the address, contact details and trustees; importantly submitting your annual return and accounts on time is increasingly becoming a reason for some trusts and foundations to reject applications. If documents are submitted late the charity is ineligible.

Policies – apparently policies can be funny according to several websites dedicated to jokes about them, but for charities, they are no laughing matter. Not having the correct or out-of-date policies could result in your application being rejected or at best leave you scrambling around at the last minute to update them. It is good practice to have the following policies: safeguarding, diversity and inclusion, data protection, and modern slavery and a schedule to prove trustees regularly review them. In addition, some funders might ask for evidence of how you implement these policies. The important point is to carefully read the funders’ criteria and the information and policies they require before starting an application.

Impact and evaluation – This is crucial as charities that can demonstrate the benefits of their work have an advantage. Competition for funds is fierce: one funder received 2,300 applications and awarded just 156 grants, a success rate of 6%. As there are so many worthy projects, clearly demonstrating how you evaluate and measure the impact of your activities could be the tipping point and increase your chance of success. Incorporating evaluation and impact measurement at the start of a project, for example developing short surveys for beneficiaries to complete before and after the activity will ensure that you have both quantitative and qualitative information. A few good case studies (and pictures) of individual beneficiaries are a great way of illustrating impact.

Accounts – many funders will only support charities which have at least two sets of audited or examined accounts. This can be an issue for small or new charities, so again this highlights the importance of checking the funders’ criteria before you start developing an application.

Management Accounts – increasingly funders are asking for management accounts, a monthly or quarterly profit and loss report of all money coming in and going out of the charity. As good practice charities should be producing at least quarterly reports. Why do funders want this information? Many funders see this as a guide to the financial health and sustainability of a charity, particularly in the current economic climate.

Trustees – charities should have contact details for all the trustees, information on their specific roles and how often they meet.

A Business Plan - this doesn’t need to be complex but it does have to show that your charity knows where it wants to be in three to five years’ time and how it is going to get there. It needs to articulate realistic beneficiary growth and financial projections. Increasingly trusts and foundations want to see how a charity is planning for the future and has a long-term strategy for growth and sustainability.

How long?- grant funders may give to a project for two or three years, but they will be looking for an exit. Charities need to show how they will eventually manage without a funder or when a grant has come to an end. Developing a fundraising strategy will help you explain this and demonstrate your long-term sustainability.

Demonstrating need - and last but not least, the ‘need’. Why the work is needed and why your charity is best placed to deliver it. Demonstrating the need for a project could include letters from members of the community, surveys and engagement activities showing consultation, letters of support from councillors and MPs, and analysis of local research and data. Having the information to respond to the question ‘what is the need?’ will give your application a better chance of success.

Finally, don’t be overwhelmed by the above. Grant funders want to and do support charities with core and project funding. But with more than 170,000 charities on the charity commission website, it’s important to be authentic when telling your story and ensure your supporting information shows you are professionally run, committed to improvement and that your application stands out from the crowd.

Orchard Fundraising is happy to meet with small to medium sized charities to help and discuss their specific funding needs, without cost or obligation. Following our conversations, we will develop a bespoke proposal that meets your requirements and helps you achieve your aim.

For a free consultation get in touch with us here.

We have worked with numerous smaller charities and helped them achieve their goals by obtaining the funding they need to deliver their services to their beneficiaries. Read our client testimonials here.

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