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Top Ten Tips for Trusts and Foundation Applications

Starter for ten

No, we are not talking about the film or the TV programme University Challenge on which the film is based, we are talking about tips when applying to trusts and foundations. Like the programme University Challenge, the competition for funding from trusts and foundations is fierce.

The success of applications to trusts can vary from one in four to around one in 12 depending on whether an organisation is known to the trust or foundation, how closely an application meets the criteria and a whole host of other factors. With the cost of living crisis, and the number of applications increasing, the success rates could get even lower.

Standing out from the crowd

So, how can you increase the chance of making a successful application to a trust or foundation, in this competitive, difficult environment? Is it all about research, making sure that you have researched and that you meet all the criteria of the funder? Or is it about winning words, a compelling story and using the same language and tone used by the trust or foundation on their website? And what about the importance of demonstrating evaluation and outcomes? With some applications taking up to three days to complete (or more), it’s important to ensure that you have all the information you need to complete the application for funding before you start.

Tips from expert fundraisers

We have spoken to several fundraisers and have compiled some top tips. These are not exhaustive, but they are in a manner of speaking, a starter for 10:

1. Knowledge is power

Allegedly it was Francis Bacon who said this, but how does it relate to trusts and foundations? Detailed knowledge of the funder’s criteria and who they have funded before will give you the ‘power’ to know if you meet the criteria with your application and if they have funded projects similar to yours before you apply. This will avoid starting an application only to realise halfway through that you don’t ‘fit the bill’.

2. Insider knowledge

What do I mean by this? Many funders are happy for fundraisers/charities to contact them to discuss your proposed project and their criteria. This could give you further insight into whether your project has a good chance of success. Or perhaps one of your trustees might know someone and be prepared to make an advocacy approach before you start writing.

3. Online applications – ‘save save save’

If the application is online, save the questions and complete the responses in Word before copying them to the online application portal or ask for an offline version of the application form. Online portals have a habit of not saving your work. Develop the application in Word and then cut and paste into the online application.

4. KISS – Keep it Simple Stupid

I am not sure if this acronym developed by the US Navy is used much in our more sensitive times, but the premise can be applied to applications. Use simple, clear language and avoid ‘jargon and acronyms’. Use words and language that your grandmother would understand. It was the theoretical physicist Albert Einstein who said,

You don't really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.’

5. Use real-life stories or ‘case studies'

Want to demonstrate how the funding you receive from the trust or foundation will make a difference, then use case studies, for example, a young person whose life was turned around by a youth project or how a peer support group helped someone struggling with loneliness. Using case studies is a very powerful way to describe the benefits and impact of the project.

6. Impact and evaluation

Quantitative impact data is important as nearly all funders ask for evidence of impact. Ideally, monitoring and evaluation should be built into all projects, but if you haven’t done this, it is possible to do it retrospectively. A quick email survey with four or five questions sent out to beneficiaries, asking them how the project has helped them will provide you with good impact data.

7. Two heads are better than one

This is why it is always good practice to have another person read your application before you submit it. Even if you have been in fundraising for many years, never underestimate the benefit of a fresh pair of eyes.

8. Stages

Some funders have a two or even three-stage application process. Make sure that you have read and can meet the criteria and have the information required for all stages.

9. Deadlines

Check the deadline both the day and time and submit if possible a day before the deadline. Submitting early is a good idea in case there are any technical hitches and will help to avoid missing the deadline.

10. Relationships and reporting

Well done, your application has been successful and your project is underway. Remember to thank them, stating the impact of the funding on the beneficiaries. If the funder has a reporting process use this, if they don’t, send them an up-to-date report about the project. Developing long-term relationships with funders will benefit you and put you in a good position for future funding.

If you want to talk to someone about developing trust and foundation funding for your charity please contact Orchard Fundraising for a free no-obligation consultation.

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