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Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Common Funding Application Mistakes

The main grant funding bodies were recently asked to list the top ten reasons funding applications fail.  This is what they said:

1. Applying for grants you can’t possibly get.
Make sure you read the eligibility criteria closely.

2. Asking for too much money. Or not enough.
Funders often say what the maximum or typical award amount is but this is often ignored. Equally bad is when it’s obvious that the amount asked for is just not enough to do the job. They expect you to fully recover the cost; so make sure you do.

3. Providing too much information
If there is a word limit, stick to it. Also stick to the point. Don’t throw in information that’s not pertinent because you think it might be “interesting”.

4. Avoid jargon and buzz words
Just because buzz phrases like ‘Big Society’ or ‘Localism’ or ‘Empowerment” are floated about  doesn’t mean you have to use them or that they will help. Funders like stuff written in your own words. Avoid acronyms too – they may not know what they mean.

5. Streams of consciousness and other stylistic problems
Make sure it’s readable. Don’t bombard them with a “wall of words”. Short sentences; use the spell checker; check your grammar. Funders work to deadlines and are often looking at 40 or 50 applications a week. Get someone not connected with your project to read it to see if they get it.

6. The budget doesn’t add up
Check the sums and arithmetic. The Big Lottery say they get “a staggering amount of applications where the budgets just don’t add up.”

7. An invitation to talk to the funder isn’t taken up
If the funder invites you to call them to ‘discuss your proposal’ – do it. It means they want to talk before you submit and dont like ‘unsolicited’ applications.

8. Forgetting to tailor the application to the funder
They can tell when you’ve cut & pasted something from another application or business plan.

9. Assuming the funder knows all about you
Don’t assume they know what you do however famous you think you are. Explain your services and project is plain English.

10. What difference will you make?
Be clear and realistic about the outcomes Too many applications fail because they don’t show how the lives of beneficiaries will be improved – the outcomes. They fail too when it’s obvious the numbers are too ambitious. Funders want a cohesive and credible story, including evidence of demand for your services and the outcomes you can achieve.

And finally … Evidence
One final point that funders make is not the application but the reports and feedback. Many projects lack any real evidence of outcomes. VCO’s need to get much better at gathering evidence. Without the evidence, your likelihood of future funding is reduced. E.g.

  • Testimonials from beneficiaries
  • Photographs (before & after) plus video can be very powerful
  • Feedback forms
  • Attendance records
  • Case studies

SUSTAiN can help

If you need help with a funding application, contact Alan Crawford on the Solihull SUSTAiN number below or email