What skills do we need?

There is no mythical art or magic formula that ensures fundraising success. What is required is a good, clearly defined and costed project that is presented well to the appropriate funder. Below are some of the skills that you need to put together a good application.


People new to funding often do not know where to start. But this is by far the easiest problem to solve. It is the job of your county voluntary council (CVC) and WCVA to help with basic information about funding sources and conduct specific funding searches. Alternatively, you can carry out a funding search. You will then need to contact each funder separately for an application form and further details by visiting their website, emailing or phoning. You also need to gather statistics or information to demonstrate that there is a need for your project.


Funding is essentially about selling a good idea to someone who has the money or resources to make it happen. If you can interest them in your idea they will want to support you. So it is vital that you argue a good case and present it well. Choose someone who can write clearly and concisely to present your project to funders. Knowing where to start can be one of the hardest parts of writing an application. To help with this process it is worth getting a small group together to gather ideas and suggestions for answering each question.

Most funders receive thousands of requests each year. Think carefully about how you can make your application or proposal stand out from the crowd. At the very least you should be aware of the traps that could prevent your application getting the attention it deserves. Useful tips on completing funding proposals and applications is also available.


Choose someone who is able to realistically cost your project and specify the amount of funding you need by producing a budget. You also need to keep an eye on the finances once you get the funding. Check against budgets, timetables, objectives and outcomes. Make adjustments if you are going off course. This will help demonstrate your effective use of funding and strengthen your next application for funding.

How do we improve our applications?

Inevitably some applications will fail, when this happens do not become despondent. It can happen to some of the best projects and experienced fundraisers. An application may fail for a number of reasons, some of which are out of your control. Here are some of the common reasons for failure.

Not meeting funders' criteria or missing deadlines

This can be one of the most common and frustrating reasons for failure. It is also one that can be easily avoided. Many funders will be happy to discuss a project outline and its suitability for funding saving both time and effort by the applicant and the funder. Always check and double check the funders' criteria. Give yourselves plenty of time to complete the application. It often takes longer than you think especially if you have to provide accounts or annual reports to accompany your submission.

Application is unclear

This can result from using language that is complex and flowery or simply that the funder could not understand what you wanted the money for. Getting someone from outside the organisation to read your application is a good way to ensure it is clear and easy to understand. Funders should be able to read a brief project description and understand exactly what you want to do and how you intend to do it.

Need for project not demonstrated

Applications showing little or no evidence of need are unlikely to be supported. If you have evidence, then use it and say where the information came from. A funder will not be in a position to find out if there is a need for your work and are unlikely to presume there is one simply because you have said so. They will want hard evidence in black and white!

Poor budgeting

Another common reason for failure is poor budgeting. Typically this is because projects are not realistically costed, perhaps figures are inflated or underestimated, or simply unclear. Be clear about what you are spending the money on, remembering you may have to justify the costs with the funder. Base your budget on up to date quotes or data from similar projects, which can form the basis of your costings.

Missing information

Sometimes with all the information requested in an application it easy to forget or overlook the extra items such as the latest bank balance or copies of your governing document or constitution. Some funders give a checklist of all the information they require which helps ensure that all the correct documents are sent with the application. Where checklists are not given, pay particular attention to guidance notes to check what documents are being requested. Also be aware that funders may ask for multiple copies of certain documents. While some funders may go back to an applicant for missing information, others will either not have the time or the desire.

Bids to benefit organisations, not people

A funding application or bid to keep your group (or even to keep you in a job) is less attractive to a funder than one to provide a much needed service. Similarly, 'we need a computer' has less impact than 'with a computer we could keep records more efficiently, freeing time to spend with our service users'.

Can I get training on fundraising?

Your county voluntary council and WCVA offer affordable and accessible training courses on fundraising and sustainable funding. For information on dates and locations of courses, contact WCVA's Helpdesk on 0800 288 329, help@wcva.org.uk or visit www.coursesforcommunities.org.uk