Planning & preparation

Getting the basics right

Before you start applying for grants, you need to make sure that you have the basics in place. Are you a well-run organisation? Is there a need for your project? What is the problem and suggested solution? Are you keeping records to help complete your funding proposals? Funders need to know that they can trust you with their money, and that your project or organisation is likely to succeed. These are some of the key areas you need to think about.

Know your organisation

Your management or committee should take time to discuss, and answer some basic questions:

  • Are you familiar with the organisation's mission, aims and objectives (particularly those in the constitution)?
  • Do your trustees or management committee know and understand their role and responsibilities?
  • Where do you get your money from now?
  • Why do you need to raise money?
  • Do you have a strategic, business and fundraising strategy or plan?
  • Good financial controls e.g. annual accounts, handling and banking money, budgets, records of income and expenditure
  • Appropriate policies e.g. Health & Safety, Equal Opportunities etc
  • What is unique about your work?
  • Are there any sources of grant funding you are exempt from?
  • Do you publicise your work appropriately?

Identification of need

It is good practice to have funding follow need rather than have funding availability dictating action. Projects should always support clear and identifiable priorities, usually originating from strategic, business or fundraising strategies and plans.

It's not enough to say to possible funders 'this is what we want'. You have to show them why it is important, so that they feel their money will be doing something valuable.

Some useful questions to help establish need are:

  • What is the main issue or problem to address?
  • Who are the intended beneficiaries?
  • Have you researched your need?
  • What evidence do you have to support your case?
  • Is anyone else addressing it? If not, why not?

The solution

Once you have established the need and said how important it is to do something about it, you then need to show that you can offer a particular solution. The easiest and most logical way to present this information is to develop a business caseor proposal. Developing a proposal is outlined in a separate section, under completing proposals and applications, but the following may help shape this document.

  • How are you going to deliver the service in practical terms?
  • Who will be involved - dedicated staff or volunteers?
  • How will they be supported?
  • What do you want to achieve? Is it realistic/feasible?
  • How will you know if you are achieving it?
  • How much will it cost in total? Have you considered full cost recovery?
  • Will your service users be involved in the decision making?
  • Have you got the resources to carry out the work in terms of staff, volunteers, office space, equipment, time

Gathering information

If you fail to keep records about the work you do, the benefits of any planning will be lost as staff, trustees or volunteers move on. You need a system that is easy to operate and which stores information useful to your work and your funding applications. The approach you adopt should be designed specifically to fit with your own organisation, resources and activities. Make sure your files or records are kept centrally and accessible to everyone.

You need to collect and keep information on the following:

  • Organisation details
  • Legal status and constitution
  • People involved in your group - staff, trustees, volunteers, committee members
  • Annual reports and audited accounts
  • Your users or beneficiaries of your service
  • Your main financial supporters - past and present
  • Grant applications and proposals
  • Press cuttings and media coverage
  • Facts and figures supporting your work
  • Project description, aims and objectives
  • Expected benefits or 'outcomes' of the project
  • Evaluation and monitoring mechanisms