Our top Bid Writing tips for successful Grant Fundraising
Grant fundraising has become increasingly competitive in recent years, so our consultants have shared some of their top bid writing tips that will help your bids stick out from the crowd.
Your funding bid is often the first impression the funder will have of your organisation. It needs to evidence that it is well-managed and has an excellent track record in achieving strong impact.
Our team at Charity Fundraising Ltd have secured funding from over 450 different grant-makers: Trusts and Foundations; Lottery distributors, Statutory bodies and corporates. We like to think we know what we’re doing but we constantly strive to refine and improve what we do. We have worked with funders and fundraisers alike and, although there’s a bit of luck involved, our top bid writing tips should stand your grant fundraising in good stead.
Bid Writing Tips Infographic
Our infographic below provides a quick overview of top bid writing tips. Scroll down for the full detailed guidance.
Top Bid Writing Tips – Full Guide
1: Match grant funders with your work, rather than your work to them
Research, research, research! Too often, organisations are blinded by the pound signs and try to wedge an inappropriate project into a funder’s priorities.
Allocate plenty of time to reviewing prospective grant funders in detail, allocating them to suitable projects and prioritising them.
In fact Grant Prospect Research is so important we wrote another whole article about it! Grant Funding Prospect Research – How to Guide
2: Read the funding guidance and read the questions!
This one is painfully obvious but we still frequently review bids where the bid writer doesn’t answer the questions, or worse doesn’t even align with the funding criteria.
Pay careful attention to the guidance. Where there is little detail on the specifics required in each section, read between the lines. Funders will ask things in different ways and any bid writer needs to be able to address what is actually being asked (and avoid any temptation to cut and paste content from another funding bid without careful scrutiny) e.g. a question about how you are well placed to carry out the project invites you to showcase your track record such as the skills and experience of the team and impact to date, relative to the needs of your beneficiaries.
If you’ve done your research and something in a funder’s guidelines is confusing you, or the application process isn’t clear, give them a call. Even if you just want to get their views on your eligibility, it can be really helpful to pick up the phone and make contact. Some grant-makers really welcome a discussion first, others aren’t so keen, so think about why you’re calling before you dial!
3: Be efficient with your time
Most bid writers work on a pipeline of grant proposals, not just one. Do your research first and take detailed notes on every funding opportunity you find (see tip 2 in this list). Importantly, check right through funders’ guidelines and application forms BEFORE you start writing your funding bid – there are often restrictions and eligibility criteria hidden in application forms that aren’t in the funders’ guidelines.
Try bullet-pointing out your proposal to start with – it’ll identify where there are gaps in the information you have or where more detail is needed. Grant fundraising can be very time consuming; you shouldn’t develop a bid until you are sure it’s the right funding opportunity for you and you have all the information you need.
4: Include a short summary at the start of your bid
Not everyone will read your cover letter, so don’t rely on it for a synopsis! Include a short paragraph at the start of your proposals that grabs the reader’s attention and gives a clear overview of what you need a grant for and what it will achieve. Often, grants officers working for a grant-maker are responsible for summarising each application to Trustees or other decision-makers, so do their job for them in the words that you would choose! Use simple positive language and be bold.
5: Evidence need and impact
It’s no good delivering a project or developing a way of tackling an issue just because you think it’s the right thing to do: You need evidence to support your approach and give grant-makers confidence. There are two key aspects to this:
– If you want to continue, replicate or scale up existing work that has already been delivered by you (or in a very similar way by another organisation), you need to be able to evidence the impact of that work. Projects should be monitored, reviewed and evaluated; grant-makers want to see clear evidence that what you are presenting to them is effective and truly meets the needs of stakeholders.
– If you are developing a new project/way of working and you need funding to get it off the ground, how do you know it’s the best solution to the issue you’re trying to address? You need to consult with the target beneficiary group(s) and other stakeholders: What are the issues? Do the issues differ in different localities? What type of support do people want? How does this fill a gap in existing services?
6: Say what you will actually do
Grant applications can easily get bogged down with internal jargon, acronyms, superlatives and buzzwords – it’s much better to describe your work in clear and simple terms. We advise our clients to ‘get the reader to visualise your work.’ You should give concise examples and be specific about:
- Where and when activities will take place;
- how long they will last;
- who will deliver them and how;
- who will take part.
If you’re applying for core funding, split out your key activities and use examples for each.
7: Include clear outputs and outcomes
In simple terms, outputs are ‘what you will do’ and outcomes are ‘what this will achieve’. A project/organisation can easily fall flat on its face if it is delivering activities without any real sense of direction. Equally, someone reading your grant proposal will have concerns if they feel that your plans are vague and aimless. It’s important that you think about the difference you want to make first and a theory of change approach is most effective in doing this. Know How Non-Profit has a great guide for developing a Theory of Change.
When applying for grant funding, try to keep your outputs short, simple and precise. For example, ‘30 young people aged 18-30 living in Swansea will participate in our 8-week employability course.’ You should also keep your outcomes concise and ‘SMART’ (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound). For example, ‘75% of young people will feel more able to find and sustain employment after completing our 8-week employability course.’
8: Make a compelling case for support
A great case for support uses a combination of passion, emotion and logic. Institutional grant givers typically seek to make objective grant decisions, however individuals typically make emotional decisions on charitable giving, so it’s important to cover both the emotional and logical case for support. Likewise, passion can help to evidence the ambition and drive of the charity, making it a more compelling candidate for a grant.
9: Develop a clear budget
Budgets are often an afterthought in grant fundraising, but they should tell the story of your application: If a project is entirely volunteer-run, then staff costs should be minimal; if your organisation mostly provides online advice, your IT/digital costs are likely to be higher than other organisations; if you’re trying to get a new project off the ground and it will cost twice your annual turnover to run it, grant funders probably won’t see it as viable!
The level of detail in the budget will usually depend on the funders’ requirements, the size of the grant request, the complexity of the project and the scale of the work.
- Be clear and precise – avoid round estimates;
- Show unit costs and cost basis for all items;
- Show other confirmed or expected income and the sources;
- include a reasonable contribution towards overheads where you can.
10: Demonstrate sustainability
Grant-makers rarely want to continue funding the same work long into the future – it feels like a bottomless pit to them, when their money could be better spent on getting to the route source of a problem. In your proposal, show how the effect of a grant will be long-lasting and that you are becoming more sustainable. Examples might include: Increasing financial contributions from service users or through earned income once the project is established; increasing volunteer numbers in future years to reduce staff input; providing training to young adults that will equip them for adulthood long into the future; and leveraging funding from other sources.
11: Link everything in your proposal together
Grant fundraising proposals are made up of lots of separate elements but they should have a narrative that runs throughout. Keep this in mind throughout the bid writing process because it’s easy to get distracted!
The reader should understand the process you have been through to get to this point. This might look something like the following:
- People in the community were highlighting an issue that wasn’t being addressed.
- You did some research and consulted locally to clarify this issue and identify potential solutions.
- A project idea was developed, partly from this consultation and partly based on a similar, successful model that had been used in another area.
- A pilot was developed to test the ideas and the outcomes of this were…
- The local authority / other organisations were involved in the pilot and are keen to support wider roll out of the project. They can provide free space for delivery / promotion / other inputs
- A full launch is now planned and will target delivery of x specific outputs and outcomes
- To deliver the project over x period will require £x
- Volunteers will be recruited and trained to support delivery. In the medium term the project will be sustainable with minimal financial requirements
12: Ask for feedback
It can be disappointing when what you thought of as a strong bid is unsuccessful, but if at first you don’t succeed, asking for feedback can help you increase the chances of your funding application being awarded a grant next time around when you are eligible to reapply. Although it may be uncomfortable for any bid writer to hear where a funding bid went wrong, it could save you making the same mistake twice.
Many grant makers are unable to give specific feedback due to the sheer volume of funding applications they receive. If they don’t state this and haven’t offered their reasons, be bold and ask. It could simply be that the funding pot has already been exhausted for your area, that there is an area you need to develop further in your project plan or reveal unpublished decision-making criteria. Insider knowledge can only strengthen your future funding applications and requesting feedback could be a valuable exercise!
We hope you find these tips useful. If you’re still struggling, think about getting some advice or a review from an experienced consultant.
More details on our Bid Writing Services.
To discuss how we can support your charity, please get in touch.